feature: JDIFF 2014 highlightsNo Comment
The 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival kicked off in style tonight with a gala screening of John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary in the Savoy. Over the course of the 10 day festival Dublin will play host to a plethora of talented guests like Stanley Tucci, Terry Gilliam, Richard Dreyfuss, Jean-Marc Barr, John Hurt, Brenda Fricker, Oscar nominated screenwriter of Frost / Nixon, Peter Morgan AND (in a massive throwback to my childhood) Jason Priestley.
Which is all well and good… BUT!
I know loads of people who still haven’t thought about what they might go and see… so I’m here to help you.
Ok, now I know a lot of the big films are sold out. If I had written this when they announced the programme I would have told you to head to the likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo and Los Wild Ones. But hey, apparently everyone already knew about them anyway. So, I’m going to shine a light on some of the ones you might not have heard of.
I’m serving on the Dublin Film Critics Circle jury again this year, so I’ve been pouring over the programme for weeks now so here are some pointers for every day of the festival. I’ve organised them by day so you’ll know if you’re too late for them by the time you read this…
Like I said, here to help you.
If you’re not heading to one of the myriad date movies on general release (and re-release, Sleepless in Seattle anyone?) for Valentine’s Day consider…
Book: Cineworld, Feb 14th, 9pm
Upon returning to his remote outback hometown, Jay Swan, played to square-jawed perfection by Aaron Pedersen, finds himself a man on the outside. He’s derided and dismissed by his white colleagues on the police force, as well as his Aboriginal community, which now views him with suspicion. When a young girl is found dead in a drainage ditch, Swan is assigned to the case, although it’s quickly apparent that no one expects him to solve anything. Nonetheless, Swan doggedly digs for answers, gradually uncovering the dark secrets of his dusty, sun-blanched town.
Couple of great picks today and since it’s weekend I’ll give you a bit of choice. If you’re up for the early start you can catch a late addition to the programme, Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt. Or if you fancy a lie in South Korean film New World is a good option as is Palestinian focused documentary A World Not Ours.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Book: Savoy, Saturday Feb 15th, 11am
John Hurt will be in attendance
Filled with musical and literary references, all presented with Jarmusch’s typically deadpan style of humour, Only Lovers Left Alive joins the likes of George Romero’s Martin, Michael Almereyda’s Nadja and Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction as a defining example of the existential vampire film.
New World (sin-se-gae)
Set in the scheming heart of a powerful crime syndicate, this stylish saga from Park Hoon-jung conjures a world where hardly anyone is who he seems.
Our fragile anchor is Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae), an impassive undercover cop who has spent eight years infiltrating the syndicate and rising through its ranks. Now, with the death of the chairman and a succession war looming, Ja-sung’s handler, Captain Kang (Choi Min-sik) sees an opportunity to destroy the organization from within. If only Ja-sung can remember where his loyalties lie.
A World Not Ours (alam Laysa Lana)
Director Mahdi Fleifel’s first documentary feature is a uniquely engaging and personal project. Drawing on a family history of video-taping, Fleifel offers an intimate glimpse into the Ain el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon – a settlement of less than a square mile that’s home to over 70,000 people and has existed for over 60 years.
If you’re looking for a visual feast, look no further than Antarctica: A Year on Ice. Ok… that’s actually pretty far. Alternatively, there’s Hide Your Smiling Faces, which to be honest sounds a little bit like Stand By Me but then Stand By Me is one of my favourite films… so…
Antarctica: A Year on Ice
Antarctica is the world’s toughest environment – colder, higher and drier than anywhere else on earth – and less than 1000 souls are hardy enough to endure the winter there and spend a full year on the continent.
Among them is Anthony Powell, a New Zealand dairy farmer turned time-lapse photographer who for over ten years has documented life in Antarctica to create this portrait of life lived in the most isolated of environments.
Hide Your Smiling Faces
Hide Your Smiling Faces focuses on a pair of brothers, 9-year-old Tommy (Ryan Jones) and 14-year-old Eric (Nathan Varnson), and their extended all-male social circle. Amid one of their leisurely afternoon idylls, Eric and close friend Tristan (Thomas Cruz) discover the dead body of one of Tommy’s pals.
I think I might be going a bit overboard with the picks so back to just one a day for the week… And that one is… The Past
The Past (Le Passé)
Following the taut Oscar-winning divorce drama A Separation, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi returns with another stunning study of modern family life, this time set on the outskirts of Paris where Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives from Tehran to finalise the end of his tempestuous marriage to estranged wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo).
An Irish one today, well… Ireland / Luxembourg / Netherlands / Japan which is a pretty damn interesting mix.
Based on the Japanese novel In Love with the Dead, from acclaimed author Kei Oishi (Apartment 1303, The Last Supper), Love Eternal centres on an isolated and death-fixated young man who tries to make sense of the world, and his existence, in the only way he knows how… by getting closer to death.
I’m actually not sure Cannibal is a horror film… but I’m a hopeful kind of person. In any case it sounds like one and horror’s not something you’ll get very often in a film festival like JDIFF. Worth a look.
When a film-maker is capable of exploring a series of frankly outlandish filmic, thematic and moral propositions with absolute conviction and sureness of touch, the results are usually memorable. Such is the case with Manuel Martin Cuenca’s Cannibal, a carefully crafted study of a psychopath that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase Eat, Pray, Love.
I’m including this one as it’s already press screened here in Ireland and comes highly recommended by everyone I know who caught it. So I’ll be going. And apparently so should you.
Jack O’Connell has some of the arrogant swagger and tightly coiled menace of a young James Cagney as Eric, a teenage young offender who is prematurely moved to an adult jail or ‘starred up’. Aggressive and unpredictable, he is soon armed and dangerous. The other prisoners include Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), the father he has not seen since he was five.
One of my favourites of the festival so far (though there’s still a long way to go) I’m singling out immigration drama (why not), The Golden Dream, as the one to kick off the last weekend of the festival.
The Golden Dream (la Jaula De Oro)
Spanish director Diego Quemada-Diez was a camera assistant on Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song, Land and Freedom and Bread and Roses, and there is something very Loachian in this tough, absorbing, suspenseful drama about three Guatemalan kids trying illegally to cross the Mexican border into the US.
JDIFF is definitely a time to see films from countries whose films rarely get shown in Irish cinemas. Something like 70% of films in JDIFF will never get a general release here so I thought I’d highlight a Slovenian film for Saturday… Well, Solvenia / Denmark and Croatia but… you know.
We’re also going to be awarding our Dublin Film Critics Circle awards on Saturday so pop down to The Church on Jervis Street at 4pm and meet us in the flesh.
TA delicately crafted charmer of a film, for a while Nejc Gazvoda’s colourful, funny and insightful film feels like a lesbian equivalent of Before Sunset as two young women wander the warm night-time streets of Ljubljana, talking, having fun and gradually coming under each other’s spell.
And we’ve come to the final day of the festival! It’s not that long really… I’m going to highlight a few here since it’s the last day and all. Firstly, if you’ve any interest in music at all you should definitely check out 20 Feet From Stardom first thing in the morning.
Two years ago I was highly impressed by the South Korean animation, The King of Pigs – that director is back again this year with another hard hitting anime called The Fake
And finally, to wrap up the festival I highly recommend The Rocket a charming drama set in Laos which took home the Audience Choice Prize at the Sydney Film Festival. I don’t really know what else to say about it that wouldn’t spoil it. Rest assured that the title is apt.
20 Feet from Stardom
Veteran director Morgan Neville (Troubadours) has made a moving and joyous behind-the-scenes documentary about a world filled with big, bold personalities and the music they make. Neville interviewed more than 50 people for this film, including major stars like Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Sting, but the people you remember turn out to be the handful of women who made and remade the backup world in their image.
The Fake (saibi)
If Yeon Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs (JDIFF 2012) served as a brutal reminder that feature-length animation can be an ideal medium for social critique, the Korean helmer is at it again with The Fake, a ferocious, unsubtle indictment of organized religion.
Winner of both the Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale and Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca, The Rocket is a heart-warming coming-of-age tale set entirely in Laos. Kim Mordaunt, who made the excellent documentary Bomb Harvest, which was also set in Laos, tells this story with great empathy and authenticity.
So…. that’s all my picks for JDIFF 2014. Do let me know if you make it along to any, or of course what you’re looking forward to yourselves!
Plot summaries and film commentary by Jameson Dublin International Film Festival