Jameson Dublin International Film Festival Preview

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Getting underway on the 16th of February this year, the 10th annual Jameson Dublin International Film Festival assembled an impressive selection of big-name releases alongside the usual feast of eclectic titles from far corners of the world. While some of the biggest events of the festival have already come and gone, including Al Pacino’s presentation of his third directorial effort Wilde Salome and a Michael Madsen-introduced Reservoir Dogs screening, I’ll be visiting the festival over its closing weekend and giving my thoughts on what’s on offer in the final three days of this year’s programme.

Starting off tomorrow, it’s Italian mystery The Vanishing of Pato, about a Sicilian banker who goes missing during a stage production of the passion of Christ, prompting a search operation headed by a Neapolitan detective. With a promise of “a religious serial killer, an inconsolable wife and some unruly peasants”, I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of madness writer/director Rocco Mortelliti, who’ll be in attendance, has cooked up.

Then there’s the Brazilian Hard Labor, the feature debut of Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas, whose short films have played well at Cannes in the past. A social drama cum horror, it follows the efforts of a married woman to establish a grocery shop after her husband loses his job, and the ethereal events which begin to take place in the building. Reception thus far seems predominantly lukewarm, but I’m nonetheless eager to see a touch of the supernatural infused with the kind of tough social drama the financial crash has prompted so many countries to produce.

Saturday alone will feature half of the total screenings I’ll be catching at JDIFF, with a jam-packed total of five films lined up back to back. The day kicks off with one of the most promising prospects of the weekend: Indonesian martial arts movie The Raid. If critical consensus is to be believed, it should prove one of the best action movies of the last several years. The North American trailer was released just today, and has me as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve. Welsh director Gareth Evans will also be in attendance to provide insight into how the concept—a 30 storey battle between a special task force and a gangster’s personal army—was pulled off.

A change of pace follows with the award-winning Austrian Breathing, the directorial debut of Karl Markovics, whom most will remember as the lead in the Oscar-winning Holocaust drama The Counterfeiters. Focused on a 19-year old inmate at a juvenile detention centre who takes a mortuary job and encounters a body bag labelled with the same surname as his, Breathing has been touted as a masterfully heartfelt debut tackling issues of family, identity, and death.

Next to come will be Sleeping Sickness, a German take on the titular disease in Cameroon filtered through the eyes of a doctor torn between staying and returning home when the epidemic is at last under control, and Kawasaki’s Rose, a re-evaluation of a Czech past under Communist leadership seen through the story of a leading critic threatened with the exposition of the truth: that he was in fact a collaborator himself. Both look to be interesting cultural studies wrapped up in intimate family dramas, it should make for an enlightening double bill.

Concluding the bumper day will be the Russian Elena, the story of an elderly woman eager to help her financially unstable son who learns that her husband has plans to exclude her from his will. Director Andrei Zvyagintsev was showered with awards and nominations for his 2003 film The Return, here’s hoping Elena can match its success.

The final day of the festival gets underway with Headhunters, in which a man living beyond his means steals rare paintings for some extra cash. By all accounts it’s a strange and smart genre-bending thriller that takes unexpected directions at every turn. A Swedish product, its being based on a bestselling novel isn’t its only similarity to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: it comes courtesy of the very same producers. My penultimate film is also my most eagerly awaited: Aurora, the second instalment of Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s planned “Six Stories from the Outskirts of Bucharest” series. The first part was 2005’s The Death of Mr Lazarescu, which launched the on-going phenomenon known as the Romanian New Wave (an appellation, incidentally, which Puiu himself has been fervently critical of). Considering its reputed minimalism, “the auditory and tactile qualities, the visual labyrinths” our own Guido Pellegrini found within it, and my appreciation of Puiu’s work in Lazarescu, it’s sure to be a highlight of the weekend.

Concluding my JDIFF experience will be the much talked about Chicken with Plums, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s follow up to their Oscar-nominated Persepolis. A live action feature, it concerns a man who decides to give up living after his wife destroys his precious violin, and follows his mental voyage through his past as he lies unable to arise on his bed. If it’s anywhere near as good as its predecessor, the last thing I see might just be the best.

I’m looking forward to a bustling and exhausting weekend with a wide sample of international cinema. Check back over the week to come for full reviews of each of the above listed films, and feel free to share your own JDIFF experiences below. Were you fortunate enough to be around for the first week of the festival? Let me know what I missed out on.

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.