Grainne Humphreys and Si Edwards • Director and shorts programmer, Dublin International Film Festival
“I see first-hand the gap between film students and world cinema”
- We sat down with Grainne Humphreys and Si Edwards, VMDIFF’s director and shorts programmer, to talk about this year’s programme and industry initiatives
The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival (VMDIFF), one of Ireland’s most prominent cinema events, will run from 26 February-8 March. We spoke to festival director Grainne Humphreys and shorts programmer Si Edwards to explore this year’s initiatives in further detail.
Cineuropa: You have organised a jam-packed, 12-day programme this year. What’s new?
Grainne Humphreys: It is a packed year, and we are still adding guests and a couple more films. I was lucky enough to secure Mark Cousins’ epic Women Make Film [+see also:
film profile] early in the programming cycle in August, and so I used that base to build the retrospective programme, which has resulted in a special series of rare films directed by women. We signed up to the 5050 by 2020 gender-parity pledge, and so we worked hard to get the programme to reflect our commitment. This year, we have attracted the largest number of submissions ever, and this has resulted in a far greater volume of documentaries, some of which will join our newly launched, dedicated competition. Our international selection is drawn from festivals from Cannes onwards, and we were delighted to secure many of our first choices. VMDIFF is a “best of fest” audience event, and we also fall just outside of the Oscar/BAFTA corridor, so it’s always lovely to have a couple of festival successes such as Bacurau [+see also:
interview: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juli…
film profile] and Proxima [+see also:
interview: Alice Winocour
What about this year’s industry initiatives? What are you cooking up?
Grainne Humphreys: We have been working with Screen Ireland to bring a key group of UK distributors to attend VMDIFF and debate the state of contemporary distribution. We have a wonderful line-up of festival programmers from Tokyo, Sundance, Telluride, Mumbai and Macao who are due to meet Irish producers. We have expanded our competitions, and added panels on production screenwriting and European funding models. We are delighted that Pawel Pawlikowski and Charlie Kaufman will participate in master classes. We worked with Virgin Media on a new short-film initiative, and we are glad to present the world premiere of Innocent Boy, the first work from this new competition, as well as a panel on gender diversity with Phyllida Lloyd and Neasa Hardiman.
What are the main goals of the First Frame strand?
GH: As a lecturer at third level, I see first-hand the gap between film students and world cinema as well as the need to increase the engagement between the filmmakers of the future and the film festivals around the country. The students who are completing their final films in 2020 will be brought together to meet their peers and to join a competition, which I hope will provide an annual hub for them and their lecturers. It was shocking to find out that there was no network for the colleges, universities and institutions that are engaged in developing and training future Irish filmmakers.
VMDIFF traditionally features a notable selection of shorts. What kind of stories are you looking for?
SE: I don't think we set out to find a particular kind of story, and it is often the case that the stories that arise from the submissions dictate how the programme will form. My colleague Johan Hallström and I approached our programming in different ways, with Johan going in with a theme and building around that, whereas I tend to watch all of the films first and then construct something that reflects what has been sent to us. However, this year, both methods seemed to direct both of us towards the same thing, and the stories of young people came to the fore.
The shorts programme features six sections. What are its main themes?
SE: As in previous years, we will open the strand with a selection of shorts from Screen Ireland. When viewing the movies, it soon became apparent that many of these were directed by women. It made perfect sense that this should be reflected in the programme, with all titles in this section being directed by women. Whilst we were deep into our selection process, the Brexit debate was in full swing. We were struck by the number of British films tackling diversity issues, and therefore we wanted to include these in our second section. Our third section includes Irish shorts looking at young people, both in today’s Ireland and earlier. These titles display a freshness that captures perfectly how it feels to be young, and they highlight the exceptional local film talent. The fourth section includes international works presenting different views from around the globe and stories that may at first appear unusual. It’s worth highlighting that three of the six titles were shot on celluloid. We are opening this section with Mark Jenkin’s latest short, Hard, Cracked the Wind.
Most of the fifth section’s titles centre on modern-day heroes of Ireland, people of all ages and backgrounds, facing up to challenges and doing their best to live in modern society. And our sixth section is a companion piece to the third. It also looks at the lives of young people, the effects that their parents’ actions have on them, and how their deeds affect their parents’ lives.
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