Chills and thrills at the Capital Irish Film Festival
From March 3 to 6, The AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center will transport participants to the various cities and countryside of Ireland via the big screen. The Capital Irish Film Festival returns for four days, offering an in-depth and comprehensive examination of Irish cinema and cultural identity.
Co-presented by AFI Silver and Solas Nua, the local arts organization dedicated to showcasing the range of contemporary Irish arts, this year’s festival features 15 feature films, two short film programs and hosts a special screening of An Irish goodbye, winner of the first Norman Houston Short Film Award. The 2022 showcase of modern Irish cinema spans the gamut of genres, including drama, horror, romance, documentaries and more. Other notable screenings include Black Comedy Redemption of a thief, which won Best Feature Film and Best Irish Debut Feature at the 2020 Galway Film Fleadh; the irish language film Foscadh (see our opinion on Foscadh)—the country’s 2021 submission to the Oscars—and Death of a ladies’ man, featuring the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne and inspired by the music of Leonard Cohen.
“Storytelling is an ancient Irish tradition that has found a beautiful and robust voice in film, which has spawned a thriving industry,” Pat Reillydirector of the festival for seven years, says city paper. “Like filmmakers around the world, artists based in Ireland reflect their society, which is diverse, rapidly changing and open to the world.”
But adrenaline junkies and horror movie fans take note: the country may not be known for churning out horror movie after horror movie, but the history and folklore of the ireland is full of inspiration for disturbing stories. This year, CIFF presents two chilling feature films from female filmmakers who draw on Irish history, tradition and trauma to strike fear into the hearts of viewers.
Kate Dolanit’s you are not my mother and Stacey Greggit’s here before premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and the SXSW Film Festival, respectively. The two have received critical acclaim and are both struggling with mother-daughter relationships. Likewise, both are finding space in the high horror genre, much like in 2014. The Babadook (also written and directed by a woman) – to explore bigger issues. At the end of February, Dolan’s first feature film received appointments Best Director, Best Film and Best Screenwriter by the Irish Film & Television Academy. His teenage star, Hazelnut Doupewas nominated for Best Lead Actress.
Not for the faint-hearted, you are not my mother opens with an aggressive scene reminiscent of infanticide, but turns into a slow burn in adolescence char (Doupe) struggles to understand his mother’s implied depression, disappearance, and altered state upon returning home.
Set in North Dublin, in what is clearly one of the city’s less affluent areas, the film lives on in an Irish winter color palette: greens, grays, pops of yellow and brown. . In contrast, nightmares are depicted in bright red, reminiscent of blood or fire. And fire, for its part, plays a significant role in Dolan’s film, which she also wrote. When used as a weapon, fire is described as an agent of purification.
you are not my mother makes jaw-dropping leaps throughout its 90+ minutes, but it doesn’t budge at the level of a typical horror movie clip. Indeed, even the jumps seem psychological when paired with grotesque body horror: hair falls out in clumps, an arm is inserted into the mouth, limbs bend at unnatural angles. Although the story uses darker fairy folklore, it also offers a narrative about being a teenage stranger, the importance of friendship, and the complexity of family. As one character states near the film’s climax, “Family is the scariest fucking thing on the planet.”
Family is also a central theme in Gregg’s here beforefollowing Laura (Andrea Riseborough), a grieving mother who is still dealing with the death of her young daughter when a family with a daughter her daughter’s age moves in next door. Laura’s son and husband are together, and sometimes they seem like a happy unit. But the more the neighbor comes, the more haunted Laura becomes.
Written and directed by Gregg, here before is the Northern Irish filmmaker’s directorial debut and was shot in and around Belfast. As you are not my mother, there are undoubtedly times when viewers can’t help but question the character’s sanity. Told primarily from Laura’s perspective, here before offers insight into mental illness and questions the boundary that separates it from bereavement. It’s a lot to ask a single actor to carry a movie, but Riseborough pulls it off effortlessly, drawing audiences into their pain, confusion, and ultimately, desire.
Gregg’s story puts a creative spin on the classic ghost story. Also a slow burn, here before embraces the plot-twisted thriller genre by keeping viewers constantly guessing, always on the lookout, and trying to decipher what is real and what isn’t.
The Capital Irish Film Festival runs from March 3-6 at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center. $120, individual tickets also available. you are not my mother screens on March 3 at 9:45 p.m. and March 6 at 9:30 p.m. here before shows on March 4 at 6:45 p.m. solasnua.org/ciff.