Rant – The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2009: A Retrospective

Well JDIFF is over for another year and as usual I was sad to see it end. I have been involved in the film festival in some way since it began in 2003 and it is so great to see it get better and better every year. There is a strong feeling of community in the film festival every year which is one of the reasons its always a bit of an anticlimax when it is all over. I always enjoy getting to talk to people at screenings and walk across the city from film to film together. I am incredibly grateful to Movies Plus magazine and movies.ie who have allowed me to be involved in the festival every year. I get such a buzz from running from screenings to interviews then running home to write it all up. The film festival cements my knowledge that writing about film is what I want to do with my life.

I have seen some great films this year including Coraline – the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s wonderful book. It is always exciting to see a film in the festival that is not going to go on general release for a few months, but better yet when film makers make appearances at the screenings. Neil Gaiman did a public Q&A after the film and since he is one of my favourite authors I was delighted to hear him talk about his work. Other films that deserve a mention are FAQ About Time Travel, an irreverent look at, well… time travel and Awaydays which could well be this years This is England.

Tuesday was a particularly fun day for me. I spent the morning reading press notes and writing questions to put to Gerald McMorrow, writer/director behind the urban fairytale Franklyn, starring Eva Green and Ryan Phillipe. He was great to interview – we all love someone who is passionate about their work and wants to talk about it, even if this is their millionth interview of the day. It was also great to catch up with Tara Brady from Hot Press magazine who I interviewed several years ago for a radio documentary about the use of music in Quentin Tarantino’s films. From the interview I literally ran across town to get to Chapters bookshop where Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer were making a public appearance. Many thanks to the staff in Chapters for organising the event, and of course to Neil and Amanda who read and performed their work respectively, then patiently signed books, CD’s, and from what I remember, shoes for their loyal and patient fans until 10pm. After a quick slice of pizza I was back out again to see Clive Owen entering the Academy on Abbey Street for a talk on comic books. I was not lucky enough to get to talk with Clive, but did get some good photos which are immortalised on Facebook.

Star Rating is another event worth mentioning. The Dublin Critics Circle came together on Friday in the IFI and discussed their favourite films of the festival and gave awards for Best Director, Best Irish Film, Best Documentary and Lifetime Achievement, which went to George Morrison – director of the 1960 film Mise Éire, which was the first feature length film entirely in the Irish language. There is just no possible way that one person can see every film in the festival, but there is always the moment when you realise you have missed a film that may only ever get a limited release in Ireland. For me, listening to the reviews of the films at Star Rating, these films were Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop and Il Divo. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and hope.

Of course the climax of the film festival every year is the double bill of the Surprise Film and the Closing Gala. I was lucky enough this year to get tickets to the Surprise Film before it sold out. Speculation as to the identity of the Surprise Film starts almost before the tickets go on sale, so I was delighted when I guessed, correctly, that this year it was Hamlet 2; a hilarious film starring Steve Coogan which has been overlooked regarding a cinema release for many years. The Closing Gala was The Secret of Kells, which is the first feature length animated film about Irish history. The film is stunningly animated in a very distinct style and tells the story of the famous Book of Kells. Many thanks to movies.ie and Disney Ireland for tickets to the after party where we all got to be a little naughty and eat finger food in Trinity College’s hallowed Long Library. Thanks also to Paul Corrigan for giving me a tour of the library.

Although the festival ended on Sunday, press and interviews for The Secret of Kells continued on Monday, with no loss of fraternal feeling. While we waited for our interviews with Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, Christen Mooney and Evan McGuire, journalists sat on the stairs in the Clarence Hotel and shared our thoughts on the festival and the best films that we got to see and lent each other dictaphones and pens. There were some bleary eyes at the junket as some of us had left the various after parties to go home, watch the Oscars and stay up until 7am Twittering and blogging the results. (For the record, congratulations to Kate Winslet. I could not be happier.) After the junket ended I ambled home to spend the afternoon transcribing interviews, debating whether to go to see Vicky Cristina Barcelona or not (I went, and thoroughly enjoyed it) and finally saying farewell to the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for 2009. Roll on 2010!

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