Dublin International Film Festival: the best films to see

The likes of ‘Custody’, ‘Sweet Country’ and ‘The Third Murder’ are worth seeking out

For the urban cinephile, the arrival of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival, which began on Wednesday, signifies the imminence of spring. Shelter from later winter winds with a host of domestic and international treats. You may have to “fight to get a ticket” for certain of these events, but there is still plenty to savour.

Seek out new Irish films such as Paul Duane's While You Live, Shine, a sonic journey with American musicologist Chris King, Feargal Ward's The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, gripping story of a determined farmer, and The Image You Missed, the latest from young visionary Donal Foreman. That documentary finds Foreman, director of the extraordinary Out of Here, engaging with the legacy of his late father. Domestic premieres of David Freyne's horror The Cured and Sinead O'Shea's documentary A Mother Brings her Son to be Shot are also still to come.

We can warmly recommend Xavier Legrand's already heralded Custody. This ingenious, powerful film details the trials of a young boy who, during his parents' divorce, is forced to spend time with an abusive father. One of the event's best films.

Also seek out Warwick Thornton's rugged Sweet Country. It's been nearly a decade since the director's Samson and Delilah, but the wait has proved worthwhile. The Australian's latest – a sort of raw Southern western – follows an Aboriginal farm worker as he flees the authorities after shooting a white man.


Don't let Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle escape attention. The Spanish documentary goes into the busy life of a colourful woman who decides that all she needs to achieve happiness is – as the title suggests – some children, a castle and, yes, a monkey. The subject's son, Gustavo Salmerón, treats his subject with great sensitivity and good humour. A deserved winner of Grand Prix for best documentary at the Karlovy Vary festival.

Hirokazu Koreeda has, in recent years, emerged as one of the most consistent and prolific of Japanese directors. The Third Murder takes him into the unlikely territory of the legal thriller. More plot-driven than recent Koreeda pictures such as Our Little Sister, The Third Murder trades in an impressive line of bluff and double bluff. The picture is also sound on the slippery nature of legal truth.

We point you toward Liu Jian's singular Chinese animation Have a Nice Day. A hit at last year's Berlin Film Festival, the picture tells the helter-skelter story of a gangland employee who steals a bag of money as part of a scheme to correct his girlfriend's botched plastic surgery. It's a beautiful, off-beat production that required Stakhanovite levels of effort from the film-makers.

ADIFF welcomes many films that have already scored at earlier festivals. Irish audiences will get a chance to see why Lynne Ramsay's You Never Were Never Really Here – a bloody revenge drama featuring Joaquin Phoenix – scared up such attention towards the end of last year's Cannes Film Festival.

Samuel Maoz's Foxtrot, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the recent Venice Film Festival, has got in trouble with the Israeli Ministry of Culture for its rugged engagement with that country's martial policy. The film studies a couple as they seek to process the death of their son, an IDF soldier. Foxtrot has been winning ecstatic reviews in recent months.

The festival also offers an array of talks and workshops. The legendary Sandy Powell, among the UK's most distinguished costume designers, will be in conversation at Powerscourt Townhouse. Vanessa Redgrave will receive a Volta Award, the ADIFF's career achievement gong, at The Gate Theatre.

Then there’s the famous surprise film. We don’t know what that is yet. That’s the thing about surprises.

  • The Audi Dublin International Film Festival runs until March 4th. diff.ie