Film critic Michael Dwyer dies


Michael Dwyer, the film correspondent of The Irish Times, has died at the age of 58 following an illness.

Michael wrote for The Irish Times for more than 20 years. Previously, he was film critic for the Sunday Tribune , the Sunday Press and In Dublin magazine, where he established himself as an enthusiastic advocate for cinema from around the world.

A native of Tralee, Co Kerry, he first publicly expressed his love of movies through his involvement in the Tralee Film Society in the early 1970s, before going on to establish and manage the Federation of Irish Film Societies, co-ordinating the distribution and exhibition of arthouse films around the country.

In 1985, he co-founded the Dublin Film Festival, which he went on to direct and programme successfully for many years before stepping back from its day-to-day running in the mid-1990s.

The festival was a resounding success with Dublin cinemagoers, and brought many major international directors to Ireland to introduce premieres of their films.

When that festival ran into financial difficulties, he was instrumental in the founding and programming of its successor, the Dublin International Film Festival, in 2002. Until recently, he was also on the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

In 1982 he travelled for the first time to the world’s pre-eminent film event, the Festival de Cannes, and went on to attend every festival there since then. His relationship with Cannes, along with his position as Ireland’s foremost cinema critic, was recognised in 2006, when the French government appointed him a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

He fell ill following his return from the Cannes festival last May. Writing three weeks ago in The Irish Times, he recalled how “not since I was a small boy had I experienced such a gap in my cinema-going life as I did this summer”, and how he felt when he saw his first film after that gap: “As the audience filed in all around us, I felt a deep sense of belonging and a surge of pleasure to be in a cinema after all those months, to be back where I belonged.”

Over the course of his career, he interviewed nearly all the world’s great film directors and famous movie stars. For several years in the 1990s, he presented RTÉ’s movie programme, Freeze Frame , and he continued to be a familiar voice on radio programmes including Morning Ireland and the Marian Finucane Show.

He is survived by his partner Brian Jennings, his mother Mary and sisters Anne and Maria.

The Editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, said he had devoted his whole lifetime to films.

She said he was an enthusiastic advocate of cinema from all around the world and recalled that Michael described himself as "one of those lucky people in life who was able to pursue his interests and call them work".

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen said he was saddened to hear of Michael Dwyer's passing.

"The film sector and the media have lost a passionate, dedicated enthusiast who for more than three decades has been the most singular, significant influence on cinema in Ireland," Mr Cullen said.

"Michael Dwyer was passionate about film as an art form and his commentary whether on the printed page or on radio or television had a wonderful combination of knowledge and instinct. His authoritative journalism was essential reading for anyone interested in Irish and world film."

Mr Cullen said the journalist was "committed to his craft, to the promotion of film and filmmaking in this country". He was also known for "the great impression that he gave of Ireland abroad while interviewing many screen stars".

"The film community in Ireland and abroad will miss this distinguished, knowledgeable and popular journalist."

He extended his sympathies to Dwyer's partner and family.

Labour Party president Michael D Higgins said Dwyer's contribution to the appreciation of film in Ireland as both art form and entertainment was "incalculable". He also extended sympathies on behalf of the party to Dwyer's family and partner.

"Far more than a critic of film he was an activist in promoting a knowledge and appreciation of film in all its forms. During the period that I served as minister with responsibility for film and broadcasting his support for every initiative that advanced film and filmmakers, was warm, generous and of immense value."

Former director of film classification John Kelleher said Dwyer's death was "a huge loss for the world of Irish film". He said the journalist was "hugely admired and liked".