Dublin Smartphone Film Festival shows quality phone filmmaking is on the rise

This year’s festival attracts 200 entries from 25 countries with 82 film screenings

In the four years since the Dublin Smartphone Film Festival started, mobile phone cameras have improved immeasurably and so has the quality of films made on them.

What was once a scrappy and cheap upstart is now a mainstream means of filmmaking with high-end commercials, music videos and even a Steven Soderbergh feature-length film, High End Bird.

Founder Rob Fitzharris started the festival seven years ago when he heard traditional filmmakers complain about the use of mobile phones instead of dedicated cameras to make films.

“Film is the only art form where you are judged on the cost of the equipment you have. You wouldn’t judge a painter by the price of his paint brushes.”


Last year’s festival was screened in the Teeling Distillery in Dublin. This year’s festival has migrated online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It attracted 200 entries from 25 countries and 82 are being screened online.

“We didn’t want to not do it. Last year we thought the whole Covid thing would have blown over,” he explained.

The festival line-up includes a full-length feature film, Ghost, by British director Anthony P James and a full length documentary, Father Unknown, by American director David Quint about a son who goes looking for the father he does not know.

The festival was created with the goal of encouraging filmmakers to share the stories they have captured on mobile devices and to provide smartphone filmmakers with a platform to exhibit these stories to a wider audience.

Awards categories include: best fiction; music video; documentary; animation; and best Irish, with entries restricted to no longer than 15 minutes in length.

Several films, including one made by RTÉ journalist Philip Bromwell, cover the lockdown.

“We just could not believe the success of the festival in the past three years. We sell out each year before the doors even open. It really demonstrated to us just how popular the notion of smartphone filmmaking has become,” Mr Fitzharris said.

“The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have brought about an incredible period of creativity with people forced to use the tools they have at their disposal to tell stories.

“As a result we have seen an increase in submissions and the quality has moved forward at a phenomenal rate. We want to encourage the next generation of filmmakers to create their stories using their phones and to provide them with a platform to present these stories to a wider audience.”

The Dublin Smartphone Film Festival will take place from the January 30th to the February 6th on XERB.TV. Tickets are €5 per screening or €15 for access to all short films.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times