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Director: Lance Daly Starring: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddy Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Jim Broadbent Running Time: 96 minutes

For an event that had such a profound impact on the course of Irish history, the great tragedy and injustice from which Ireland’s entire subsequent history as a nation sprang forth from, it’s surprising that the Famine hasn’t found its story told on cinema screens, particularly Irish ones, more often. Director Lance Daly takes that task on in Black 47, last week’s Opening Gala of the 2018 Dublin International Film Festival. His approach is perhaps unexpected considering the subject matter, the film being a roaring rampage of revenge, internalising the anger and injustice of the Famine into one man’s quest for vengeance. Prestigous? No. But undoubtedly compelling.

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Director: Emer Reynolds ‘Starring’: Voyager 1, Voyager 2 Running Time: 121 minutes

While the primary goal of a documentary is to be informative, the best ones always distinguish themselves by being visually interesting. They are after all, still movies, not lectures and the best cases for filmed documentary are made by taking advantage of the medium and providing images that remain in the mind where facts and figures can find it easier to break free. In Irish director Emer Reynold’s space-faring doc The Farthest, a combination of interviews, well-selected archive footage and photographs and impressive computer-generated imagery come together to tell the story of the NASA’s Voyager mission in a truly beautiful fashion. It’s easy to feel the awe of space exploration when it looks as good as this.

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Director: Mick Jackson Starring: Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott Running Time: 110 minutes

The atmosphere of Western politics in the last 12 months has quickly turned ‘timely’ into one of the most overused phrases in film criticism, with any film past or present that’s even remotely similar to current events now given the label. However with Denial depicting an Anti-Semite, who literally causes a judge to ask if his twisting of the facts regarding the Holocaust can be called lies if they’re what he genuinely believes, timely is definitely the word, to the point where the unrelenting news cycle rendered it more relevant walking out of the screening than it had been walking into it. Relevant and informative, as a film Denial is as blunt as its subject Deborah E. Lipstadt has been about the obvious incorrectness of Holocaust deniers like David Irving and the motivation behind their lies. Its message is important in the face of ‘alternate facts’, but the film struggles in getting beneath the surface of Lipstadt and Irving’s legal battle.

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Director: Pablo Larraín Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt Running Time: 99 minutes

It would perhaps be a stretch to call Pablo Larraín’s Jackie a surreal film. In terms of narrative structure and subject matter, it still functions as a straight enough biopic about Jackie Kennedy. But we all know what happened to Jackie Kennedy, and what could be more surreal than having your husband, the President of the United States, have his head blown to pieces right next to you? Isn’t reaching for a piece of skull, frantically, nonsensically, the kind of gesture that might fascinate directors like David Lynch or, as is the case, Larraín? Still structurally a biopic, what makes Jackie so interesting is its effectiveness in capturing the surreal, funereal air around the aftermath of a situation that was never supposed to happen. And just as responsible for creating that feeling is Natalie Portman as Jackie, in possibly her best performance as the shellshocked out-of-nowhere widow.

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