The programme has arrived for the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020

The full programme for the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020 was launched at the Light House Cinema in Smithfield this afternoon. VMDIFF Director Gráinne Humphreys announced details of this year’s programme, a 12 day extravaganza of cinema and an opportunity to see the very best of world cinema and film talent in Dublin.

One of the strongest Irish film programmes in recent years will see a number of eagerly anticipated local films premiere at this year’s festival, with a stacked line up of features, short films and documentaries. This year’s festival will kick off on 26th February, with the Opening Night Gala marking the Irish premiere of Lorcan Finnegan’s sci-fi suspense thriller Vivarium, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen PootsThe Festival have announced that Imogen Poots will attend on the night, alongside Finnegan. The film centres on a young couple looking for a starter home is steeped in satire on suburbia and parenthood. Vivarium has already had considerable success on the festival circuit, following its world debut in competition as part of Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival (2019) where it received the Gan Foundation Award, it went on to screen at a number of prestigious film festivals around the world including rave reviews at the BFI London Film Festival last November.

Irish supernova talents Barry Keoghan and 2020 BAFTA Rising Star Award nominee Niamh Algar will walk the red carpet for the Virgin Media Gala screening of Calm With Horses, the hugely anticipated feature debut from award-winning short filmmaker Nick Rowland with a screenplay by Joseph Murtagh.


Early reviews have been strong for acclaimed drama Rialto, directed by Peter Mackie Burns and adapted by Mark O’Halloran from his stage play Trade. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor stars as Colm, a man struggling with the death of his destructive father and other personal crises who seeks solace in the arms of a young male prostitute, putting his family life at great risk.


In Broken Law the world premiere feature debut of filmmaker Paddy Slattery, a respected Garda finds his loyalties tested to the absolute limit in this crime thriller starring Cardboard Gangsters cast members John Connors, Tristan Heanue and Graham Earley.

Actor and filmmaker Tom Sullivan’s Irish language feature debut Arracht is a strong, character-driven thriller set during The Great Hunger, a tumultuous period in Irish history and tells of a fisherman who takes in a stranger on the request of a priest. The Festival have also announced guests in attendance for previously announced Irish titles: actors Orla Brady and Ann Skelly for Rose Plays Julie; writer/director Neasa Hardiman and actor Hermione Corfield for Sea Fever and director Phyllida Lloyd and actor/writer Clare Dunne alongside Harriet Walter and Conleth Hill for the Festival Closing Gala Herself. 

Following on from the recently announced nominees for the VMDIFF Discovery Award , there’s a strong focus on the Irish industry which is great to see. Those who appreciate exploring cinema from around the globe will still be able to see an array of international talents, with films like Proxima, Saint Maud, True History of the Kelly Gang, the Academy Award nominated Les Misérables and more among the extensive programming for VMDIFF20. In all, over 35 countries will be represented at the festival, with a mini strand of UK directors debuts a notable feature of this year. Bright new British talents will be showcased, successes in spite of our neighbours attempts to self-destruct and alienate us all. Aiming for a diverse selection of cinema, the festival this year has a features representation of LGBTQ+ films including Australian Samuel Van Grinsven’s Lynchian-style feature Sequin in a Blue RoomOliver Hermanus’ critically acclaimed conflict drama Moffie and Jacqueline Audry’s classic tale of a love triangle at a French finishing school, Olivia, amongst others.

As ever VMDIFF20 will host prominent guests from the wider film world, perhaps most noticeably this year the visit ofmulti award-winning screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman, who will give an unique into his creative process in a public interview with Ireland’s own Mark O’Halloran. From Being John Malkovich through to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and AnomalisaKaufman has created some of cinemas most memorable films and this will be an unmissable event for any cinema lover. Aspiring artists will also have the chance to take some notes from Kaufman, as he hosts a Screen Skills Masterclass. Another noteworthy talent providing his expertise will be Cold War director Pawel Pawilikowski who will participate in a Director’s Masterclass. Danish actress Trine Dyrholm will also be present for her latest film Queen of Hearts, with Phyllida Lloyd, Marjane Satrapi and Mark Cousins among other big name guests. Also in Dublin this year will be Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, who will be joined by actor Bill Nighy at the screening of her modern fable, The Kindness of Strangers. Both Kaufman and Dyrholm will also receive Voltas, the DIFF festival award presented to celebrate the careers of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the world of film.

Belfast born Mark Cousins’ alternative history of cinema Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema will put a spotlight on women’s integral role in the development of film art, in the form of a 14 hour documentary, screened over the opening weekend of the Festival in several parts.
The five-part programme featuring contributions from Tilda Swinton, Sharmila Tagore, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Thandie Newton, Kerry Fox, and Debra Winger, Women Make Film overturns our understanding of cinematic history by reminding audiences of the vast, and often overlooked, role played by women in the film industry across the world over the last 11 decades. The festival notes that 35% of the directors at this year’s festival are female, a step towards the 50/50 parity that big festivals like DIFF ought to be aspiring to, particularly as last year the festival signed up to the 50/50 by 2020 Gender Parity Pledge. On 7th March, the festival will invite a group of Irish and international filmmakers to a ‘Diversity Panel’ to discuss the state of contemporary cinema and the strategies being used to bring about change.

Other directors taking part in post screening Q&As include: Kleber Mendonca Filho with his Cannes Jury Prize winner, genre-busting Brazilian futuristic thriller Bacarau; Filippo Meneghetti with Two of Us about two retirement-age women living in the same apartment building who have been keeping a huge secret – they are passionately in love; Tiago  Guedes with his sweeping Portuguese political and social drama The Domain; Bartosz Kruhlik with ‘real time’ Polish drama Supernova; Rose Glass with award-winning psychological horror of trauma and control Saint Maud, and Elfar Adalsteins with End of a Sentence, starring John Hawkes and Ireland’s own Sarah Bolger, which follows a young ex-con and his father as they go on a road trip to scatter the ashes of their mother and wife.

Delving into Chinese cinema, the Festival programme shows a diverse selection of films that looks to cast a light onto Chinese society past and present. Yang Lina’s historical drama Spring Tide explores three generations of women from the same family.  Xiaoming Chen’s thriller If You Are Happy explores how far parents will go to ensure their children get a good education.  The funny and warm feminist drama Send Me To The Clouds looks at the social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — those older than 26 and unmarried, and the charming Tibetan language Balloon tells the story of two young boys from a shepherding family who discover balloons in their family home, until it emerges they are condoms. The Festival will also screen a number of stunning and insightful Chinese documentaries, including Zhang Yang’s sumptuous The Sound of Dali, a film about the rhythm of nature through the sights, sounds and senses of Dali, and the beautifully observed Confucian Dream, which explores the universal truths about relationships through a mother who converts to Confucianism to try and do the best for her family.

The expansive world cinema programme features an eclectic selection of internationally acclaimed films and award winners.  These include the prestigious Audience Award winner at Sundance, May el-Toukhy’s erotic thriller Queen of Hearts starring Trine Dyrholm – a family tale that delivers more than its share of gut-wrenching moments; Cannes’ Un Certain Regard winner, Karim immersive Brazilian feminist drama The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão; Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness a series of beautiful vignettes which opens with the sight of a couple floating over the German city of Cologne; winner of Tribeca’s Nora Ephron Award Initials S.G., the pitch black comedy about a Serge Gainsbourg cover singer set against Argentina’s quest to win the World Cup; and Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner Synonymns which tells the story of an Israeli man who travels to Paris to flee his nationality.

From established names to exciting new voices, French cinema is well represented throughout the festival: Ladj Ly’s impressive Oscar nominated debut feature Les Misérables, inspired by the Paris riots of 2005; Vincent Cassel shines in Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s The Specials, based on the true story of Stephane Benhamou who runs a shelter for autistic teens and young adults in Paris; Jean Dujardin gives an inspired performance as a man with an unhealthy fashion obsession in the surprising and offbeat black comedy Deerskin; Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche star in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth. marking his first film outside of his native Japan.

The Surprise Film continues to be one of the most popular events in the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival programme but, as always, its identity remains a tightly-guarded secret known only to the Festival Director.

The Empire Film Podcast Live, the official podcast of movie magazine Empire. VMDIFF will welcome Chris Hewitt and his podcasting team to Dublin for an afternoon of film-related fun and chat with special guests on Friday 6th March.

With 2020 marking the centenary of renowned filmmaker Federico Fellini, the festival this year will celebrate his work through the “Viva Fellini” series. A number of free concerts across the fair city of film will take place in association with the Italian Cultural Institute and the Screen Composers Guild, highlighting the music of Fellini’s longtime composer Nino Rota. The exact locations of these events are set to be a surprise, mini concerts featuring the music of La Strada, La Dolce Vita, Il Bidone and Amarcord, courtesy of Dublin-based ensemble The Tiny Quartet.

Speaking about the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019 programme, Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director said:

 “This year we have a stellar line-up of World and Irish cinema accompanied by some of the most dazzling international and home grown film talents. We invite our audiences, known for their love of film to dive right in for the next 12 days and nights and discover different cultures, stories, worlds, points of views – be entertained, engaged, included. We’re delighted to be working with Virgin Media in year two as the festival’s title sponsor.”

Niamh O’Driscoll, Head of Brand and Marketing at Virgin Media said:

“Marking the start of a new decade, the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival has shot the lights out with this year’s programme which is going to be a truly immersive and delightful experience for everyone who loves this powerful medium. We’re proud of the diversity of this year’s line-up; emboldening broader, more inclusive independent voices and full of incredible stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect. Our support underlines our commitment to foster creativity in film production and television content as Ireland’s leading connected entertainment provider and commercial broadcasting company.”

With all this, Fantastic Flix, the Film Quiz and more, the stage is set for another edition of Dublin’s biggest film festival. Tickets are on sale now for films and events that will be taking place across town. 

About Luke Dunne

Luke is a writer, film addict and Dublin native who loves how much there is for film fans in his home county. A former writer for FilmFixx and the Freakin' Awesome Network, he founded Film In Dublin to pursue his dual dreams of writing about film and never sleeping ever again.

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