Short films to seek out at DIFF 2024

The 2024 Dublin International Film Festival begins this Thursday, and as the biggest festival in the fair city of film every year, its programme is filled with so much cinema even the film fans with the deepest pockets and the swiftest shoes to move from screen to screen can’t see them all. This is especially true of the selection of short films. With intriguing international offerings alongside familiar and rapidly rising Irish names, the shorts programmes of DIFF are often where the real gems are hidden, and this year is no exception.

Across the various shorts selections and pairings of the festival, we’ve gone through the 2024 programme to pick out some Irish films you can’t miss at DIFF.

Pediment – Dir. Derek Ugochukwu

As a writer, actor and director, Derek Ugochukwu has become a familiar face on the Irish festival circuit. After the acclaim for the emotional To All My Darlings and the impactful horror of You’re Not Home, another offering by the versatile and genre-hopping Ugochukwu catches the eye, and after a world premiere at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh, his latest short now arrives to Dublin.

Ugochukwu wrote and directed Pediment, which sees a precocious biracial boy embark on a journey to reconnect with an estranged relative, unaware of a long-existing dispute between both sides of the family.

Pediment screens as part of the Screen Ireland Shorts Programme 1 on 24th February 2024 at 2pm at the Light House Cinema. 

Two for the Road – Dir. Lochlainn McKenna

Personal and emotional, Lochlainn McKenna’s film was in good, competitive company on the Oscars longlist this year, and can be appreciated further by audiences at festival screenings. Based on Corkman Lochlainn’s childhood and his memoir accounts of diffcult weekends with his father in 90s Ireland, Two for the Road has received praise for its heartbreaking performances and honest storytelling.

Two for the Road screens as part of the Screen Ireland Shorts Programme 2 on 24th February 2024 at 4pm at the Light House Cinema. 

Never Kill a Femboy on a First Date – Dir. Oonagh Kearney

One of four films screening during the Virgin Media Discovers selection, Oonagh Kearney brings this unique, intriguing and tense erotic thriller to life. A crossdresser’s one-night stand with an exhibitionist turns life-threatening when a group of voyeurs discover they are not a woman, forcing them to use their wit and charm to negotiate and survive.

Acknowledging the violent undercurrent in Irish society, and the complex and not cleancut side of sexuality and identity, Never Kill a Femboy on a First Date promises the kind of transgressive, introspective and exciting cinema that a film festival needs. From the GAA club to the dark streets, a fresh story will be explored and exposed.

Never Kill a Femboy on a First Date screens as part of VM Discovers on 24th February 2024 at 5pm at the Light House Cinema. 

Lost & Found – Dir. Ellius Grace

Part of Motherland, Ellius Grace is a strong fit for the group’s striking and mindfully modern imagery. His short Lost & Found looks at grief, and would make a perfect, if pairing with another Motherland offering at DIFF, Don’t Forget to Remember, directed by Ross Killeen.

Featuring Irish star Hazel Doupe, Lost & Found feels the heavy pain of loss but allows also for hope, taking the two words of its title in a comprehensive quickturn on missing a loved one.

Grace and Brian Bowe have spoken about the nostalgia and mixed emotions that come with these experiences, and the film promises a powerful visual presentation of the same, as the smallest of things transport Hazel back to the past. Something happened, something so loud that it silenced everything else.

Lost & Found screens as part of DIFF Shorts 1 on 26th February 2024 at 3.30pm at the Light House Cinema. 

Baby Steps – Dir. Hannah Mamalis

Comedian Hannah Mamalis onto the screen in a short that has already picked up plenty of acclaim, contributing to her being among this year’s Discovery Award nominees (McKenna and Ugochukwu also feature this year). Made as part of the ‘Actor as Creative’ iniative, Baby Steps presents a showcase for Mamalis, the film’s writer, director and star.

As a young pregnant woman attempts to follow an instructional tape in the hopes that it will lead her to a greater understanding of herself, chaos ensues. Em is 7 months pregnant and feels little to no connection to the baby growing inside her. She attempts to find great understanding through the outdated tape, but through the chaos she does unexpectedly find catharsis.

Opportunities for Irish stars to expand their creative horizons are always worth embracing – from improv sets to the stage at Fringe, Mamalis is an artist who has been pushing further for the spotlight in recent times – after success at the Fleadh and other festivals, her home town debut with Baby Steps will be delivered right on time for a happy and healthy showing.

Baby Steps screens at Dublin on Screen 1 on 27th February 2024 at 12pm at the Light House Cinema. 

The Building and Burning of a Refugee Camp – Dir. Dennis Harvey

Arguably Ireland’s most pressing issue, which we have sleptwalken into through institutional failures, is the rise of the far right and the threat they pose to refugees. Emboldened and unimpeded, the continue to set fires at prospective, rumoured or neglected refugee centers. Based between Sweden and Ireland, Dennis Harvey provides a look at this rising nightmare in documentary The Building and Burning of a Refugee Camp.

Harvey is a member of Noncitizen, a film collective which works to hand over the means of making films to migrants, those who rarely get to tell their own stories.

Having previously looked at migration in I Must Away, here Harvey is all too close to home. Three men seeking asylum in Ireland find themselves on the streets, caught between restrictive migration policies and an increasingly aggressive far-right movement. The short doc captures an explosive sequence of events on the streets of Dublin, an environment on which we need an informed, urgent perspective.

The Building and Burning of a Refugee Camp screens as part of Documentary Shorts on 27th February 2024 at 6.30pm at The Circular. 

Postpartum – Dir. Tania Notaro

Tania Notaro’s film is available on the Virgin Media Player, but receives a worthy spot on the big screen for DIFF. In the film, life takes a dark turn when a young woman is faced with the realities of motherhood. The film looks at the stigma, trauma and unrealistic expectations set upon women, especially as parents.

Also written, directed by and starring Notato, the film’s subject matter is an important part of the programming, explored through genre work. Postpartum surrealy deals with dark themes of isolation, desperation and the hallucinations of women who succumb to postpartum depression and psychosis. Blending elements of modern pressures and Ireland’s old, it offers an upsetting but essential perspective.

Postpartum screens at DIFF Shorts 3, 29th February 2024 at 3pm at the Light House Cinema. 

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