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The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020 is in full swing and tomorrow one of the biggest parts of the festival every year will take place: the screening of the surprise film. A closely guarded secret by festival organisers, not even the projectionist knows what the film is going to be until the lights go down and the film begins. Some have been excellent, some have been awful, but the anticipation is always killer.

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With the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival kicking off next week, anticipation is building for a few weeks of exciting screenings, intriguing events and of course, the DIFF Discovery Award. The Discovery Award at identifies, supports and encourages new and emerging talent in the Irish film industry, both in front of and behind the camera. Thirteen emerging talents have been nominated for this year’s Award, with the winner to be announced on the closing day of the festival, Sunday 8 March, 2020. Ahead of the beginning of DIFF, Film In Dublin reached out to some of the nominees to get a better sense of their creative influences, nominated works and views on the industry today.

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Clare Dunne’s Herself , the Closing Gala at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival  received rave reviews today at Sundance, a possible sign that we may already have the next great Irish film this decade with it only 25 days old. Further to that, the film’s festival success shows how Ireland’s international reputation is continuing to grow; programmers, distributors and viewers alike from all over the world are looking out for Irish talents more and more. The last ten years have seen our profile expand considerably, Hollywood stars like Saoirse Ronan and Colin Farrell are more acclaimed than ever, filmmakers are flocking to our island to make use of our beautiful locations and talented crews, it’s not all sweetness and sunshine but it’s been a good decade. It took a bit of mulling over, so strong was the fear of leaving great work out of a list of only ten, but at last here is Film In Dublin’s celebration of some of the best Irish films of the 2010s, classics that we’ll be going back to again and again.

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There was much discussion about the jokes that Ricky Gervais made at the expense of Hollywood superstars at this year’s Golden Globes. However, what stood out for me was what should have won an award for the “golden quote” of the night. It came from the director of the highly anticipated South Korean film Parasite, Bong Joon-ho. He gave the much needed reminder that:

 

“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.

 

This really spoke to me- and not just in English. If I could add one addendum to this brilliant insight, it would be that viewing international films also exposes you to different cultural fabrics, different challenges and, different experiences. Aside from that, they’re also very entertaining and remain such an underappreciated cinematic art by large chunks of Western audiences. So in order to help you get over the horrific inconvenience of subtitles, and in light of Bong Joon-ho’s golden quote. Here are 20 international films to watch in 2020.

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It can be hard to evaluate the best films of the 2010s, when every damn year of the decade, especially from 2015 onward, have felt like ten years unto themselves. But movies, as ever, offer respite from that chaos. It’s been a decade that has offered impressive new voices in film and given different voices bigger platforms. Names like Jordan Peele, Ava DuVerney, Ryan Coogler and more have opened up important ideas to wider audiences, while also delivering top class entertainment. Long-term talents, from Scorsese and Soderbergh to Bong Joon-ho,  Todd Haynes and Katheryn Bigelow, have changed with the times and done great work, even when it hasn’t been their defining masterpieces, these greats have produced films that audiences have latched onto and continue to engage with in interesting ways, our often noxious online discourse still providing the opportunity to grow cultural conversation. Still, that noxious shite can make even the most ardent film lover never want to talk about cinema again, and the last ten years have seen too many unwinnable bullshit battles waged by people determined to keep their beloved franchises for themselves only, or draft movies, sometimes at random, into the unending culture wars.

Netflix have changed the game completely for film distribution and audience engagement in ways we still haven’t fully processed since 2010, for better and worse, what even counts as a “film” and how we see them have been altered forever. After a relatively wobbly start to the 21st century that now seems impossible, Disney have become a monster in the 2010s, consuming one of the great film studios in the last year in Fox, reshaping history as they see fit, flooding and fixing the market, threatening all the positives in the paragraphs above. 80% of the box office is simply too much for one studio to hold, and cinema as an art form is at risk if the 2020’s continue to allow expression to be supressed in the name of expansion.

You can see some of what’s at stake in some of the great Irish films that have come out this decade, both on screen and off. Wonderful work has been done with local cinema thanks to collaboration with fellow European studios, and great films that in decades past only Irish eyes would have been watching have warmly received worldwide. Check out our Best Irish Films of the Decade list, coming soon, for some of the best of our country’s cinema. More of that in the times ahead of us please, especially for this website’s sake. There are always challenges, but without the vibrant cinema scene that has continued to grow in this country, Film In Dublin would never have started. With that in mind, it’s a good time to delve into some of our writer’s personal favourites of the decade, our Best Movies of the 2010s.

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The arrival of the first trailer for Cats back in July 2019 was one of those landmark occasions in social media history. In a time where quick and constant access to conversation is paired with a media machine designed to pile misery on all sides to leave us more divided than ever, the 2 minute trailer -its first glimpses of the uncanny combination of human faces and cat bodies, its clearly rushed special effects, the enduring brown note that blarps through the voice of James Corden – it all served as a brief and perfect moment of unity. Everyone was confused, everyone was upset. Everyone was transfixed. The sight of “miniature yet huge cats with human celebrity faces and sexy breasts performing a demented dream ballet for kids” was an Event Horizon for the terminally online, something that could only begin to be processed by the immediate and fervent application of memes. Yet the majority of those who had been cursed to watch the trailer were also united in another way: they were absolutely going to watch the film no matter what.

Cats is out in cinemas now, but it appears that the only ones going to see it are those who became unnervingly compelled t0 do so back on that wild summer day. And fans of the Broadway show maybe. Also furries. Still, opening during the busy Christmas period at the same time as a Star Wars (even a terrible one) is turning out to be a bad decision by Universal, with the film flopping at the box office so far. The reviews may be even worse, with critics lining up to skewer the film as if the writer with the most venomous take will be chosen by Old Deuteronomy to die blissfully and be reborn as a person blessed to have never seen Cats. It is “an abomination“. It is “what death feels like“, but also “surprisingly boring“, a film that “will haunt viewers for generations“. And yet, could this terrible nightmare film also serve as a landmark moment in cinematic history? Is Cats in fact a trailblazer in its unifying awfulness, the first Cursed Blockbuster?

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Later this month the experienced writer/producer Stephen Cleary will be in the fair city of film to provide two intriguing workshops on interest to budding storytellers on screen. Running next week with Film Network Ireland, the workshops will provide an opportunity to advance their knowledge of story structure, genre writing and more.

We decided to chat to Stephen on Power & Gender in Storytelling ahead of his upcoming workshop on the 23rd and 24th.

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