Featuring screenings of Down the Corner, Withdrawal, Traveller, Waterbag, High Boot Benny, RoadSide, Reefer and the Model and Emtigon as well as Joe Comerford in conversation event at the IFI.

Joe Comerford has worked as an independent director in Ireland for over 50 years producing work that is distinguished by its cinematic subversion and social commentary, with a trademark twinning of film narrative and visual-aural abstraction. 

The Irish Film Institute is delighted to present 8 films directed by Joe Comerford as a special focus on his work, this May.  These will include 4 feature length films and 4 shorts. Starting on 13 May, audiences will have a chance to see two different films back-to-back on each date – one feature length and one short – and hear Joe talk about his work in an in-conversation event to take place at the IFI in Eustace Street on the final day of the series on 20 May. 

The season will also feature the premiere screening of a new digital restoration of the 2023 Director’s Cut of Reefer and the Model

Tickets are on sale now from ifi.ie/Joe-comerford 

Eugene Finn writing about Joe’s work for this programme says, his films focus on socially marginalised characters – destitute men, drug users, aimless youths, Travellers, prisoners and women in the midst of crisis pregnancies. His two cinema features, Reefer and the Model (1988), a comedy-crime thriller, and High Boot Benny (1993), a drama set against the backdrop of the Troubles, are both shot through with his distinctive political and social analysis. Alternating between feature films with a narrative bias, and shorts which tend towards abstract painted imagery, Comerford has declared that his longer-term objective is to tell a story by combining the two strands into a ‘painted feature’.

PROGRAMME 1 – screening Sat 13th May at 18.40


60 mins, Ireland, 1977, Digital

Made with the Ballyfermot Community Arts Workshop, Down the Corner tells the story of a group of Ballyfermot boys who attempt to rob an orchard in a nearby, more affluent suburb. An amateur local cast, improvised camerawork, and naturalistic sound created a heightened realism not seen before on Irish screens.



26 mins, Ireland, 1973, Digital

Withdrawal is about Jimmy, a heroin user in a Dublin psychiatric hospital. His thoughts and observations dominate, his subjective voiceover speculating on the lives of his companions. Jimmy leaves the hospital, returning to the city to reconcile with his loved ones, but his withdrawal leads ultimately to a dead end. 


PROGRAMME 2 – screening Sun 14 May at 15.30


80 mins, Ireland-UK, 1982, Digital

A young Traveller couple, Angela (Judy Donovan) and Michael (Davy Spillane), are sent to smuggle goods across the Northern Irish Border encountering violence and hardship along the way.  Using non-professional actors from the Traveller community, adjusting the script to accommodate the demands of the participants’ lives, and filming in authentic wintry locations, the film was “a mixture of the planned and the spontaneous”. It is Comerford’s most poetic, yet demanding, work.



13 mins, Ireland, 1984, Digital

A precursor to Reefer and the Model, Waterbag involves the relationship between two fishermen and a pregnant woman, and ends with an apparently self-induced miscarriage. Haunting images accompany composer Roger Doyle’s score.


PROGRAMME 3 – screening Thurs 18 May at 18.30


82 mins, Ireland, 1993, Digital

How to maintain neutrality in the face of raging violence is explored in this powerful feature. Benny (Marc O’Shea) is a teenage outsider sent to a school in the Republic to escape the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The school’s matron (Frances Tomelty) is sympathetic towards Benny, but cannot protect him when the IRA suspects him of being an informer. 



12 mins, Ireland, 2003, Digital

RoadSide, Comerford’s first digital short, which evolved into an installation, is an audacious blur of ugliness and beauty. Drawing on found footage from personal archives it outlines an encounter between a man and a woman in a stolen car.


PROGRAMME 4 – screening Sat 20 May at 15.30


86 mins, Ireland, 1988/2023, Digital

Comerford’s signature sharp realism infuses this drama about Reefer (Ian McElhinney), an ex-IRA man who picks up hitch-hiker Teresa (Carol Scanlan), a pregnant woman trying to overcome a drug addiction. They head to the trawler where he lives with friends Spider (Sean Lawlor) and Badger (Ray McBride). The makeshift family are forced to turn to crime to make a living. 

Premiere screening of a new digital restoration of the 2023 Director’s Cut. 



10 mins, Ireland, 1971, Digital 

In this pitch-black vaudeville of impotence and aggression, Emtigon tragicomically details a homeless old man’s covert intrusion into the life of a young woman social worker. 


Special event on Sat 20 May at 17.40 


IFI Head of Irish Film Programming Sunniva O’Flynn will host a conversation with Joe Comerford about his body of film work and the cultural, personal and political concerns which infuse it. Audience involvement will be welcomed. 


IFI is principally funded by the Arts Council.

The IFI is supported
by The Arts Council

Arts Council of Ireland