August 23rd 2023: The programme for the 22nd IFI Documentary Festival, 27 Sept – 1 Oct, has been announced.
From personal stories beautifully told, to a shocking investigative exploration of mysterious disappearances, from a unique viewpoint of those experiencing life behind the headlines of war, to shining a light on untold histories and discovering ordinary people’s extraordinary lives.
Booking now open at ifi.ie/docfest. See the festival brochure here.
Today the Irish Film Institute (IFI) has announced the full line up for the IFI Documentary Festival which will run from 27 Sept – 1 Oct. This always much anticipated festival annually presents an intriguing mix of screenings, panel discussions and public interviews to enjoy in person with select documentaries also available online on IFI@Home. Booking is open now at ifi.ie/docfest.
The festival is programmed by IFI Head of Cinema Programming David O’Mahony (international titles) and Sunniva O’Flynn (Irish features) and and will include a number of world and Irish premieres.
IFI Documentary Festival 2023 will open with the world premiere of an exploration into how five young boys went missing from the streets of Belfast and were never seen again, and why five decades on, the families still have no answers. From there, dive into five days of intriguing documentaries taking you on from the wartorn streets of Mariupol to the daily struggles of a community of sheep farmers on the Beara Peninsula. From a sanctuary for transgender women and cross-dressing men in 1950s/ 60s US, to the smoke saunas of Estonia where women gather to cleanse their bodies and their souls, explore all this festival has to offer at the home of Irish cinema, the IFI.
The curated selection of documentaries in this will include:
The IFI Documentary Festival in more detail:
LOST BOYS: BELFAST’S MISSING CHILDREN
Film info: 90 mins, Northern Ireland, 2023, Digital
Weds, Sept 27th (18.30)
During the winter of 1969, young boys started to disappear from the streets of Belfast, never to be seen again. By 1974, as ‘The Troubles’ were reaching a bloody and vicious peak, five boys in total had vanished within a five-mile radius. Fifty years later, as the disappearances remain unsolved and families continue to search for answers, filmmaker Des Henderson (How to Diffuse a Bomb) reopens these largely forgotten cold-cases, unearthing disturbing revelations in secret state documents to reveal an extraordinary tale of abuse, murder and potential cover up.
Followed by a Q&A with Des Henderson.
Film info: 96 mins, Armenia-Germany-Lithuania, 2022, Digital. F-Rated.
Thurs, Sept 28th (18.20)
Aurora was just 14 years old when she lost everything during the horror of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Two years later, through extraordinary courage and multiple miraculous twists of fate, she escaped to New York, where her story became a media sensation. Starring as herself in Auction of Souls, an early Hollywood blockbuster, Aurora became the face of one of the largest charity campaigns in American history. With a blend of evocative animation, interviews with Aurora herself, and 18 minutes of surviving footage from the lost silent epic, Aurora’s Sunrise revives a forgotten story of survival.
YOUR FAT FRIEND
Film info: 96 mins, UK-USA, 2023, Digital. F-Rated.
Thurs, Sept 28th (20.30)
Aubrey Gordon writes anonymously with candour and humour as ‘Your Fat Friend’ about what it means to be a very fat woman in the world. Her searingly honest writing debunks the lies peddled by the diet industry and how bias might be the biggest threat to fat people’s heath. Over a 6-year period, Jeanie Finlay follows Aubrey’s from anonymous blogger to best-selling author and co-host of the Maintenance Phase podcast. Your Fat Friend is a film about fatness, family, the complexities of making changes, and the deep, messy feelings we hold about our bodies.
Followed by a Q&A with Jeanie Finlay.
CROWS ARE WHITE
Film info: 98 mins, USA-Ireland-Japan, 2022, Digital
Fri, Sept 29th (18.30)
In this disarmingly personal documentary Ahsen Nadeem, who was raised Muslim in Saudi Arabia and came to live in the heart of Cavan at age 10, now finds himself so conflicted about his religious upbringing, and the disappointment he anticipates from his parents when he tells them his plans to marry Dawn, a non-Muslim woman, that he seeks spiritual enlightenment with the Tendai Buddhist monks in Japan. But the only monk who will speak with him is an outcast who prefers ice cream and heavy metal to meditation. An irreverent and entertaining exploration of truth, faith and love.
RIDERS ON THE STORM
Jason Motlagh & Mark Oltmanns
Film info: 101 mins, Afghanistan-Austria, 2023, Digital
Fri, Sept 29th (20.30)
When US forces leave Afghanistan, ending the longest war in US history, the Taliban gain ground. Against this tumultuous backdrop, Khaiber Akbarzada is on the verge of becoming the country’s greatest player of Buzkashi, the national sport where horse riders battle for possession of a headless goat. Forced into hiding, the young horseman must make a life-altering choice to avoid the fate of his uncle, a legendary Buzkashi player who was assassinated during the civil war. Riders on the Storm captures a pivotal moment in Afghan history and offers a rare and visceral look at a ruthless sports culture where champions become marked men.
IRISH SHORTS PROGRAMME
Sat, Sept 30th (12.30)
From micro-budget student films to lush cinematic odysseys, and with a distinct focus on working class Dublin experience, this year’s programme explores themes of adversity, injustice and identity alongside playful investigations of language and culture.
The Death of Terence Wheelock, Adam Doyle, Mihael Fitzpatrick / 20 mins
Falling, Neda Naeel / 5 mins
Focail Nua, Andrew Keogh / 12.5 mins
Knockser, Darragh Foy / 9.5 mins
Shakes versus Shav, Damian Farrell, Gerry Hoban/ 17 mins
What is Freedom, Mohadesa Shojaee / 5 mins
The Coco Show, Jeff Doyle / 23 mins
The Audience Award for Best Short Documentary is generously supported by Screen Scene.
MY LOST RUSSIAN MOTHER
Film info: 86 mins, Ireland-UK, 2023, Digital
Sat, Sept 30th (15.20)
Irish filmmaker Sam Jones, in his first feature documentary, welcomes the newfound friendship of US citizen Gabe, and follows him to a remote Russian village in search of the mother he and his sister were taken from in childhood when they were adopted into America. What Gabe finds is not the loving parent he hoped for, but an alcoholic, a woman steeped in lies, darkness and death. With apparent arrogance and insensitivity, he determines to rehabilitate her but as the film progresses we learn of Gabe’s own traumas and this deeply unsettling story of friendship, adoption, addiction and identity takes ever darker turns.
Followed with a Q&A with Sam Jones.
IN THE SHADOW OF BEIRUT
Stephen Gerard Kelly & Garry Keane
Film info: 92 mins, Ireland-UK-Lebanon-Germany, 2023, Digital
Sept, Sept 30th (18.00)
From the makers of GAZA (2019), comes a new cinematic odyssey, penetrating deep below the surface of Beirut, a still beautiful, yet deeply troubled city on the brink of financial collapse. The film weaves together the stories of four characters living in the neighbourhoods of Sabra and Shatila struggling to survive with dignity and decency amidst unimaginable hardship. This intimate, character-driven study bears witness to the stark reality of life for the protagonists and for others who fight for survival in a nation suffering one of the worst global financial meltdowns on record.
Followed by a Q&A with Garry Keane.
Mieke Vanmechelen & Michael Holly
Film info: 81 mins, Ireland, 2023, Digital
Sat, Sept 30th (18.10)
Hungry Hill follows the daily struggles of a community of sheep farmers as they negotiate the mountainous terrain of the Beara Peninsula. Farmers Connie and John Doyle work alongside their neighbours, the Vanmechelens, who arrived in Ireland in the 1980s from the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe in Holland/Belgium leaving behind a farm which lay too close to the Doel nuclear power station. Archival media from Belgium and Holland is interwoven with present-day observational footage from Kerry, connecting disparate times and places, provoking reflection, and inspiring action for a more sustainable future.
Followed by a Q&A with Mieke Vanmechelen and Michael Holly.
Film info: 97 mins, France-USA, 2022, Digital
Sat, Sept 30th (20.30)
In the 1950s and ‘60s, an underground network of transgender women and cross-dressing men found refuge at a modest house in the Catskills region of New York. Known as Casa Susanna, the house provided a safe space for them to express their true selves without fear of being incarcerated. Told through the memories of those whose visits to the house would change their lives, incorporating a rich trove of archival footage and photographs, the film provides a moving look back at a secret world where the persecuted and frightened found freedom, acceptance, and the courage to live out of the shadows.
SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD
Film info: 90 mins, Estonia, 2023, Digital. F-Rated
Sun, Oct 1st (13.30)
Estonia’s traditional smoke sauna, inscribed in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, is an intimate space where women gather to not just cleanse their bodies, but also their souls. Filmed over 5 years, Anna Hints captures the unique environment of the smoke sauna, where women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences. Beautifully presented in painterly compositions, Hints creates an atmosphere where confessions are shared, and women heal by the power of community. The audience is invited to observe the rituals and join in this cathartic and unforgettable experience.
IFI & AEMI: MAKING DUST
Film info: 45 mins, Ireland, 2023, Digital
Sat, Oct 1st (15.30)
Making Dust is a powerful portrait of the demolition of the Church of the Annunciation in Finglas in 2021, the second-largest Catholic Church in Ireland when it was built in 1967. Structured around a provocative essay by architectural historian Ellen Rowley and featuring oral interviews recorded at the site and in a nearby hairdressers, the film considers the ways in which the building has both influenced and has been influenced by the community it was built to serve.
CHURCHES FOR OUR CHILDREN (Radharc Films)
26 mins, Ireland, 1974
Followed by a Q&A with Fiona Hallinan and Ellen Rowley.
20 DAYS IN MARIUPOL
Film info: 95 mins, Ukraine, 2023, Digital
Sun, Oct 1st (18.10)
A team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work recording atrocities of the Russian invasion. As the only international reporters who remain in the city, they capture what later became defining images of the war. After nearly a decade covering international conflicts for the Associated Press, Mstyslav Chernov’s first feature, winner of the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at Sundance, offers a vivid, harrowing account of life for civilians caught in the siege, as well as revealing the perils of reporting from a conflict zone, and the impact of such journalism around the globe.
THE GRACELESS AGE – THE BALLAD OF JOHN MURRY
Film info: 90 mins, Ireland-Canada-USA, 2023, Digital
Sun, Oct 1st (20.15)
John Murry was on the cusp of greatness with his highly acclaimed album The Graceless Age (2013) when, addicted to heroin and creatively exhausted, he washed up on Irish shores a broken man. Now, he is ready to retrace his steps back into the dark heart of American life to face his difficult childhood, traumatic assault and resulting years of opioid addiction. Director Sarah Share (If I Should Fall From Grace) follows John’s journey from near death to redemption and a new zest for life and art through his outstanding music.
This screening will be followed by a Q&A with Sarah Share and John Murry.
IFI Documentary Festival is supported by RTÉ Supporting the Arts.
The IFI acknowledges the support of the Arts Council.
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The IFI is supported by The Arts Council