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'See as much as you can': How this virtual film festival is bringing 60 global new movies to your living room

The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival is taking place until March 14.

Image: Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival/Jumbo

“I’VE ALWAYS SAID a big part of the festival is that you could travel around the world without leaving Dublin,” says Grainne Humphreys. So in many ways, the move to online streaming was a natural progression for the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.

Rather than taking place in cinemas around the capital, this year’s festival – which is currently underway until Sunday March 14 – is coming to laptops and televisions in houses around the country. 

And while you may not be able to grab a medium combo deal before the film starts, Grainne says “the core elements of celebrating world cinema” are still there.

Films from 25 countries are being screened over the course of the festival, and the move online means viewers have more than one chance to see them. “The festival is usually made up of a lot of films that you won’t see again,” says Grainne. “It’s kind of blink and you’ll miss it. So when you switch to an online platform, you’re giving people three days to watch a film [from when it's screened], and you’re also giving them 30 hours to watch it from when they start, so already you’re opening up the ways in which people can fit it in.”

In this way, the festival aims to be more accessible and reach more people than ever before. “They don’t have to organise a babysitter or get into their car and drive. They can wait until everybody’s gone to bed, or they can watch it early in the morning or late at night… We’re in a position to bring the wide range of what the programme would normally present, but in a way that is making it even more accessible to those audiences that it wasn’t available to.”

Source: Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival/YouTube

So, how exactly does it all work? According to Grainne, the festival was structured “to make it as easy as possible for people who would regularly attend to be able to get their tickets and to book in as normal.”

“You just go to the website and there you can see that it’s all very clearly marked. We’re very conscious of the fact that sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming to have so many films kind of gathered together. So each film has a little synopsis, what it’s about, the country that it’s from and the language that it’s in. You basically click on that, go to checkout and you’ll be sent all the information.”

Once the film is screened, you have three days to watch it – including 30 hours from when you press ‘play’, so you can come back to it if you can’t watch it all in one go. Another thing to note is there’s a capacity of 400 viewers for each film, meaning there are limited places available. 

With more than 60 films to choose from in the program, it can be hard to know where to begin. A good place, as per Grainne’s recommendation, is with a shorts programme.

“I would always say to people to try and look at one of the short programmes. Not only do you normally get about eight films for the price of one, but it’s just so fascinating to see so many diverse films in one particular space.”

As for Grainne’s top picks, she says this year’s programme “reflects a really great selection of what’s happening in the world.”

Air Conditioner (Angola, 2020)

Air Conditioner Source: Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival/Air Conditioner

In the opening sequence of this science fiction movie from Angola, the air conditioners in a hot coastal city all stop working at once. The film’s focus is on what happens next.

Grainne says: “There’s a film called Air Conditioner from Angola, which is a kind of freewheeling, sci-fi, slice of life film set in Luanda. It’s really rare to get a film from Angola.”

Father (Serbia, 2020)

Father Source: Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival/Father

A father goes on an epic journey to regain custody of his children after they are taken from him by social services in this Serbian drama.

“Father is quite a tough film,” says Grainne. “One of the things I was conscious about was what kinds of films people would watch at home. There are certain films that are better suited to a bigger screen, but this is a really powerful story about a man trying to get his kid back. It’s a universal pain.”

BIGvsSMALL (Finland, 2020)

BigvsSmall Source: Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival/BIGvsSMALL

This Finnish documentary follows the story of big-wave surfer Joana Andrade as she goes to train with free diver Johanna Nordblad.

Grainne says: “This is about a big champion wave surfer, and she meets up with a woman who does free-diving. It ranges from Portugal to the very north of Finland. It’s quite spectacular, actually.”

Is There Anybody Out There? (Ireland, 2021)

Is There Anybody Out There Source: Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival/Is There Anybody Out There?

This feature-length documentary was created by 60 film students from Trinity College Dublin after the country went into lockdown last March to document what was happening in their lives.

“Just to see what these guys did during lockdown is incredible,” says Grainne. “We have 14 different countries reflected in this particular documentary.”

Although you might not be able to watch the films with as many people as you’d like to, Grainne is urging viewers to create a shared experience by telling friends and family about the films they enjoy during the festival. 

“The festival is not that dynamic of watching something on Netflix or something on telly on a Friday night. In my head, it’s meant to be shared.

“A big part for me is actually standing outside afterwards and meeting people on the way out. If people do enjoy a film, I will ask them to do what we would normally do, which is tell people that we enjoyed it. Try and get that sense of being in a larger group.”

And don’t forget to bring the cinema experience to your home, too. “Try and make it as close to a cinema experience as possible. Watch it with good lights, good sound, pick your foods. You can eat what you like. And you can eat it as loudly as you like!”

Browse the full online programme for this year’s Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival, taking place until 14 March, here. Watch our exciting programme from the comfort of your own home with one of our online ticket bundles here. See it first #VMDIFF2021.

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