Celebrating the Big Screen

As the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival enters its tenth year, Tadgh Dolan speaks to Festival Director Gràinne Humphreys about what is in store for Ireland’s celluloid lovers

This year the Jameson International Film Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary, hitting the capital from 16th to the 26th of February. Since the awards season is already buzzing due to the upcoming BAFTA and Academy Awards, film is definitely on the tip of everybody’s tongue. Despite its relative youth, the Jameson festival has managed to draw in large audiences and attract a large number of A-listers, including Sean Penn, Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron, over the past decade.  This year proves to be no different, with award-winning actors such as Glenn Close presenting her Oscar-nominated role in Albert Nobs, and Mark Wahlberg making an appearance having starred in action thriller Contraband.
Festival Director Gràinne Humphreys is acutely aware of how the festival has grown in tandem with the Irish film industry as a whole. “One of our key roles is to platform those films and their release in Ireland. I’d see [the festival] as growing parallel to the Irish film industry. The success of films like The Guard and the range of different documentaries, shorts, and feature films being presented in the festival mirror what is happening in the sector as well.”
This year’s festival hosts a variety of events, including Q&A sessions and master classes with leading directors, producers and screen writers. JDIFF 2012 will see many sensational guests, such as Kenneth Lonergan (scriptwriter on Gangs of New York) and The Wire scriptwriter Agnieszka Holland appearing with her Oscar-nominated In Darkness.
Also confirmed to attend is Oscar-winning screen legend Al Pacino, who will be hitting the festival to showcase his new film Wilde Salome, co-starring The Help’s Jessica Chastain. The movie highlights Pacino’s fascination with one of Ireland’s greatest literary exports, the incomparable Oscar Wilde. When asked about having a film giant gracing the Jameson stage, Humphreys asserted that “it’s a huge honour … I keep getting completely calm then remembering: it’s Al Pacino!

“We’re putting on a couple of Al Pacino films that I’m not sure people are actually as familiar with … I think people are more familiar with The Godfather, so we decided to try and maybe push it in a different direction, so The Panic in Needle Park and the first film he directed, Looking for Richard, will be screened.” After Stellan Skarsgård was honoured at the festival’s official press launch, Pacino will be this year’s second recipient of the coveted Volta Award. He will be presented with the statuette ahead of the screening for Wilde Salome, and with past winners including George Morrison and Daniel Day Lewis, the two are certainly in illustrious company.
Over the past nine years, the festival has shown over 1,137 films, a staggering accomplishment. Many students have joined a total of 1,568 volunteers since the festival began in 2003. Humphreys herself volunteered at Dublin film festivals while completing a Film Studies degree at UCD as it became “part and parcel” of her student life. It would seem that there has also been a concerted effort in getting Irish film talent on to the world stage. Humphreys says “I think it’s still very simple; if you make a good film it will actually succeed … Irish film has possibly, through hard work and a lot of persistence, managed to make the right number of films and established the right type of connections.” In 2008, the festival began the Irish Talent Spotlight in order to profile exceptional talent working in all areas of the Irish film industry. This year will focus on directors Pat Collins (Silence) and Ian Fitzgibbon (Death of a Superhero), and composer Brian Byrne (Albert Nobbs).
One standout feature of the festival is how it manages to remain true to its audiences. When asked whether the festival is ready to share a stage with the likes of Cannes or Venice, Humphreys’ response was immediate, “No. Cannes is a film festival that is based in the Rivera and has 40,000 participants. At any one time you can see about thirty-five films and it has a market … It has a very high-profiled celebration of the art form, but underneath it is effectively a shop-window for cinema … Whereas [with] Dublin, I’m quite proud of the fact that it’s about audiences. It’s about that relationship between film makers and audiences.”
With this being Humphrey’s fifth year co-ordinating the festival, it is easy to wonder how she has tried to put her stamp on Ireland’s foremost film festival. “Well, to be honest, each year [I choose] films that I would actually like to sit down and watch again. You know that they’ve actually made an impact on me. I’m very conscious that with the IFI, and with the Lighthouse being reopened, that you’re trying to make sure that what the festival does is in addition to their programming during the year.”
Otwo did try to get a hint as to what this year’s mystery screening may be, however we can only confirm that there will be “one on each Sunday” and that, much to our own disappointment, it will not be Home Alone.
The Jameson International Film Festival takes place from the 16th to the 26th of February, with tickets and further information available at www.jdiff.com.