15 Recommendations for Dublin International Film Festival 2020

The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) is returning to the Irish capital from February 26 until March 8. Boasting a packed programme of 110 screenings and some amazing international special guests including Bill Nighy, Charlie Kaufman, Kleber Mendonca Filho, Lone Scherfig, Marjane Satrapi, Mark Cousins and Trine Dyrholm, there’s a lot of variety for cinephiles.

Festival director Grainne Humphreys said at the event’s programme launch that her goal was ‘to try and bring the best films from around the world to Dublin, to the wonderful audiences that live in this city and beyond.’  To help make deciding what to see easier for film fans, Headstuff have selected 15 gems amongst the vast line-up.

Vivarium (Tuesday, Feb 26)

In this sci-fi thriller from Irish writer-director Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name), a couple (Imogen Poots, Jesse Eissenberg) looking for the perfect home, find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses.

Having earned raves following its Cannes premiere last year, Humphreys said about Vivarium: “About a young couple trying to find a home and how that spirals out of control, its a superb film – one that touches you in a very direct way.”


Screening: 6:15pm (Doors open 6pm) and 9pm, Cineworld.

Proxima (Friday, Feb 28)

From on-the-rise writer-director and Mustang scribe Alice Winocour (Disorder), Proxima stars Eva Green as an astronaut preparing for a potential mission to Mars and struggling to align single motherhood with the intense training schedule involved. Matt Dillon and Toni Erdmann actress Sandra Huller play supporting roles and much of the film was shot in real-life training facilities at the European Space Agency.

Screening: 8:30pm, Light House Cinema

Broken Law (Friday, Feb 28)

A respected Garda finds his loyalties tested to the absolute limit in this crime thriller starring multiple Cardboard Gangsters cast members including John Connors, Gemma-Leah Devereux and Ryan Lincoln. The feature debut of filmmaker Paddy Slattery, Humphreys said Broken Law was ‘a huge discovery’, before calling it ‘a fantastic gangster film about one good brother and a bad brother, with a great soundtrack and a real energy that crackles.’

Screening: 8.45pm, Cineworld

Filmmakers in attendance

Les Misérables (Saturday, Feb 29)

Nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars, Les Misérables is a contemporary drama set in Montfermeil, a working-class district on the outskirts of Paris and the same area that features in Victor Hugo’s classic tale.

Focusing on a small group of policemen who routinely patrol one of the toughest estates in the district, the film unfolds through the eyes of a new recruit. He is shaken by the unpredictable and volatile nature of day-to-day life at his new posting and the routine corruption of the two senior officers he’s been tasked with learning from.

Screening: 11am, Cineworld

Saint Maud (Monday, Mar 2)

Ari Aster with Hereditary, Robert Eggers with The Witch – it’s always exciting when a new filmmaker bursts onto the scene with a buzz worthy horror. Following on from the aforementioned is British writer-director Rose Glass with her new A24 thriller Saint Maud.

The film follows a pious nurse (Morfydd Clark) who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient (Jennifer Ehle). Seemingly a blend of a psychological thriller, supernatural film and body horror, Saint Maud will no doubt make for a creepy cocktail.

Screening: 6:15pm, Light House Cinema

Filmmakers in attendance.

Martin Eden (Monday, Mar 2)

Beating Brad Pitt and Joaquin Phoenix for the best actor gong at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Luca Marinelli stars in this Italian adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel. He plays an aspiring writer who dreams that success will bring both social status and the affections of a wealthy young student.

Screening: 8.20pm, Light House Cinema

True History of the Kelly Gang (Tuesday, Mar 3)

Macbeth and Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel assembles a big-name cast – Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam and Thomasin McKenzie to name just a few – for this western period thriller. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Peter Carey, it tells the tale of the infamous Australian/Irish outlaw Ned Kelly (1917’s George Mackay) as his battles and crimes play out in a wild and unforgiving landscape.

Screening: 8.10pm, Light House Cinema

Synonyms (Tuesday, Mar 3)

A Golden Bear winner at last year’s Berlin Film Festival, this frenetic French/Israeli thriller has received rave reviews for its clever take on identity and self-determination. Largely inspired by its filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s own story, it centres on a man who leaves the Middle-East for Europe in his 20s, subsequently struggling with his own Israeli background and sense of self and place.

Screening: 8.45pm, Cineworld

Deerskin (Wednesday, Mar 4)

From the eccentric mind of Quentin Dupieux aka Mr. Oizo (Rubber, Reality), Deerskin stars Oscar winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist). He plays a man whose obsession with his designer deerskin jacket causes him to blow his life savings and turn to crime. Adele Haenel of Portrait of a Lady on Fire co-stars in this 77-minute oddity.

Screening: 6pm, Light House Cinema

Bacurau (Wednesday, Mar 4)

Winner of the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this genrebusting thriller set in near future Brazil is from directors Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonca Filho (Aquarius). Following the death of a village’s beloved matriarch, a documentary filmmaker heads deep into the outback to document how the deceased’s community has been affected. As his connection to the local people grows, he is entrusted with some astonishing secrets. Part sci-fi, part thriller, part western, Bacurau has been praised for its daring mix of genres and commentary on contemporary concerns in Brazil.

Screening: 8pm, Light House Cinema

Kleber Mendonca Filho in attendance

Calm with Horses (Thursday, Mar 5)

A stacked Irish cast including Barry Keoghan, David Wilmot, Ned Dennehy and Niamh Algar head up this film described by Humphreys as ‘a truly great Western set in the West’.

Taking place in rural Ireland, it tells the story of ex-boxer Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis). He has become a feared enforcer for powerful local drug-dealing family the Devers. Also trying to be a good dad to his five-year-old autistic son, Arm is torn between criminal dealings and family obligations when he is asked to kill for the first time. 

Filmed on location in the west of Ireland, Calm with Horses received a host of glowing reviews following its TIFF premiere last September.

Screening: 8:30pm, Light House Cinema

Filmmakers in attendance

Rialto (Friday, Mar 6)

The one film on this list your humble reviewer has seen, I caught this at its Venice Film Festival premiere last summer. Director Peter Mackie Burns (Daphne) works from a Mark O’Halloran (Adam & Paul, Garage) script, itself an adaptation of the writer’s play Trade. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor stars as Colm, a 40-something Dublin family man in the midst of a mid-life crisis. His father has just died and he is at risk of losing the job he has had since he was a teen. He finds some form of solace though in the arms of young male prostitute, Jay (Dunkirk’s Tom Glynn-Carney).

Despite tackling a potentially difficult subject matter and centring upon characters who are not the easiest to like, there’s something delicate, melancholic and tangible about Rialto’s depiction of ennui and longing that gets under viewers’ skin. The tentative relationship that grows between Vaughan-Lawlor and Glynn-Carney is spine-tinglingly electric to watch.

Screening: 8.15pm, Light House Cinema

Filmmakers in attendance. 

Sea Fever (Saturday, Mar 7)

A BAFTA winner for her direction on Happy Valley, Neasa Hardiman takes to the sea for this eco-horror featuring a starry cast including Connie Nielsen, Dougray Scott and Olwen Fouéré. A young marine biology student is struggling with life among the closely-knit crew of a fishing trawler. But when many of them are struck down by a strange and lethal infection, they must work together if they are to survive. Humphreys called it ‘brilliantly tense and fantastically directed’.

Screening: 8.45pm, Light House Cinema

Neasa Hardiman in attendance

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao (Sunday, Mar 8)

Winner in the Un Certain Regard category at last year’s Cannes, this film revolves around two inseparable sisters who are forced to live apart in 1950’s Rio de Janeiro. From director Karim Ainouz – the filmmaker behind stunning looking and immersive melodramas Love for Sale and Futuro BeachThe Invisible Life explores feminist politics as its central women suffer in a misogynistic society, not least at the hands of their father.

Screening: 2pm, Light House Cinema

About Endlessness (Sunday, Mar 8)

A best director winner at Venice Film Festival last September, Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness is a compilation of brief vignettes totalling a tight 78 minutes in length. Opening with the sight of a couple floating over the German city of Cologne, it tells a series of personal stories about profound moments in everyday life.

Screening: 4:40pm, Light House Cinema

Also worth seeking out: Arracht, Send Me to the Clouds, Women Make Film, Rose Plays Julie, Radioactive, The Kindness of Strangers, Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day, The Truth, Moffie and Herself.

For more information and to see the full DIFF line-up, see here.