The Irish Film Institute in Dublin’s Temple Bar may have temporarily closed its doors for a few weeks due to new restrictions to fight the spread of Covid-19 but the show still goes on. The popular documentary festival has this year moved online, meaning film fans across the country can now enjoy the best of new Irish and international documentary filmmaking. A number of films in the festival will have filmmaker Q&As included as bonus material.

The 18th IFI Documentary Festival begins tonight, online nationwide at IFI@Home, with the Irish premiere of Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise. The film, which focuses on the devastating 2018 Camp Fire that almost destroyed the Californian town of Paradise, includes an exclusive virtual Q&A with Oscar winner Howard.

Irish films to feature as part of this year’s selection include two World Premieres: the Director’s Cut of Gillian Marsh’s charming The Funeral Director, featuring Sligo undertaker David McGowan; and Christopher Kepple’s A Call to Arts, focusing on the life and artistic legacy of artist Helen Hooker and her husband, Irish revolutionary and historian, Ernie O’Malley.

Also showing will be the Irish Premiere of Outcry and Whisper, a new film from directors Trish McAdam, Wen Hai, and Zeng Jinyan, which examines women’s struggles in the private and public spheres in both China and Hong Kong. Pat Collins’s portrait of the renowned American folklorist and ethnologist, Henry GlassieField Work, will also screen, as will Gretta Ohle’s Tomorrow is Saturday, an intimate portrait of acclaimed artist Seán Hillen. Dublin-based director Nino Tropiano’s Samira’s Dream follows a young Zanzibari woman whose dreams of becoming a primary school teacher are challenged by wider cultural obligations.

Deirdre Fishel’s Women in Blue focuses on Minneapolis’s first female police chief, Janeé Harteau, as she tries to reform the city’s force. Davy Rothbart’s 17 Blocks follows the life of a family in one of America’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, situated just 17 blocks from the US Capitol, while Elegance Bratton’s Pier Kids centres on a number of transgender people of colour at Christopher Street Pier in New York City.

Maite Alberdi’s The Mole Agent is the charming and irreverent story of an elderly man asked to go undercover in a Chilean nursing home; Benjamin Ree’s The Painter and the Thief examines the unlikely friendship between a Czech artist and the thief who stole two of her paintings; and Gentle Warriors, from director Marija Stonyte, follows three Lithuanian girls who voluntarily enlist in the country’s male-dominated military. Two films, Love Child and Stray, focus on very different experiences of life in Istanbul, one from the standpoint of a migrant couple who find themselves in bureaucratic limbo, and the other from the point of view of three stray dogs wandering the streets for food and shelter.

 


Elsewhere in the programme, director Ric Burns interviews Oliver Sacks, the late renowned neurologist in Oliver Sacks: His Own Life; Iryna Tsilyk’s turns her camera on a film-obsessed family in Ukraine for The Earth is Blue as an Orange; Réka Szabó’s intensely moving The Euphoria of Being features 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Éva Fahidi as she prepares a dance recital about her life; Martin Vetter goes behind-the-scenes at the World Economic Forum in Davos for The Forum; and Britni Harris’s Goff looks at the oft-forgotten legacy of one of America’s great 20th century architects, Bruce Goff.

The highly anticipated Irish shorts programme on Saturday 26th will feature powerful narratives and revealing film portraits in new work from Fiona Breen, Bryony Dunne, Jamie Goldrick, Paddy Hayes, Cara Holmes, Iseult Howlett, Ross McClean, and Gar O’Rourke; and a panel discussion, Something Old Something New: Use of Archival Extracts in New Work, will explore ethical, legal, artistic, and archival issues facing filmmakers.

Online screenings cost just €7.50 each for a three-day rental; great value multi-film bundles are also available – they can be found at https://www.ifihome.ie/collection/film-packages/. Registrations for the online archive panel are available at www.ifi.ie/docfest