DIFF 2023 is reimagined with ‘community’ at the heart of the festival

Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) returned on Thursday with a reimagined look as festival director Gráinne Humphreys focuses on the importance of community at this year’s festival.

A still from the ‘Screen8’ community initiative ‘Heart of Dublin’. Credit: DIFF

“DIFF has been an audience festival and a product of the environment it lives and breathes in and the community it is built on. Our city and our film community has changed over recent years, we felt it was also important to change as a festival,” said Humphreys.

The festival is packed with a huge variety of events including exclusive screenings of shorts, distinguished guest panels, Q&As, interviews, galas, screenings of Irish and international feature films, behind the scenes content, and an incredible list of onscreen stars.

Virtual events are also planned throughout the course of the festival. The full programme and list of all screenings and events is available on the DIFF website.

Since Humphreys started working with the festival in 2007, it is evident to her that times have changed since then – and the festival must evolve with the times.

She spoke about this as she said, “The way we traditionally would have learned film has dramatically changed.”

She alluded to the fact that there are nearly 60 film courses across the country, and that’s not including the regional training boards, film clubs, courses that have production elements to them, and even community groups interested in film.

“They are all connected through the audio-visual landscape, whether it’s as a creator, consumer, or even a subject,” she added.

The goal is to tap into this community on all fronts. It is not just how we learn and produce film – it is how we view film that has changed.

Humphreys recognises that the pandemic has had an effect on cinema going, but it’s also that our viewing habits have become more individualistic or modern.

“I would argue that people don’t necessary go to the cinema in the same numbers as before. People’s viewing habits are now connected to their phones, their laptops, so the way that we process film is more on an individual level rather than a communal setting,” she said.

One thing that has grown prominent is clips of film that go viral on social media, which then attracts more people to watch it.

Humphreys continued, “It is changing in good ways, and bad ways. What we’re trying to do this year is explore different avenues. It’s awkward for me as a film programmer to say that were taking the festival out of the cinemas and into the streets or closer to where people live, but that’s what we’re doing.

“We’re doing screenings in TU Dublin, in Rialto, in UCD, we’re doing a programming project in Kilbarrack, a filmmaking project for older people in Dublin 8. It’s not necessarily just specific parts of the city, it’s age groups as well,” she added.

Community involvement in film is a big aspect of this year’s festival, and DIFF has shifted away from title sponsors and towards the community supporters, the artists and filmmakers, and the industry partners.

“Large title sponsorships and huge advantages and benefits, but sometimes it’s better to work with a more diverse range of partners because they maybe are closer to the particular area of the festival that you want them to support you on, rather than the overarching commitment to the festival as a whole,” Humphreys said.

DIFF holds strong value in the fact that film is an art form that is truly for everybody. And although they are a champion for Irish cinema, they bring us a diverse and thought-provoking international film that would usually not be seen here.

It is this heterogeneity that truly shows the beauty in film. An example of this is the screenings of the artistic director Artavazd Peleshyan. His films Seasons and La Nature will be screened, followed by a Q&A with the man himself.

“Every film doesn’t need to aim to be Oscar nominated, it should be aiming to change and transform audiences and the art form. We’re European filmmakers, There’s a strong tradition of making quite dynamic, quite adventurous, compelling, maybe jarring film,” Humphreys said, eloquently.

Whether it is arts or sports, when you reach an understanding of the inner workings and difficulties that it entails, that’s when you can appreciate it the most.

That is the goal behind DIFF’s initiative ‘Screen8’ – which this year is getting older people in the community involved in the production of film.

“When you’ve watched films on a big screen and then suddenly see yourself on that screen, it changes your dynamic, it gives you an insight into the mechanism and the artistry that goes into making it. That screen can also feel very distant to you, very exclusive. So being involved in a 40-minute short could inspire and set off a career,” the festival director concluded.

Dublin International Film Festival runs until March 6.

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