Dublin International Film Festival Announces Winners Of The Discovery and Shorts Awards

The 17th Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival’s 2019 Discovery Award selected three winners: Alexandra McGuinness, Oonagh Kearney and Ian Hunt Duffy. Plus a special mention to Madonna Bambino.

The Best Irish Short Film Award goes to Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain and Best International Short Film Award winner is Inanimate. Special mention went to Irish short The First Was A Boy and international short Child.

Discovery Award

Writer and director Alexandra McGuinness wins the Discovery Award for She’s Missing and writer and director Oonagh Kearney wins for her film Five Letters To The Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain, while director Ian Hunt Duffy wins for Low Tide. Make-up artist Madonna Bambino receives a special mention for her work on Low Tide.

Speaking about Alexandra McGuinness, the jury said: “Alexandra McGuinness is one of those filmmakers whose ambitious, accomplished and entertaining work is deserving of the widest possible audience. We are excited to shine a spotlight on the world that Alexandra so brilliantly created.”

On Oonagh Kearney, they said: “Oonagh has consistently shown great originality and creativity of approach in her previous work and we believe that her stunningly beautiful and accomplished film Five Letters To the Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain clearly demonstrates that Oonagh is fast becoming one of the most interesting and distinctive voices in Irish film. We are very excited to see what Oonagh will do next.”

Commenting on Ian Hunt Duffy, they said: “Ian Hunt Duffy has quickly grown into an accomplished director and has consistently shown excellence within his field. The success of Gridlock now looks to be followed with Ian’s new short film Low Tide. Ian has succeeded in making a magnificent dark, gripping but believable piece of work and we look forward to following his career within the film industry at home and internationally.”

About Madonna Bambino: “The jury would also like to make a special recommendation for the remarkable craft shown by Madonna Bambino in the field of make-up and prosthetics. Her measured and authentic work on Low Tide, as well as such accomplished prosthetics seen previously in Dead CoolBurden and The Wombats – Lemon to a Knife Fight show an exciting career trajectory ahead for Madonna.”

The other Discovery Award nominees were writer/director Shane J. Collins (Dub Daze); writers Darach McGarrigle (Low Tide) and Jonathan Hughes (Mother, Mary); production designer & art director Alice Vignoles-Russell (The Trap); and producer Roisín Geraghty (Five Letters To The Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain).

The Discovery Award was chosen by an esteemed panel of adjudicators including Jason Foran, Producer and Manager, Teach Solas; Clare Stronge, Producer, The Farthest; and David Burke General Manager, Universal Pictures International Ireland.

Short Film Award

Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain and Inanimate were chosen from over 40 short films in this year’s programme. Five Letters To The Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain describes the soul-searching journey of first year medical student Viv, whose first encounter with a cadaver in the anatomy room sends her on a soul-searching quest into the nature of what it means to be alive. Inanimate tells the story of Katrine who has a normal life, a normal job, a normal boyfriend and a normal apartment in a normal city. Or at least that’s what she thinks until one day everything starts falling apart – literally!

Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain was directed by Oonagh Kearney and produced by Roisín Geraghty; Inanimate was directed by Joren Molter and produced by Floor Onrust; The First Was a Boy was directed by Shaun Dunne and produced by Children’s Cultural Centre The Ark; and Child was directed by Lucia Bulgheroni and produced by Lennard Ortmann.

The Short Film Award was chosen by a jury which included Alan Maher, Producer, Being AP and After the Dance, and Kevin Coyne, Cinema Programmer, Irish Film Institute.

Commenting on the Best Irish Short Film winner, the jury said: “Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect My Brain is an accomplished and successful merging of disciplines, with excellent production values and a singular voice.”

On the Best International Short Film, they said: “the jury thought Inanimate was lovely, charming and imaginative.”

About The First Was a Boy, directed by Shaun Dunne, they said it “had a fresh approach with a wonderfully realised soundscape, one to watch out for.”

Speaking about Child, the jury described it as “a film about a woman dealing with an unsettling truth, Child makes for thought-provoking and uncomfortable viewing.”


Short Film Review: Low Tide

Dakota Heveron gets on board Ian Hunt Duffy’s short horror Low Tide, which premiered at last year’s Cork Film Festival in November.

Ian Hunt Duffy’s chilling short horror film Low Tide centres on a fishing trip taken by a father (Steve Wall) and his son Jack (Luke Lally). But what seems on the surface to be an enjoyable day out on the water soon devolves into something far more sinister.

The film is driven by the compelling, naturalistic performances of its two leads, and Wall is especially haunting in the role of a brusque, impenitent father who soon reveals himself to be anything but paternalistic. Through the cinematography of Narayan Van Maele, the water itself becomes a character of its own, revealed through shots of its glassy expanse and black depths to be cold, dark, and unforgiving. Only adding to the film’s ominous aesthetics are scenes filled with shadow and moments of visceral imagery, including a shot of a fish being indifferently gutted.

The film’s score lends itself well to the precarity of the situation, where Jack’s fate at his father’s side is deeply unsure. Swells of triumphant music as the fishing boat glides across the water suggest an adventurous voyage, an age-old tradition between father and son. When the swells drop into silence, the characters are left alone against the backdrop of dark water and a slate sky, stark and foreboding. This sense of foreboding only grows when an eerie underscore creeps into being as the figure of the father becomes increasingly darker.

The narrative is filled with uncertainty, but only to the film’s advantage. While the final outcome for Jack may not be precisely clear, it doesn’t need to be. Instead of closure, the viewer is left with an appropriate sense of dread as Duffy explores and subverts the relationship between father and son, as well as themes of familial legacy and inherited violence.


Irish Short Film Review: Gridlock

Stephen Porzio reflects on the Irish short film Gridlock, directed by Ian Hunt Duffy, who won a Young Directors Award in Cannes last week.

Atmospheric and tense, Ian Hunt Duffy’s short film Gridlock finds terror in the every day. Moe Dunford (so terrific in Handsome Devil) plays Eoin, a father – travelling with his daughter – caught in a traffic jam. Leaving the car briefly to discover the cause of the gridlock, he returns to find his child missing. Suddenly, everyone becomes a suspect.

Like any good short, Gridlock is brief but leaves an impact. Darach McGarrigle’s script does an effective job at highlighting the many different ways people react in traumatic situations. Gridlock shows how, in the event of a potential child disappearance, mob mentality can take over. As with the character played excellently by Love/Hate’s Peter Coonan, certain people’s eagerness to find the child mutates into hostility – often aimed at the wrong person. They can accuse others without any serious evidence to back up their claims. Also, personal views or prejudices may colour how they act. They jump to conclusions, quickly regarding alleged “culprits”.

McGarrigle’s script also feels natural and organic. Characters don’t immediately fly off the handle. Instead, events gradually intensify as people begin to grow more agitated and frightened, eventually tipping over into violence.

Duffy’s direction is solid too. Not only does the short look and sound great, it wisely isn’t flashy – a good choice as it makes the events feel realistic to the audience. Any overt stylistics could have perhaps made the viewer more aware they were watching a film.

Without spoiling, there is a stinger in the tail – a final moment which will leave the film lingering long in the memory. Ultimately, Gridlock is a compact short – one which leaves a distinct mark in little time. In the way Lorcan Finnegan and Garret Shanley moved from short filmmaking with Foxes to feature length with Without Name, I hope Duffy and McGarrigle make a similar transition.