Meghan Mickela takes in a selection of films at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival’s Shorts Programmme 2.

The second shorts programme at this year’s VMDIFF was filled with a wide variety of films, each presenting their broad spectrum of stories at this year’s festival. Opening with a thriller style short, beautifully shot with deliberate tight editing, the program certainly began with a bang. Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You (2021) [pictured above], from director Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair, is an evocative cinematic experience. The film forces its audience to piece together the narrative with haunting images. Well told through striking instrumentals and classic jump cuts, this short had audiences frightened in less than twenty minutes. The second film by director TJ O’Grady Peyton, Broken: A Lockdown Story (2021), combines beautiful visuals with a poetic yet erratic narration. Though this film was the shortest in runtime, it stayed impactful with its absurdist imagery. 

Birdwatching (2021) played third. Directed by Samantha Soule, this film opened with the recognisable face of actress Amanda Seyfried (Les Misérables, Mamma Mia!) who sits by a river. She is joined by another woman and the two contemplate their past lives and what’s to come. Alluding to their existence in a form of purgatory, the film presents a fragility in the unknown while embracing the precariousness of what’s to come. The Night I Left America (2021) was a personal standout from this programme. Directed by Laki Karavias, the film takes place in a tractor trailer in rural Texas where an immigrant boy and his mother are faced with the prospect of returning to Uganda. Filmed in both the US and Uganda, the story focuses on the memories of Chamagello, the difficulties of life back in Uganda, and the father he left behind. This is in contrast to his new life in Texas, running through fields of corn and making do without meat on the dinner table every night. Karavias creates a beautiful tale of hope despite an unknown future.   

Conversations With My Dead Father (2021), Maurice O’Carroll’s Irish film, presents a son (played by Ciaran Bermingham) auditioning for an acting role while driving around the coast of Cork with his dead father (Gary Murphy). Despite the frustration that parents may bring out in their children, this son is able to reconcile the bad memories along with the good. In later scenes Bermingham masterfully acts out a monologue for an audition while Murphy’s antagonistic quips reminds audience members of the reality of the father-son relationship. Both performances were standouts in this programme for their ability to capture dynamics so effectively. 

Another film of note was Ruthless (2021). Directed by Matthew McGuingan this took place during The Troubles in Belfast where Glam Pop has captured listeners across the city. One young fan scrambles to get his hands on the new T. Rex album, using his father’s prosthetic leg as a bargaining tool. Subtly nodding to hardships (like the loss of the mother) Ruthless frames the historic period through a story with some levity. The film’s powerful visuals of archival footage contrasted with the uproar of a music revolution play beautifully to exhibit this interpretation of loss. Breaking up the programme with a more experimental narrative, Liminal (2021), directed by Daniel Abramovici, presents the tale of Steve, stuck in between his traditional family life and his desires which flow through a series of stages. The film is presented largely as a choreographed dance, with Steve making his way in and out of each stage as he moves through other character’s lives in search of his own yearning. The stage design and choreography provide this film is a particularly stirring, visual experience.   

In Flow of Words (2021), the final film of the programme by Elaine Esther Bots, tells stories for those who can not. Interpreters of The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia discuss their experiences translating in the court system. Focusing on the subjects’ experiences listening to traumatic events and how this affected them, the film is able to place the focus on the difficulty of taking on the trauma of others. The filmmakers present dismal imagery choosing to shoot subjects from behind, this creates a distance with the audience and effectively sets a serious tone. 

The programme was a stunning mix of nationalities, stories, and filmic mediums, all compelling in their own ways. The screening’s highlights were Ruthless and Conversations with My Dead Father. Both told stories through Irish perspectives but allowed audience members, Irish or not, to identify with the experiences and the characters. In addition to these standouts, Liminal, and Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You, and Broken: A Lockdown Story were aesthetically striking and each used different aspects of cinematography and visual effects to create memorable cinematic experiences. 

Shorts Programme 2 screened on 25th February 2022 at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.


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