Volunteering at Audi Dublin’s International Film Festival

As originally featured on Hunt and Gather
A short piece detailing the cultural volunteer experience as this encompassing Dublin based festival.

Certainly I had never been as happy after five hours sleep as I had been on my first day of volunteering with Dublin’s International Film Festival. Anticipation rumbled as I was stationed as an information point on the infamous stairs of Lighthouse Cinema. I later reaffirmed that my delighted disposition was second only to the unfettered glee of those who had gathered that morning for the early screening of Kung Foo Panda 3. The volunteer experience provides a through the looking-glass familiarity with Dublin cultural entertainment scene. This year’s festival strode to be all-encompassing, especially with the incorporation of the Fantastic Flicks selection for kids. The assortment included samples of subtitled film, directly addressing the stigma of age limit associated with accessing international film. The crowd’s steady descent to screen one, peppered with karate chops and painted faces, was imbued that unmistakable ‘looking forward to’.  This year’s film festival aimed to be wholly inclusive and by day one that is how it was; smiles were inescapable.

I left Disorder in a sweat with my back arched, fists clenched and eyes darting. The safe space that we had thus far come to expect of the darkened cinema is all but shattered through the viewing. Directed by Alice Winocour in 2015, the film reveals itself to be the sort that transposes the emotion it imbues. An Afghanistan veteran is charged with the protection of a wealthy businessman’s family, although the situation quickly reveals itself to far from the original ease promised. Throughout the screening I noticed other members of the audience trying to protect themselves from the intensity that we had subjected ourselves to. Vincent hardly left our screens, incorporating the audience as part of his charge throughout the film. Until the close the audience is left questioning whether there is a bitter conspiracy underway or if the ex-soldier’s own PTSD had reached a terrifying and delusional peak.

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Sandra, Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa, is a hysterical and emotionally fraught sample of sixties Italian melodrama directed by Luchino Visconti. With Claudia Cardinale at the epicentre, it is difficult to evade the intensity of the feature through the steady stream of emotional character close-ups. Duality amid deception is the name of the game. Sandra finds herself trapped between the men who represent various points in her secretive life akin to innumerable representations of her authentic self. The derelict provincial town with its seeping foundations is further illustrative of fractured relationships within childhood, paralleled by the loss of innocence. As the film winds on, it seemed that at any point the entire screen was consumed by emotion the spectator was in turn consumed by another wave of realisation. The hectic weather conditions have a unstoppered, almost carnal brink. This is especially prevalent in a stifling comparison drawn with the camera skulking through the lofty, suffocating domestic space. The morbid pressures of her brother, seemingly impossible for her to evade, contribute to the dramatic crescendo. With a dependent sibling who has exhausted his avenues of emotional blackmail, ultimately we witness a woman who extracts herself in an act of self-preservation.

A choice section of Giacomo Leopardi’s ‘Le Ricordanze’ provided inspiration for the morose and obsessive tendencies of the film. Taken from his collected works, here translated by Eammon Grennan, the poem is referenced within the film:

Glimmering stars of the Great Bear,

I never thought I’d be back to see you

Shining down on my father’s garden,

Nor talk to you ever again from the windows

Of this house where I spent my childhood

And saw the last of my happiness vanish

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1916 at the Pictures was comprised of a Charlie Chaplin feature marathon based in City Hall. The collection presented several early restorations including The Bank, The Champion, and The Tramp. City hall was empty in its majesty, having arrived early in order to set up, and so we waited for the crowds to gather. Part and parcel of drumming up anticipation saw leaflets steadily distributed as the outdoor screen was readied for the synchronised external showing. When the hall began the fill up like a drum the pianist commenced. The live classical music was unmistakable as it filtered outside amid the laughter of the kids in the front rows of the showing. The throngs that gathered to watch the open-air screen for pockets of time were the people who otherwise had no time to spare, those ferrying to and from work. Strangers chuckled and gazed collectively, committed to just a few moments of stolen unity despite the bitter cold.

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Black Mountain Poets is unapologetically incandescent, entirely bumbling and equally charming. Almost entirely improvised and filmed in just five days in the Welsh black mountains, the film is the third installment of director Jamie Adams similarly offhand features. The camera tails two lost souls, mismatched con-artist sisters on the latest leg of their badly gauged heists. Kitted out in their ill-fitted borrowed identities, we trawl through cluttered memories and resilient bonds during their refuge at a poetry retreat weekend. Featuring half-hearted scorn amongst steady stacked hills, it is surprisingly reminiscent of a flippant Blair Witch Project. The depiction of the correlation between poetry and affection is possibly the scruffiest albeit truly candid it has ever been; a jerry-rigged clusterfuck. The Walker sisters, portrayed by Dolly Wells and Alice Lowe, must learn to manoeuvre the strain as not everyone gets to be the moody-John-Lennon-one.

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In its entirety the experience was one of variety and inclusion; from chaperoning talks on festival programming at the Teacher’s Club to working hospitality on closing night in the green room of the Savoy Cinema. I was one of the guys behind the velvet rope and it was absurd. For those looking to find some of their people, this is one way to suss them. It was a prodigious experience and I welcome warmly the next installment.

By Jessica Mc Kinney

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