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God’s Creatures starring Paul Mescal among 16 Irish film debuts at Dublin International Film Festival 2023


Paul Mescal stars in God's Creatures.

Paul Mescal stars in God's Creatures.

Paul Mescal stars in God's Creatures.

With 16 Irish film and documentary debuts, this year's Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) will place the nation’s world-class talent in the centre of the frame once again.

The festival will open on Thursday, February 23, with a special screening of Paul Mescal's latest venture God's Creatures.

The Kildare Oscar nominee stars alongside Emily Watson – who has also been named as the 2023 DIFF Volta, lifetime achievement, award winner – in what has been described as a "quietly devastating drama".

"Our opening night is the wonderful God’s Creatures, a richly rewarding, simmering drama with great emotional depth set amid an elemental landscape with an impeccable cast led by Emily Watson and our own Paul Mescal,” DIFF director Gráinne Humphreys said.

"It's a very powerful, beautiful, authentic film with a fantastic cast... I think it's going to follow an opening night film from last year which has gone on to become a huge success."

Last year's opening film was the Oscar-nominated An Cailín Ciúin. One of the films it will be competing against at the Academy Awards next month, Close, will be screened at the festival on Saturday, February 25.

The Belgian feature, directed by Lukas Dhont, is a coming-of-age drama about two teenage male friends who drift apart.

Dhont will attend the Dublin festival and will be joined by several well-known speakers including Irish director Lenny Abrahamson who will speak about the enduring impact of the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke. Abrahamson was asked to select a Warner Brothers film, to mark the studio's 100th anniversary, and he selected the prison drama that earned Newman an Oscar.

Other Irish films included in this year's programme are Barber, a detective thriller starring Aidan Gillen, Ann, which is based on the true story of 15-year-old Ann Lovett who died while giving birth in a church grotto, and Sunlight, a film about a recovering addict who feels betrayed when his elderly sponsor reveals that he wants to self-euthanise.

DIFF is entering its 21st year, and Ms Humphreys said she and the other organisers are "conscious” that "more and more Irish films" are being launched at the festival each year.

"It's something that we're very proud of. We hope we can make some significant contribution to launching them into the global atmosphere," she added.

Among the Irish documentaries set to feature this year are Sinead O'Shea's Pray for Our Sinners, which chronicles how locals in Navan confronted historical injustices against women by the catholic church, and Jim Sheridan's highly-anticipated Peter O'Toole: Along the Sky Road to Aqaba.

There is also a strong collection from the European and World cinema, with Ms Humphreys saying The Beasts, from Spanish Rodrigo Sorogoyen, is particularly strong.

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy, a documentary looking at the impact of the Dustin Hoffman and John Voight classic Midnight Cowboy, by director Nancy Buirski, will also be screened alongside a conversation with the director.

“Cinematic essays”, documentaries that looking at the film-making process, is a key strand of this year’s programme and Nancy Buirski’s work is seen as a prime example of the genre.

This year's festival will also host panel discussions on screenwriting, documentary and LGBTQ+ themes in short films.

Meanwhile, British actress Jane Seymour will discuss her career from James Bond to Dr Quinn Medicine Woman and more with broadcaster Rick O'Shea.

The 2023 programme will also bring events and screening to new venues across the city including Dublin Castle, TU Dublin, the UCD Cinema and The Circular and The Other Hand Bar in Rialto.

As part of the festival's access tour screenings will also be held in counties Waterford, Sligo, Galway, Kildare, Meath and Louth.

The festival runs from February 23 to March 4, and it will end with a screening 406 The Debenhams Picket Line, a documentary that looks at the long-running protests held by former Debenhams employs following the liquidation of the company.

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