In September 1992, the Irish Film Institute first opened its doors to the public. For twenty-five years, the institute has played host to innumerable screenings and events that celebrate both the history and progress of film, with guest speakers and workshops throughout the years to maintain interest in one of the world’s most prolific and popular art forms. Playing host to many guests over the years, as well as housing an Oscar and an Emmy award, the institute has opened its doors to the public for a day of free film screenings.
Starting off with the Disney classic The Mighty Ducks, the institute made sure to broadcast the wide variety of films they had on show for the day. The vast array of films continued with the likes of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Miller’s Crossing and Delictassen. All screenings were free, but operated under a strict ‘first come, first served’ basis, meaning that tickets vanished in a matter of minutes.
Lines for tickets stretched from the ticket tables themselves to the front entrance of the IFI and out onto the streets of Temple Bar. The hustle and bustle was palpable as you approached the building and the hub-bub inside was often on levels that could only be described as deafening. With an atmosphere as enthusiastic and inviting as this, you would be hard-pressed to find a better day at the cinema.
In addition to their pre-announced screenings, the IFI also encouraged audience interaction on their Facebook page, giving attendees a list of films to choose from, one of which would be screened on the day. The Audience Choice screening went to Jim Jarmusch’s 2016 drama Paterson, beating out the likes of Best Picture winner Moonlight, and Darren Thornton’s Drogheda-based drama A Date for Mad Mary. The selection of such off-radar, low-key drama demonstrates the immense love of film to be found amongst the citizens of Dublin.
The films themselves weren’t the only things drawing the crowds, as the institute also offered four tours of both their projection booth, and their digital restoration booth, allowing audiences to catch a glimpse of the world behind the big bright light in the wall that they tell you not to look directly into. Unfortunately, these tours filled up so fast that this author was unable to snag a place in the tour group, nonetheless I imagine that it was amazing, and find myself envious of those who got the chance.
Screening alongside Paterson was a restored version of the 1926 film The Cohens and the Kellys featuring a live score performed by Dermot Dunne and Nick Roth on accordion and saxophone respectively. This screening was attended by President Michael D. Higgins, a frequent patron of the IFI, and a special guest at this gala event. Even when leaving the building to catch the last train home, the festivities showed no sign of winding down. Wine glasses still lined tables to the left of the entrance, and people still loitered in the lobby talking about the thing that had drawn them all there: film.
After spending a few hours at the heart of Dublin’s film scene, you really get a sense for the diverse array of people who frequent the cinema. A man with a walking stick who asks the clerk in the IFI’s film shop if his classics box set has arrived, a boy of about twelve years old who was the only person to raise his hand when a presenter asked the quiet theatre who had seen Paterson before, a couple speaking in French who may have travelled half the world and ended up watching films here. With a meeting place that celebrates diversity proudly, one can only congratulate them on a successful 25 years, and wish them an even more prosperous twenty-five years to come.