Nov 26, 2023

Review of the Dublin Independent Film Festival

Sarah Murnane discusses her top three picks from Dublin Independent Film Festival

Sarah MurnaneFilm and TV Editor
The Father, the Son and the Rav Kalmeson (Dayan D. Oualid, 2023)

It’s film festival season, baby! Every autumn and winter season is when greasy, highly opinionated film fanatics crawl out of our hibernation to absorb some fantastic cinema. Dublin Independent Film Festival (DIFF) was held on November 9th in the Lighthouse Cinema. The festival consisted of two slots, the first of which was dedicated to International films and the second to Irish films. All the films featured in the Festival were in short form, not exceeding fifteen minutes. As you, dear reader, can appreciate, this is still a lot of films for one person to watch. In this sense, I have narrowed it down to a top three.

My personal favourite of the evening was a short called The Father, the Son and the Rav Kalmeson (Dayan D. Oualid, 2023). This is a French piece which centres around an Orthodox Jewish family, specifically the relationship between father and son. The father, Yoel, takes his son to Shabbat at their neighbourhood synagogue. The rabbi, the Rav Kalmeson, tells Yoel that his son is “lighting up”. The chaos ensues from there. If you look up the word ‘heartwarming’ in the dictionary, this film would be under it. The short film is based on a true story from the director’s father, and this personal connection clearly shines through. It is full of humour and a beautiful exploration of a father-son relationship, making it an absolute stand out of the evening. 

A close second was a film that left both my friend and I equally calm and disturbed. This was Elephant (Wes Sterrs, 2022), an American short documentary film. This is a film that grows on you. Initially, it opens with long, quite beautiful shots of sheep. As the film progresses and the plot begins to unfold, it culminates in an emotional expression of the circularity of life. What is most impressive about this piece is that there is absolutely no dialogue, only original compositions of music for the film. Elephant was one of the most memorable and impressionable films of the entire festival and deserved its spot winning best documentary.


Finally, a film that made a lasting impression and, quite embarrassingly, made me cry in the movie theatre was The GrandMother (Julia Hazuka, 2023). This was one of the few animations at the festival which provided some variety and a nice break from the other shorts. The style of animation was gorgeous and inventive, while not particularly polished, this only added to its charm. The film follows a spider who is raising a child in a forest, which is an overarching retelling of the creation of life. Through the story, the themes of love, family and creation are explored in a subtle yet touching way. In other words, It was extremely touching and I couldn’t help crying. It was still a fantastic animation worthy of praise. 

The final thing to note about the festival aside from its great content, was that the festival was completely free! It was first come first serve at the door, which was a fantastic opportunity to spend an evening with a friend. While I fully understand how important it is to support the arts and not every event can be free, it was still a nice break from €20 cinema tickets. This just goes to show that fun, free events do happen in Dublin, if you just know where to look!

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