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Discovering New Film Makers at the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival

Updated on October 17, 2018
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Paola Bassanese is a freelance author and writer specialising in food, lifestyle and entertainment.

DISFMF Cast Q&A

DISFMF Cast Q&A
DISFMF Cast Q&A | Source

Short Films Don’t Get Enough Exposure


Unlike feature films, short films are less likely to be shown on big networks, with the possible exception of Channel 4 in the UK, which cherry-picks some shorts to show late at night under the Random Acts umbrella. If you are after some talent-spotting on the short films scene, try also Short of the Week, from the US (Random Acts and Short of the Week are reviewed in this Guardian article).

Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival


Established in 2012 by Florian Zapra and Arber Sula, the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival (DISFMF) takes place each year in Ireland to bring together the best emerging talent in film making and music from around the world. Unlike other film festivals, DISFMF caters for all taste in films, from comedies to thrillers, including animation. In 2018 alone the festival committee received 600 entries, from which 117 films were selected for screening. The festival ends each with an award gala celebration with 14 prizes to be won (Best International Short, Best Director, etc).

The festival prides itself on being independent and on short listing films based on storytelling, not budget or production value. It has attracted an international audience over the years, showing that Dublin is truly a multicultural city.

Behind the Scenes

One of the founders of the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival, Arber Sula (left), with Paola Bassanese (right)
One of the founders of the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival, Arber Sula (left), with Paola Bassanese (right) | Source
The cast of Hold the Line: Lesa Thurman Russell (left), Laura O'Shea (middle), Conor Tobin (right)
The cast of Hold the Line: Lesa Thurman Russell (left), Laura O'Shea (middle), Conor Tobin (right) | Source

2018 Programme


I personally only managed to see a selection of films from the very comprehensive programme. Here are some highlights.

Foreign language entries were subtitled, and kudos to the translators who did an excellent job especially with comedy, as some jokes would otherwise be lost on the audience. I am thinking, in particular, of Romanian entry My Best Friend by Catalin Bugean, which had the public in stitches. This short film, shot in Chicago, USA, won Best Comedy at the Los Angeles Film Awards and the New York Film Awards.

The drama category was well represented, with many Irish films tackling subjects like family dynamics, death and Irish history.

These short films were shot and edited in relatively brief timescales and at a very low budget (from hundreds of euros up to 20,000 euros). Sometimes, friends, relatives and work colleagues were brought in as extras or actors; in most cases, you wouldn’t have guessed that some productions were completed on a shoestring.

Special Mentions


While the overall quality of the entries was very good, some pieces stood out for originality, storytelling or the actors’ performances (sometimes, for all three together).

German film Sea at Night (Meer bei Nacht) directed by Kim Fabienne Hertinger was exceptionally moving and insightful, trying to get inside the mind of a patient who had lost his memory.

Worth mentioning a homage to James Joyce with Land of Winter by Tommy Creagh, hinting at Ulysses, shot during Storm Emma, which regaled Dublin with a fairytale-like sprinkling of snow.

Aleksander Szeser’s Inside I’m Racing had one of the most original scripts with plenty of action sequences shot at Mondello International Racing Circuit and which gained praise from the international association Autism Europe for a sympathetic and fact-based depiction of autism.

Game of Thrones fan? Actor Brian Fortune stars in Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney’s Angels Guard Thee, an intense drama about two Irish ex-paramilitaries.

Hold the Line, written, directed and performed by Laura O’Shea, is a very relatable story about a call centre operator. Anyone who has ever worked in an office doing a customer service role will immediately feel familiar with the setting and the interactions with clients. I worked in market research, for example, and I had my fair share of people slamming the phone down when I called them. Laura explained during the Q&A that the film was shot in one day and that’s why it feels so true to life, especially the constant clock-watching, waiting for the end of the shift. I had a brief and informal chat with Laura after the screening, an actor by trade who told me that she was looking for a good part to play and decided to write it herself.


A Deserving Winner: Best Documentary, Lifeboat

Lifeboat is a 2018 US documentary by film maker Skye Fitzpatrick about the refugee crisis in Europe. It follows the boats carrying hundreds of North African people fleeing their countries in search of a better future. The documentary also celebrates the work of German NGO Sea-Watch and the passion for helping others of the late Jon Castle, who believed in treating refugees as human beings and not see them as "problems", which dehumanises them.

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