Dublin International Film Festival
Dublin City evenings in February can be pretty grim. It's dark by four-thirty and it's invariably cold, windy and wet. That's not to say there aren't great reasons to visit Ireland in deepest midwinter. The attractions are refreshingly crowdless and there's nothing better than a countryside ruin on a clear, crisply-cold day. Luck would have it that these are also the perfect conditions for a film festival. The Dublin International Film Festival duly obliges over two weeks from 20th February to 3rd March 2019.
In the international scheme of things, the Dublin International Film Festival is fairly small event but one which keeps a tight ship and goes for quality over quantity. There are just a couple of films showing each day and all of the weekday films are in the evenings which suits the mostly working audience. Less films means the venues are always packed and makes sure you don't end up in a creepy converted classroom on a Wednesday morning with two other people watching a film about North Korean soap production (this may closely resemble some of my previous experiences elsewhere).
Almost every film comes with a special guest and a Q and A which makes the experience more special than just a more-expensive-than-usual trip to the cinema. Big names such as Alan Rickman and Cillian Murphy have attended in the past but these showings tend to cost a pretty penny and sell out very quickly. There's also usually a Game of Thrones presence thanks to annual filming in Northern Ireland plus the army of stars in the show from Ireland and the UK. In 2016, Dublin welcomed John Bradley West (Sam Turley) and in 2017 there was Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger).
Most of the films take place in a couple of venues around the city centre. The one with the best atmosphere is usually the Lighthouse Cinema in the trendy Smithfield district behind the Jameson Distillery Bow St. This is an art house venue all year round and has a few small bar areas and always has a good crowd milling about. There is also the adjacent Oscars bar and restaurant which is a handy place to meet.
Nestled away in the Temple Bar area is the Irish Film Institute (IFI) which is also a festival worthy venue. This intimate space looks beautiful and offers some dining and drinking options. The limited space inside it can get a bit crowded but you have to appreciate it's place as Irish cinema's spiritual home.
There is also the Cineworld and Odeon at the Point which are more your standard multiplex venues that do a job.
The best place to keep up-to-date with all film festival programmes and news in on their website. You can either pay as you go or get in early with a season ticket.