That’s A Wrap! Looking Back At The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival

Bo Burnham

After 12 days, over 100 films, and more thrills, spills, laughs and tears that anybody could count, the curtain finally came down on the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019.

And what a festival it was! The capital was swept up in film fever as a host of stars came to town, and a veritable mountain of magnificent movies from all over the globe captivated an audience of thousands.

Proceedings were bookended by a pair of glittering gala screenings – both with a distinctive homegrown flavour. Kicking things off was the wonderful Papi Chulo, directed by Ireland’s own John Butler. The touching comedy drama was met with a rapturous reception on opening night – as was the director himself, who attended along with the film’s stars Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patiño. 

Butler had everyone from his family to his former classmates in attendance, but it was Bomer who might have been the most popular man in Dublin, snapping selfies with fans for hours before and after the screening!


The closing gala, meanwhile, saw Killarney’s Jessie Buckley take centre-stage, as we got a look at a film that’s been tipped to be in the conversation come award season this time next year, Wild Rose. The story of a wannabe country musician in Scotland, the delightful drama earned Buckley the Best Actress award for the festival – it could be the first gong of many! – and she even seranaded the crowd to cap an evening that will live long in the memory!

Elsewhere, Stephen Merchant was on hand at the Virgin Media Gala to present his wonderful wrestling comedy Fighting With My Family – a film that can definitively be called a knockout success! The legendary Ralph Fiennes arrived with his latest effort The White Crow (which he also directed), and left with the prestigious Volta Award for his contributions to cinema. 


Some of the movies making the most waves over the fortnight included the staggering Chinese effort An Elephant Sitting Still, gritty war drama Transit, the scintillating sailing documentary Maiden – winner of the coveted Audience Award – and the amazing Eighth Grade, which writer and director Bo Burnham proudly unveiled for a packed house. 

Closer to home, Neil Jordan’s Greta was heralded as a triumphant return to form, the fascinating documentary Gaza won acclaim, and one of the biggest crowds of the festival – including the President, no less! – marked the premiere of darker-than-dark comedy Dark Lies The Island.

There was plenty to enjoy off-screen too, as a host of workshops and talks treated fans and aspiring filmmakers to insights from the experts. The aforementioned Bo Burnham delivered a masterclass to young creators (picured above), legendary composer David Shire brought the house down with a performance and interview at the Light House, and luminaries from Lenny Abrahamson and Ed Guiney to Consolata Boyle revealed the secrets to success in the industry at the second annual Careers in Screen day.

Indeed, you didn’t even need to hit one of the festival venues to get into the swing of things, as the VMDIFF bike lit up landmarks as part of the fair city’s celebration of silver screen!

And that’s not forgetting about one of the most popular surprises of the festival – Blackwater Gin, and their Volta cocktail created especially for the Opening Night after-party in Brother Hubbards! Check out the special recipe below; it really was the toast of the town…

50ml Blackwater no. 5 Gin

20ml Fresh lemon juice

15ml homemade raspberry syrup

12ml whites 

And while the fun and games might be done for 2019, we’re only getting started; with two more years of the partnership still to run, the future for the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival is looking very bright indeed!