LUMI's guide to this year's Docs Ireland

14 June 2024

LUMI Programmer Molly Qualter shares her top recommendations from this year's Docs Ireland festival.

LUMIs guide to this years Docs Ireland

With such an amazing programme by Docs Ireland coming up, it feels almost impossible to decide which ones to go to and how to make the most of your Docs Ireland-filled weeks. Before we dive into what we recommend for our LUMI audiences, let's talk about one of the most appealing aspects of this year’s festival: the pay-what-you-can scheme. Similar to our LUMI prices for 18-26 year olds at £5, Docs Ireland this year gives the option to pay as little as £4.50. In this cost of living crisis, we know that wanting to see amazing art and paying your bills are very real decisions.

Another money-saving tip that has come out of Docs Ireland this year is their new scheme of 4 films for £15 (on selected films). That means you can watch four films at a whopping £3.75 each!

So let's get started and save you all a bit of money—here’s how we would spend our 4 for £15.

Starting off for all our audiophiles, on Monday the 17th in the iconic SARC building, there’s a double bill of The Sensual Nature of Sounds and the SARC x 20 Experience. The Sensual Nature of Sounds portrays four female composers and performers in New York. Grant Lonathan on Letterboxd describes the feeling he found when watching this film as “a sense of community and a nudge to explore my own practice.” Another reviewer, KA LAIty, notes that this film highlights that women are not “forgotten but rather erased from the canon”. In this film, we see four women speak for themselves through interviews, their work, and performances. They discuss the boxes and categories they feel forced into and what they feel like their art truly represents. The double bill is followed by an immersive experience using five screens and spatial audio to plunge its audiences into an archive of creative work by SARC researchers and PhD alumni.

Next up, on Thursday the 20th, is I See a Darkness by Katherine Waugh and Fergus Daly. This film essay stands as an effort to denaturalise our view of moving images and their relationship to science, politics, and more. The film explores the impact of chrono-photographic experiments of Irish-born Lucien Bull on the developments of image capture, aesthetics, and science throughout the 20th century, showing how technologies of vision were aggressively complex, particularly by the nuclear testing industry. Followed by a post-screening Q&A, you won’t want to miss this interesting philosophical journey from high-speed photography, the atomic bomb, to Jacques Cousteau.

After that mind-expanding experience, why not head to the Normal Cinema Club on Thursday evening for a screening of Home Invasion? Normal Cinema Club always promises to deliver the weird and wonderful to Belfast, from curing male loneliness to exploring our Irish identity. Held in the charming Bean Bag Cinema, what’s more fitting than a nightmarish film essay on the history of the doorbell? Yaron on Letterboxd says this film “is creepier than 90% of horror movies” as it explores the ring bell not as a device to communicate but to contribute to the fears of the unknown. And quite frankly, we cannot wait! As is the tradition within Normal Cinema Club, the film will be preceded by Chris Maker’s short film Stopover in Dubai, which reads to be a chillingly simple doc using only found footage to reconstruct a murder. Two films for the price of £3.75—how could you say no?

Not only are there amazing films available in this offer, but also industry events that our fellow filmmakers won’t want to miss. Anatomy of the Cut on Saturday the 22nd highlights the integral role of editors in the documentary-making process. This event will utilise the expertise of leading Irish and international editors to discuss the fundamentals of documentary-cutting and demonstrate its essential creative function in non-fiction storytelling. The event will include a panel discussion with esteemed editors regarding their craft and collaborative processes with directors, plus an in- depth case study with Mick Mahon on some of his acclaimed non-fiction work.

If after these events you’re still craving your documentary fix, let me give you three more recommendations that I know I won’t be missing. Across the weekend, I have something to keep you busy, educated, entertained, and elated.

Starting off on Friday the 21st with WomenFolk, probably the event I am most excited for at this Docs Ireland. WomenFolk will be a live music celebration of women and their important mark on trad music. The event is centred around rare, amazing films and live performances. As we know, Irish history and folklore have been passed orally through generations, and women were at the forefront of this. In Celtic tradition, the branch of traditional storytellers known as Seanchaí are often displayed as male which we know now wasn’t the sole case. This event showcases archives, composers, instrumentalists, singers, and performers to reestablish the narrative women have been so commonly left out of and removed from. Also, the fact that this event will be taking place at Rosemary’s Church adds a whole new elevation.

On the 22nd of May at the QFT (yay, our favourite!), check out Man Ray: Return to Reason, which displays four films directed by Man Ray between 1923 to 1929. As an icon of European avant-garde cinema, we’re lucky enough to see Ray at the beginning of his career as he discovers the limitless possibilities of montage and dives into his experimental use of physical materials to make incongruous images that explore our deep personal subconscious. As a Man Ray enthusiast, I’m ecstatic for this hundred-year anniversary screening with a newly recorded soundtrack.

Wrap up your weekend on Sunday the 23rd with the freshest talents at this year’s Competition Shorts. With two events at the iconic art deco Strand Arts Centre, you can make a whole day of it. While you’re there, take the chance to explore East Belfast’s vibrant food, coffee, and pub scene. Also keep an eye out for our shorts LUMI winner this year! ;)

Lastly as an honourable mention, don’t miss Pina, directed by Wim Wenders. This 3D tribute to the German choreographer Pina Bausch features her dancers performing her most famous creations.

Bausch died during the production in 2009, and the resulting film achieves a poignant, elegiac quality, shot through with an overwhelming sense of loss, both on the part of Bausch’s dancers, whose thoughtful interviews and dance sequences form the film’s backbone.

And that’s a wrap on our top picks for Docs Ireland! Get your tickets, grab your popcorn, maybe even a cheeky drink and let’s enjoy some phenomenal documentaries together. See you at the movies!