10th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival #1

The 10th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (or JDIFF, if you’re into the whole brevity thing) kicked off on February 16th and runs until the 26th, with a head-spinning number of films, gala’s and special presentations lined up. My choices have been made based on availability, whim, state of mind, budget and/or time constraints. I’ve had to drop two films already but hey, there’s plenty more to come, right?

Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman, 2011)

This is Whit Stillman’s first feature since Last Days of Disco in 1998, an absence of almost Malickian proportions for this previously regular, urbane director. What has kept him away for so long, I’m not quite sure, but with the release of Damsels in Distress, it’s as if he’s never been away really. The story takes place at the leafy Seven Oaks College where a trio of high-minded female students, led by the very lovely Greta Gerwig, attempt to take on the rampant “male barbarism” which they feel has overtaken the college. The girls’ mission, amongst other things, is to tackle the high incidences of college suicides, by way of encouraging students to improve themselves, eat doughnuts and take up tap dancing. As you may have already gathered, for a campus-set romp, Animal House this ain’t.

I couldn’t quite decide whether I thought this film was awful or good, or awfully good. It contains Stillman’s usual trademark qualities – well dressed, well heeled, articulate, intelligent characters with sharply observed, smart, funny, stilted dialogue. Like David Lynch, another creator of familiar-but-weird American settings, Stillman creates his own world which you either enter into at face value, or run screaming from. Though, to be fair, it’s not a film which you can really dislike or even hate. The characters are earnest, if a little dim, but likeably sweet; and there is a sort of old-fashioned innocence to the whole affair which is oddly appealing. Gerwig’s character, Violet, even aspires to inventing a new dance craze, which she genuinely believes will make the world a better place. Bless. The film ends, as surely every film should, with the principle characters leading their partners in a chereograped dance sequence set to a cheesy, 1950s faux-rock and roll soundtrack.

Watch the trailer –

Hill Street (JJ Rolfe, 2012)

Getting its world premiere at JDIFF was this “labour of love” documentary about Dublin’s skateboarding scene from the 1980s to today. Now, I know nothing about skateboarding. I know what a skateboard is, but that’s where my knowledge begins and ends. Happily, complete ignorance of the sport of skateboarding will not dampen your enjoyment of this fascinating, well made documentary feature.

Director JJ Rolfe (whose day job is in cinematography) has spent the last number of years putting this film together, often in his own time and on his own money. He charts the origins of the scene back in the 80s, starting with Clive Rowen’s Hill Street skate shop (an almost mythical touchstone for skaters), right up to the present day. The avuncular Rowen features heavily throughout, as do many of the other movers and shakers who went on to make their names on the scene, or who just found a lifelong passion to indulge in.

With a soundtrack by Gareth Averill (Great Lakes Mystery), this is a very enjoyable, informative film which the makers hope to extend and expand on, and take onto the Festival circuit.  It deserves your support and who knows, may well go on to become a touchstone for new generations of skaters.

More information here