December at the Irish Film Institute (IFI)

The end of a busy year at the Irish Film Institute sees a December programme which includes the perennially popular IFI & Kinopolis Polish Film Festival, the return of provocative filmmaker Lars von Trier, the exploits of free climber Alex Honnold, a special screening of the Oscar-nominated drama Joyeux Noël, and a 4k digital restoration of festive favourite It’s A Wonderful Life.

The 13th IFI & Kinopolis Polish Film Festival opens on Thursday 6 with a screening of Janusz Kondratiuk’s warm-hearted comedy A Cat With A Dog. The showing will be followed by a Q&A with actor Olgierd Łukaszewicz who stars in the film.

Other highlights of the festival will include Małgorzata Szumowska’s Mug (which will also open on Friday 21), Paweł Maślona’s Panic Attack, Olga Chajdas’s Nina, Krzysztof Zanussi’s Ether, Aleksander Pietrzak’s Julius, and a rare screening of The War of the Worlds: Next Century, directed by Piotr Szulkin who passed away earlier this year.

Documentaries figure heavily in the month’s programme with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s Free Solo, which documents the exploits of daredevil free-climber Alex Honnold, premiering on Tuesday 11 with a special sold out preview, followed by a satellite Q&A with the directors and Honnold himself.

Screening for eight hours across two days mid-month is Wang Bing’s epic new documentary Dead Souls. This monumental work is an inquiry into how China’s Communist Party dealt with ideological dissent, reconstructing a hidden chapter of Chinese history by providing testimony from survivors of re-education camps. Tickets cost €20 for admission to both days’ screenings.

Opening on Friday 14 is Nuala O’Connor’s new film Keepers of the Flame (pictured), bringing to light the diverse experiences of some of the 85,000 ordinary men and women who made pension and dependents allowance claims for active service during the period from Easter 1916 to the end of the Civil War in 1921. Their stories provide new detailed texture of the revolutionary period, and the opening night screening will be followed by a Q&A with director O’Connor and historian Diarmaid Ferriter.

In documentary Battlefield, renowned Irish painter Mick O’Dea prepares a monumental exhibition as a film crew attempts to document the journey. The film will play with a post-screening Q&A with director Emile Dinneen on Saturday 5.

On Wednesday 12, in partnership with the French and German embassies in Ireland, the IFI will present a screening of Christian Carion’s Oscar-nominated 2005 film Joyeux Noël. This moving drama, set in the treacherous, hand-dug trenches of World War I, sees a number of German, Scottish and French soldiers break off from fighting to first sing, then play a game of football in no mans’ land. Diane Kruger, Guillaume Canet and Daniel Brühl lead an exceptional international ensemble.

In partnership with the Doc’N’Roll Film Festival, the IFI will present Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records on Thursday 20, a film about the love affair between Jamaican and British youth culture told through the prism of one of the most iconic labels in the history of black music. A cast of legendary artists including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Toots Hibbert and Pauline Black bring the sounds, stars and stories to life.

Other highlights in December include a festive big screen outing for The Railway Children as part of our monthly IFI Family strand, a rare screening of Michael Forlong’s 1962 comedy Stork Talk, plus the return of Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. New releases throughout the month include David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun starring Robert Redford and Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You (both from Friday 7), Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built (from Friday 14), plus a 4k reissue of Aleksei German’s Khrustalyov, My Car! and a welcome return for Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie (both Friday 21).

Finally, back by popular demand from Friday 21 are Katrina Costello’s The Silver Branch and Colm Nicell’s Under the Clock which screened to packed houses in October.

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