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(Left to Right): Aisling Twomey, Rainbow Project, Stuart Sloan, Docs Ireland Programmer, Connor Kerr of Another World and Deirdre McKenna of the University of Atypical launch the Docs Ireland programme of documentaries and events running 25-29 August.

Policing, justice and political activism are just some of the highly topical themes of Docs Ireland, the international documentary film festival which returns to Belfast from 25 – 29 August.

The third annual Docs Ireland festival will showcase some of the world’s most compelling new documentaries from countries including Ireland, UK, USA, India, Cuba, Palestine, Russia, Iraq and Hong Kong.

Special Events

Ahead of the five-day festival, Docs Ireland will partner with Féile An Phobail to present a special screening of ‘Fr Des – The Way He Saw It’, a work in progress documentary about the life of highly respected West Belfast priest, the late Fr Des Wilson. Screening at the Odeon, Belfast on Thursday 12 August, the film looks at the pioneering work of Fr Des in the community, education and peace-making, and is narrated by Belfast born actor, Stephen Rea.

Fresh from securing rave international reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, Belfast-born filmmaker, and Chair of Docs Ireland, Mark Cousins, will present an exclusive sneak preview of his new film, ‘The Story of Film: A New Generation’, an epic and hopeful tale of cinematic innovation from around the globe.

Politics and Activism

With activism as a key theme of this year’s festival, Docs Ireland will screen new documentaries including Ken Fero’s ‘Ultraviolence’, which looks at the struggle by black families for justice for their loved ones who have died in police custody in the UK. ‘Solidarity’, directed by Lucy Parker, delves into the lives of activists who have faced ‘blacklisting’ for expressing their right to protest.

Irish Documentaries

Through its commitment to highlight new and emerging Irish talent, Docs Ireland will also showcase some of the most powerful and compelling new Irish documentaries. ‘Untold Secrets’, by acclaimed director Teresa Lavina, looks at the life and upbringing of the late Anne Silke, a young survivor of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

Other highlights of Docs Ireland include:

·               Docs Ireland will open on 25 August with a special restored screening of the 1958 classic ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’ featuring performances by Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington and Chuck Berry.  The screening will be hosted at a unique outdoor setting at the Hidden Huntley Walled Garden, where audiences will enjoy a live set by Martello Jazz Band before the film.

·               ‘Roadrunner – A Film About Anthony Bourdain’ will look at the life and career of the late and highly revered chef and travel writer.

·               In partnership with the University of Atypical, ‘Her Socialist Smile’ will be screened outlining the untold story activism of disability rights activist, Helen Keller.

·               Ric Burn’s ‘Oliver Sacks: His Own Life’ explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller, as he shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact.

·               Director Brendan Byrne will present ‘Debut’, his newest documentary on rising Northern Ireland star, singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan.

·               Looking back on one of his most memorable TV appearances from After Dark in 1988, Eamonn McCann will reflect on his experience of the ground-breaking panel discussion programme and its contributors talking about the Irish civil rights struggle in 1968.

Stuart Sloan, Programmer of Docs Ireland said:

“There is so much going on – and going wrong – with the world at the moment, that we need to stop, take a breath and gain some perspective, so that we can share ideas and hopefully start to change things for the better.

“Documentary is the perfect medium to inspire and generate discussion on real-life issues, including racism, homophobia, gender inequality, disability rights, economic injustice and the climate crisis and to be inspired by those taking action on them. 

“We are really looking forward to getting back in front of a cinema screen, to the buzz of  the audience, and to sharing compelling stories from all over the world, with a unique selection of films that you just won’t see on Netflix.”

Docs Ireland is supported this year by NI Screen, TG4, Belfast City Council, Department for Communities, Film Hub NI, BFI FAN, Arts & Business, Yellowmoon and Belfast Media Group.

Find out more about this year’s programme and book your tickets now!