Are you a movie-lover looking to expand your horizons? Maybe you’re in the mood to get in the Irish spirit before St. Patrick’s Day? Look no further, because the Chicago Irish Film Festival is set to return for its 23rd year, and you’re invited to the big celebration from Thursday, March 3, to Sunday, March 13.
This year’s CIFF features more than 25 films, documentaries and shorts all with a theme of sharing stories by, from and about the Irish peoples and their culture. After all, no one tells a story quite like the Irish.
“At first, the festival was nuanced,” CIFF’s Executive Director Emeritus Jude Blackburn is quoted in a press release, “more of the classic Irish narrative, small village pubs, Irish history, and a few edgy films as Irish production really began to take off in the mid 1990s. As years went on, the films are more focused on modern social issues in Ireland, which have become super interactive culturally and politically.
Speaking of modern, this year’s festival is actually a hybrid that offers guests a mix of both in-person events and virtual screenings. From March 3 to 6, attendees can enjoy on-site viewings and activations at the Theater on the Lake, The Logan Theatre and Society for Arts starting.
From March 7 to 13, the festival goes digital with the option to view the films from the comfort of their home with digital passes.
Blackburn first launched the festival in 1999. She realized Ireland had a huge yet unexplored film community, and she felt Chicago would be present a fabulous spot to explore that innovation, given the city’s historic Irish population.
This year’s showlist features the first contemporary Irish mystery thriller. Directed by Damian McCann, Doineann (which translates to “storm”) is a tense, Irish-language film that follows a husband who searches for his missing family with the help of a retired police woman. The film debuts on opening night at Theater on the Lake.
“This is the first year we’ve screened a feature film on opening night in quite a while,” Blackburn says, “and it also happens to be in the Irish language, which is beyond exciting.”
Other CIFF films include a surfing documentary about Irelandn’s Surfing Seas called Keep It a Secret; a dramedy titled Redemption of a Rogue about a prodigal son returning to his hometown to rid himself of sin; and Róise and Frank about a widow who believes her late-husband returns as a dog.
The CIFF will also show Blarney, a 1938 Irish comedy classic with starts Jimmy O’Dea and Noell Purcell.
Online, CIFF’s platform offers Aliquippa, PA, a documentary that addresses the hopes and dreams of small towns across the country as they struggle to survive. There’s also an intriguing documentary about the 1937 bombing of Guernica, Spain, called The Blue Shroud; and an adventure called The Maltese Connection,about a British agent chasing down an Irish thief filled with motorcycle getaways, romance and pesky clowns.
Photography by: Jake Hills / Unsplash