(L-R) Geoff Thompson, festival organiser; Liz O'Malley, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Ireland in Luxembourg; Credit: Jazmin Campbell/Chronicle.lu

The Autumn Edition of the British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg (BIFFL) 2023 officially kicked off with an opening screening of The Miracle Club at the Cinémathèque on Monday evening.

This year's festival is split into two editions: the Spring Edition ran from 19 to 24 March 2023, whilst the Autumn Edition is taking place from 13 to 28 September 2023. In addition to the latter's "core" festival (at the Cinémathèque), which opened on Monday 18 September and will close on Friday 22 September 2023, several other screenings are taking place the week before and the week after (at Ciné Utopia).

On the opening night, festival organiser Geoff Thompson noted that the decision to split the annual festival into two separate editions "seems to be working very well". The Autumn Edition programme includes twelve feature films, five short films and a seminar. There is also a Documentary Double Bill (21 September) and a competition is being launched at the upcoming Shorts Evening (28 September) to encourage young filmmakers to create their first short film.

Geoff Thompson explained that various special guests would participate in post-screening Q&As throughout this edition, namely director Adrian Sibley (The Ghost of Richard Harris), Lydia Little, the sister of Irish musician Fergus O'Farrell (Breaking Out), and Irish actor Barry Ward (Sunlight). Ahead of the core festival, on Sunday 17 September 2023, Luxembourgish director Andy Bausch attended a screening and Q&A of his film Little Duke.

Another highlight for the Autumn Edition is a screening of the Northern Irish drama Ballywalter, featuring Patrick Kielty in his first feature film role, on Tuesday 19 September 2023.

After thanking the festival's sponsors, partners, volunteers and the audience, Geoff Thompson invited Liz O'Malley, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Ireland in Luxembourg, onto the stage. The latter noted that both the Irish and British embassies had been happy to support BIFFL over the years and she thanked Geoff Thompson and his team for putting this event together. She praised the fact that BIFFL showcased a "diverse" range of mainly independent Irish and British films.

Liz O'Malley highlighted Ireland's quality film industry and the many international awards its films had received this year alone. She noted that this was an "exciting time" for the film industry - in Ireland and more generally - as people return to the cinema "in droves" after the COVID-19 pandemic to experience the "magic of cinema".

The opening screening of The Miracle Club (2023; Ireland-UK), a heartwarming dramedy directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan and starring Kathy Bates, Laura Linney and Maggie Smith, had the audience laughing and crying throughout. The film was met with a round of applause from the almost full house when it came to an end just over 90 minutes later.

The film is set in the late 1960s and sees an intergenerational group of women in Ballygar, Ireland embark on a dream-come-true pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. There are humorous and tender moments as they come to discover that the real miracle is that of reconciliation - with their pasts and with each other.

The opening screening was followed by a reception at the Cinémathèque.

The full BIFFL 2023 - Autumn Edition programme is available online at https://www.bifilmseason.lu/.