There was almost a full house at the Cinémathèque in Luxembourg-Ville on Friday evening as the Autumn Edition of the British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg (BIFFL) 2023 came to an official close.
Whilst Friday marked the official closing of the "core" festival (18-22 September), there are still three BIFFL events to come: a seminar on "Conflict and Trauma in British and Irish Cinema" at Hotel Parc Belair on Tuesday 26 September, a screening of the 2022 US drama film Mending the Line at Ciné Utopia on Wednesday 27 September and a Shorts Evening, where BIFFL will launch its Young Filmmakers Competition, at Ciné Utopia on Thursday 28 September 2023. The full programme is available at https://www.bifilmseason.lu/current-season.
In his closing remarks, festival organiser Geoff Thompson thanked the sponsors, partners and volunteers for their involvement, as well as the special guests and the audience. He noted that attendance at the Spring Edition and Autumn Edition of BIFFL 2023 combined, plus tickets already bought for the coming week's events, saw an increase of more than 30% compared to pre-COVID-19, when the highest numbers were in 2018 and 2019.
It was then time for the awards ceremony. The Critics' Award, overseen by the Association Luxembourgeoise de la Presse Cinématographique (ALPC), went to The Ghost of Richard Harris, a documentary that explores the life and times of iconic Irish actor Richard Harris. Speaking on behalf of the ALPC, Isabelle Debuchy explained that this "tribute to a unique actor" had "charmed" the jury. The latter also gave a special mention to Barry Ward, one of the special guests at BIFFL 2023 Autumn Edition, for his performance in the film Sunlight.
The Audience Award, as voted by members of the audience throughout the festival, went to Breaking Out, a documentary about the late Irish musician Fergus O'Farrell, with The Old Oak and The Ghost of Richard Harris coming in second and third place, respectively. Geoff Thompson noted that documentaries continued to score "very highly" at the film festival.
The new Ambassador of Ireland to Luxembourg, Jean McDonald, then presented the Audience Prize to two cinemagoers, whose Audience Award voting slips were drawn at random. They received a Home from Home hamper and a magnum of crémant from Bernard-Massard, respectively.
On behalf of the Embassy of Ireland in Luxembourg, Ambassador Jean McDonald congratulated Geoff Thompson and BIFFL volunteers for their "tireless work behind the scenes" to make the festival an enjoyable experience for all. She stressed that the Irish government deemed it "very important" to support the film industry and described it as a "privilege" that the embassy could continue to support BIFFL.
For the closing screening, the audience was treated to a slow-burn psychological crime thriller full of twists and turns. Set in a custom tailor shop in Chicago (US) in 1956, The Outfit centres around the interaction between a seemingly quiet English cutter (played by Mark Rylance) and his gangster customers. Despite a relatively slow start, the film had audience members sitting on the edge of their seats as the gripping story progressed and it gradually became clear that nothing was as it seemed...
The screening was followed by a reception at the Cinémathèque.