(L-R) Geoff Thompson, Festival Organiser and President of Festival Events Asbl; Maya O’Shea, actress; Geraldine McAlinden, actress; Credit: Otilia Dragan/Chronicle.lu

On Monday evening, the fifteenth edition of the British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg (BIFFL) opened to an almost full screening room at Ciné Utopia in Luxembourg-Limpertsberg; this year’s festival comprises both a Spring Festival (13-23 March) and an Autumn Festival (16-21 September).

Geoff Thompson, Festival Organiser and President of Festival Events Asbl, spoke about the success of last year’s trial to split the festival in a spring and autumn edition, which led to a 30% increase in attendance over pre-pandemic figures. He also announced the special guests set to be present at the festival which will feature films from drama to comedy and from documentary to horror this year. Chris Walley will be coming on Tuesday 19 March 2024 for the Irish Gothic psychological thriller Lies We Tell. On Thursday 21 March 2024, Anna Konieczna, director of the documentary Wild Reconnection, and Laurent Witz, director of the Oscar-winning short Mr Hublot will attend the almost sold-out short film evening, where BIFFL will also hand out the awards for their Young Filmmaker Competition. Additionally, on Friday 22 March 2024, Sean Doupe and Patrick Sharkey will be present to discuss their documentary Ballymanus – note that there are just a few tickets left for that screening.

The special guests on Monday evening were actresses Geraldine McAlinden and Maya O’Shea, who were present during and after the screening of Verdigris, an independent Irish film, written and directed by Patricia Kelly. The film follows the life of the newly retired, middle-class Marian trapped in a marriage with an unpredictable and controlling husband. She decides to take on a secret part-time job as a census enumerator as a personal challenge.The job lands her in a poor urban area, where she starts an unlikely friendship with an abandoned, teenage sex worker. The film is raw and realistic, inspired from the director’s own experience working as a census enumerator, heartbreaking at points but thoroughly delightful in its portrayal of female solidarity and the chase for meaning and joy in one’s life, no matter the circumstances.

Verdigris won the Best Independent Film Award at the Galway Film Fleadh in Ireland and has garnered five nominations for the Irish Film and Television Awards. Among the nominations, Geraldine McAlinden is up for Best Lead Actress, Maya O’Shea for Best Supporting Actress and Patricia Kelly for both Best Director and Best Film Script. Geoff Thompson also added that four of the six films in the Best Picture category will be screened at the festival: in addition to Verdigris, Double Blind, Lies We Tell and That They May Face The Rising Sun will also be screened; and BIFFL already screened LOLA last September.

Following the screening, Geraldine McAlinden and Maya O’Shea, who both starred in the film, answered questions from Geoff Thompson and the audience. Geraldine McAlinden discussed how she felt an immediate connection to the film’s script, which features a “truthful examination” of certain painful lived realities of many people, rarely so well portrayed on screen, she added. She also noted that, in her training as a lawyer, she had a number of clients whose bravery she wanted to be able to channel and pay homage to in her acting. Maya O’Shea spoke about having read multiple books on the topic of young Irish girls who worked in the sex industry to prepare for her role as Jewel, who she noted is “kind of an actor in her own way”. They also discussed the film’s real-life inspiration and the director’s intimate knowledge of the census enumerator’s job. Furthermore, they noted that, whilst being a feminist and empowering film, Verdigris is above all an ode to friendship that “talks to anybody who feels invisible”.

The fifteenth (spring) edition of the British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg is running until Saturday 23 March 2024. Further details are available at https://festivalevents.lu/filmfestival/current-screenings.