(L-R) Geoff Thompson, festival organiser; Jean McDonald, Ambassador of Ireland to Luxembourg; Credit: Jazmin Campbell/Chronicle.lu

There was a near full house for the Official Closing of the British & Irish Film Festival Luxembourg (BIFFL) Spring Edition held at Ciné Utopia in Luxembourg-Limpertsberg on the evening of Saturday 23 March 2024.

In his closing speech, festival organiser Geoff Thompson recalled that this edition of BIFFL had shown a total of thirteen feature films across various genres, as well as four short films, “deliberately selected to covey the contrasting ways of storytelling”. The 2024 Spring Edition also featured the first edition of the BIFFL Young Filmmakers Competition - won by Noah Piff and Sylvain De Bel of the International School of Differdange for their short film Close. The film festival had also celebrated the tenth anniversary of the inaugural flight of Luxair’s direct route to Ireland with a special screening of The Runway. Geoff Thompson also highlighted the “strong female influence” at this edition, both within the films selected and the Young Filmmaker Competition - out of the eleven entries “just one of those had no female filmmakers involved.”

He went on to express his gratitude to the special guests who came over to Luxembourg for the festival and shared their experiences both in front of and behind the camera. He also thanked “all those who helped make this festival edition such a success”, including the Embassy of Ireland in Luxembourg and the British Embassy in Luxembourg, various organisations from Luxembourg and abroad which awarded BIFFL grants, the festival’s sponsors, advertisers, service partners and community partners, as well as its volunteers (23 this year) and its audiences. 

Six ambassadors were present for the Official Closing. Taking the stage ahead of the Awards, the Ambassador of Ireland to Luxembourg, Jean McDonald, thanked Geoff Thompson and his team for a successful film festival which showcased “a great range of films”. She added that this spoke to the high-quality products available to film consumers, before touching on this “exciting time” for the Irish film industry, not least due to its recent success at the Oscars. The ambassador emphasised the importance of culture for Ireland and its government, as well as for the economy and for bilateral relations with Luxembourg (in terms of co-productions). She concluded that she was looking forward to the Closing Screening of a film based on the novel by one of her favourite authors.

Jean-Pierre Thiltges of the Luxembourg Film Critics Association, the ALPC, then proceeded to announce the winners of the Critics’ Award which went to the “tense psycho thrillerLies We Tell. The other films in the top 3 had also been directed by women, noted Jean-Pierre, namely: Verdigris and Chuck Chuck Baby.

For the Audience Award, this year’s voting was “incredibly close”, according to Geoff Thompson, who added that the organisers had received almost 500 votes in total, with the top 3 as follows: The Great Escaper in third place, Ballymanus in second place and Verdigris in first place. The organisers then drew out two winning voting slips, with the Irish Ambassador presenting Jackie Fleming and Karl Rodwell with their prizes: a magnum of crémant from Bernard-Massard and a hamper from Home from Home, respectively.

The Awards were followed by the Closing Screening of That They May Face The Rising, a drama based on Irish novelist John McGahern’s award-winning novel of the same name. The charming film adaptation vividly depicts a year in the life of a rural lakeside community in Ireland in the late 1970s/1980s. Audiences were treated to some stunning landscape photography and an impressive nature soundtrack as they followed the lives of Joe and Kate, newly returned from London, and their fellow residents.

The Official Closing ended with a reception held by the Ambassador of Ireland to Luxembourg. BIFFL will return in September 2024 with its Autumn Edition. Geoff Thompson confirmed that he hoped to be able to include an Irish-language film (with English subtitles), a seminar on film production and the launch of the second edition of the Young Filmmakers Competition at this upcoming edition.