The 17th Capital Irish Film Festival is on at AFI Silver in Silver Spring Maryland from March 2-5, 2023, featuring 29 Irish narrative features, documentaries, and short films. Opening with a screening of the 2023 Oscar-nominated The Quiet Girl and offering a number of North American and regional debuts, Captial Irish Film Festival 2023 is celebrating the enormous global success of Irish cinema in 2022 and launching a new year of narrative features, documentaries, and shorts. We spoke with the festival’s director Maedhbh Mc Cullagh ahead of the festival, who shared some of the highlights and major themes in this year’s lineup.
The festival is organized by Solas Nua, an organization dedicated to uplifting Irish arts in Washington, DC. Its name means “new light,” and true to its name, for Mc Cullagh one of the most important goals of the festival is lifting up new and diverse voices in Irish filmmaking. The festival and its partners are determined to highlight rising stars and help generate new ones. Last year, the festival inaugurated its Norman Houston Short Film Award with the 2023 Oscar-nominated An Irish Goodbye, and this year celebrates Homebird, by Caleb J. Roberts. Homebird, one of several LGBTQ+ films screening at the festival including Foxglove and Pray For Our Sinners, is the story of a young man who suddenly leaves home but returns after dropping out of university and has an awkward meet-up with his father.
Homebird is also part of a special focus on Northern Ireland, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement and in appreciation of its dynamic and diverse contemporary culture. Mc Cullagh explains how in her experience of the Irish diaspora, public perceptions of Irish culture, life, and storytelling can be frozen in a certain period in time. Films screening as part of the Northern Ireland Focus block, Homebird, Ballywalter, and Young Plato offer contemporary Northern Ireland.
Mc Cullagh also explains that one of the stand-out themes in the Capital Irish Film Festival 2023 lineup explores the reality that Ireland has one of the highest rates of emigration in Europe and is home to a wide diversity of cultures and backgrounds. Films like Aisha, starring Letitia Wright, Your’e Not Home, and La Tumba exemplify migrant experiences in Ireland. Meanwhile, Irish language itself is a major aspect of the festival too. Mc Cullagh shared exuberance for the rising popularity and viability of Irish-language movies. Several films, including the delightful Róise & Frank, Foxglove, and The Quiet Girl are helping recontextualize the language as modern and not merely a language taught in schools or spoken in remote, old corners of Ireland. Sports, music, and masculinity are among the many other themes highlighted throughout Capital Irish Film Festival 2023’s selections.
Capital Irish Film Festival 2023 is taking place from March 2-5th in Silver Spring, MD. Follow all of our CIFF coverage.