Docs Ireland returns for fresh festival of factual film-making

Policing, justice and political activism are just some of the highly topical themes of Docs Ireland, the international documentary film festival which returns to Belfast later this month...

Mark Cousins will present a preview of his new film The Story of Film: A New Generation at Docs Ireland. Picture by Mal McCann

THE third annual Docs Ireland festival will showcase an international selection of new documentaries from countries including Ireland, the UK, the USA, India, Cuba, Palestine, Russia, Iraq and Hong Kong.

Ahead of the five-day festival which runs from August 25 to 29, Docs Ireland have partnered with Féile An Phobail to present a special screening of 'Fr Des – The Way He Saw It', a 'work in progress' documentary about the life of highly respected west Belfast priest, the late Fr Des Wilson (see story opposite for details).

Fresh from screening at the Cannes Film Festival, Belfast-born film-maker and Docs Ireland chair Mark Cousins will present an exclusive sneak preview of his new film The Story of Film: A New Generation, an epic and hopeful tale of cinematic innovation from around the globe.

With activism as a key theme of this year's festival, Docs Ireland will screen new documentaries including Ken Fero's Ultraviolence, which looks at the struggle by black families for justice for their loved ones who have died in police custody in the UK, and Solidarity, directed by Lucy Parker, which delves into the lives of activists who have faced 'blacklisting' for expressing their right to protest.

As part of its commitment to highlighting new and emerging Irish talent, Docs Ireland will also showcase a selection of new Irish documentaries. Untold Secrets from acclaimed director Teresa Lavina looks at the life and upbringing of the late Anne Silke, a young survivor of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

Aisling Twomey (Rainbow Project) and Deirdre McKenna (University of Atypical) join Docs Ireland programmer Stuart Sloan to launch the 2021 programme. Picture by Kelvin Boyes

Other highlights of Docs Ireland include:

Docs Ireland will open on August 25 with a special restored screening of the 1958 classic Jazz on a Summer's Day. This outdoor screening will be hosted at the Hidden Huntley Walled Garden, where audiences will enjoy a live set by Martello Jazz Band before the film.

Roadrunner – A Film About Anthony Bourdain will look at the life and career of the late and highly revered chef and travel writer.

In partnership with the University of Atypical, Her Socialist Smile will be screened outlining the untold story activism of disability rights activist, Helen Keller.

Ric Burn's Oliver Sacks: His Own Life explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller, as he shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact.

Director Brendan Byrne (producer of No Stone Unturned and Bobby Sands: 66 Days) will present Debut, his new documentary on rising Northern Ireland singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan.

Looking back on one of his most memorable TV appearances from After Dark in 1988, Eamonn McCann will reflect on his experience of the ground-breaking panel discussion programme and its contributors talking about the Irish civil rights struggle in 1968.

"There is so much going on – and going wrong – with the world at the moment, that we need to stop, take a breath and gain some perspective, so that we can share ideas and hopefully start to change things for the better," says Stuart Sloan, programmer of Docs Ireland.

"Documentary is the perfect medium to inspire and generate discussion on real-life issues, including racism, homophobia, gender inequality, disability rights, economic injustice and the climate crisis and to be inspired by those taking action on them.

"We are really looking forward to getting back in front of a cinema screen, to the buzz of the audience, and to sharing compelling stories from all over the world, with a unique selection of films that you just won't see on Netflix."

:: To find out more about this year's Docs Ireland programme and to book tickets, visit

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