Five must-see films from the Cork International Film Festival

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Ireland’s oldest and most illustrious film festival kicks off in Cork on Friday with an opening gala showing a film about a Nigerian woman seeking asylum in Ireland and begins an eventful ten days of viewing for fans of the big screen .

We looked at the program and selected five films that you should make a point of going to see.

Aisha traces the experiences of a young Nigerian woman (outstanding performance by Letitia Wright) as she seeks asylum in Ireland. Caught in limbo for years in the direct delivery system, Aisha develops an unlikely friendship with kind Conor Healy (Josh O’Connor), a former prisoner now employed at her hostel. Aisha and Conor’s budding friendship soon seems threatened as Aisha’s future in Ireland is threatened. The beautifully observed and acted drama from Frank Berry (Michael Inside, I Used to Live Here) is hugely moving, a delicate and intimate character study and a quietly powerful critique of bureaucratic systems that exacerbate the trauma of those seeking refuge.

Aisha will screen at 5.45pm on Friday November 11 at the Gate Cinema in Cork.

Ballywalter is a bittersweet comedy-drama about an unlikely friendship and the power of humor in difficult times. Featuring strong central performances from Seána Kerslake and Patrick Kielty, this film follows Eileen, a lost soul living with her mother and sister in a remote town in Northern Ireland, who makes a living as an unlicensed taxi driver. Her dissatisfaction with life is palpable, but when she meets an aspiring comedian, an unexpected relationship develops that changes both of their lives.

5:15 p.m., Friday 18 November at the Gate Cinema in Cork

Matilda the Musical is a movie for the whole family. Matilda Wormwood (awesome newcomer Alisha Weir) is a little girl with great curiosity, a sharp mind and a wild imagination – and the world’s worst parents. While her parents (played by Andrea Riseborough and Stephen Graham) content themselves with trashy television and dodgy money-making schemes, she enjoys getting lost in the pages of her beloved books and imagining cheeky acts of rebellion and revenge.

Meeting an inspiring teacher, Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch), Matilda begins to conjure up her own fantastical tales. She dares to take a stand against her parents and headmistress Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), fight for what’s right and change her story, with miraculous results. Adapted from the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical.

1.30pm, Sunday 20 November, at the Everyman Theatre, MacCurtain Street, Cork.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-packed adventure Strange World features a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate a treacherous uncharted land alongside a ragtag crew that includes a blob mischievous, a three-legged dog and a slay of ravenous creatures.

The voice cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Searcher Clade, a family man who finds himself out of his element on an unpredictable mission; Dennis Quaid as Searcher’s larger-than-life explorer father, Jaeger; Jaboukie Young-White as Searcher’s 16-year-old son, Ethan, who yearns for adventure; Gabrielle Union as Meridian Clade, an accomplished pilot and Searcher’s partner in all things; and Lucy Liu as Callisto Mal, the fearless leader of Avalonia who leads the exploration of the strange world. Directed by Don Hall (Oscar®-winning Big Hero 6, Raya and the Last Dragon) and co-director/writer Qui Nguyen (co-writer Raya and the Last Dragon), and produced by Roy Conli (Oscar®-winning Big Hero 6, Tangled)

4.30pm, Saturday 19 November, The Everyman Theatre, MacCurtain Street, Cork.

Set in an English seaside town in the early 1980s, Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes delivers a powerful and poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema. Manager Hilary (an outstanding and spunky performance by Olivia Colman) and her co-workers (a stellar cast including Colin Firth and Toby Jones) spruce up their waterfront palace in preparation for a regional premiere of Chariots of Fire. Outside, skinheads run amok as a growing far-right presence seeps into the ramshackle town.

Kind new recruit Stephen (BAFTA winner Micheal Ward) befriends troubled Hilary, a relationship that warms and breaks the heart. The film is both beautifully nostalgic, highlighting the wonders of cinema and a surprisingly unyielding look at the realities of mental illness. Empire of Light reminds us that cinema is a space of collective experience, offering beautiful stories that we take away for the rest of our lives.

5.30pm, Sunday 20 November, Everyman Theatre, MacCurtain Street, Cork.

Further details of the festival’s other films and presentations can be found on its website.

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