Festival history

About Festival history

Since its inception in 2003, Dublin International Film Festival has established itself as Ireland’s leading film festival, showcasing the best in home-grown and international cinema over two action-packed weeks every year. Filled with world premieres and star-studded galas, together with a diverse programme of exhibitions, workshops and talks, the Festival offers something for everyone, from dedicated cinephiles to curious audiences eager to try something new.


Dublin has been a movie town since James Joyce established the Volta on Mary Street in 1909. But despite having the most enthusiastic cinema audiences in Europe, the city long lacked a film festival of its own. All that finally changed in 2003 when Michael Dwyer, Chief Film Correspondent of The Irish Times, and film producer David McLoughlin founded the Dublin International Film Festival, dedicated to bringing the best new cinema to Dublin.

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Through the years

Since then, the Festival has screened more than 1,500 films in a wide range of venues, assisted by an army of hard-working volunteers. We’ve featured everything from premieres and one-off events to concerts and exhibitions, and seasons of films from countries all over the world. Every year the Festival wraps up with the perennially popular – and totally unguessable – Surprise Film, leaving audiences delighted and stunned.

Along the way we’ve rolled out the red carpet for stars including Al Pacino, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Farrell, Tilda Swinton, Gabriel Byrne, Charlize Theron, Daniel Day Lewis and Glenn Close, and welcomed a host of leading industry professionals, from iconic filmmakers like Jim Sheridan, Mike Leigh, Paolo Sorrentino and Wim Wenders, to screenwriters like Peter Morgan and Laurence Coriat, and composers Alex Somers, David Shire and Jocelyn Pook.

The Festival has long been committed to supporting new talent, both through competitions and awards like the Documentary Competition and the Discovery Award, and through workshops and masterclasses on everything from casting to composing. Where else could you join a zombie prosthetics workshop (that’s a workshop on zombie prosthetics, not a prosthetics workshop for zombies), polish your score with a leading film composer, speed date with industry insiders, or make your own Lego movie?

We are today

DIFF today

Under the leadership of Gráinne Humphreys, festival director and Helen Hutton, managing director, DIFF has gone from strength to strength, showcasing more than 130 films per year and building audiences of every kinds for films of every kind, both in Dublin and beyond. Picture House, the Festival’s long-running outreach programme, brings screenings to care centres, hospitals and prisons, and in 2016 we introduced Fantastic Flix, a programming strand that offers children the chance not only to see a wonderful range of films but to learn how to make them too.

Today, DIFF is widely regarded as one of the top ten film festivals in Europe, but we aren’t resting there. We continue to innovate and grow, developing young local talent through the Screen8 initiative, and striving to ensure that every community, within the city and beyond, has a chance to experience the transformative power of cinema.