Capital Irish Film Festival (CIFF) Announces Bigger and Bolder Line-up for 17th Festival

Lakelands - DIR Patrick McGivney, Robert Higgins


Includes the North American Premiere of BALLYWALTER and U.S. Premieres of VICKY and GHOSTS OF BAGGOTONIA, East Coast Premieres of LAKELANDS, THE SPARROW, LOLA, HOW TO TELL A SECRET and NORTH CIRCULAR; plus Frank Berry’s AISHA, Soilsiú Films' award-winning documentary YOUNG PLATO


Directorial Debuts, Women and Trans Filmmakers Lead a Lineup of Eagerly Anticipated, Critically Acclaimed Films Exploring Immigration, HIV/AIDS In Modern Ireland, Female Friendship, the Fight For Justice in Women’s Healthcare, and more

CIFF 2023
March 2nd-5th, 2023
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, Silver Spring, MD

Solas Nua ‘s 17th Annual Capital Irish Film Festival will invite audiences to explore contemporary Irish culture, build mutual understanding and connections across borders, and offer new perspectives on the world we share. With 16 feature films, experimental and family programming newly integrated into the lineup, the presentation of the second Norman Houston Short Film Award, and two short film programs, this bold and diverse festival includes highly-anticipated and critically-acclaimed Irish films, new Irish voices, directorial debuts, and fearless storytelling. Solas Nua’s Capital Irish Film Festival presents the largest program of Irish cinema in North America. 

The four-day festival will showcase the latest Irish dramatic and documentary features, shorts, art films and animation releases. The selections showcase comedy, tragedy, distinctive Irish wit and humor, stories about Irish Gaelic football and hurling, Irish pirate queens, reincarnation, grief, and, through all of it, the epic beauty and majesty of Irish landscapes on the big screen.

The 2023 program highlights identity, politics and history, social change, migration, Northern Ireland, Irish language, and Ireland’s incontrovertibly rich literary heritage and music culture.

CIFF Director Maedhbh Mc Cullagh shares, "I am proud and excited to share this selection of films showcasing the extraordinary depth, breadth, and range of Irish storytelling. This program celebrates the incredible richness of talent, skill, and imagination in Irish cinema. It reflects the diverse and comprehensive expression of contemporary Irish identity today.  It affirms the power of film to foster cross-cultural understanding and cultivate tolerance.  Whether celebrating our exceptional literary and music culture, fearlessly confronting the cruelty and brutality of our dysfunctional past and complicated present, remembering our ghosts and reimagining our myths, these films champion the wonder, complexity and brilliance of who we are. There's a story for everyone, and festival passholders will experience a vibrant and immersive film experience."

Festival highlights include:
LAKELANDS, the debut feature from Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, named Best Irish Film at the 2022 Galway Film Fleadh. After an attack on a night out, Cian, a young Gaelic footballer, struggles to come to terms with a career-ending injury. LAKELANDS follows him as he undertakes a search for his own identity in a small town in the midlands, where Gaelic football is a religion and identity is defined by what you can do on the pitch. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, who will travel from Ireland for the event. 

The 2023 Norman Houston Short Film Award and Spotlight on Northern Ireland: On the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, the festival spotlights five inspirational and moving films from Northern Ireland that reflect the vibrant, dynamic and diverse contemporary culture of Northern Ireland. CIFF also celebrates the extraordinary legacy of the former director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in the United States, Norman Houston with the announcement of the 2023 Norman Houston Short Film Award winner.

The festival will present this year’s Norman Houston Short Film Award to the winning filmmaker as part of an annual honor for the best new short film created by a filmmaker based in or from Northern Ireland. The Norman Houston Short Film Award is part of the Norman Houston Project - a project initiated by Solas Nua in Washington, DC, dedicated to the memory of Norman Houston, the former Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau (NIB) in the United States.To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, all short filmmakers from or living in Northern Ireland were automatically entered into the running for the Norman Houston Short Film Award. The winner will be announced with the full festival lineup on February 2.

On Friday, March 3rd, the festival will also feature Soilsiú Films' poignant and humorous award-winning documentary YOUNG PLATO, which tells the story of a dynamic Northern Ireland school principal in Ardoyne, North Belfast who uses critical thinking and philosophy to empower his young pupils and to interrupt the intergenerational trauma and violence that has plagued their community for decades. The film will be presented as a double bill with the Norman Houston Award-winning short film and the evening will include opening remarks by the current Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau, Andrew Elliott, in addition to a post-screening Q&A with filmmakers Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane. 

Other selections include: PRAY FOR OUR SINNERS, filmmaker and journalist, Sinéad O'Shea’s unflinching award-winning documentary about the courageous men and women who stood up to and resisted the coercive control of the Catholic Church and the injustices being perpetrated on children and women in her community; AISHA, Frank Berry’s heartfelt social-realist drama about a Nigerian asylum seeker (Letitia Wright, BLACK PANTHER) caught up in the Irish refugee “direct provision” accommodation system, and the security guard (Josh O'Connor, THE CROWN) who befriends her; THE CRY OF GRANUAILE, a blend of road movie, psychodrama and fantasy that examines a female friendship as two women travel across West Ireland researching Granuaile, the legendary 16th century Pirate Queen; GHOSTS OF BAGGOTONIA, Alan Gilsenan’s exquisite monotone film-poem inspired by the black and white photographs of Neville Johnson, which looks at the literary and artistic ghosts of the bohemian quarter bordering Dublin’s Baggot Street during the mid-20th century drawing  on the writings of the greats of that period including Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett, John Montague, Paul Durcan, and Thomas Kinsella, amongst others; HOW TO TELL A SECRET, a groundbreaking hybrid documentary that depicts the challenges and stigma of disclosing HIV/AIDS status in Ireland; VICKY, Sasha King’s harrowing documentary about Vicky Phelan’s fight to expose one of the worst women’s health scandals in Irish history and to seek justice for all the women affected by it; BALLYWATER, the feature directorial debut of actor Prasanna Puwanarajah, (most recently seen as Martin Bashir in THE CROWN), following the unlikely friendship between caustic, unrepentant University drop-out Eileen (Seana Kerslake BAD SISTERS) and Shane (NI comedian, Patrick Kielty, in his feature debut), a recent divorcee trying his hand at stand up comedy to get his life back on track; and NORTH CIRCULAR, Luke McManus’ exquisite and captivating black and white film traveling the length of  Dublin’s North Circular Road, a rich musical odyssey exploring the history and sites of this storied street, featuring a rolling cast of celebrated local musicians, characters and artists.  

CIFF All-Access Passes are on sale now

The full festival lineup, schedule and individual tickets will be available on February 2 at

Solas Nua - ‘new light’ in Irish, is a leading multi-disciplinary arts organization that is dedicated exclusively to bringing contemporary Irish arts to Washington, D.C. Solas Nua acts as an ambassador and advocate for Irish arts in the U.S., promoting multi-disciplinary Irish arts and culture. Solas Nua presents, produces, and commissions thought-provoking and ground-breaking work across the arts, and is recognized for making a substantive, unique contribution to the artistic and cultural richness of the city of Washington, DC and beyond. 

A program of the American Film Institute (AFI), AFI Silver and Cultural Center offers a year-round program of the best in American and international cinema, featuring a dynamic mix of retrospectives, special events, tributes, on-stage guest appearances, specialty first-run movies,festivals, premieres and education and community-based programs in a theatrical setting of the highest standards. Anchored by the stunningly restored 1938 Silver Theatre, the three-screen AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is a state-of-the-art film and digital media exhibition venue that serves as a national model for preserving and honoring our shared film and film-going heritage.

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