Catalyst Film Festival 2023

Catalyst International Film Festival returns for its 4th edition from 30th March

Based in Limerick, Catalyst International Film Festival will host the 4th edition of the festival presenting films, panel discussions and networking events in venues across the city from Thursday 30th March to Saturday 1st April.

Catalyst International Film Festival presents a film programme that prioritises stories and storytellers currently under-represented on screen and behind the camera.

We want to create a more inclusive industry and films screened here will promote gender equality, diversity and inclusion whether in content, key creative roles or crew. Catalyst is going from strength to strength as we move into our 4th year. We have an exciting and inclusive programme from a diverse range of filmmakers; panels that will challenge and inspire; workshops and masterclasses for emerging and established talent and networking events to help build your tribe. This is an audience friendly festival. Team Catalyst and Limerick are waiting to welcome you! 

Dr Susan Liddy, Festival Founder and Director

Catalyst will present a full programme for students on Thursday 30th March which includes an Interactive Masterclass with Screenwriter & Director Laura O’Shea, Editor & Educator Phil Shanahan and Actor & Traveller Rights Activist Martin Mahon. 

Plus a selection of Short Films by Programmer Céline Roustan especially for younger audiences which are examples of excellence in short filmmaking and which meet the festival’s equality, diversity and inclusion criteria. After the screenings, students will get the opportunity to vote for their favourite film. The recipient of the Young Audience Award 2023 will be given a trophy on behalf of the audience on the day. The day will conclude with a Meet the Industry panel and Q+A. Participants will include an International Curator and Festival Programmer; a film director; a producer; an actor; an editor and a camera operator. They will discuss their role in the industry and talk to students about their journey from school to set to screen.

The Festival will present an exhilarating and robust slate of documentary shorts, International shorts (Friday 31st March) and Irish shorts (Saturday 1st April) at The Belltable Theatre. 

This year’s short documentary programme pays tribute to the power of personal testimony as a force for change and shines a light on the audacity of the human spirit. From older men to the forgotten gay community, from street artist to traveller, the diversity of stories illuminates the past and the present. These films reveal the people behind the creative and personal struggle to be seen, to be heard and to be accepted. The filmmakers combine craft, visual poetry and sensitivity of approach to bring us the beautiful diversity of existence. 

Eight films comprise this year’s international shorts programme. From North America to South America, from Europe to Oceania, these stories feature characters that have often been overlooked on screen or whose perspective is rarely captured with authenticity and the diversity of narrative and directorial voices. These different experiences are brought to the screen through different lenses and styles, with elaborate settings for some and very simple ones for others, all have an immersive quality that gives the viewer the opportunity to experience life through the protagonists’ eyes. Diverse in terms of storytelling, this program is also diverse tonally, with dark comedy, satire, psychological thriller and one animation film. 

Uprooted Dir Feidlim Cannon, Gary Keegan
Uprooted Dir Feidlim Cannon, Gary Keegan

The two programmes of Irish short films in this year’s line-up are a true testament to the diversity of directorial voices that Irish cinema has to offer. From genre to romcom, from social drama to satire all convey powerful narratives through protagonists whose stories are often not seen on screen. Curated as an emotional ride, the films use the cinematic medium differently to tackle their characters’ conflicts. Heart-warming for some, and thought-provoking for others, all are deeply engaging and compelling and provide an authentic insight into the different experiences of each of the main characters. 

The Festival is dedicated to supporting and championing screenwriters; particularly those from under-represented groups or who write authentically about those groups. If the stories are to change, the screenwriting must be on board too. In association with the Writers Guild of Ireland, Catalyst will host Putting the Screenwriter into the Picture panel. This event will discuss the importance of the short film script as a calling card and how writers can break through into longer forms. With panellists Jennifer Davidson – Chair WGI (Fair City; Waiting for Tom), Ursula Rani Sarma – Screenwriter/ Playwright (SmotherBodkin) Carl Austin – Screenwriter (Operation CobraFair City), Aisling Walsh – Screenwriter/ Director ( Song for a Raggy BoyMaudie; Elizabeth is Missing), Robert Higgins – Screenwriter, director, producer ( Lakelands; Angels Guard Thee). The 6 finalists in the Short Screenplay Award will each speak about their script and their work and career with the winning screenplay awards announced at the closing event on Saturday evening. 

Director Aisling Walsh
Director Aisling Walsh

On Saturday the Director-DOP Masterclass sees cinematographer Jaro Waldeck in conversation with award-winning director Aisling  Walsh  (Song for a Raggy Boy;  An Inspector Calls; Maudie; Elizabeth is Missing)  exploring the themes of those films and offering an insight into the process of creating the visual concepts for each story. Waldeck is an award-winning DOP, and a member of the Czech Society of Cinematographers, who has shot over 40 short films and is currently in production on her first drama feature.  

In addition, Aisling Walsh will be offering emerging screenwriters from a range of underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to work in small script labs with her. 

The Festival is keen to support new voices. Filmmaker and Catalyst Programme Assistant Aisha Bolaji will be moderating a New Voices panel of up-and-coming creatives within the Irish film industry at 1 Pery Square. The lineup includes actor Martin Mahon, screenwriter Rehan Ali and writer/directors Elizabeth Adewusi and Nell Hensey.

In the Belltable, Gemma Creagh (Film Ireland, Arena) will moderate what is sure to be a very lively discussion of the Critics panel. Creagh will be joined by fellow critics Chris Wasser, Ruth Barton, Mohamed Tarek and Roe McDermott who debate the role/power of the film (screen) critic. Can the gender or background of the critic impact what films are reviewed and how films are reviewed? Are there implications for underrepresented groups if critics are, in the main, white (majority middle-class) men? Or does an insightful critic override such concerns? 

Pray For Our Sinners Dir. Sinead O'Shea
Pray For Our Sinners Dir. Sinead O’Shea

The Festival is excited to screen two exciting features. Pray For Our Sinners the new documentary from filmmaker and journalist, Sinéad O’Shea in which she confronts Ireland’s recent history of brutality against children and women from corporal punishment to state-sanctioned mother and baby homes. O’Shea returns to her hometown in rural Ireland to explore the control the Catholic church held there until recent years and uncovers the gentle but extraordinary figures who chose to resist. This is a portrait of genuine bravery, hope and love. The screening will be at 8pm at The Belltable Theatre Friday 31st March followed by a Q+A with O’Shea. 

Klondike (2022)directed by Turkish Director Marina Er Gorbach will be on at 8pm on Saturday, April 1st at The Belltable Theatre.  It is July 2014. Expectant parents Irka and Tolik live in the Donetsk district of eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. Their nervous anticipation of their first child’s birth is violently disrupted as the vicinal crash of flight MH17 elevates the forbidding tension enveloping their village. Catalyst will be joined on the night by special guests to discuss the effects of war and the power of film to depict its horrific reality. 

This year’s Award categories 2023 are: Best Irish Film,  Best Short Screenplay, Breakthrough Filmmaker, Best International Short, Best Short Documentary, Audience Award, and Spirit of the Festival. 

The calibre of Catalyst judges and their willingness to become involved in the festival is a testament to its growing reputation and include Frank Berry (Aisha), Rachael Moriarty (Róise & Frank), Paddy Breathnach (Rosie), Paddy Slattery (Broken Law) and Ursula Rani Sarma ( Smother).

Catalyst International Film Festival will run from 31st March – 1st April 2023 across Limerick City.

Tickets can be purchased from