A unique opportunity for American audiences to experience the best of contemporary Irish cinema, the 13th annual Irish Film Festival, Boston will showcase an award-winning lineup of Irish feature films, shorts and documentaries from March 22-25.

Founded in 1999, the Festival is the largest event of its kind outside of Ireland. Deemed one of the “Top 20 Coolest Film Festivals” worldwide by MovieMaker Magazine, it celebrates the best of Ireland and the Irish on screen – past, present and future. Over the years, the Festival has premiered acclaimed films such as In America, Intermission, and Bloody Sunday, and was the first American film festival to recognize the 2007 Oscar winner, Once.

This year, opening night will see the US premiere of director Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s Stella Days, the Director’s Choice Award recipient. Based on the Michael Doorley novel, the film stars Martin Sheen as a parish priest who fails to calm his “flock” when the opening of a small Tipperary cinema results in a community struggle of faith, culture, passion, and conscience. O’Sullivan will be in attendance on opening night, along with supporting actor Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, V for Vendetta). The film Downpour, recipient of this year’s IFFB Award for Best Short Film, will also be screened.

Further highlights will include appearances by director John McIlduff and actress Aoife Duffinat the US premiere of Behold the Lamb, and a screening of Terry George’s The Shore, this year’s Oscar winner for Best Short Film.

“Momentum is building around the strength of our line-up, and it is an honor to be the first port-of-call when it comes to premiering cutting-edge Irish film in America,” Festival co-director Dawn Morrissey told The Irish Emigrant. “Since its inception, the Festival has steadily grown and garnered much acclaim, and this year is no exception.”

The “New Irish Shorts” series will feature noted releases such as 2012 Oscar nominee Pentecost, and Jonny Boy, starring Jon Polito. These will be followed by the screening of Ballymun Lullaby, an inspiring music-themed documentary whose director, Frank Berry, will be in attendance.

Director Ed Godsell will join President Obama’s Irish cousin, Henry Healy, in the audience for the screening of The Road to Moneygall, which outlines how Healy discovered his familial ties to power, and Obama’s subsequent visit to Moneygall in Co. Offaly.

For the Festival’s grand finale, a screening of Dreaming of The Quiet Man will mark the 60th anniversary of the 1952 Oscar-winning film. This documentary explores director John Ford’s struggle to highlight his homage to Ireland, his parents’ place of birth. Written and directed by SéMerry Doyle, it features contributions from commentators and filmmakers including Peter Bogdonavich, Martin Scorsese, Jim Sheridan, and Maureen O’Hara, who starred in the original film alongside John Wayne. The Quiet Man itself will also be screened.

The Irish Film Festival, Boston runs from Thursday, March 22 through Sunday, March 25 at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, and at the Somerville Theater. Tickets to each screening are $10 and include entry to all pre- and post-event receptions. A special All Access Festival Pass (allowing blanket entrance) is available for $75. For tickets and further information, including a complete schedule, see www.irishfilmfestival.com.

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