Irish documentary 406 Days was announced as the overall winner of the Audience Award at the 2023 Dublin International Film Festival, which came to an end last Saturday after an action-packed 10 days showing the best in Irish and international cinema.  

 Closing the Festival with a gala screening of the film, Fergus Dowd and Joe Lee’s powerful documentary tells of the heartbreak, courage and rage of the workers involved in the 2020 Debenhams picket. A favourite with audiences as well as critics, the film also received a number of accolades including Best Irish Documentary in the Dublin Film Critics Circle (DFCC) Awards, and was awarded the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) Human Rights Film Award. 

 Commenting on the award, directors Fergus Dowd and Joe Lee said: We feel this is a great achievement as it comes from the people who have watched our film, and it shows how it resonated with audiences at the Dublin International Film Festival. The audience was compiled of all different spectators, some who did not know the full story [of the strike], and who commented afterwards how deeply shocked they were. 

 "It was a real pleasure to see the packed cinemas for this year’s festival,” said Festival Director Gráinne Humphreys. Although Irish cinema is flying high at the minute – we are very aware that audiences are not fully back to pre-pandemic numbers so its hugely encouraging to see the support for our 2023 programme across both the Irish and international titles. We are also delighted to see the number of new audiences who attended this year and by the success of our Dublin On Screen cross-city initiative.” 

 Runners up for the Audience Award included Claire Dix’s debut feature Sunlight, Dennis Harvey’s essay on emigration I Must Away, Margo Harkin’s documentary about the Mother and Baby Homes Stolen, and John Connors’ feature The Black Guelph 

 In the Audience Award Shorts categories, Mud Queen by Nathan Fagan and Luke Daly won the Irish category, with French/Lebanese film Warsha scooping the International Short Audience Award accolade.  

 Throughout the Festival there were many other honours, including the highly contested Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards, which this year namedThe Beasts as Best Film, My Sailor My Love as Best Irish Film, and Léan Mysius as Best Director for The Five Devils. Individual awards went to filmmaker Mark Cousins whose acclaimed film March on Rome screened at the Festival (George Byrne Maverick Award) and rising Irish star of the feature Ann, Zara Devlin (Michael Dwyer Discovery Award).  


Other accolades include Notes From Sheepland, which won the DCU Documentary Competition; Lamb and Will You Look At Me who won Best Irish and Best International Short respectively in the Shorts Awards, and Laura O’Shea, Greg Burrowes and Rory Kerr who were all named as the 2023 Discovery Award winners.  


Full list of Festival Awards winners below: 



 Feature winner: 406 Days 

Irish Short winner: Mud Queen 

International Short winner: Warsha 



 Best Film – The Beasts  

Best Director Léa Mysius, The Five Devils  

Best Screenplay – Cristian Mungiu, R.M.N. 

Best Actor Eden Dambrine, Close 

Best Actress Kristine Kujath Thorp, Sick of Myself  

Best Cinematography – Marine Altan, Thunder 

Best Score – Nadah El Shazly, The Damned Don’t Cry  

Best Editing Nico Leunen, Eight Mountains  

Best Debut Feature Michal Blasko, Victim 

Best Ensemble – How to Blow Up a Pipeline 

Best Irish Film My Sailor, My Love 

Best Irish Documentary 406 Days  

Best Documentary – Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti  

George Byrne Maverick Award – Mark Cousins 

Michael Dwyer Discovery AwardZara Devlin  


5 Lamps Discovery Award 

The 5 Lamps Discovery Awards aim to identify, champion, support and encourage new and emerging talent from both in front and behind the camera, and this year’s jury have selected Laura O’Shea, Greg Burrowesand Rory Kerr as recipients of the awards. 


Speaking about the winners, the jury said: “Writer/director/actor Laura O'Shea is someone in full control of her craft. The assured direction, pacing and lightness of touch with such a difficult topic in Wednesday's Child was particularly impressive. It was obvious from Greg Burrowes work as a producer (and sound recordist) that he is on an upward trajectory.  It is evident that he is a committed and skilled Producer who is clearly drawn to good stories and knows how to deliver them. And our third winner, Rory Kerr delivered animated work that was fresh and deceptively low-fi, a wild and wonderful blend of great technique and strong imagination.”  



Best Documentary was awarded toCara Holmes’s Notes from Sheepland, which the judges said was:stylish, interesting, challenging in its form, Notes From Sheepland is a very well-crafted cinematic documentary. As well as being a clever and creative treatment of its subject, this is a film that brims with freshness and life.” 


Special Mention was given to Eddie Hutton-Mills and Leah Gordon’s  Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti in Six Chapters.“A visually powerful and richly beautiful portrait of Haiti and its history through the culture of carnival troupes. 



Sinead O’Loughlin’sLambwas named as Best Irish Short, with the judges saying  “it stayed with us long after viewing.”  Special mention went to Janna Kempermans “beautifully shotShadow, with special acknowledgements forMud Queen andRegular Rabbit. 


Best International Short went to the “raw and honestWill you look at me. Special Mentions went to Blind Spot and On Xerxes’s Throne 



The ICCL Human Rights Award was awarded to406 Days. Commenting on their choice, the jury said  “406 Days is an incredible testimony to the strength and resilience of a group of mostly female workers in the face of the might of an international company. 


Special mention went to My Imaginary Country (Mi País Imaginario) as “a stunning, beautifully made celebration of protest and civil disobedience, which leaves viewers with a sense of hope for the future.