“People are looking for a window on contemporary Ireland and that’s our goal. All of these films, 8 features, they’ve all been made in the last 12 months, so that’s certainly what they’re going to get.”

Irish Film Festival Director Dr Enda Murray sat down to talk about this year’s line-up, which in 2017 will expand to Western Sydney and for the first-time travel interstate to Melbourne. Starting strong in 2015 and expanding in size and focus in 2016, this year’s Festival is set to break new ground, having only recently launched its program at Ireland’s Consulate in Sydney.

“The Festival has gone from strength to strength, this is our third year and for the first time we’re going out to Western Sydney, we’re going out to Penrith on the 29th of March and then back to our traditional home at the Chauvel in Paddington for the legendary opening night party on the 30th,” said Murray, who last year travelled to the Galway Film Festival to source the latest in Irish cinema. “We’re looking forward to a great weekend of films in Sydney and are really excited to go to Melbourne for the first time, we’re going to be at the Kino in Collins St slap bang in the middle of the city.

“My focus in terms of curatorial ambition for the Festival is to shine a light on contemporary Ireland, so certainly last year because it was the Centenary we were looking back, but this is coming back to my original intention in terms of starting off the Festival to allow Australian audiences to see what’s happening in Ireland and Irish politics and Irish society and the Irish culture.”

This year’s Festival will open with A Date for Mad Mary on Thursday night. Set in small town Ireland and starring The Fall’s Tara Lee, A Date for Mad Mary centres on one young woman’s attempts to find a date for her best friend’s wedding. The film will also screen at Penrith Gaels and on the Festival’s opening night in Melbourne.

“It is a fantastic film, its actually filmed in my home town of Drogheda,” said Murray. “I remember seeing the Director 20 years ago, he was working in the youth theatre at the time and I was blown away; I’ve been watching his career and this is really a classic debut feature film. It works on a lot of levels, it’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s really well made, beautifully acted and brilliantly written, so it’s just got everything – I think people are going to be really happy with it.”

Mammal, a Sundance entry starring Australia’s Rachel Griffiths, Game of Thrones’ Michael McElhatton and Barry Keoghan will also screen at the Festival, along with Sanctuary this coming Friday, focusing on two young people with intellectual disabilities who long to be together.

“This is an incredible film, it’s hilariously funny and the characters are just so warm and rounded, and the Director Len Collin is coming to Sydney,” said Murray.  “Len’s been a writer on some of the UK’s most successful TV shows, EastEnders, The Bill, and he’s now moved over to feature writing and directing.”

“We have a reception prior to this film as Sydney is a UNESCO City of Film, as is Galway, so this is the beginning of a conversation we hope will link the two cities in the years to come.”

The Sydney leg of the Festival will close with Twice Shy on Sunday night, featuring a young couple coping with an unplanned pregnancy.

“We’ve had a closing night tradition of choosing a film from a young Director, a break-out film and this is our pick this year,” said Murray. “It’s a very current film in Ireland because there’s a debate at the moment about the Eighth Amendment and we’re very lucky to have the Sydney Rose of Tralee Brianna Parkins who’s going to introduce the film.”

The Irish Film Festival will screen at Penrith Gaels, Penrith on March 29, at the Chauvel Cinema in Paddington from March 30 – April 2 and then at Melbourne’s Kino Cinema from April 6 – 8. For more information head to the Festival website