Matt Micucci reports from the programme launch for the Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)
It’s the time of the year for Irish film lovers to start getting excited as the Galway Film Fleadh gears up for its twenty fifth year. Having lasted a quarter of a century as the première Irish film festival, this is a year of celebration and continuation of the Fleadh’s ethos to promote Irish filmmaking, with seven national premieres and seven European premieres of Irish films, while also exhibiting a wide variety of international filmmaking with spotlights, event screenings and tasty retrospectives.
Gar O’Brien, the Fleadh’s programmer for the seventh year in a row, introduced the programme to a room full of excited film lovers and curious people from the industry, introducing the Fleadh’s spirit with a quote from a novel by John Branville’s novel The Sea, which was adapted by Stephen Brown and is the festival’s closing film: “The past beats inside me like a second heart,” after reminding people proudly that the Fleadh “began out of a sense of frustration over the lack of opportunities for Irish filmmakers, who had no way of presenting their work.” When the festival started in 1988, in fact, filmmakers were struggling and there was no Film Board – this year the Irish Film Board too celebrates an anniversary, their 20th.
Irish filmmakers are well represented by an appetizingly wide variety of genres and stories, which range from the feel good recession comedy Life’s a Breeze, which in its tagline on the posters claims that ‘this country is bollocks’, to Oscar nominated Steph Green’s feature debut Run & Jump, which also features Will Forte of SNL and 30 Rock fame in his first dramatic performance. Other eye-catching features include an ambitious low budget post-apocalyptic science fiction film Dark By Noon by Alan Leonard and Michael O’Flaherty and a complex drama about an Irish artist in her husband’s family home in Northern Italy during an intense midday heat called House of Shadows. Among the selection, Gar O’Brien highlights a number of Irish features made in a DIY model, which include anything from music mockumentary (Discoverdale) to recessionary dramas (Out of Here).
There’s a charming spotlight on the cinema of Luxembourg, in honour of their similarity in looking for a cinematic identity which is reminiscent of the state in which Irish cinema was twenty-five years ago, a tribute to the recently deceased Ray Harryhousen with a screening of The 7th Voyage of Simbad and a screening of Bob Quinn’s Atlantean for the film’s 30th anniversary. The picture is completed by the usual exhibition of compelling documentaries and animation films, as well as the usual selection of short films which every year conceals rare and often unseen gems.
As usual alongside the screenings, there are a variety of talks, masterclasses and guests. Among them is Zachary Quinto, who will host an acting masterclass. Quinto may have made it big in the past few years with roles in the hit TV show Heroes and the blockbuster Star Trek remake as Spock, but about a decade ago he worked here in Galway at Java’s, thus his return feels like a sort of homecoming. Saoirse Ronan will be this year’s guest of honor and the subject of the traditional public interview.
After unravelling such a large selection for yet another memorable fleadh, there was still time to honor Miriam Allen, its co-founder and managing director who is set to receive an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University for her contribution to Irish cinema. And while the cover of this year’s programme may directly recall the cover of the first year’s one, there is also a genuine feeling that this year will be different, because as O’Brien put it, the Galway Film Fleadh is “always progressing, always moving forward with a keen backwards eye for our traditions and basic principles”.