IFB at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival

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David Simmons reports from Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board’s get together at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

While the festival’s Hollywood  glamour highlight George Clooney was wowing them all over on the red carpet at the Berlinale Palast  on the first Saturday of the festival with the premiere of his new film Monuments Men, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board was celebrating its participation in the festival at the 40seconds,  a snazzy bar perched on the 8th floor of a high rise with a spectacular view of the metropolis at night.

By the time Irish Film Board CEO James Hickey took to the microphone to welcome those present, the place was already packed with over 200 guests and buzzing. Hickey expressed his pride in the films that were representing Ireland at the festival this year, picking out John Michael MacDonagh’s Calvary which had a prestigious premier screening on the Sunday evening in the Zoo Palast and which stars Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson and MacDonagh are  hoping to repeat the success of their last collaboration The Guard. He then handed over the microphone to Michael Collins, the Irish Ambassador to Germany who congratulated Irish filmmakers and the film board on their achievements in recent years. Once the brief welcoming speeches were over, everyone returned to the serious business of mingling, networking and greeting old friends.

As someone who has only had sporadic contact with the Irish film – making scene in recent decades, it was a pleasure for me to meet up again with Donald Taylor Black from the National Film School in Dun Laoghaire and we agreed that he would send me a DVD of his documentary on the effects of the recession The Skin in the Game. Rachel Lysaght , co- producer on Ignition Films’ recently completed  Patrick’s Day was excited at the expectation of travelling with the film to the prestigious SXSW (South by Southwest) Festival  in Austin, Texas in March where Patrick’s Day will be getting its world premier. I exchanged thoughts on national identity with director Finbarr Wilbrink and his producer Cormac Fox,  who are seeking financial support for their projected film Fetch and then marvelled at the complexities of international co-production while chatting with Luigi, an Italian documentary filmmaker who is collaborating with George Best’s son Calum(?) to make a film on the wayward football genius titled My Best. I was thinking that’s one I don’t want to miss.

The following morning I met briefly with Louise Ryan (Marketing and Festivals) at the Irish Film Board stand at the heart of the business end of the festival – the EFM (European Film Market) in the Martin Gropius Building not far from Potsdamer Platz. The market is spread out over several floors of the celebrated building and certainly in the early days of the festival it has all the hectic atmosphere of an oriental bazaar. Louise was moving from one appointment to the other as all around her other national film boards and production companies were touting their wares. She seemed pleased with the interest being shown in the current and upcoming productions that the Film Board is involved in as both, major or contributing, financer.

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