Jane O’Faherty reports from the Richard Harris International Film Festival Gala, which took place on Friday, 24th October in Limerick.
A red carpet rolled out the entrance of 69 O’Connell Street in Limerick. Inside the venue, luminaries of international cinema came and talked together with talented artistic figures from the city. Indeed, the Gala event for the Richard Harris International Film Festival began with the palpable excitement of any major opening night.
Guests on the night included members of the Harris family, who had come especially to attend festival events. Richard’s son Jared Harris was to officially open the festival, accompanied by his wife Allegra, his brother Jamie, and Richard’s granddaughter, Ella.
Beginning with a wine reception on Friday night, the gala epitomised the ethos of the festival – it honoured the outstanding career of one Limerick actor, but it also highlighted emerging local talent in Ireland.
The festivities commenced with the presentation of a breakout artist award to Irish actor Jack Reynor. Since starring in the critically acclaimed Irish film What Richard Did, he has earned roles in the latest instalment of the Transformers saga. Reynor is also set to appear alongside Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a new adaptation of Macbeth.
“It’s an honour to be allowed the opportunity to come down here and celebrate [Richard Harris’] life and career,” Reynor said after accepting the award from Jared Harris. “I will continue to meet the standards that Richard Harris has set for the Irish actors who come after him,” he added.
Before the evening’s screenings, there was just enough time for the Harris family and other guests to share their own memories of Harris as an actor, as a father and as a friend.
“I know that he would have been delighted to have a film festival named after him,” joked Jared Harris, who officially opened the festival. “He was a great encourager of dreams and young talent, so he would love it,” he added.
Family, colleagues and friends alike told their stories. Jared Harris recalled his father’s efforts to secure the role of King Arthur in Camelot. He disguised himself as a waiter in the Palm Springs restaurant where the makers of Camelot were dining in order to convince them to give him an audition.
The Field’s producer, Noel Pearson, spoke about his experience with Richard Harris on set. “At the end of Camelot, he took the crown, which is against all the rules. It was a prop and you’re supposed to give it back,” he said. “At the end of The Field, he took the coat and the stick.
“The one thing I can say about him, apart from being a great actor, he was fantastic company and a great guy,” he added.
The night continued with the screening of two films. It began with All Washed Up, a short made especially for the festival. This was followed by a showing of The Field, regarded my many as one of Harris’ finest performances.
All Washed Up, written and produced by Keith Bogue and starring Jon Kenny, is the moving story of a down-on-his-luck actor preparing for his final performance. Notably, all of the supporting actors in the film were from Limerick.
In spite of being made more than two decades ago, The Field continues to enthrall and move audiences. The screening of the Irish tragedy was no exception to this rule – the tale of one farmer’s all-consuming desire for land and the upheaval it causes kept everyone gripped, still and silent. We were all engrossed in this story and Harris’ performance. We may have seen it many times, but the screening was a testament of The Field’s enduring appeal, as well as the talent of one of Ireland’s most memorable actors.
As the gala concluded with a lavish reception in the George Boutique Hotel, attendees looked forward to a weekend of diverse Irish film. Public screenings of What Richard Did and the new independent film Starred Up were programme highlights. Meanwhile, the festival’s short film competition – run in conjunction with the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival – was set to be a key event for up-and-coming Irish filmmakers. Most importantly, the festival promised to reveal the ever-growing potential of Irish film, writing and actors.