Nicholas O’Riordan checked out ‘Homegrown – New Shorts from Cork’ at the Cork Film Festival, which showcased the best new shorts from Cork.
“The official opening of the 60th Cork Film Festival is, of course, later this evening, but I think everyone here knows that the real opening of the festival is this programme, ‘Homegrown – New Shorts from Cork’”
This is how festival shorts programmer Colm McAuliffe (The Guardian, Sight & Sound) introduced the festival’s first programme of 7 shorts, kicking off 10 days of film in Cork. Always a popular feature of local film festivals, and notably absent from last year’s festival, the ‘Homegrown’ section showcases the work of local filmmakers, selected by McAuliffe to give the audience a taste of the various cinematic styles being employed by local practitioners.
The evening’s programme began with AiR, a non-narrative piece directed by Sonya Keogh, creative director of ARTlifeCULTURE. Utilising songs and rhythms from the traditional Irish repertiore and reworking them into innovative and rich soundscapes, Keogh’s film evokes notions of spirituality and connection to nature. In this dream-like non-narrative short, the camera floats across the scenery of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ lingering on the landscape, on expressions, on moments, all without romanticising the setting, partly through the film’s subtle and fitting use of drone cameras. However, due to the quite intensely avant-garde nature of this project, one cannot help but think, as the credits roll, that this is a piece more suited to an exhibition/gallery space.
Originally produced for the Cork, Like film project, Naoimh Ní Luanaigh’s Kennedy Quay is a powerful and evocative piece of local cinema. Perfectly paced through the film’s use of jump cuts, actor David Cooney’s face commands the attention of each viewer until the final frame, particularly in a careful and deliberate look into the lens. It must be said that Cooney takes the initial few seconds to fully capture the audience but once he does the viewers are under his spell, with the initial ‘performed’ nature of the performance soon replaced by a strikingly natural and confident performance. Kennedy Quay brings to mind the recent viral hit Just Saying, utilising a similar confessional style, however, Ní Luanaigh’s film boasts a more singular, character-based, personal, and less hopeful focus all accentuated by a meandering, fitting score composed by Athos Tsiopani. This simple yet effective and confident film is sure to secure Ní Luanaigh’s name on the Cork film scene.
The evening took a more sinister turn with ‘one to watch’ director Brian Deane (Volkswagen Joe, Céad Ghrá) moving towards the horror genre with his new short Blight (produced as part of the Irish Film Board ‘Signatures’ funding programme). This latest contribution to the somewhat shaky Irish horror scene features both confident direction and a polished aesthetic, as well as some strong performances, particularly the very physical performance by Alicia Gerrard. With a narrative centred around a young priest sent to battle dark supernatural forces, obvious connections can be drawn to several contemporary ‘possession’ horror films, however, Deane’s approach stands alone in its strong production value, well considered sound design and suitably foggy, misty mise-en-scene. This film certainly further establishes Deane’s position as a director on the rise, and is sure to be remembered as one of the few genuinely unnerving Irish horror shorts of recent years.
The Great Wide Open
A welcome relief from the tension and horror of Deane’s film, Ciarán Dooley’s The Great Wide Open (pictured) is a heartwarming 10 minutes based around the relationship between a young girl and her grandfather. Beautifully shot, with credit due to cinematographers Eamonn Murphy and Burschi Wojnar, this film lacks a very strong narrative thread, however, its tone and imagery, as well as a wonderful rapport between the two lead actors champions human connection and family without over-egging the sentimentality. After screening his wonderful short I’ve Been a Sweeper at the Cork Film Festival last year, and having recently been awarded a ‘Warner Brothers Creative Talent’ scholarship this certainly isn’t the last we’ll see of Dooley’s subtle and beautiful cinematic style.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, due to technical problems at the screening, we were unable to provide a review of Static]
An Shawlie, An Clog agus an Meall Ime
The sixth film of the evening was undoubtedly one of the most avant-garde local film seen in recent years at the festival. Maria Young’s film, produced by choreographer Tina Horan is a bizarre, comic, and visually diverse tribute to Cork’s butter-making shawlie shufflers of past years. Young demonstrates a directorial confidence in the her manipulation of temporality, and absurd comedy, and credit is also due to the film’s interesting soundscape which furthers the sense of the uncanny in the piece.
Making the rounds at festivals home and abroad, the seventh and final film of the programme, Comic Potential, directed by Ross Carey (The Trouble with Aoibhe) and Emmett O’Brien (A Novel Approach to Dating) is the perfect way to end a programme of local shorts. Set in the small town of Bantry, West Cork, Comic Potential introduces us to the ‘Bantry Blossom’, a self-appointed superhero who vows to aid the people of her fair (and altogether peaceful) town. After successful screenings in the U.S., Comic Potential truly feels at home at the Cork Film Festival with the audience responding enthusiastically to the film’s narrative and setting. With prolific Cork short film actress Irene Kelleher in the lead role, Kelleher is on top form and perfectly suited for the part, bringing an endearing, sweetness to the role. A noteworthy performance is also given by Peadar Clancy, who delivers a considered and understated performance, playing excellently opposite Kelleher. The film’s soundtrack (Athos Tsiopani) and title designs, as well as costume design and cinematography are all well handled and leave the film with a polished and cinematic aesthetic. Carey & O’Brien’s latest short is a warm, and witty glimpse into the life of a super-hero with no one to save.