Irish Women in Cinema @ Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith

Irish Women in Cinema 25th – 27th October Irish Cultural Centre, Blacks Road, Hammersmith W6 9DT 

In 2018 Screen Ireland announced a new gender policy that would ensure that future productions would be directed equally between male and female directors. This momentous decision has been the spur for The Irish Cultural Centre Hammersmith, to invite four eminent female filmmakers to showcase some of their key work and discuss what it was like to be a woman in a male dominated world at a three-day festival (25-27 Oct). The screenings will include Lelia Doolan’s ‘Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey’ a newly restored print of Pat Murphy’s ‘Anne Devlin’, Margo Harkin’s ‘Hush a Bye Baby’ and ’12 Days in July’, and Aisling Walsh’s ‘Song for A Raggy Boy’. As well as introducing their films they will all get together for a panel discussion on the theme of ‘Women in film in a changing Ireland’. The Q&A’s will be chaired by film historian Steve Martin. All four filmmakers have their own unique voices but also share a common desire to ensure equality with their male counterparts. 

Screening times: Irish Women in Cinema Friday October 25th 8pm ‘Song for A Raggy Boy’ followed by a Q&A with director Aisling Walsh. Saturday October 26th 3.30pm: ‘Hush-a-Bye Baby’ followed by a Q&A with director Margo Harkin Saturday October 26th 8pm: The Premiere Screening of the restored print of ‘Anne Devlin’ followed by a Q&A with director Pat Murphy Sunday October 27th 4.00pm ‘12 Days in July’ followed by a Q&A with director Margo Harkin Sunday October 27th 5pm Panel Discussion; ‘Irish Women in Film, In A Changing Ireland’ featuring film directors Lelia Doolan, Margo Harkin, Pat Murphy and Aisling Walsh. Sunday October 27th 8pm ‘Bernadette, Notes on A Political Journey’ followed by Q&A with Lelia Doolan. 

Tickets for Film Screenings £8.00 Tickets for Panel Discussion £5.00

Lelia Doolan, born in 1934, has been described as the godmother of independent film in Ireland. She is without doubt one of the most important voices that agitated for a space where the New Wave of Irish filmmakers of the 80s could tell their stories. The timeline of her career is remarkable. She studied French and German at University College Dublin, where she won a scholarship to study at the Free University in West Berlin but would regularly obtain a pass to cross the border to observe Bertholt Brecht in his studio witnessing him directing plays like ‘The Playboy of the Western World’. 

In 1961 she became a Producer/Director for the new national broadcaster RTE where she caused controversy when she became concerned at the stations unquestioning of the one sided nature of news material being received from USA on the Vietnam War and when she attempted to send a film crew to the war torn country she was prevented from travelling by direct Irish government action. She courted further controversy when she quit RTE, citing her displeasure with their censorship and commercial policies. The notorious right wing Archbishop McQuaid described her as ‘mad, bad, and dangerous. 

After RTE Lelia became the first female artistic director of the Abbey Theatre but could not overcome the boards reluctance to open their doors to new challenging international work and quit after two years. She then changed course and headed to Queens University in Belfast to study Anthropology where during her spare time she gave classes on video production to disadvantaged communities. It was the height of sectarian assassinations and Lelia spent a lot of her time working with the radical priest Fr. Des Wilson, whose Ballymurphy parish was the epicentre of the war between the IRA and the British Army. “I learnt how utterly, shockingly complacent and unaware I was about the North,” Doolan says. After five years in Belfast she worked with an anti-poverty agency in the west of Ireland and with homeless women in Dublin. Also in Dublin she set up Ireland’s first recognised media communication course in Rathmines College. She recognised that the new filmmakers that emerged from Rathmines had no funding possibilities for their ideas she became one of the campaigners that lobbied for a State Agency for Irish film. 

When the Irish Film Board was set up in the late 80s, she produced Joe Comerford’s ‘Reefer and the Model’ which became an art house success worldwide. In 1989 she co-founded the Galway Film Fleadh, now one of Ireland’s most prestige film festivals. In 1991 she established Ireland’s unique Cinemobile that travelled the length and breadth of the country bringing cinema to rural communities. Her tireless endeavours to support indigenous filmmakers was recognised when in 1993 she was appointed to head the Irish Film Board. In 1996 she retired but was not yet ready to rest on her laurels. She continued to champion the art of film whilst also campaigning for LGBT rights and many other social justice issues. 

After receiving a life time achievement award from the Galway Film Festival in 2010 one would have thought she would have been happy to tend to her herb and vegetable garden but after a lifetime of creating a space for filmmakers she decided at the age of 75 to produce and direct her first film ‘Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey’ based on the life of the radical Derry politician Bernadette Devlin. The film received critical success internationally and won best film at the Galway Film Fleadh. She completed one of her final cinematic dreams when she oversaw the establishment of the art house ‘The Cinema Palace’ in her adopted home in Galway. 

Margo Harkin was born in Derry in 1951, one of a family of sixteen children. After graduating from the Ulster College of Art & Design, Belfast she worked as an Art Tutor and Deputy Director of the Derry Youth & Community Workshop for unemployed young people. In 1980 she joined Field Day Theatre Company founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea and went on to be the Stage Designer on ‘The Communication Cord’ by Brian Friel and ‘Boesman and Lena’ by Athol Fugard. In 1984 she co-founded Derry Film and Video Workshop, under the Channel 4 franchised workshop scheme. Margo experienced her first taste of censorship when she was a Producer for Ann Crilly’s ‘Mother Ireland’. The film explores the Mother Ireland image as a nationalist motif in Irish culture, and the complex relationship between the national struggle and the Suffrage struggle in the early 20th Century and the republican and feminist movements in the 1980s. It was the first documentary affected by the British Broadcasting restrictions introduced on October 1988 aimed at curtailing dissident Republican and Loyalist voices. Channel 4 was very worried about these restrictions and parked the broadcast until 2001 when they broadcast an edited version as part of their “Banned” season of programs. Even at this point they demanded cuts which included Christy Moore’s song, “Unfinished Revolution plus unseen footage of Emma Groves, being shot with a plastic bullet, and an interview with Mairead Farrell that was partially re-voiced by an actress. 

The Derry Film Workshop had a major success in 1990 when Margo received international acclaim as director on her first drama ‘Hush-a-Bye Baby’. The groundbreaking drama focusing on teen pregnancy in Northern Ireland had a music score written by Sinéad O’Connor, who also made a cameo appearance. Margo’s motivation to make the film was inspired by the 1983 Abortion referendum and the scandal of Anne Lovett, a 15-year- old schoolgirl who died giving birth in a field in the South of Ireland. The film explored the outdated attitudes to sexuality at a time when all around her the ‘Troubles’ dominated the political and domestic landscape of Northern Ireland. The film won “Best Drama” at the International Celtic Film Festival and The Ecumenical Jury Award at the Locarno Film Festival. 

In 1992 Margo set up Besom Productions and established the company as a chronicler of key periods of the conflict in Northern Ireland. She directed key films that are now archival gems that help us understand the sectarianism that divided Northern Ireland and left a legacy of death and destruction. Her films ‘The Bloody Sunday Murders’ 1991, ’12 Days in July’ 1997 and ‘The Hunger Strike’ 2006 established her as a formidable interpreter of political events in the struggle for social justice in Northern Ireland. But it was the film ‘Bloody Sunday: A Derry Diary’ that Margo repeatedly returned to and over a twelve-year stretch from 1998 to 2010, she released three different versions. 

The different inquiries from what became known as the Widgery Whitewash report in 1972 to the Saville Inquiry set up by Tony Blair in 1998 meant she had to update the film as new evidence transpired. The central trust of the film was the voices of local people profoundly affected by the original events in addition to addressing Harkin’s own experiences on Bloody Sunday. When asked by an Irish Times journalist why she made the film, she replied ‘Why? “Because I was there on the day and I remember the complete shock and horror of it and because the aftermath of it taught 

me a huge lesson – that those who control the media control the truth”. Margo is still at the forefront of telling stories inspired by the environment she lives in and recent films like ‘The Far Side of Revenge’ and ‘Eamonn McCann: A Long March’ attest to this. Margo was recently honoured with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Irish Documentary at the Belfast Film Festival 2019. 

Pat Murphy was born in Dublin in 1951. Her entry into the world of film began with an MA at the Royal College of Art in London where she studied under feminist theorist Laura Mulvey. in 1977 she was the first European to achieve a scholarship year at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, influencing her decision to become a director. She completed a short film, Rituals of Memory, before returning to Ireland to work on her first feature film ‘Maeve’ in 1981. The film was co-directed with John Davies but generally attributed to Murphy was funded by the British Film Institute and later judged by Irish Times film critic Tara Brady to be “Ireland’s first bona-fide feminist film. 

The film opens up a parcel of memories for Maeve as she revisits her place of childhood and adolescence against the background of the so called ‘Troubles’. Murphy’s script reveals her feminist perspective with lines like “Men’s relationship to women is just like England’s relationship to Ireland. You’re in possession of us. You occupy us like an army” and “You’re talking about a false memory… the way you want to remember excludes me. I get remembered out of existence.“. Murphy takes an experimental approach of traditional Irish cinema. Maeve is a dissenting feminist voice that rejects the ideals and obsessions of nationalism in a time of sectarianism between the nationalist and loyalist communities. Murphy recalled her approach: “I didn’t think about story. I’d think something like: representations of Northern Ireland are unsatisfactory: I’m going to make Maeve and sort it all out… Maeve was asking how does a woman position herself against the background of what was going on in the North and within the history of republicanism and memory and landscape”. 

The success of Maeve was followed in 1984 by ‘Anne Devlin’ which is set against the background Robert Emmet’s rebellion of 1803. Anne Devlin was Emmet’s housekeeper and stood by him through thick and thin while friends and allies deserted him. Murphy reflected how Anne Devlin came to her mind when making Maeve: “I read her journals in the evening after shooting was over, and she was so unlike the character Maeve. She was someone who made a very definite commitment and stuck to it when everyone deserted Emmet. She’s almost forgotten, or else dismissed as a star struck peasant who wanted to be seen in Emmet’s company. In fact she was an educated, intelligent woman with integrity”. In contrast to ‘Maeve’ Murphy took a more conventional approach likening her approach to the structure of a ballad. In some ways Anne Devlin’s diaries created a dialogue of sorts between her and Murphy. “It was only when I read her journals that I saw that she was a very basic woman. She would have wanted to marry and have children and live an uninterrupted life except for two things that happened. One was the war that was going on in Ireland at the time and the other was the French revolution and the beginnings of feminism in France and England…… I didn’t want her to sit around and discuss ’women’, but I was interested in her because I was struck by her diaries, I mean remove the specific historical events and it could be a contemporary woman speaking”. Anne Devlin introduced the powerful actress Bríd Brennan to the big screen alongside future Academy nominated Costume Designer Consolata Boyle and the Cinematography of Thaddeus O’Sullivan. The film was nominated for the Gold Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. Interestingly a restored print of the film will have its premier at Irish Cultural Centre’s season of Irish Female Filmmakers courtesy of Screen Ireland. 

Pat went on to direct Nora (2000), based on Brenda Maddox’s biography of Nora which centred on the tempestuous relationship between Joyce and his uneducated Galway bride. Pat assembled a formidable cast with Susan Lynch in the lead role and Ewan McGregor as Joyce. Again, Pat’s focus was on a woman living under the shade of her famous husband. Pat stated, “points out how the all-pervasiveness of Nora’s voice in Joyce’s writing has paradoxically rendered her invisible to the reader,” she explained. The film earned her the United International Pictures Director’s Award and a slew of Irish Film and Television Awards. To date, the it is her only film that remains generally available. 

Aisling Walsh (born Dublin 1958) has seen her work screened at festivals around the world. Her films garnered a BAFTA TV Award for Room at the Top (2012) as well as an Irish Film and Television Award and a Canadian Screen Award for her direction of Maudie (2016). She is known for her “unflinching honest portrayals of a Catholic Irish society” 

Aisling’s first feature film was Joyriders (1989) based on the story of Mary Flynn who in fleeing her domineering husband ends up with Perky Rice, a car thief and hopeless romantic who takes on a joyride through the Irish countryside. Aisling entered the world of TV throughout the 1990s and directed classic TV programmes like The Bill (1991–1994), Doctor Finlay (1993), Roughnecks (1995), and Trial & Retribution (1997–2002). 

In 2003, Aisling returned to the big screen with ‘Song for a Raggy Boy’ based on a Patrick Galvin story. The film begins on the brink of World War II, in the St. Judes Reformatory School, a ruthless Irish school for boys. It was a time in Ireland when horrific stories of institutional abuse at the hands of so-called religious orders were being uncovered by journalists and surviving witnesses. Song for A Raggy Boy unfolds in the stark surroundings of the monastery school. The boys are given numbers instead of names and are forced to scrub the yard on their hands and knees under the watchful eye of the sadistic Brother John (Iain Glenn), a bully who’d rather hand out a savage beating than detention. Brother Mac (Marc Warren) is a paedophile, with a particular liking for 13-year-old Delaney (Chris Newman). The only bright light in this dark world is brought by William Franklin (Aidan Quinn) who has just returned from serving with the International Brigades in Spain, takes up a teaching post in the reformatory and strives at improving literacy but ends in conflict with disciplinarian Brother John. The film won multiple awards at international film festivals, including the Best Film award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival. 

Her fourth feature film, the biographical film Maudie (2016), about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, brought Aisling international success. Maud Lewis was a Nova Scotian artist who before she became a leading light of the Canadian folk-art movement, was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and hidden from the world by her strict family. Aisling stated “I was in Cardiff making a BBC television film about Dylan Thomas when I was sent the script for Maudie. And when I read it, I immediately contacted my agent and said what do I have to do to make this picture? There was just something about it – she was a woman trying to make her way against the odds, and she was a painter.” 

For her work on Maudie, Walsh won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Director; the film won a total of seven awards at the 6th annual ceremony in 2018. Walsh also won the award for Best Director at the 15th annual Irish Film and Television Awards in 2018 for her direction of Maudie. 

“I’ve gone my own road,” she says, “and it’s been lonely on occasions. I’ve been out in the wilderness quite a bit I feel, it has been hard at times, but that’s okay, that’s my choice, and I’m very proud of everything that I’ve done. I’ve worked with some great people, I’ve had some amazing opportunities and I’ve done, I think, some decent work along the way.” 



The IFI Documentary Festival Roundtable Podcast

L-R Paul Webster, Peter Kilmartin, Nodlag Houlihan


Ahead of the 2019 IFI Documentary Festival (25-29 September) Gemma Creagh talks to three filmmakers whose films feature in the Shorts Programme, which takes place on the 28th September. Nodlag Houlihan (Reality Baby ), Paul Webster (The Vasectomy Doctor ) and Peter Kilmartin (Sunny Side Up) join Gemma to talk about their films and what it takes to put together a documentary.

Reality Baby (Nodlag Houlihan)

A group of friends are given lifelike baby dolls to care for over twenty four hours, but how will they rise to the challenges of teenage motherhood?

The Vasectomy Doctor (Paul Webster)

Dr Andrew Rynne was the first doctor to perform vasectomies in Ireland, estimating that he has performed over 35,000. Persevering in the face of opposition from the Church and State in Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s, Dr Rynne continued to challenge the laws governing sexuality, eventually forcing the government to change policy.

Sunny Side Up (Peter Kilmartin)


Peter Pringle and Sunny Jacobs both served years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. After being exonerated, what are the chances they both met and fell in love?

The 2019 IFI Documentary Festival Shorts Programme takes place on Saturday, 28th September 2019 at 13.30



Filmmakers’ Bios

Nodlag Houlihan is an Irish film director, producer and writer. Her short documentary Reality Baby premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and won Best Documentary at the Fastnet Film Festival 2019. She is the writer and producer of the RTE series My Trans Life (2018), nominated for the prestigious Prix Europa and the MIPCOM Diversity Award. She produced the feature documentary Broken Song and a number of Screen Ireland funded short films which have played at festivals around the world and won many prizes. Nodlag also teaches filmmaking at the School of Creative Arts, Trinity College Dublin and has facilitated numerous film projects for young people. She is currently working on The Francis St Photographer, an hour-long documentary for RTE about the work of Dublin photographer John Walsh.

Paul Webster is an award-winning producer, writer and director. He is a graduate of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and the MA program in Production and Direction at the John Huston School of Film and Media in Galway.  He went on to work in production for Element Pictures and later as a script editor on Fair City, he is now a regular writer on the popular soap. Paul was the winner of the Físín Pitching Award at the Dingle International Film Festival 2012 from which his film Stuama received its funding. He directed the drama which won Best Irish Film at The Cork Underground Film Festival 2013. Let Those Blues InPaul’s documentary about Irish Blues musician, Paddy Smith, was the winner of Best Short Documentary in association with RTE at The Sky Road Film Festival, Clifden, Co. Galway. He was one of the filmmakers chosen by Science Foundation Ireland and The Galway Film Centre as part of their Science On Screen documentary scheme. Written and directed by Paul, Mending Legends goes behind the scenes of Irish sport to explore the unseen drama caused by injuries for our top athletes. It screened on Tg4 in Autumn 2017 and was the third most-watched independent production for that year. Paul co-directed Borderland, a 26-minute documentary exploring the refugee crisis along Europe’s Borders. Under the 2018 Real Shorts scheme, Paul received €20,000 from the Irish Film Board for his docu-drama The Vasectomy Doctor, produced by Carbonated Comet Productions. The film premiered at the Cork Film Festival in November 2018 and went on to win the Audience Award for Best Short at the Dingle International Film Festival 2019, Best Short Film at The Still Voices Short Film Festival and Best Short Documentary at The Louth Film Festival.

Peter Kilmartin is from the Wild Wild West of county Roscommon in Ireland and is a recent graduate from the National Film School of Ireland . He has an avid interest in documentary filmmaking, alongside this he also runs his own successful award winning production company, Spicy Dog Media. This year he directed his debut short The Sunny Side Up, a short documentary about two exonerated prisoners finding love, hope and acceptance in each other.


Film Ireland Podcasts




Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Bruno

Seán Crosson takes in Karl Golden’s Bruno, which follows an Irish homeless man who has drifted into a life on the streets of London.

Homelessness has been among the most prominent social challenges in recent years in Ireland, an issue the current administration has singularly failed to respond to effectively with the number of people classified as homeless crossing the 10,000 mark in recent months. This topic has already been addressed in Irish cinema, including Darragh Byrne’s Parked (2011) and more recently Paddy Breathnach’s and Roddy Doyle’s damning indictment of Irish society and the government’s response to homelessness, Rosie (2018). Karl Golden’s Bruno provides a further development to this theme by focusing on an Irish homeless man living in London, a city to which tens of thousands of Irish people have emigrated (with a considerable number there also ending on the streets). In his post screening Q&A, Golden talked about the background to Bruno as being inspired from his time living in London and encountering homeless people. The production provides a fictionalised and imaginative exploration of what might have happened in the life of one individual he witnessed to lead to their homelessness, as told through the story of Daniel, the central protagonist, brilliantly played by Diarmaid Murtagh.

We encounter Daniel first living with his dog Bruno in a garage lock-up from which he is evicted shortly thereafter. While seeking other accommodation, he witnesses a group of men trashing a local playground, with which we discover later he has a traumatic connection. When Daniel intervenes, he suffers a severe beating and ends up in hospital, losing his dog Bruno along the way. When he returns to the playground in an attempt to find Bruno, he encounters a young run-away boy called Izzy sleeping there. When Izzy insists on following Daniel around the city and helping him find Bruno, Daniel is forced to come to terms with a horrific moment of personal loss in his life. 

Woody Norman as Izzy provides the heart of the film and Norman’s revelatory and complex performance belies his young years – he was only nine when the film was shot. Izzy offers a focus for Daniel in coming to terms with his own deep trauma and eventually a way to reconnect with society and his family. 

The film is impressively shot by Jalaludin Trautmann, whose mostly handheld cinematography perfectly complements Daniel’s inner turmoil. As one audience member at the Galway premiere remarked, London, in all its greyness and glory, has rarely been captured as effectively on film. Golden reflected on the filming process following the Galway screening and described the process as almost guerrilla in nature – given the shoe-string budget available and the lack of permissions for some sequences (shot clandestinely).  

Bruno is marked often by a lack of dialogue or communication; indeed Daniel hardly speaks throughout the entire film (until forced to do so), but yet in his gait and expression he communicates a deeper trauma, only revealed much later in the work. While homelessness may be prominently featured here, Bruno is above all a moving and sensitively told excavation of personal loss.

Seán Crosson

Bruno screened 12th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).


Review of Irish Film at The Dublin Feminist Film Festival 2019: Shorts Programme 


The Dublin Feminist Film Festival has established firm roots on Dublin’s cultural calendar, shining a spotlight on women in film. It promotes and celebrates female filmmakers, hoping to inspire and empower others to get involved in filmmaking.

Irene Falvey went along to this year’s Shorts Programme.

On Thursday, 22nd August, the Dublin Feminist Film Festival showcased an impressive and varied collection of short films, all made by female directors. 

The Beekeeper (2019) Ireland (6.29)
Dir. Robyn Conroy

As the only animation feature in the programme, The Beekeeper stood out as the most visually arresting of the shorts. Set in a bamboo forest, the landscape feels blissfully detached from the world. In a short timeframe, The Beekeeper manages to create a bond between the two characters – a young girl called Mae and the bear that protects her; their attachment to each other is undeniable. They live in harmony together, nourishing themselves on honey. Disaster strikes when Mae discovers where this food source comes from, a bee sting attack forces the bear to return Mae to her place amongst her own kind. This short film evokes equal parts sadness and sweetness; the joy and simplicity of their connection and the sadness of their true incompatibility.    

Moon Rabbit (2018) Japan (14.25)
Dir. Kae Ho

Moon Rabbit tells the story of 7-year-old Rio as she returns to Japan with her recently separated Japanese mother Seiko and her older brother. Clearly these kids have grown up in America and this trip launches them back into their Japanese heritage, comically highlighted when their cousin tactlessly proclaims how foreign they look. While the film does deal with cultural differences, many other ideas are threaded throughout; themes such as innocence, the stories we tell ourselves and secrecy all feature. The film takes place principally in Seiko’s parent’s house. This domestic setting is used to effectively illustrate the main motif – what goes on behind closed doors.  While this family unit is closely contained in a physical sense within this house, behind closed doors they can easily block each other out. The children are dismissed as Seiko closes the door and confides in her mother about the breakdown of her marriage. Rio’s older brother and her cousin shut the door so that they don’t have to play with her. This barrier that is created by closed doors is lifted when Seiko enters the bathroom where an upset Rio has shut herself in. The privacy that a closed door provides fades and secrecy falls away. This is an insightful film about the secrets we keep and the stories we need to tell ourselves. 


Tra na mban / Ladies Beach (2019) Mexico (6.36)
Dir. Carmen Garcia Gonzalez

This short documentary provides an insightful glimpse into the lives of women that brave the chilly depths of the Irish sea every day. Several of the women that meet regularly are interviewed; explaining honestly why they do this and the effect it has on their lives. In particular Martell speaks of the way this ritual has transformed how she feels about herself and how she carries out her life. We get the sense that we are being let in on a great secret to life; the women are infectious in their enthusiasm. What is interesting about this documentary is that it shows a way that these women have carved out an inclusive and supportive community. It is a practise built on bravery and self-respect. 


Driving Lessons (2019) Iran (12.48) Winner Best International film
Dir. Marziyeh Riahi

Driving Lessons focuses on an Iranian woman taking driving lessons; it is illegal for her to be alone with her instructor meaning that her traditional and misogynistic husband must tow along for the ride. The film is shot solely in the instructor’s car, taking place over a couple of days of lessons. This keeps the action contained in one place, meaning that the tensions between the two men eventually boil over and erupt. The husband constantly interrupts, is bossy, controlling and makes a lot of chauvinistic statements that sting. However, a twist arrives when we see that perhaps the young instructor is actually worse – he won’t sign his wife’s travel papers preventing her from visiting her sick father. Both the husband’s behaviour and the instructor’s refusal of his wife’s demands demonstrate that even as women in the Middle East are given more rights (driving) progress is still slow. Our female protagonist’s lack of speech throughout the entire feature re-affirms her powerless position. 


Clay Project (2017) Ireland (4.50)
Dir. Kathy Raftery

This film examines the work of artist Vanessa Donoso López.  We are brought to a sun-soaked and sleepy part of Spain, bursting with nature and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. What stands out about this feature, is the fact that it examines the artists approach and ideas/inspiration rooted in her work rather than the outcome. Instead we get a glimpse into the how and the why of a piece of art. The artist makes her art from clay, the camera shows her going through the manual process of turning earth into this material. This means that her art is very much connected to the place it was created. Seeing how this art is made gives us a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation for the artistic process. 


Early Days (2018) UK (12.00) Winner Best Film
Dir. Nessa Wrafter

This film highlights the more troubling and traumatic aspects of welcoming a newborn into the world. It examines the internal emotional conflict of becoming a mother. We get a window into Kate’s world as she struggles through the first few trying days. Flashback sequences reveal that it was a painful birth, blood and hospital scenes subvert the typically joyous portrayal of welcoming new life. This film effectively shows the realities that make this transition alienating from the self; shown through Kate examining her inflated post-birth stomach. She feels distaste for her body and estrangement from it when there is no longer life growing inside it. Excluding flashbacks, all of the film takes place within Kate and her partner’s home, creating a sense of entrapment. The only glimpses of the outside world we see comes from Kate looking outside the window and spotting her eccentric and colourfully dressed elderly female neighbour. In the end this woman provides Kate with some solace, concluding the film on a hopeful note. 


Mother (2018) Ireland (9.24) Runner-up for best film
Dir. Natasha Waugh

Mother is a bizarrely comical and cleverly creative film. It deals with all the insecurities that a mother may face; depicting all the things she must do to please her family.  The film examines one mother’s attempts to go about caring for her family and husband until she is replaced by a fridge! The fridge can cook better, is more entertaining, can do French plaits and is better in bed. This bizarre and wacky feature is laugh-out-loud funny and smart; making us hope to see more from this director in the near future. 


The Shorts Programme took place 22nd August 2019 as part of the Dublin Feminist Film Festival (22—24 August) 


The Bleeding Pig Film Festival Roundtable Podcast

L-R Emma Fagan, Laura O’Shea, Gemma Creagh, Mia Mullarky

In this podcast Gemma Creagh is joined by Emma Fagan, programme manager of The Bleeding Pig Film Festival (9-11 September) and filmmakers Mia Mullarky (Mother & Baby) and Laura O’Shea (Hold the Line), whose films are screening at the festival.

46′ 03″

Mother & Baby (Mia Mullarky)

Mother & Baby explores the memories of Mother & Baby Home survivors who were sold or fostered out by the Irish church and state if their mothers conceived them out of wedlock.

Mia Mullarkey is a film director based in Dublin, Ireland. She
directed several successful shorts, receiving 35 awards globally, and screening at major international short film festivals such as Palm Springs, Aesthetica, São Paulo, Valladolid, Tehran and Helsinki. In 2018 Mia received the Discovery Award at Dublin International Film Festival for her body of work, and was made the 2018/2019 Filmmaker-in-Residence with Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival and The Digital Hub.

Hold the Line (Laura O’Shea)

Em works in a call centre. She faces a day that’s more difficult than the usual ‘customer care queries’ and is on the brink. That’s until: she picks up the phone to Patsy.

Laura O’Shea is an award winning actor/writer/filmmaker from Limerick City. Her filmmaking-debut was a Short Film titled Hold the Line. This was the Winner of the ‘Best Short Film’ award at the 2019 Belfast Film Festival and it also won the ‘Audience Award’ at the 2019 Chicago Irish Film Festival. Laura won the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the 2018 Richard Harris International Film Festival for her performance in Hold the Line and also received a Special Mention at IndieCork 2018 for ‘Best Emerging Irish Female Director’. In the theatre world, her play Knowing Nathan that she co-wrote as well as acted in was the Winner of the ‘Judge’s Choice Award’ at the 2018 Galway Fringe Festival. Laura comes from a musical background and holds an MA in Music Technology.

Emma Fagan has a background in marketing and project management but her life-long passion for film led her away from office life and, for the last six years, she has worked with a number of Irish film festivals in various capacities. In 2016, in association with the Bleeding Pig Cultural Festival in Donabate, Co. Dublin she set up the Bleeding Pig Film Festival, platforming independent Irish film to the local community there. Emma also runs a PR & Marketing agency, Fillum, which promotes independent filmmakers in Ireland.


Mother & Baby and Hold the Line screen as part of a selection of short films all written/and or directed by women on Tuesday, 10th September: 7.30pm to 9pm – followed by a Q&A.

The 2019 Bleeding Pig Film Festival takes place 9-11 September in Keelings of Donabate, Co. Dublin.

The full programme is here.



Film Ireland Podcasts


Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation

The Dream Report

Orla Monaghan was at the Fleadh to celebrate the creative cornerstone of Irish film: the animation industry. 

On Sunday, 14th July the Galway Film Fleadh treated us to sixteen short animations from both new and established talent from all across the country. There was some truly imaginative work on display, and all genres were covered.     


Streets of Fury

The standout in comedy was Streets of Fury, directed and produced by Aidan McAteer. The tale follows the violent Max Punchface, an ’80s-styled video-game character, as he punches his way through levels and life. And just like that, Max is suddenly transported into the calm, bloodless world of Sheepland. How will Max now cope without using violence as currency?  Streets of Fury is a fun blend of nostalgia and humour. It definitely has everything you would want from an animation!


The absolute standout on the day was THEM. Directed by Robin Lochman and produced by Mathias Schwerbrook, it is an original animation with a gritty new look. In an isolated village where everyone bares the same sliver reflection, how will life change when a new, golden, self-proclaimed leader shows up? The story examines the place and power of false idols in our world and follows one characters attempt to fight and overhaul the system. A definite must-see!

A Quack Too Far

For younger viewers, A Quack Too Far and Far Isle are both superb options. Directed and written by Melissa Culhane, A Quack too Far tells a simple tale about a sleepy fox and a noisy duck. What does a fox have to do to get some peace? A Far Isle, directed by Laura Robinson and produced by Gavin Halpin, is enjoyable for both adults and children. The story of one girl’s enchanting boat journey is beautifully told with an impressive, colourful visual. 



In terms of horror, Dorothy offered up a truly spooky piece about a child being tormented in the witching Salem Massachusetts in 1687 and Offering showed us what happens when a mysterious quest goes awry. 


Legend Has It

A few of the animations focused on Irish subject matter. Legend Has It told the tale of a young girl’s struggle with a dark secret in an ancient Celtic community. Whereas The Bogman was an interesting take on the transition between old Ireland and new. In reaction to the recent sustainability announcement from Bord Na Móna, the story follows a man from the midlands who has harvested peat his whole life. How will he, his community and more like him cope with this news?

Wear and Tear

Also worth a mention is Wear and Tear, a sort of psychological thriller about nightmare-born creations following you into your waking day.  Cliona Noonan’s humorous Tuna about a woman’s odd obsession.  And I’m sure any student can relate to Ctrl + Alt + Z, which tells the classic, stress-inducing story of the student who forgot to hit save. Visually, The Dream, directed by Jack O’Shea, really merits a mention. The positively unique style of this animation was stunning and certainly made it unforgettable. Finally there were strong debuts from Shannon Egan (Archie’s Bat) Kayleigh Gibbons (Featherweight), Rachel Fitzgerald (Bubbles) and Janet Grainger (Outside the Box) completing an impressive programme of Irish animation.


The Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation programme screened 14th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)




The Dublin Feminist Festival: Filmmaker Carmen García & Programme Manager Dr Jennifer O’Meara

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh is joined by Carmen García and Dr Jennifer O’Meara to talk about the Dublin Feminist Film Festival, which runs 22 – 24 August 2019.

Carmen García is a feminist videojournalist, journalist and filmmaker. Her film Tra na mban / Ladies Beach screens at the festival as part of the shorts programme on Thursday, 22nd August.

Dr Jennifer O’Meara is an Assistant Professor in Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and a programming manager for the Dublin Feminist Film Festival.

Full programme here
Buy tickets here
Tra na mban / Ladies Beach (2019) Mexico (6.36)
Dir. Carmen Garcia Gonzalez



In the west coast of Ireland, a group of Irish women 40 to 80 years old swim every morning in the Atlantic cold waters come rain or shine. Martell, who hasn’t missed a day in 10 years now, let us know how is it for her and the swimmers to meet at the Ladies Beach in Galway, vent together under the cold water and share a hot coffee and a warm chat afterwards. A tight-knit bunch brought together by their love to the sea.


Instagram: @carmengarxia
Twitter: @carmengarxia