On the Reel on The Stag

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The Stag is released today in Irish cinemas. John Butler’s comedy follows a bachelor party weekend in the great outdoors that takes some unexpected detours. The film stars Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Brian Gleeson and Peter McDonald, who co-wrote the script with Butler.

Gemma Creagh caught up with the film’s director, and its stars Andrew Scott and Peter McDonald at the recent Jameson Dublin Film Festival for On the Reel in association with Film Ireland.

The film closed this year’s festival and Gemma was there on the red carpet to find out more about the film and what it’s like for a load of men to be in the nip on a weekend away.

The Stag  is released on 7th March 2014

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Call For: Design Portfolios At Beochan

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Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Beochan stop-motion animation studio is calling for portfolio submissions for consideration regarding projects in development for stop-motion production.

In particular, Beochan is looking to hire artists with a strong portfolio containing examples of character realisation and imaginative background/location design work.

An background in stop-motion is not essential but animation design experience would be beneficial.

Please send submissions by email (PDFs or web links) to

Heather Mills, Head of Production at Beochan: heather@beochan.ie

All work will be treated confidentially.

 

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JDIFF Irish Film Review: Love Eternal

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Anthony Assad takes a look at Brendan Muldowney’s second feature, which screened at the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Ian (Robert de Hoog) is an enigma trapped in a defective human shell. As a child he witnesses his father’s last breath, his bereavement stalls in isolation and he descends into a morbid fascination with his own mortality. Life goes on but death seems to follow him everywhere so that when his mother kills herself he decides it’s about time to end his own life. Just as he has narrowed down the means and the smoke from his car’s exhaust pipe begins to enter his lungs he’s interrupted by a van of individuals that pull over to prep their own suicide. Curiosity leads him towards them and finding the ethereal corpse of a teenage girl sparks a dangerous love affair with the dying and the dead.

If this all sounds a tad grim so far that’s because it is, one would expect no less from an adaptation of Kei Oishi’s necrophilia-laden novel Loving the Dead but the real surprises shine through writer/director Brendan Muldowney’s spirited treatment of the material. A sense of unease pervades through much of these early scenes however and when Ian begins to routinely scope out women on the verge of suicide, so that he can acquire their corpses for company, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no hope nor humanity to be had.

He props them up around his seaside abode, arranges meals for them, bathes them and even engages in conversation but when they begin to decompose Ian is forced to engage with the real world again to find fresh company. It is in the means to this end, however, that he begins to slowly come out of his self-imposed shell most notably with Tina played tenderly by Amanda Ryan. Her spritely demeanour offsets Ian’s sombre stoicism and their odd couple pairing adds some comedic relief which Muldowney proffers with commendable discretion. They listen to songs on the radio, dine together and drown their sorrows in champagne so that when the time comes, brutal as it is, you get a sense that Tina has imparted some life into Ian and that he has perhaps lost more than he’s gained when only her body remains.

Nature takes its course and Tina is duly discarded when Ian sets his sights on Naomi (Pollyanna McIntosh) who’s struggling to cling to life after her son dies in an accident. Ian is drawn to her energy and her sense of living life on the edge ramps up the size and scope of their scenes adding a welcome change of pace and atmosphere as we wonder to what their pairing will lead.

The fact that Ian pursues women exclusively raises cause for concern initially and the intimate behaviour that follows could easily be construed as sexual objectification.  Thankfully, however, the liberties Muldowney and co. take avoid the pitfalls of the book so that the women in Love Eternal emerge as the real stars and savours of the piece. Their lives and personalities are infinitely more intricate than the patterns of snowflakes or leafs Ian is mystified by and despite their absence they continue to echo through each scene that follows colouring de Hoog’s performance as the narrative unfolds.

With his second feature in the bag, Muldowney continues to breath new life into dark material presenting, from what could easily have become another body horror B movie, a twisted and tender fairy tale about loneliness that is as much concerned with life as it is with death. The whole affair warrants repeat viewings and Tom Comerford’s cinematography and Bart Westerlaken’s elegiac score combine and compliment Ian’s evolution beautifully.

It may upset the squeamish but brave the initial bleakness and you’ll be pleasantly surprised and perhaps even revitalised.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Love Eternal screened on Sunday, 23rd February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Love Eternal’ Success at JDIFF and Cinema Release Announced

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Love Eternal, directed by Brendan Muldowney (Savage), has won the Dublin Film Critics Circle Best Irish Feature Award at the recent Jameson Dublin International Film, and will be released in Irish cinemas by Wildcard Distribution this summer.

Love Eternal premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July, and has now screened at over sixty festivals worldwide, including the prestigious Sitges and Busan, and winning the inaugural Fresh Blood Award at the recent Black Bear Film Fest in Warsaw. Upcoming International screenings include festivals in Taiwan, Belgium, Brazil, and Portugal. Love Eternal will also screen at the Dingle Film Festival on the 16th March.

Featuring the Emmy-nominated Dutch actor, Robert de Hoog (Skin), and Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh (Filth, The Woman), and based on the Japanese novel In Love With The Dead, from acclaimed author Kei Oishi (Apartment 1303, The Last Supper), the film centers on an isolated and death-fixated young man who tries to make sense of the world, and his existence, in the only way he knows how…by getting closer to death.

Speaking about the Jameson Dublin Film Festival award and the upcoming release, director Brendan Muldowney said: “I’m honoured and delighted with the recognition this award gives Love Eternal. I would like to thank all involved in the film (as we share collectively in the award) – cast, crew, funders, producers, co-producers, distributors and sales agent, and in particular – Kei Oishi, the writer of the novel, Producer Conor Barry, and Fastnet Films. Thank you – Dublin Film Critics Circle, and also, thank you Grainne Humphreys and JDIFF for screening Love Eternal. We look forward to our cinema release in June with Wildcard Distribution”.

Love Eternal was produced by Conor Barry, Morgan Bushe and Macdara Kelleher at Fastnet Films, with Luxembourg co-producers – Red Lion, Dutch co-producers – Rinkel Film and TO Entertainment from Japan, with support from the Irish Film Board, the Film Fund Luxembourg, the Netherlands Film Fund and Atlantic Screen Music.

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JDIFF Irish Film Review: The Stag

 

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Richard Drumm joined the party and takes a look at The Stag, which closed this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Under orders from bride-to-be Ruth (Amy Huberman), best-man Davin convinces his best friend Fionnan (Hugh O’Conor) to have a stag-weekend despite his early reluctance. Everything seems to be in place for a quiet weekend of hiking with a small group of friends until a wildcard appears in the guise of The Machine (Peter McDonald), Ruth’s brother and a significantly more boisterous personality than Davin and co are used to. And thus the scene is set for all manner of hijinks, misunderstandings, nudity and more character drama than you might expect.

There’s a moment early on in The Stag where The Machine first enters the film with his awkward, over-the-top attempts at ‘humour’ and all hope seems to drain from the very screen. Thankfully however, this appears to have been an intentional manoeuvre to wrong-foot the audience as the film almost immediately changes course once the hiking portion of plot begins and everything settles into a much more naturalistic and genuinely funny flow. It is unfortunate that the opening movement of the film is decidedly spotty because once the plot-proper gets going there is a lot to like with The Stag.

The most refreshing aspect of the film is that at no point does it feel the need to descend into lazy, tired ‘paddy-wackery’ style humour like almost every other Irish comedy. There are no jokes where the punchline is just ‘listen to how thick their accent is, isn’t that hilarious?’ or ‘oh, aren’t colloquialisms from rural Ireland just delightfully quaint?’ No, The Stag (for the most part, anyway) places its emphasis on clever writing and some quite amusing, smaller set-piece gags. There are a few jokes of the low-hanging-fruit variety that fall decidedly flat, like the previously mentioned first appearance of The Machine, but they’re largely in the first act of the film before the characters actually get into the countryside.

It is odd how everything about the film only seems to fall into place once the hike begins because on top of the humour settling in, the cast do too. Andrew Scott is of course the main focus and he doesn’t disappoint. Naturally it’s near-impossible not to have a smile to yourself at seeing ‘Moriarty’ being a best-man but the novelty quickly wears off and over the course of the film Scott demonstrates his range definitely extends further than just playing consulting criminals (admittedly the fact that Scott is playing a college professor in this certainly didn’t help shake off said novelty.)  The rest of the cast are equally fun to watch and share a convincing chemistry together, especially in the more dramatic moments. The real praise should, however, go to McDonald. For what looked on the surface to be one-dimensional, insufferable, ‘wacky’ character, he brings an impressive level of control to his performance as the slow reveal of what is ultimately the most tragic character in the film.

Sadly, the film slightly falls apart in the final ten minutes once the story moves back to Dublin. After doing a surprisingly good job of setting up and expanding upon a lot of issues with modern Ireland and Irish society (financial problems, the very guarded nature of Irish masculinity, older generations’ inability to accept the normalisation of homosexuality in a modern society, etc.), it almost seems like we’re about to get a somewhat ambiguous ending that doesn’t resolve any of these rather large and complex issues. Indeed, there’s a shot of Scott walking through a field that would have been an ideal place to finish. But instead the film goes on to show the wedding and over the course of that scene resolves practically every source of conflict or distress that had previously been mentioned. It’s disappointing because many of these issues don’t have simple solutions and it felt like it would have been enough for the film to merely draw attention to, and have a small discussion about, them. Instead we get an almost unbearably saccharine ending which feels out of place with the more naturalistic and grounded nature of the preceding half an hour or so.

On the whole though this is still a genuinely amusing film which, despite taking a little time to find its feet, settles into a comfortable and nicely heartfelt comedy that far exceeds a lot of recent Irish attempts at such broad humour. For a film that purports to be about modern Irish issues, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t quite have the resolve to end at a more natural point and be content to have merely created a dialogue on those issues. The final scene wraps things up a bit too neatly and is in danger of trivialising some of the good work that came before. However, this doesn’t necessary detract from the comedy itself and so will likely be a moot point for most people.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The Stag screened on Sunday, 23rd February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

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JDIFF announces CineTALENT award winner

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The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014, which concluded on Sunday night, has today revealed the winner of the CineTALENT award from the 2014 festival. The winner of the CineTALENT award is Donal Foreman, director of Out Of Here.

Donal Foreman’s Out Of Here was one of the first films in the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival to sell out. Out of Here is a contemporary coming-of-age story showing Ireland and its youth culture in a light not previously seen or explored. Timely and expertly realised, Donal Foreman’s debut feature is a pitch-perfect and resonant depiction of contemporary Ireland and its young people. Donal also won the Michael Dwyer Discovery Award from the Dublin Film Critics Circle for the film. The film was crowdsourced and received completion funding from Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board.

The CineTALENT award is an initiative between the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Universal Pictures, Screen International and Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board, which showcases and promotes Irish filmmaking talent to the international industry and on the world stage. Nominations for this year’s CineTALENT award came directly from the production companies and / or distributors of the feature titles within the Irish season. A public vote for the CineTALENT award was live since February 13th, which allowed audiences to engage and vote for the nominees.

Donal Foreman’s prize will include profile from Screen International and networking opportunities at their events at the Toronto, Cannes and Berlin film festivals. He will also receive the support and assistance of Universal Pictures and Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board, with networking introductions to influential industry contacts with a view to securing the widest possible audience for their film. The prize will also crucially include mentoring opportunities from established industry professionals.

You can read an exclusive interview with Donal here

 

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JDIFF Irish Film Review: The Devil’s Pool: Madness, Melancholia and the Artist

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Emma O’Donoghue checks out Cecily Brennan’s part documentary, part dramatised art-piece which investigates the connection between madness and artistic creativity.
 

‘We misunderstand madness and we misunderstand creativity.’
Cecily Brennan

Directed by Irish artist Cecily Brennan, this part documentary, part dramatised art-piece explores the supposed link between artistic creativity and insanity – the tension between order and disorder. It interweaves snippets of interviews on the subject of art and madness with emotive scenes of a young artist ‘Paul’ (played by Marty Rea) struggling with the onset of a full mental breakdown.

Though short (35 minutes), The Devil’s Pool is a potent mix of visceral intensity and cerebral stimulation, raising many questions and inviting the audience to examine their own attitudes towards the subject matter. Dr Simon Kyaga of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm discusses studies that have been done on incidents of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder among the creative professions, while Prof. Patricia Waugh of Durham University explains how, throughout history, artists seek expression through the ‘breaking of habits’, yet this has always been seen as threatening to bourgeois society. Playwright Frank McGuiness and poet Paul Muldoon speak about the illusive idea that embracing insanity might somehow ‘unlock’ new levels of creativity previously unknown to the restrained and conformed mind.

These fascinating interviews are intersected by scenes of Paul in a white space – some unknown place in the pit of his mind. He desperately tries to take control of this space by carefully drawing thick ruled lines on the walls, with the words ‘I am not going mad. I am in control’ written on them. But Paul cannot find the words to express his inner torment, nor can he contain the sloshes of black paint that swirl around his feet, devouring and blackening this clean, white place. There is something inescapably grim about these scenes. They overwhelm the senses by providing a visual representation of the frustratingly slippery and painfully isolating world of insanity – that ‘unavoidable darkness’.

In a brief Q&A after the screening, Cecily Brennan said, ‘we misunderstand madness and we misunderstand creativity’. Throughout history, the greatest problem for the artist is that there has always been a dangerous allure and romanticism surrounding the notion of being driven insane by your art, when in fact there is no art in madness. In melancholy, despair and insanity there can be no illumination, nothing can be created. As Paul Muldoon explained, artists like Sylvia Plath were ‘driven mad by the myth’, believing that transcending sanity was a door to true art, when in fact this is nothing but an insidious fallacy.

This is a provocative piece of Irish filmmaking that delves into the dark recesses of the mind in an effort to extract some insight. It daringly explores a side of art that is often discussed, but seldom understood.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The Devil’s Pool: Madness, Melancholia and the Artist screened on Tuesday, 18th February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

 

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‘Los Wild Ones’ wins JDIFF Audience Award

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The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014, which concluded last night, has today revealed the winner of the Audience Award from the 2014 festival.  The winner of the award has been announced as Los Wild Ones, an Irish co-production, which screened to a rapturous response from a sold-out audience at the festival during the week. 

Elise Salomon’s Los Wild Ones had its Irish premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, with Reb Kennedy and Imelda May attending.  The Audience Award is voted for by audiences as they leave each film screening at the festival, with audiences awarding films a score of between one and four stars. 

Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director, commented “It’s wonderful to see this really inspiring, lively and informative documentary win the Audience Award this year, not only because of the fact that Reb is Irish and the film is an Irish co-production, but because the screening of the film truly was one of the highlights of the festival.”

Los Wild Ones follows the lives of Reb Kennedy and the artists on his LA based indie label, Wild Records.  Wild is composed of young Hispanic musicians who write and perform 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. The film delivers an honest look at the label’s ethos and unconventional but tight-knit family of Reb, the Irish father figure, and his ‘kids’.  Reminiscent of the early days of Sun Records and the influence that label had on popular music, Wild mirrors that journey.  The bond between Reb and his artists is unparalleled in the music industry.  Just like every family system, there is a fair amount of dysfunction but they manage to stick together. 

The label is Reb Kennedy and Reb is Wild’s founding father.  A purist and vinyl fanatic, he is extremely reluctant to embrace the digital age.  He is a genius in many ways and has created so much of what the record label is, who the artists are: their style, their voices, their image. Realistically however, Reb must adopt newer ways to take Wild Records and these talented artists to the next level.

The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival ran at venues throughout Dublin from February

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JDIFF: Irish Film Review – No Limbs, No Limits

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Ailbhe O’ Reilly checks out Steven O’ Riordan’s documentary which tells the extraordinary and awe-inspiring life story of his sister Joanne O’ Riordan.

Joanne O’ Riordan first appeared on the national stage by confronting Taoiseach Enda Kenny about cuts to disability funding before the general election. Since then her positive attitude and eloquence has impressed people from Ireland to the floor of the UN. Joanne is one of only seven people who suffer from the physical disability called Total Amelia, which means she was born without limbs. Joanne’s brother Steven directs the documentary and it certainly benefits from his closeness to his subject.

The documentary has a very positive and uplifting feel to it, focusing on how Joanne has overcome her disability to live a life much like her friends and siblings. We see her day to day life living with her parents, eating breakfast, getting ready for school and all the while joking with her family and friends. Steven takes the time to film Joanne’s daily chores and how different daily tasks are for her. Joanne makes a visit to the UN to speak to a group of technology experts about how technology has helped her daily life; here we see her unique personality and power to capture an audience.

The familial connection helps show Joanne’s personality and captures why she has been such a hit and inspiration to many people. The most poignant part of the film is the interviews with Joanne’s parents. We hear about their anguish and fear when Joanne was born and their struggle to bring her up against the odds. We do not see if Joanne has bad days or worries much about her future, maybe this is because she is always positive or perhaps it is the chosen tone of the film.

Either way, No limbs, No limits is inspiring to anyone who watches it and it gives us a brief glimpse into how challenging some people’s lives can be.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

No Limbs, No Limits screened on Saturday, 15th February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

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JDIFF: Irish Film Review – Short Film

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Lynn Larkin checked in on the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival’s selection of  Irish short films.

Friday the 14th was all SHORT of romantic. Valentine’s day started with a selection of short films at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and I was romanced by not one, but eight fantastic Irish short films. Each short film had a wonderful scene of something much bigger than the tiny clip-it we were lucky to catch a glimpse of. They all left me intrigued and longing for more, perhaps a feature film in the making? Playing to a full house in the Light House cinema, filled with a sense of anticipation, the lights dimmed and a soft russell of popcorn munching began. Our Valentine’s treat was a quick romp with comedy and drama filled with a foray of emotion.

 

Breakfast Wine
Director: Ian Fitzgibbon
Writer: Kevin Barry
Running Time: 11 minutes
Starring Ruth Bradley, Dylan Moran and David Pearse. A young woman makes an appearance into a country town pub much to the pleasant surprise of two alcoholics who are solely responsible for keeping the small bar running. Boozing and chatting the night away revels her past is coloured with lifetime of experiences. This short feels like it was taken from a feature film and placed into the line-up. It’s an interesting place to start and finish a short and it definitely makes you wonder what happened next?

Atrophy
Director: Mairtín de Barra
Writer: Matthew Roche
Running Time: 13 minutes
Atrophy examines the sacrifices made in the name of development, and the effect they have upon people. A tale of old versus new, loss, friendship and an old farmer and his dog. I have to admit I had a lump in my throat while watching this film, meaning it was successful in tackling the topic at hand. This little film will pull at your heart strings and make you want to call your granddad more often, which makes things a little difficult for me, considering, they’re both dead.

Rúbaí
Director: Louise Ni Fhiannachta
Writer: Anton Beag Ó Colla
Running Time: 11 minutes
The First Holy Communion is fast approaching but as an atheist, eight-year-old Rúbaí refuses to be a part of it. Rúbaí faces emotional blackmail, religious and philosophical debate and out and out intolerance in today’s supposedly diverse and modern Ireland. Rúbaí is a super funny Irish short that deals with some real drama. Oh to be an eight-year-old atheist fuelled with wit and knowledge and a blunt tongue. I really enjoyed this film. I don’t know what else to say, other then go see this film, you’ll love it.

Morning
Director: Cathy Brady
Writer: Cathy Brady, Sarah Woolner
Running Time: 20 minutes
Mary wakes up on the sofa with a banging headache. Her morning routine is interrupted by a persistent reporter. She is a broken lost soul that has suffered a devastating life tragedy. But this morning is the morning she decides to deal with what has happened. Morning is a truly gripping drama. Brady has managed to give a sneak peek into a world no one would ever wish to experience.

Uisce Beatha
Director: Shaun O’Connor
Writer: Tadhg Hickey
Running Time: 8 minutes
Set in 1912, Uisce Beatha is the true story of Tom, a young man who leaves his home in rural Ireland to cross the ocean on the ill-fated Titanic. But a night of celebration beforehand results in a twist that will affect Tom’s fate drastically. Does everything in life happen for a reason?

The Ledge End of Phil (From Accounting)
Writer-director: Paul Ó Muiris
Running Time: 6 minutes
An animation about a man called Phil who is forced to take a look at the life that he has been ignoring and neglected for so long. With nowhere left to turn he has no choice but to take a giant leap into the unknown. It’s fly or die.

Mechanic
Writer-directors: Tom Sullivan, Feidlim Cannon
Running Time: 15 minutes
A heartfelt story about a mechanic fed up with what life has dealt him but finds consolation and peace in ageing gracefully.

4 Bhanríon
Director: Vittoria Colonna
Writers: Vittoria Colonna, Eoin Rogers
Running Time: 15 minutes
4 Bhanríon (4 Queens) is a black comedy about four elderly sisters who play a game of poker to decide who will take care of their elderly mother. Proving that blood isn’t always necessarily thicker than water, not while one sister might get stuck looking after their wheelchair-ridden mother. However, sometimes life doesn’t work out the way it’s planned.

 

A couple of the short films that stood out for me were Louise Ni Fhiannachta’s Rúbaí and Mairtín de Barra’s Atrophy.

Rúbaí had an exceedingly good storyline entwined with some comedy and heartfelt drama. The acting was fantastic and the dialogue was very well thought-out. A definite must see for all age groups.

Mairtín de Barra’s Atrophy storyline is very current and one that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people. The acting from Pat Deery is so expressive and endearing, proving the strength and talent of Deerly’s ability as an actor. De Barra made a fantastic choice in casting him.  The set captures the life of the old man perfectly. Everything about this short film was very well executed.  Another short to add to the list of must sees.

All in all it’s apparent that the Irish film industry is safe in the hands of the new and emerging Irish talent that are storming through the film festival circuits. And of course, they made my Valentine’s super pleasant and even managed to give my heart a little flutter.

 

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

JDIFF’s selection of  Irish shorts screened on Friday, 14th February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

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JDIFF: Irish Film Review – The Food Guide to Love

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David Prendeville chews over The Food Guide to Love, which screened at the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Oliver (Richard Coyle), a successful celebrity chef, is far less successful in his love life largely due to his treatment of women. He can never have a relationship that lasts longer than six months mainly because he is a selfish, shallow misogynist. After Oliver is thrown out of one relationship along comes fiery Bibiana (Leonor Watling). They begin a tentative relationship that eventually turns into something very serious for both of them. But can it last? While Bibiana is interested in politics and art, Oliver seems only to care about himself and food. Oliver encountering an old crush from primary school in Georgina (Jade Yourell) and Bibiana’s interest in a political activist (David Wilmot) adds further complications to proceedings.

This light, silly romantic comedy attempts to recall classic screwball comedies, not least, in the admirable feistiness of its lead female character. The film struggles tonally, particularly initially, as it attempts to translate this type of comedy onto its Irish setting. Early scenes between Coyle and Watling jar somewhat. The film’s major flaw, however, lies with the fact that the lead character Oliver is such a deeply unlikeable character. In a film with as broadly comic a sensibility as this there is something that doesn’t sit right about having such a deplorable male lead. To be fair, the film-makers do establish a certain depth to his character towards the end in an emotional scene involving his father, which is heartfelt and well-played. However by the end of the film you don’t really feel as if there has been any great change in the character’s outlook or behaviour. The film lacks the sardonic or cynical edge required to pull off having these sorts of moral complexities to its characters.

The dislikeable nature of the lead character and his actions lead to some bizarre, supposedly comic scenes such as him being tempted to cheat on Bibiana by a woman completely smeared in chocolate. The aftermath of this scene in which Bibiana discovers Oliver’s chocolate smeared clothes does not know whether it wants to be moving or funny and it ends up being neither. While the idea of consistently relating the film’s events and it’s themes to food, given that food is only thing Oliver possibly loves more than himself, is not a bad idea the film-makers struggle to use it in the right way. Is the food motif supposed to be comic? Or is there supposed to be some weight (pardon the pun) to the relating of Oliver’s obsession with food ton that of his love life? As the film progresses, food becomes a means of power struggle in Oliver and Bibiana’s relationship, with her becoming a vegetarian. Once again, while this could have been an interesting idea it ends up feeling forced and rather inconsequential.

The emphasis on food also lead to some scenes which simply misfire- a recurring joke about Oliver’s father’s coddle- is more disgusting than it is funny. Nevertheless there are things to commend in the picture. Dublin is beautifully photographed throughout. The directors Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri bring a foreign eye to the city and it’s nice to see such a modern, progressive depiction of Dublin on screen. There are some enjoyable supporting turns from Wilmot, Simon Delaney and Bronagh Gallagher. It is also pleasing to see that in an age in which the romantic comedy is such an unfashionable genre in the cinema that filmmakers are, at least, attempting to go back to basics and call to mind a style of filmmaking in the screwball comedy that is all too rarely visible in the modern era.

For viewers hungry for something substantial this film is unlikely to satisfy but it has the odd ingredient worth savouring.

 

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The Food Guide to Love screened on Monday, 17th February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

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JDIFF: Irish Film Review – Stay

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Stacy Grouden reports from the screening of Wiebe von Carolsfeld’s latest drama Stay.

The title of Wiebe von Carolsfeld’s latest drama Stay suggests a longing, a desire for stasis and stability, and follows its cast of characters as they seek to get somewhere they can comfortably remain. If your gut reaction to this is that the quest for equilibrium for the sake of equilibrium seems antithetical to drama, you might be on to something.

Adapted from Aislinn Hunter’s 2005 novel, Stay opens with Abbey (Schilling), a young Canadian ex-pat, who lives by the sea in Connemara with her older lover Dermot (Quinn), a former Archaeology professor with a troubled past. When Abbey discovers that she’s pregnant, she returns to her native Montreal to reassess her life, uncovering some painful truths about her parents in the process. Meanwhile, in his ‘home at the end of the world,’ Dermot, an unwilling candidate for fatherhood, distracts himself by helping a recently-returned single mother (McGuigan) adjust to her new life, as well as enlisting a mitching schoolboy (Keoghan) to build him a fence.

While this is very much marketed as a drama about a May-December romance in crisis, writer/director Von Carolsfeld has described this as more of a story about a number of the residents of this barren Connemara periphery looking for a place to stay, to call home.  Indeed, the subjects of this introspective epistemological quest are well-chosen; along with the clichéd ‘man in his 50s having a mid-life crisis,’ shifting the focus to a pregnant 30-something, a teenage boy, and a mother of a newborn potentially offers a variety of interesting results and opposing perspectives as to where each character sees themselves going – or staying – in life. The fact that they all come to seemingly very similar conclusions, however, is disheartening. It feels more like a generic narrative wrap-up than a fully-satisfying conclusion.

Von Carolsfeld does some interesting things with language and geography, neatly contrasting the chic urban French-Canadian Montreal with the Connemara Gaeltacht giving each locale a separate, multi-sensory identity. Yet this representation of Ireland, while thematically connected with Dermot’s narrative, is questionable at best. Even as the romanticisation of this bleak rural landscape is mocked within the world of the film itself – as Dermot expresses his disgust at the ‘Idyll by the Sea’ cottage development proposed by his neighbour – it clings to the rustic, outdated view of Ireland, at least this part of it, as a retreat from modernity. While Dermot’s self-imposed exile from Dublin is certainly complemented by his surroundings, details like JFK paintings in badly-weathered houses where the dead are waked in their own beds clutching daisies give the film a stage Irishness that is not altogether comfortable for a contemporary Irish viewer to experience.

The performances in Stay are rather uneven. The most convincing come from the young Irish cast members, Barry Keoghan and Nika McGuigan, who subtly infuse their light and aimless conversation with a keen sense of how lost and adrift youth make sense of the world. While leads Quinn and Schilling have both proven capable of low-key performances in the past, and each have quiet, graceful moments in this film, there are times when conversation between the two sounds less like a call-and-response, than two actors merely reeling off their learned lines. This hit-and-miss chemistry expends to most of the rest of the cast, with even the father-daughter relationship enacted by Schilling and Michael Ironside appearing even more strained than that between their characters. Some weak scripting and awkwardly-forced exposition only further detracts from the naturalistic tone a modernist film like Stay – heavy on personal relationships, light on plot – requires to work.

Taking an interestingly decentred approach to some complex themes of intimacy and belonging, Stay undoubtedly has its moments and great potential for something more, but ultimately doesn’t build a world in which one would wish to linger.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

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Interview: Donal Foreman, writer and director of ‘Out of Here’

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Tony Tracy sat down with Donal Foreman to discuss his debut feature Out of Here, which screens at the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

Donal Foreman’s debut feature Out of Here opens on twenty-something Ciaran (Fionn Walton) returning home to Dublin from travels in Asia and follows his experiences over the subsequent days and nights of reconnecting with people and places once familiar. Displaying elements familiar from American ‘mumblecore’ cinema, it shares a kinship with films such as Tiny Furniture, Uncle Kent and Francis Ha (among others) in its sense of liminality – its  POV controlled by a central character at a threshold moment in his life and a loose-limbed, largely plotless narrative of mood and situation. In addition to such comparisons, the film is also an entirely consistant development of stylistic/formal and thematic concerns evident in Foreman’s earlier short films and exhibits filmic properties espoused in his considerable and intelligent written reflections on cinema (see donalforeman.com).

Out of Here marks a considerable contribution to contemporary Irish cinema on a number of levels. Its rejection of traditional narrative practices (particularly ill-fitting genres), its cosmopolitan tone, its sensitive and fresh portrayal of masculinity and relationships, and its use of locations that ‘re-map’ cinematic Dublin, all contribute to a film less defined by a sense of national identity than a sense of place.  Nevertheless, while it avoids being explicitly ‘Irish’ cinema in any narrow or prescriptive sense of that term (beyond its setting), the film’s tentative, only half recognised sense of home seems both specific to the wandering, cosmopolitan Ciaran (a post-modern Stephen Dedalus) and a tonally apt encapsulation of the dazed and confused national condition as we emerge from a decade of awe, then shock.

In the year that the IFB celebrated it 20th anniversary, the conditions of the film’s production – crowd-funded (without development but with some completion funding from IFB), shot on the RED EPIC with a tiny crew but great skill and edited in New York (where Foreman now lives) – also sets it apart from earlier practices deemed essential to the development of a national cinema, while linking it to micro-budget digital narratives from a new generation of feature writer-directors such as Rebecca Daly, Ivan Kavanagh and Mark O’Connor among others. Regardless of its status as a debut feature, Out of Here feels remarkably assured and engaging, suggesting that Donal Foreman will be a film maker to watch in the years ahead.

 

How far back does your ambition to make films go?

 

I started when I was 11. It was a very intuitive kind of thing where one of my friend’s Dad had a video camera and we were playing around with it, making little movies and we just got obsessed with that. So it started as a social activity and after a while we found our roles within that. I became the cameraman and I suppose parallel to that I was starting to watch more films and get interested in them. So at 13 we put a film into the Fresh Film Festival (www.freshfilmfestival.net) and that really ignited our focus to keep going. At 15 I figured out how to edit the films with a VHS recorder instead of just stopping and starting the camera. So that just kept going forward technically.

 

I guess I also had a curious mind about film history and one thing would lead to another. Tarantino was probably the first one who made me think of individual shots and the director’s vision. Then I heard he was influenced by Scorsese, who was in turn influenced by Cassavetes. So I think I was around 15 or 16 when I started reading more film history and criticism like Ray Carney (editor of Cassavetes on Cassavetes), who introduced to me the idea that film could be a way of challenging yourself, exploring the world and figuring out things you didn’t understand. From then on I had a real urge to try and do something more serious that would actually reflect the world around me and my friends.

 

In my early teens, I also got really into writing scripts, initially just because I liked how they looked! I wrote about four ridiculously surreal feature scripts, and then in my mid-teens I started getting into more personal scripts, where the main character would usually be me while all the other characters would be these one-dimension ciphers. It was later on, working with actors, that I learned to put myself in the shoes of each character, no matter who they are. It becomes a necessity because you need to talk to each actor in terms of their character’s point of view. I still think I need to put some part of myself in each character, but it’s actually a lot of fun when there’s differences too, and you’re forced to step outside yourself a bit.

 

Those short films – and now Out of Here ­- tended to leave out a lot of exposition and make the viewer work with the film.

 

I had a sense early on that what I preferred in films were the gaps where things were left to the imagination – like Kiarostami’s idea of an ‘unfinished’ cinema. I try to follow those principles. I’m more interested in images and moments than storytelling per se, so I had no interest in having a moment of exposition which would disrupt the form. I had more of these dilemmas making a feature film. Say someone gets a text message and you cut to a close-up of the text message so that the audience can read it. There’s no real aesthetic value in that. It’s just this ugly totally functional shot there to give you information – I felt more committed to the image… I was like I don’t care if you need to read that text message, I’m never going to put it in!

 

I like the fact that his family aren’t at the airport to meet him when he returns.

 

That’s an example of where the image comes before the narrative. I wanted the scene of him alone at the airport, and getting the bus into town by himself. I didn’t want the sentiment of the homecoming greeting. Once I had the image, I started figuring out how to make it work for the characters and the narrative.

 

I know the screenplay was in development for quite some time. How did you finally get it to production? Did you apply to the Irish Film Board?

 

I never actually applied to the Film Board because I never wanted to do script development with it. I was in an international script workshop called ENGAGE with it shortly after I graduated. It was for writers, directors and producers graduating from Screen Academy Scotland, the National Film School at IADT and the Baltic Film & Media School in Estonia. You’re taken to workshops in each country, and you go in with a project and they try and team you up, and prep you for assembling co-productions. I went in with this project Out of Here and half way through I swapped it and pitched a sci-fi kids escape movie instead, which I felt would be more productive in that context. I felt my project wasn’t going to be helped by pushing it in that forum because there wasn’t much room for co-production unless I filmed his travels or brought in a bunch of foreign characters just for the sake of it. Also a lot of the notes I was getting on it were ‘you need more plot’, ‘the character needs to do this’ – pushing for a stronger narrative structure to the whole thing. That there should be a deadline and a clear tension like ‘is he going to get on that flight to get out of the country…’. I wasn’t interested in fighting those interpretations so I didn’t pursue it.

 

I felt the only way I would do it with the Film Board was if they would not go through the years of script development, which I have seen hurt a lot of projects and filmmakers. I didn’t think I had a chance at bypassing that process without a big company backing me, and I wasn’t having any luck on that front. I was also thinking that if one of my shorts got into one of the bigger festivals that would give me a legitimacy to move it forward. But that didn’t really happen. After pitching it to a few established companies, I tried to find a producer but it was tough because there were no strong independent producers looking for first time writer-directors without a track record. At one point I was thinking I would even try and produce it myself, but that would have been an insanely bad idea because it was already a difficult story for a micro-budget. Eventually I came across Emmet Fleming, who already had some experience with this kind of budget and totally got what I was trying to do.

 

How did you raise the budget?

 

Emmet had the idea to do a crowd-funding campaign based on this investment model that he had seen a Belfast company, Manifesto Films, use earlier that year. We had the option to donate and get a gift in return, as you would with Kickstarter, but we also had a second option where for €150 you’d get a share in the future profits of the film, and that’s where most of the money came from. I put in some cash as well but most of it was from people buying shares. The investment model works well I think because there is a greater sense of ownership for investors and a greater impetus to help the project to succeed.

 

So was the script pretty much there at this stage?

 

Not completely. We started fundraising with a detailed treatment and began casting and then we did two weeks of rehearsals. I wrote dialogue in rehearsals. I would give the actors the premise of the scene and see where it went. So we would workshop like that and then I would write the scenes in the evening. Then we would rehearse the written version and see how that worked. So by the end of rehearsals we had the full script.

 

So you began with a scene by scene treatment?

 

Yes. I had a detailed 30-page treatment which described most things in detail except for the dialogue. I also had older drafts of a full script to draw on, as I had been developing the project over a five year period.

 

What was the starting point of the story?

 

From the very start it was the idea of this guy’s return to Dublin after a time away. The thing that excited me most initially was the shift in his perception of the city on his coming back, that it would be so familiar to him and have all this history, but him stepping away and then coming back would create this sense of estrangement. Like if you walk the same way to work everyday you stop seeing the details around you, but if you were to go away for a year and then come back, all of a sudden it’s a new street.

 

By the time it was in pre-production I had already lived in New York for a year and so I was perfectly poised for it. That first month back after New York, I was finding new ideas for the film everywhere and everyday.

 

Lets talk about casting. How did you find your actors?

 

I had a few people in mind already. I had a whole database of actors in my head of who I would like to work with. If an Irish actor has a showreel online I have seen it at this stage. Part of it was how the characters were going to interact together, but mainly it was the traditional way of seeking out actors from what we had seen them in. Then there were people I knew in Dublin who had never done any acting but who were just characters who I know would be really interesting within a certain scenario. And I tried to collect people from the different worlds in the film like some people from art school and so on.

 

And what about the central character – played by Fionn Walton?

 

Fionn came out of the Actor’s Studio in The Factory. So much of the casting came together quite easily but the lead was the hardest thing by far because he carries the whole film. I wanted someone with a certain kind of charisma who would be compelling to watch. It had to be someone who you would just want to watch even if they weren’t doing much anyway, that they would hold the screen but without being a “pretty boy” or a macho actor. I wanted someone who was still a little bit awkward and boyish. So just finding that balance was tough.

 

What was your experience of the shoot?

 

The shoot was by far the most challenging thing I have ever done, most of all because of the time pressures. It’s not obvious, in the middle of things, what you sohuld compromise on and leave out or what you’re going to regret later. We had 20 days to shoot something that had way more characters, crowd scenes and location changes than is ever advisable for a micro-budget project. We didn’t have a lot of money to throw around so we were often at the mercy of other people’s commitments. As a result, we shot ridiculously out of order in terms of continuity, mainly because of location availability and actors’ schedules. Aoife Duffin, for example, was shooting the second season of Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy throughout our production, and was only available on weekends. It was really not ideal for the story, but I think we managed to pull it off, and having rehearsals definitely helped.

 

Was it an obvious choice to shoot on the RED EPIC camera?

 

Yes – that’s the camera my cameraman Piers McGrail owns. He’s shot all my fiction shorts since film school and I knew I wanted to work with him. But the EPIC didn’t make life easy. Sometimes it might take two hours to light and I’d get 10 minutes to do the scene because the EPIC requires more lighting, more equipment and expense in general than the RED. There is so much lighting in the film – apart from the exterior daytime stuff, everything in the film is lit. And it is very exact, so while the film looks fairly natural it is actually quite contrived.

 

Given that stylistic commitment to naturalism, how did you manage sound?

 

For the most complex scenes, we used 2 boom mikes and 4 radio mikes: I wanted these people to be free to interrupt and talk over each other. And we deliberately have no score but there’s quite a bit of diegetic music from local bands at various points. Some people find the lack of a score a bit difficult but there’s a whole visual arc to the film that goes from a cluttered, claustraphobic feeling to a more open, lighter sense and I wanted to reflect that in the sound design imposing it through musical cues.

 

Lets talk about the edit and arriving at your final cut

 

I edited by myself in New York over about six months. The main challenge was that there was a lot of material—30 hours in total. The first assembly was 3 hours and the first watchable cut was 110. I thought I’d never get it down to 80 mins. But the first time I did a test screening (to a group I’m part of in New York, the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective) I cut 20 minutes out the next day. I hadsuch a better understanding of the pacing of it, just from watching it in a room with other people. I could feel people just waiting for the end at a few different points—even I was.

 

The film’s use of location is striking – you manage to add to the cinematic city of recent Dublin-set films like Adam and Paul, Kisses, Once and What Richard Did.

 

I always saw this character and his return as vehicle for exploring the city and explore the different aspects of it. I was asking myself, if you were in Dublin in your early 20s, what possibilities are open to you? What social spaces, domestic spaces, and how do you express yourself in different spaces like the pub, or at dinner with your family or wandering around by yourself. So I was thinking about locations that would help explore those different facets. I also had a bit of a thing about how the city has been represented cinematically – that there has been generally been a failure of representation – with the Dublin often functioning as a backdrop rather than a character. Obviously there are exceptions to this but I wanted to be attentive to the spaces of the city and so I very deliberately mapped the action to reflect that.

 

www.outofherefilm.com

Tony Tracy lectures in film at the Huston School of Film and Digital Media, NUI Galway.

www.filmschool.ie

 

Out of Here screens on Saturday, 22nd February 2014 at 8:30PM in the Light House.

Click here for further coverage of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

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JDIFF Review – The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Stacey Grouden checks in to Wes Anderson’s The Budapest Hotel, which had its Irish premiere at the weekend as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

In an early scene in Wes Anderson’s latest film, a girl admires the stone bust of an author, famous for his book, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Through a series of flashbacks to 1985, 1968 and the 1930s, broken into chapters, we uncover the colourful story of its past, as told by its eccentric owner and former employee, Zero Moustafa (Abraham) to the author of the novel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, a lush Alpine resort in the fictional European nation of Zubrowka in an alternate 1930s, is run by the gently flamboyant concierge M. Gustave (Fiennes). A hit with the establishment’s more mature female guests, Gustave’s relationship with one particular lady, Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Swinton), comes under close scrutiny when she is murdered and her will bequeaths to him a priceless painting, ‘Boy with Apple.’ Together with his loyal lobby boy, Zero (played as a young man by Tony Revolori), Gustave takes the painting and flees, desperate to clear his name and avoid the same fate as his late former lover.

Fans of Wes Anderson’s characteristic style won’t be disappointed as it retains the same storybook aesthetic for which he has been variously praised and criticised. The characters are lavishly costumed and the world beautifully realised in a series of decadent sets. Similarly, the film is divided into chapters, not only recalling his use of the same technique in The Royal Tenenbaums, but reminding the audience that we are hearing this story from the author, as told by Zero, to the author’s younger self. This structure – a frame within a frame within a frame – is often echoed in the composition, with deep halls, twisting staircases and rows of balconies outlining the characters in action.

But while a common argument about his films is that this quirky, distinctive style comes at the expense of substance, the narrative and thematic content here is deceptively rich. Ostensibly, The Grand Budapest Hotel sees Anderson presenting a postmodern and very entertaining twist on the 1930s-style detective story. But this structure, along with quietly elegant performances by Abraham and Revolori as Zero, see it elevated to a poignant memoir, an ode to times past, and to dearly-departed mentors. This can be seen not only in how the film presents M. Gustave as a long-passed, old-world gentleman, but is also perhaps a nod to old Hollywood, to Hitchcockian escapades on trains, Great Escape-style prison breaks, and the artisanal glamour of a well-designed, densely-detailed set-piece.

But the introspection offered by this many-layered approach would fall flat without the strength of its central performances, and while a number of Anderson’s staple actors make appearances – Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, among others – Ralph Fiennes steals the film as M. Gustave H. Achieving the subtle distinction between delivering a huge performance without being over-the-top, Fiennes balances his theatrical gravitas with his rarely-executed gift for comedy, making it impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Just like a concierge, his performance adapts to every new situation with aplomb and never misses a beat.

Lively, but with moments of unexpected darkness, tension, and poignancy, The Grand Budapest Hotel is well worth a visit.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

 

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Interview: Dawid Ogrodnik

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Anna Pospieszynska met with Polish actor Dawid Ogrodnik, who stars in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida and the inspiring Life Feels Good by Maciej Pieprzyca, both of which are screening as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Irish audiences will have a chance to dive into two beautifully crafted stories, which are great examples of the “journey” cinema, so intensely focused on self-discovery and pursuit of a character’s own identity. So lets start from the beginning and your journey into acting.

My road has led me to confrontation with myself and defining what I want and how I can get there. I realised I had to stake everything on one card to reach my goals. Undoubtedly, it was a very difficult decision to make, particularly if you are 12 years old. Nevertheless, there was that nagging feeling of something awaiting me and I did need to see it. So I sold everything I owned and left thome to realize my dreams. There was definitely a lot of luck involved as I met many really good people on my journey, first in music and then at acting school. As a result of my decisions, I am here. The funny thing is that even now my intuition tells me there is more for me to discover so I needed to keep moving ahead.

Every journey might make you weary. Could you count on an emotional boost to push you forward?

I think each project I got involved in drove me significantly forward. Definitely one of the first key people I met was the director Leszek Dawid with whom I worked  on I am the God (Jestem Bogiem). Thanks to him I learned to be honest with the camera and that to pretend emotions is your worst enemy.  You have to really feel it regardless of how many times you have played it. Never try to ‘rewind’ feelings, as you would lose your realness.  Life Feels Good, with Maciej Pieprzyca, was the biggest challenge of my life and taught me a lot about humility and helped me see an actor’s work from a different perspective. Suddenly you dedicate your whole life to one project and it becomes your objective.

You have been presented as an actor who fishes for roles of the outsider, which places you in the great company of Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Depp or Christian Bale. At the same time it requires a lot of effort, time and energy. What makes them so appealing?

It is both challenging and inspirational. After some point you realize that the brain acts as an extremely absorbent sponge. It enables you to readjust and engage with a huge variety of elements and particulars, which brings you eventually to the stage of metamorphosing into a character you are to play. And this is what fascinates me in this job. On the one hand it creates a comfort zone as you are creating a persona you have nothing in common with in real life. On the other, there is a danger of the pastiche and grotesque sneaking into your work if you do not do it right. It is a risk you need to take but you need to get ready and be responsible for all pros and cons that go with it.

Looking at your character in Ida, I see his symbolic weight that enriches the life of Anna, the female protagonist. Like metaphysical doors, she has to enter through them to continue her path to self-discovery and change. How did getting involved in this movie transform your life?

The script was one of the reasons why I decided to take part in it.  Then there was my love of the saxophone and music. As the movie takes place in the ’60s, it was a very special time for Jazz, especially on the Polish scene. The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, wanted the soundtrack to reflect the movie’s ambience, which just added extra value to the project. In regards to my character, there was nothing extreme about him. However, what mesmerized me was the inner world he shared with the Anna, expressed by gestures, tunes and a desire to find an understanding, kindred spirit.

Polish Cinema is showing a new face, highlighting its more universal line of storytelling. We can see it in freshly produced pictures, such as Life Feels Good, Imagine and Lasting’ As a young actor attending international film festivals, how would you describe the audience’s reactions to this change? And what else would you like to see?

It is a very interesting direction. You can see how well received our movies were in 2013 and how many festivals have already included them, e.g. Montreal, Berlin, or even now in Dublin. I believe it is just the beginning. We might lack a directing personality that is not afraid of pushing it forward and embracing all new elements and themes that this trend can offer but we are definitely getting there. Also in terms of acting, Polish Cinema is very much rooted in a script which can focus on following a word-by-word structure, which definitely keeps us different, and it is great. However, maybe there should be just a bit more space for improvisation. You can see in American films that many directors give actors more freedom. Of course you don’t want to have it overdone across many scenes as often happens in such movies, but it might give us an opportunity to react to some situations more organically. Plus, we shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting as well as introducing new topics. Film is a limitless form of art and shouldn’t be confined or restricted by social taboos or difficult subjects such as homosexuality or transsexuality. I hope one day our cinema will be full of amazing scripts that give us a breath of fresh air, directed by young minds behind the camera, ready to steer us to new cinematic waters.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014,


 

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JDIFF: Irish Film Review – Calvary

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Donnchadh Tiernan checks out John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary, which opened the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The opening line of John Michael McDonagh’s sophomore effort packs such an almighty punch it would be a shame to divulge it here. As a quote from Saint Augustine on the poetic implications of the titular hill fades to the candlelit visage of Brendan Gleeson’s central priest a line of dialogue is delivered with enough weight to shake any audience of expectations for a would-be sequel to 2011’s The Guard. The dialogue of the anonymous confessor continues to outline what will be the framework within which the film will play out; in seven days, having spent their childhood being raped daily by a priest, the faceless victim will shoot Gleeson’s priest, plainly because he, a good priest, being murdered will send a greater message. When Gleeson leaves the booth he seems to know who has threatened him. We, however, do not, and the film commences.

The prime action of the piece is made up of Gleeson’s interactions with locals; characters played by the greatest assembly of Irish and British acting talent since Intermission: Pat Shortt as a Buddhist publican; Dylan Moran as a socially estranged property developer; Chris O’Dowd as the butcher; Kelly Reilly as Gleeson’s suicidal daughter from a pre-orders marriage; Aidan Gillen as an atheistic, nihilistic doctor. The list actually does go on but to give everyone worthy of shout-out here their just deserts would evolve this review to a novella. Everyone available seemingly wanted to appear in this film and once one sniffs out the marrow of the meandering plot it is easy to see why.

The first act of Calvary is the segment that requires the most salt in viewing. What might be biting satire or critique is diluted with Fr. Ted jokes as they might have been written for HBO. McDonagh being cut from the cloth he is the dialogue and structure is ever a comment on the medium and genre itself, in this case such thematic stuff as Song for a Raggy Boy or Sleepers, but considering both the setting and the opening this does not seem enough. As a matter of fact, until Gleeson’s church is burnt to the ground midway through (as seen in the trailer and on the poster), it seems as though the writer-director is shying from the route he initially gestured towards. Then, as flames flicker against the night, the second act reveals a darker side of The Guard’s wry wit and the film dives headlong into murk the previous film only hinted at.

What transpires in the film’s remainder is often heavy drama and is a credit to its cast, particular credit due to Domhnall Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd, the former stepping out of his father’s shadow while sitting across from him, the latter whom will surely be hearing meatier dramatic scripts whacking his hallway floor more regularly in the coming months. This film’s heart, soul and muse, as with The Guard, is undoubtedly the masterful Brendan Gleeson, who communicates the bitterness and flickering hopes of a dying faith with dark weary eyes and reserved gestures.

Any flaws here are minor and aesthetic. The rent-boy Lucky Leo is one caricature too far and Dave McSavage playing a bishop carries too much weight as a cultural reference to work alongside the more serious tones surrounding the role. The cast of characters is, overall, too large to justify and trying to keep up with them at times muddles the plot. Thankfully, McDonagh’s agenda is so potent and engaging that its confidence propels viewer attention along with it at far too ardent a pace to linger on such minor foibles.

With Calvary, McDonagh has completed the sentence he began to utter with The Guard. As an already evident auteur, he loves Ireland (as clearly evidenced by the glorious landscape shots throughout) and despises such Irish institutions as middle-management, bitterness and mob-rule. Were he a pamphleteer, which on a certain level he undoubtedly is, his prime target would be Joe Duffy’s listenership and high-ranking church officials in equal measure. In fact, there is such ample critique of Irish society in the third act it feels as though two films in he may have made his magnum opus. On immediate reflection, not only do I wish to re-watch Calvary soon but I believe it will prove as much of a necessary watch for at least one generation to come as it will be a gripping, funny and moving one for audiences this year. Once again, McDonagh has produced a work impossible to pigeon-hole into any genre, except perhaps “Essential Viewing”.

 

 

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Calvary screened on Thursday, 13th February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – How to be Happy

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How to be Happy

Friday, 21st February 2014

3PM @Filmbase

Directed by Michael Rob Costine, Mark Gaster and Brian O’Neill and written by Conor Horgan, How to be Happy was made as part of the Filmbase Digital Feature Production MSc. The film is a romantic comedy about a marriage councillor who gets involved with his clients, starring Brian Gleeson as Cormac Kavanagh, a marriage councillor who, off the back of a messy break-up, starts sleeping with his clients in a misguided pursuit of happiness. Flor (Gemma-Leah Devereux), a private detective, is charged with investigating Cormac’s unconventional treatments, but things get complicated when she begins to have feelings for him. Between friends with the best intentions, misunderstandings and a client who also happens to be a notorious gangster, Cormac must navigate his way through the more erratic and chaotic elements of love and relationships before realising how to be happy.

One of the film’s directors Mark Gaster told Film Ireland that “After such great receptions at the Galway and Cork film festivals and sell-out screenings, it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to show How to be Happy at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. There has always been a great buzz surrounding the film and I’m really looking forward to it screening in my own hometown.”

How to be Happy  screens as part of the ‘Making your First Feature’ event on Friday, 21st February at 3pm at Filmbase, and will be followed by a Q&A.

 

To book tickets visit the JDIFF Box Office in Filmbase or call +353 1 687 7974 or online here

 

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Out of Here

 

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Out of Here

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

8:30PM @ Light House

 

Ciaran is a passionate yet restless college dropout who has returned home to recession-struck Dublin after a year of travelling.

Broke and living with his parents, struggling to re-connect with the ex-girlfriend that he left behind and the friends and social scene that have moved on without him, Ciaran questions whether he should stay or go – and comes to realize the difference between being stuck and being present.

Out of Here is a contemporary coming of age story shedding Dublin and its youth culture in a light not previously seen or explored.

Director Donal Foreman told Film Ireland that, “I’m very pleased to have Out of Here play at my hometown festival, especially as the landscapes and communities of Dublin play such a fundamental role in the movie. Since I was a teenager I’ve been frustrated at the dearth of films exploring the Dublin experienced by myself and others of my generation. I’m glad that my own attempt to fill that gap has found a home at a festival with a strong commitment to arthouse film and such an engaged local audience. (Also hoping they’ll move it to a bigger screen or schedule a second screening so that more people can see it, as I hear it’s already sold out!)”

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

Director: Donal Foreman

Cast: Fionn Walton, Aoife Duffin, Annabell Rickerby

Duration: 80 minutes

Guest Attending: Donal Foreman

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – The Stag

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The Stag

Sunday, 23rd February 2014

7:30PM @ Savoy

A bachelor party weekend in the great outdoors takes some unexpected detours.

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

Director: John Butler

Cast: Hugh O’Conor, Andrew Scott, Brian Gleeson, Peter McDonald, Amy Huberman

Country of Origin: Ireland

Duration: 94 minutes

Year: 2013

Guest Attending: John Butler, Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Connor, Peter McDonald, Brian Gleeson, Michael Legge, Andrew Bennett, Amy Hubberman, Rebecca O’Flanagan, Rob Walpole

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

 

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Run & Jump

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Run & Jump

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

6:15PM @ Cineworld

Steph Green’s first feature Run & Jump is set to screen at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Green was nominated for an Oscar for her short New Boy. Her new feature, written by Ailbhe Keogan and produced by Tamara Anghie, is an unconventional love story set in rural Ireland about a woman’s relationships with her husband, after he suffers a stroke, and with the doctor treating him.

The film follows Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), who is struggling to return her family to normality after her husband, Conor (Edward MacLiam), suffers a rare stroke that changes his personality. When an American doctor, Ted (Will Forte), comes to stay with the family to study Conor’s condition, relationships are strained. With two children and two men in the house, Vanetia treats Ted with hostility, before seeing the calming effects he has on the family.

Speaking to Film Ireland, producer Tamara Anghie said, “It’s wonderful to be bringing Run & Jump back home after its recent release in North America.  We’ve been blown away by the reviews and positive audience responses to the film in the US.  If the awards at Galway and the standing ovation at Kerry film festivals are any indication, we believe Irish audiences will also love the film, so we’re extremely pleased it will be showing at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and then released theatrically by Wildcard distribution around the country in May.”

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

 

 

Director: Steph Green

Cast: Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam, Will Forte

Duration: 99 minutes

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

 

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Gold

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Gold

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

12.30PM @ Light House

The Irish feature comedy Gold, written and directed by IFTA-winning Niall Heery (Small Engine Repair) and funded by Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB) stars David Wilmot (Ripper Street, Shadow Dancer), James Nesbitt (The Hobbit) and Kerry Condon (This Must Be The Place, The Runway).

Wilmot plays a wandering loner, Ray, who tries to track down his estranged ex-partner (Condon) and teenage daughter (played by Maisie Williams) so that his dying father can see his grand-daughter one last time.

Speaking to Film Ireland, director Niall Heery said, “Gold is a comedy about a disconnected man, played by David Wilmot, who returns to his hometown in order to visit his ailing father. He finds himself forced to reconnect with his estranged daughter and ex-partner who have built a new life with his former PE Teacher, a regimental control freak played by Jimmy Nesbitt. He ends up moving into the trophy room in the house where they all live and proves to be an unruly force of nature, unwittingly causing total mayhem and destruction.

 

“I’m delighted to have the film screening at the Dublin Film Festival. My first film Small Engine Repair played here and I was thrilled with the reception it got. I genuinely love the festival, it always has a really exciting programme. I’m sure it’ll prove to be a great platform for Gold.”

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

 

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.
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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – The Inquiry

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The Inquiry

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

12.30PM @ Light House

The 1913 Lockout occurred at a time when trade unionists, employers and politicians were beginning to debate the internationalism of capital and its consequences. Issues of globalization, competition and the social wage are once more at the centre of political and ideological dialogue, as they were 100 years ago.

The Lockout is also the nearest thing Ireland has ever had to a socialist revolution. It provides a glimpse of analternative Ireland that people strove for, before competing nationalisms imposed their own social straitjackets on irish society

From the 29th September to the 6th October 1913, in a meeting room in the East Wing of Dublin Castle, the two key protagonists of the lockout, trade unionist Jim Larkin and industrialist William Martin Murphy were cross-examined, delivered evidence and made statements to the Board of Trade Inquiry into the Dublin Industrial Dispute headed by Sir George Askwith. As the British and international media looked on an iconic clash of ideolgies and personalities took place whch still resonates today.

The Inquiry is Brian Gray’s fascinating docu-drama that brings to life the events that occurred in that meeting room in 1913

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Living In A Coded Land

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Living In A Coded Land

Wednesday, 19th February 2014

6.30PM @ Light House

According to Director Pat Collins, “Living in a Coded Land is a poetic and imaginative film essay that makes unexpected links between events and locations, history and contemporary life. The film revolves around the notion of a sense of place and stories associated with place, reflecting on the subterranean traces of the past in the present and probing themes such as the impact of colonialism, emigration, the famine, land, housing and the place of art in society. Making extensive use of archive from RTÉ and the IFI, the film seeks to explore the more elusive layers of meaning that make up this country.”

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

Director: Pat Collins

Duration: 80 minutes

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

 

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‘Uisce Beatha’ Screens at JDIFF

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A short film made in rural Cork for just 300 euros has been selected to screen at the biggest film festival in the country after a hugely successful tour of the international festival circuit.

Uisce Beatha (Gaelic for ‘Whiskey’ or ‘Water of Life’) will screen at 6.30 on February 14th in the Lighthouse Cinema, Smithfield, as just one of eight Irish short films hand-picked for the ‘JDIFF Shorts’ programme of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The JDIFF screening marks a return home for the film after a very successful tour of international film festivals, including screenings at the Raindance Film Festival, Boston Film Festival, the Chicago Irish Film Festival and the San Francisco Irish Film Festival. The international highlight was winning the “Filmmakers’ Choice” Award at the DC Shorts Film Festival in Washington DC, the biggest short film festival on the East Coast of the US, where it was the only Irish film selected from over 150 international shorts.

Set in 1912, Uisce Beatha is the true story of Tom, a young man who leaves his home in rural Ireland to cross the ocean on the ill-fated ‘Titanic’. But a night of celebration beforehand results in a twist that will affect Tom’s fate drastically.

Writer and lead actor Tadhg Hickey came across the story while researching the dozens of Irish people who had purchased tickets for the Titanic but not actually boarded the ship. Fascinated by Tom’s story in particular, the filmmaking team immediately set about adapting it for a short film.

Production of the film took place in various picturesque locations around County Cork. Though the film was made without funding, friends and family helped out on set where possible and local actors also lent their talents.

Having a tiny budget on a period film meant that the filmmakers had to be very creative. Period costumes were borrowed from a local theatre production, and one scene was shot on an antique railway to achieve the look of an old train journey.

But the work paid off, as Uisce Beatha has proven to be an audience favourite at festivals, winning awards in Cork, Chicago and Washington DC.

Shaun said:

‘My team and I are absolutely delighted at having been selected for the Jameson Dublin Film Festival. The film was a tiny production, made with people helping out for little or no payment, and it’s a great thrill for us to be screened alongside films of such a high caliber.’

Shaun has since directed a new short film, Rest My Bones, and will soon release a new music video for Cork band ‘Noir Noir’. Writer Tadhg and producer Aideen are both working on theatrical projects, while Shaun and Tadhg are developing their first feature film.

Tickets for the JDIFF Shorts program can be purchased from the Film Festival’s website at www.jdiff.com

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Eliza Lynch: Queen Of Paraguay

 

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Eliza Lynch: Queen Of Paraguay

Thursday, 20th February 2014

8:00PM @Savoy

Irish Paraguayan Feature Documentary Eliza Lynch – Queen of Paraguay starring Irish actress Maria Doyle Kennedy is a love story between the beautiful Eliza, Heroine of Paraguay and President Francisco Solano Lopez, is one of the most intriguing, and yet one of the least known lives of modern history.

Eliza Lynch – Queen of Paraguay is an epic story of hunger, war, wealth, of family, love, tragedy and loss told through the eyes of Eliza brilliantly and movingly played by Marie Doyle Kennedy and as a young woman by Paraguayan model and Olympic athlete, Leryn Franco.

Eliza was born in Charleville, County Cork in 1833, and became the wealthiest and the most famous woman in South America in the 19th century; and, as distorted by her enemies, the most infamous.

Produced by Stuart Switzer of Ireland’s Coco Television and Directed by renowned Irish director and film-maker, Alan Gilsenan was Shot in Ireland, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, France, England.

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

 

 

Director: Alan Gilsenan

Cast: Leryn Franco, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Duration: 80 minutes

Guest Attending: Alan Gilsenan, Maria Doyle Kennedy

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview

CALVARY starring Brendan Gleeson

Check out our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Click on the film to find out more, plus we chat to some of the filmmakers about their work.

 

Calvary

Come into The Gardens

The Devil’s Pool – Madness, Melancholia And The Artist

Eliza Lynch: Queen Of Paraguay

The Food Guide To Love

Gold

How to be Happy

The Inquiry

Irish Short Film

The Last Days On Mars

Living In A Coded Land

Love Eternal

No Limbs No Limits

Out of Here

Run & Jump

The Stag

Stay

A Thousand Times Goodnight

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

 

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – A Vision: A Life Of WB Yeats

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A Vision: A Life Of WB Yeats

Wednesday, 19th February 2014

6:30PM @ IFI

The life and work of Nobel laureate WB Yeats holds a particular place in hearts and imaginations across the world. Beyond Ireland – where Yeats is a kind of unofficial national poet – his work echoes in profound ways. In places beyond easy comprehension.Beyond the rational mind. In the places where poetry truly lives and breathes.

Commissioned for the Arts Council’s Reel Art scheme, this film is a response to that vast body of work. A visual – and avowedly experimental – ‘film-poem’, to coin an uneasy term. Using solely the words of WB Yeats, we attempted to take the viewer on a cinematic journey of sorts into Yeats’ extraordinary imagination. It is a biography of a kind, but not in any conventional way. Yet, beyond Yeats’ popular profile and his cultural tourist caché, little is really known of his complex life, despite having articulated it so completely, so creatively. In so many ways, Yeats dreamt up his life. He fashioned his own majestic screenplay and we are – endlessly – the beneficiaries.

Filmmaker’s statement

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

Director: Alan Gilsenan

Duration: 75 minutes

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Love Eternal

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Love Eternal

Tue 18th Feb 2014

8:30PM @ Cineworld

Following the success of his debut feature, Savage, director Brendan Muldowney returns to the screen with his new film, Love Eternal, based on the Japanese novel In Love with the Dead, by Kei Oishi. The film focuses on a death-fixated young man trying to make sense of the world.

Conor Barry and the team behind Dublin-based Fastnet Films co-produced the film with Rinkel Films of the Netherlands, Red Lion and T.O. Entertainment. A truly international venture, post-production took place in Luxembourg, making it the first Irish/Luxembourg feature to go into production following the signing of a co-production treaty at the 2011 Galway Film Fleadh.

Brendan Muldowney told Film Ireland that he is “delighted to be part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival this year and excited about  Dublin audiences having a chance to see Love Eternal.”

When Ian Harding’s (Robert de Hoog) mother dies, this isolated man must venture into a world that he no longer understands. Unable to comprehend basic human emotions, he takes the decision to end it all in a snowy forest clearing, but a rare chance encounter will change his life. Love Eternal is a rich cinematic experience, and, in his exploration of notions of life, death and the universe as a whole, Muldowney has created a bold cinematic landscape all his own.

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

 

 

Director: Brendan Muldowney

Cast: Polyanna McIntosh, Amanda Ryan, Robert de Hoog

Duration: 93 minutes

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – The Food Guide To Love

 

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The Food Guide To Love

Mon 17th Feb 2014

8:00PM @ Cineworld

 

Set in contemporary Dublin, The Food Guide to Love is a comedy of romantic errors that charts the dysfunctional love between a Dublin food writer and the completely incompatible Spanish woman he falls for.

Speaking to Film Ireland, directors Dominic Harari & Teresa De Pelegri said, “We were attracted to the idea of making a comedy about a dysfunctional romance in which food would be the action terrain, the battleground on which the relationship conflicts were fought. From the day we suck on a breast for the first time as babies, an emotional connection is formed between food and love in our psyche. Food ignites deep emotions inside us, and our emotional problems affect our attitudes to food.

“The inspiration for the story came from a quote we read by George Bernard Shaw: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” We began imagining a man who finds it easier to love a good steak than the person he’s with, and our main character, Oliver, was born. Shooting the film in Dublin was a blast and we hope watching it will be even more of one, starring Richard Coyle and Spanish singer-actress Leonor Watling, supported by an incredible array of Irish talent such as Simon Delaney, Bronagh Gallagher, Lorcan Cranitch, Ger Ryan and David Wilmott.”

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

Director: Dominic Harari, Teresa Pelegri

Cast: Richard Coyle, Leonor Watling

Duration: 90 minutes

Guest Attending: Dominic Harari, Teresa Pelegri

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

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Ronan Keating to Attend Irish Premiere of ‘Goddess’ at JDIFF

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Ronan Keating will walk the red carpet at the Irish premiere of his debut feature film Goddess at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. The film will screen in Cineworld on Saturday 22nd February 2014 at 6.30pm.

With twenty years of experience in the performance industry Keating has now made his debut foray into the acting industry, playing the part of James in Mark Lamprell’s musical Goddess. based on Joanna Weinberg’s one-woman stage show.

 Talented singer-songwriter Elspeth Dickens thinks her chance of stardom has come and gone. Now married to James (Ronan Keating), whose work as a whale-saving activist takes him to sea for weeks at a time, she finds her days more than filled looking after three-year-old twins. But Elspeth hasn’t quite given up on her dreams, and when she sets up a webcam in her kitchen to keep her husband entertained with performances of her own, self-penned show-stoppers, she becomes an internet sensation overnight.

Tickets, which are priced at €11 are on sale now from www.jdiff.com or (01 6877974).

 

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