The 15th annual Irish Film Festival in Boston championed Irish culture and talent for a packed house. “Wow,” breathed festival director Dawn Morrissey when she looked up at the full balcony on opening night. She soon explained; her first viewing of the films in Galway decided it: “Boston needs to see these films.”
The Boston audience agreed.
One audience member thanked the last-minute whim that motivated him to see the films that left him “hugely affected.”
The festival had no shortage of hugely affective moments.
After the screening of Inez: A Challenging Woman, a documentary that explores the life and legacy of the internationally renowned and hugely influential human rights and trade union activist Inez McCormack, Massachusetts State Representative Kevin Blanchette pushed through the crowd for a tearful reunion with Inez’s widower Vinny McCormack.
“It was an extraordinary moment for me,” Vinny explained. With Blanchette’s help, Inez had convinced Massachusetts to pass the landmark MacBride Principles. “It’s really unbelievable;” Vinny exclaimed, “after thirty years!”
Blanchette offered Vinny a commemorative plaque of the Principles that he had kept on his desk for two decades. Vinny and co-director Trevor Birney presented Blanchette with the original tape of Inez and Blanchette’s historical defense.
On Saturday, actor Dara Devaney accepted the “Special Jury Prize” for the Irish-language film An Brontannas. After the film, a Polish woman surprised Devaney and the rest of the audience by asking her questions in fluent Irish.
Martina Durac’s film, Mairéad Farrell: An Unfinished Conversation, which revisits the life and death of Republican icon Mairéad Farrell, opened a cross-Atlantic dialogue on issues of violence. The American audience compared the violence perpetrated during the Troubles to the current American police use-of-force controversy.
In Professor Bríona Nic Dhiarmada’s words, who co-produced the documentary, “All dead bodies look the same when lying in the street,” regardless of whether they are IRA, African American, or British or American police.
Nic Dhiarmada perceived shortcomings in the 1989 Death of a Terrorist documentary on Mairéad Farrell. She wanted to depict ambiguity in the story, but “couldn’t morally” make this “very difficult film” until after the peace process.
The Notre Dame professor of Irish Language and Literature felt obligated to counteract the “amnesia” of Southern Ireland. “If you don’t look back on history,” Nic Dhiarmada warned, “you are doomed to repeat it.”
As festival director Morrissey explained, “We wanted an open dialogue and we got it.”
The 15th anniversary also marked the introduction of awards presented throughout the festival.
On Thursday, director Niall Heery accepted the “Best Feature” award for Gold. And Michael Lennox‘s Boogaloo and Graham won “Best Short.”
On Friday, One Million Dubliners’ director Aoife Kelleher and producer Rachel Lysaght accepted the “Director’s Choice Feature” award for their film about Glasnevin Cemetary . Director Paul Murphy of The Weather Report accepted “Director’s Choice Short.”
Actor Dara Devaney of An Bronntanas won the “Special Jury Prize” on Saturday night.
After the screenings, Orleans, Saloon, and The Burren, all in Somerville’s Davis Square, hosted nightly receptions.
The Irish Film Festival in Boston returns 10 – 13 March 2016.