Andrew Legge talks to Film Ireland about the magical experience of the Killruddery Film Festival (19-21 September)
The Killruddery Film Festival returns this weekend with a programme that celebrates silent cinema, with live musical accompaniments, plus a selection of classic films, talks and workshops. This year’s programme gives Irish audiences a great chance to experience lost, overlooked and forgotten films in the beautiful surroundings of one of Ireland’s Great Historic Houses.
Festival Director and filmmaker Andrew Legge explains how the festival works beyond the screenings – emphasising the importance of performance and environment. “We have Stephen Horne here, who plays a lot with the BFI and is one of the best silent pianists in the world, and that live musical performance is central to the weekend. The weekend is quite magical. It’s in Killruddery House and the movies are all shown in the library and we’ve got the fire lighting and this lovely grand piano with the projector whirring away, so it’s very atmospheric and an amazing experience. And with the musical performance you’re experiencing it the way people would have in the 1920s.
“The other thing we have is the tea rooms, which are amazing; so we’ve got food going throughout the day and in the evening we’ve got a dinner followed by a screening programme. You can have a big 3-course meal and then go into the library and watch a movie. So it’s a great weekend.”
This year’s workshops include a Foley Workshop with Caoimhe Doyle and Jean Mc Grath, who’ll be doing two masterclasses over the festival weekend – one for kids and one for adults. Andrew explains how they work. “They take a 30-second scene from a movie and they take the sound off it and get the participants to build up the whole soundtrack using Foley props and they do a mix. There’s the full immersion in the process of what Foley artists do and how they work. It’s brilliant, especially for the kids, who get to be a part of the movie-making process.”
The festival has a special relationship with film historian Kevin Brownlow who programmes the silent films and attends the festival to present the films. “He’s brilliant. He’s been with the festival since we started,” says Kevin. “He’s got an amazing knowledge of the silent film era.” Amongst the screening highlights this year is Buster Keating’s Sherlock, Jr., which Kevin will introduce and Stephen Horne will accompany. For those interested in film history there’s a great chance to see Too Much Johnson, by Orson Welles. Andrew explains how Too Much Johnson was Welles’ first professional film, made when he was working for the Mercury Theatre in the late ’30s. “It was a short Welles was meant to put on with the play, projected onto the stage in between the acts – but he never finished it because of the technical problems. The project was abandoned and the film was presumed lost. A working print was found about 3 years ago in Italy, which was restored last year and will be presented at the festival. That’s pretty exciting.”
Merion C Cooper, the director behind King Kong, features at this year’s festival with a screening of Chang, Cooper’s “natural drama” that follows a family and their struggles against the jungle in Indo-China. Plus Kevin Brownlow examines Cooper’s extraordinary life as explorer, war hero, filmmaker, and cinema pioneer in his documentary I‘m King Kong! The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper.
The weekend also features 2 short films from the IFI Irish Film Archive, which Sunniva O’Flynn, Head of Irish Film Programming at the IFI, will present – two ghost stories produced by Gate Theatre founders Micheál MacLiamóir and Hilton Edwards. Battleship Potemkin is this year’s Special Guest Selection by Simon Fitzmaurice, whose own short Sound of People will screen accompanied by Stephen Horne. Ernest Lubistch’s early talkie Broken Lullaby also screens and will be preceded by Irish director Ciaran Cassidy’s short documentary Collaboration Horizontale. Plus there’s a D.A. Pennebaker retrospective – described as “arguably the preeminent chronicler of 1960s counter culture”. Pennebaker’s Daybreak Express, Chiefs and Monterey Pop will all screen.
For the full programme, visit www.killruddery.com/kff/