‘Braxton’ Premiere’s @ Belfast Film Festival


Northern Irish slasher film Braxton will receive its hometown premiere at this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The film plays at 8pm on Sunday 17th April at the Movie House on Dublin Road, as part of the fest’s “NI Independent” category.

Written ad directed by 21 year-old Belfast filmmaker Leo McGuigan, the film is described as “a fun throwback to the popular slasher films of the 80s and 90s”.

It was shot throughout Northern Ireland in the summer of 2014 by a then 19 year old McGuigan. The film had its US premiere in October of 2015, where it won the “Best Foreign Slasher Feature” prize at Night Film Fest in Louisville, Kentucky, one of America’s biggest horror festivals.

“We’re really pleased with the reception the film has received so far,” McGuigan, who co-produced the film alongside Margaret McGoldrick (RTE’s Farr) remarked, “and the idea of unveiling it to a homegrown audience is exciting and terrifying at the same time. The film was genuinely a labour of love in every respect, and that’ll hopefully come through on the screen.”

The film features an ensemble cast of Northern Irish talent including Shaun Blaney (RTE’s Farr, Halo: Nightfall, The Frankenstein Chronicles) and Diona Doherty (Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model) and tells the story of a serial killer, Tommy Miller, who returns to a small town on the anniversary of his initial spree, forcing the original survivor, now police officer, (Blaney) to seek him out before it’s too late.


Review: Shooting for Socrates


Robert J.E. Simpson was at this year’s Belfast Film Festival (16 -25 April) and had a chance to see Shooting for Socrates, which takes audiences back to the heady days of Mexico 1986 when Northern Ireland met the mighty Brazil in the World Cup finals. The film went on general release in Northern Ireland and selected cinemas in Ireland from 5th June.


This year’s Belfast Film Festival has offered a healthy selection of home-grown fare, with local films opening and closing proceedings. And they’ve squeezed in a star-studded gala event in the vast cavern of the Waterfront Hall for footballing feature Shooting for Socrates.

We’re fond of our image as underdogs, here in NI. We love the idea that we have to fight to get anywhere and when we’re beat we’re telling others that we tried. In that context comes the story of the 1986 Football World Cup squad from Northern Ireland – an unlikely collection of local lads making their mark, who defy expectation and find themselves in the finals and a legendary match against the unflappable Brazil.

If you’re one of us you’ll know the line before you know the story “We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland!” and you may have seen the slogan daubed over a mural or two. Even with my luddite knowledge of football I am familiar with the chant and the aspirational thrust of ‘We didn’t win the World Cup, but we got to play in the finals’. In the following 19 years this wee country has failed to replicate that near-success.

And so director James Erskine teamed up with local playwright Marie Jones to bring the tale to the big screen. Perhaps hoping for a Cool Runnings-type success, the narrative is presented as a broad comedy, gathering a group of boisterous footballers for an unlikely place on the global stage.

The audience at the premiere laughed haughtily, spurred on by the rousing on-stage prelude hosted by critic Brian Henry Martin, which saw several stars of the film, local broadcasting icon Jackie Fullerton and most of the surviving members of the 1986 Northern Irish World Cup squad hoisting aloft the actual World Cup – a privilege denied following their disastrous Mexican campaign. If one was to buy the hype of the evening, Shooting for Socrates is another smash hit. But the gathering together of so many football supporters and the first ever Irish appearance of the World Cup, the presence of some local legends, and overwhelming sense of national pride does tend to cloud judgement. Hype hides all manner of sins.


Jackie Fullerton reunited with most of the 1986 Northern Irish World Cup squad

Jackie Fullerton reunited with most of the 1986 Northern Irish World Cup squad at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates.


Socrates gives us Northern Ireland in the 1980s. A desolate place, with rioting and army presence on the streets. The full force of the Troubles provides a contrast to the unification and peace of the football scenes. In this instance its unfortunate that Belfast has changed so much in the ensuing years. Some archive footage of the period is combined with contemporary scenes – scenes which lay bare the modern city – PVC doors, redeveloped streets, change murals, an empty and forlorn Harland and Wolff, a reshaped Belfast waterfront. To the outsider, fine (which of course director Erskine is), but to those of us from here, it lacks authenticity – as alien as the prospect of Northern Ireland achieving a World Cup win. Action moves between southern Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, New Mexico and Mexico. Frequent onscreen captions remind us just how confusing the action change is.

John Hannah plays Belfast-born manager Billy Bingham with Hannah’s Scottish accent. No attempt is made at veracity – he doesn’t look like or sound like him. So Bingham’s identification as a local lad throughout don’t fit (and even I as a non-football fan remember him and his strange hybrid tones and jolly appearance). One wonders if Erskine had somehow confused Bingham with Jack Charlton – the Englishman who managed the Republic of Ireland team during the same period?

The team themselves are played with a comedy shtick that wouldn’t go amiss in a lacklustre Britcom of the 1970s. When emotion threatens to step in, mirth and drinking seem to be the only solution: the sudden death of one player’s mother should offer a warm embrace, some team tenderness, instead it’s a pub session and no pay-off. There’s also two over-the-top fans who screech their way to Mexico – seemingly the only two Northern Irish fans to make the pilgrimage. Well, them and Jackie Fullerton…


Jackie Fullerton interviews Conleth Hill at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates











Jackie Fullerton interviews Conleth Hill at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates


Conleth Hill channels Jackie Fullerton as an over-the-top, rather camp, object of ridicule. Fullerton’s presence at the screening does rather suggest he’s in on the act. But this is Fullerton as pantomime – ‘Jackie Full-of-himself’ as one wag suggests. He’s drinking, smoking, and helicopter-riding his way into every scene, becoming an intricate part of the Northern Irish propaganda wagon. Hill does steal all the laughs as the broadcaster, but the portrayal does suggest that maybe the rest of the cast needed to be more exaggerated too.

The titular Socrates, a player for Brazil, is a philosophical bundle of nonsense and good looks.

The action is confusing, particularly to those who have no knowledge of the story or of the game itself. The direction is hit and miss. The football scenes themselves lack any tension or drama. We see Bingham teaching his squad to keep the ball in play among themselves so if the Brazilians can’t get the ball, they can’t score – and yet then we see the ball being given away with ease during the actual matches – matches during which there is very little coverage of crowd extras.

In between the silliness a rather tender story is played out back in Belfast between a father (Richard Dormer) and his nine-year old son, Tommy (the promising newcomer Art Parkinson). It is a story of understanding the conflict in Northern Ireland and the power of sport, but also of growing up and family. They move through troubled East Belfast and the stark landscape of Harland and Wolff’s cranes Samson and Goliath. These sequences are superior, handled with care and attention and some fine photography. As Tommy watches the game and becomes emotionally entangled with the fate of the team, he represents us back home, and it’s here the film’s heart lies (as evidenced by use of Parkinson and Dormer on current advertising materials). But as lovely as their story and performances are, they belong to an entirely different film and are secondary to the football squad’s antics.

Women are under-represented in the film. Bronagh Gallagher gives a fine-but-brief turn as Tommy’s mother. Lorraine Sass is Billy Bingham’s wife – supporting and mentoring her husband, but a little cold. The other women barely get a line or two of dialogue each, with one Mexican football fan reduced to a position of not understanding the Northern Irish fans. It seems to be arguing a view of women in football – they don’t understand it (Bronagh Gallagher’s character can’t wait to get out of the house while her family watch it on TV, though she does save Tommy a place in a club so they can watch the final together).

Praise though for the contemporary score and soundtrack including music by Snow Patrol, Wonder Villains and A Plastic Rose. It is fresh and vibrant, giving poignancy and power which almost drive through the cracks in the film itself.


Conleth Hill, Marie Jones, James Erskine at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates

L to R: Conleth Hill,  Paul Kennedy, Art Parkinson, Marie Jones, James Erskine at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates


It’s likely that those without a knowledge of football, or Northern Ireland, will really ‘get’ Shooting for Socrates. It is an indulgence in celebrating runner-up status – the team look so disappointed it becomes impossible to buy the sentiment that the joy of the game is what should be celebrated. It’s a fusion of talents and an idea of a story that ultimately don’t work. A failed attempt at embracing failure.


Robert J.E. Simpson blogs about the arts on A Cultural Crisis 




‘John T Davis – His Own Trail’ Screens at Belfast


A poetic portrait of an enigmatic filmmaker, John T Davis; artist and musician from Holywood, County Down will screen at the Queens Film Theatre, Belfast on Thursday, 23 April 15 at 7:15pm as part of the Belfast Film Festival. Directed by  Paul McParland, John T Davis – His Own Trail captures John performing his music and reflecting on his life and films.


Davis is one of Ireland’s most internationally respected documentary filmmakers, a reputation established with films such as Shellshock Rock, Route 66 and Hobo.


Born in Belfast in 1947, Davis’ first experience of filmmaking came via a chance encounter with DA Pennebaker. In 1966 the legendary filmmaker was on a Belfast street, camera on shoulder, filming Bob Dylan for the seminal documentary Don’t Look Back. This encounter was to have a profound effect on John’s life.


The film explores the director’s unique outlook on life and his talents as a musician. Interspersed throughout is footage of John travelling through America, traversing the landscape that inspires his dreams, fantasies and realities, as well as clips from a number of his documentaries.


Lensed in black and white, director Paul McParland captures John performing his music and reflecting on his life and films.










Call For: Short Films for 2014 Belfast Film Festival


Illustration: Adeline Pericart


The 2014 Belfast Film Festival are currently calling on  filmmakers to submit their short films – under the following criteria:

– Under 20 minutes duration
– Completed in the LAST year (i.e.between March 1st 2013-March 1st 2014)
– Made in Ireland
– Be submitted on DVD/online
– Be Available for screening in HD Quicktime/DCP/Beta SP

Closing date for submissions is 16th December 2013.

DVD screeners of your submission MUST be posted/delivered to
Belfast Film Festival, Short Film Competition , 3rd Floor 23 Donegall Street, Belfast, BT1 2FF  BY THAT DATE.

Successful applicants will be notified by 7th February 2014
Successful applicants should deliver their SCREEN READY film to the festival office no later than FRIDAY MARCH 8th, 2013

Submission Fee payable of £10/15€ must also be paid by 16th December 2013.
Payment must be made – either by cash, cheque or by requesting online BACS details from andrew@belfastfilmfestival.org

If sending a sterling/euro cheque, PLEASE write your Film’s title on the back of the cheque.

The link for the submission form is



Belfast Film Festival coms to a close wih Final Cut




The 13th Belfast Film Festival closes this Sunday with the premiere of the extraordinary film Final Cut.


Scenes from an array of famous movies from as far back as the early 1900s feature in the ‘ultimate love story’ that is Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi’s film.


Final Cut is entirely made up of clips from some of the most iconic films ever made.


The film took over three years to make. Palfi has collected scenes from more than 450 international films and assembled them into a narrative.


Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Kim Novak, Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot, Daniel Craig, Leonardo Di Caprio, Gary Oldman, Audrey Hepburn and Meryl Streep are only some of the movie stars that feature in this epic love story with a difference.


The film will be screened at 7pm on Sunday at Movie House Cinema, Dublin Road.


The festival’s closing weekend boasts an array of special screenings and fantastic film features to finish off the 11-day feast of celluloid.


Tonight (Friday, 19th April) the festivities will include the screening of multi-layered, deeply humorous thriller Crave in the Beanbag Cinema. It’s the story of a mentally unstable crime photographer who spirals into madness.


Also showing in the intimate setting of the Beanbag Cinema tonight is The Deflowering Of Eva Van End. In the film an ugly duckling has her life turned upside down by a handsome exchange student.


Terrance Dicks is in tonight’s festival line-up, too. He is presenting a talk at Waterstones in Belfast city centre. The scriptwriter, most famous for his long association with Doctor Who, will be discussing his many TV and film experiences.


The topic of motherhood is covered over the closing weekend with The Motherhood Manifesto, a powerful and engaging documentary about motherhood in America. This will be shown at the BFF Micro Cinema tomorrow and the theme continues into Sunday at the same venue with a debate and the documentary Motherhood By Choice.






Also on Saturday at the Micro Cinema, witty New York filmmaker Nina Davenport will introduce her film First Comes Love in which she documents her quest to have a baby alone when aged over 40.


The Evil Dead 2 is being screened outdoors in Belfast’s Ormeau Park the same night to a sell-out audience.


The Short Film Competition is taking place at the QFT over the weekend with four programmes, two on Saturday and another two on Sunday. Short films from an array of genres will be presented, from poetic documentaries to experimental film to drama.


The Man Who Loved Cinema is the story of Michael Open in his own words. He was the driving force behind the QFT from 1969 to 2004. The documentary short on the man who shone a much-needed cinematic light during the darkest days of The Troubles is followed by his own choice of classic film, Toto The Hero. The event takes place at the QFT on Saturday.


Wonderfully animated and heart-warming family film Ernest and Celestine will be shown on Sunday afternoon in the QFT.


Full information on the closing days of the festival is available through the 13th Belfast Film Festival Programme, distributed at key venues around the city, or online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org.


Tickets for the festival are still available online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org, by phoning the Festival Box Office on 028 9024 6609 or from the Belfast Welcome Centre at 47 Donegall Place, Belfast.



Belfast Film Festival Kicks Off

BFF Evil Dead

PIC: Writer Malachy Grant recreates a famous scene from The Evil Dead 2 to help promote this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The Evil Dead 2, which is being shown on a big screen outdoors in the city’s Ormeau Park on 20th April, is among the 110-plus screenings in the festival. Further information is available at www.belfastfilmfestival.org.

 The 13th Belfast Film Festival (11 – 21 April 2013)


The 13th Belfast Film Festival is set to kick off tomorrow with screenings and events  coming thick and fast.


The organisers of the festival, which runs until Sunday 21st April, have lined up more than 110 screenings in a range of venues across the city as well as an eclectic mix of special events.


At the QFT on Friday, 12th April Tony Grisoni, screenwriter of Red Riding Trilogy and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, will be talking about his work.


And broadcaster and film critic Mark Kermode is at The Black Box on the opening night where he will be revealing his Desert Island Flicks.


Saturday’s big event is a screening of the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke and other prison-themed movies at Crumlin Road Gaol.


Spoof Or Die, which is showing at the QFT on Saturday night, features Northern Ireland actor Ryan McParland and BAFTA winner Monica Dolan. It’s a film about growing up in Belfast and an obsession with its bloody past.


The Wall, dubbed a contemporary female Robinson Crusoe story, is also on at the QFT on Saturday.


Much Ado About Nothing is showing at the QFT on Sunday night. Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.


On Monday at the same venue a poetic documentary by Mark Cousins about the nature of happiness called What Is This Film Called Love? is being shown.


Other on-screen highlights include Jack Black as a funeral director in Richard Link’s latest film, Bernie, which is showing at QFT on Tuesday.


Last Tango In Paris, a film which outraged the city fathers in 1970s Belfast, is being screened on Tuesday at the QFT as part of an event called Last Tango In Belfast. The film will be introduced by local writer Brian Henry Martin.


The QFT is also showing Like Someone In Love on Tuesday. Named after Ella Fitzgerald’s jazz standard, it’s a droll, elegant and playful film about a sociology student working as a high class escort.


On the same night there’s a celebration of Nina Simone, who is hailed as one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, at the Sunflower Bar.


Faraway, a story of intrigue and misadventure set in contemporary Northern Ireland, is being shown at the Movie House, Dublin Road, on Thursday.


Also on Thursday, Marilyn Monroe Songbook is being presented at the Black Box by Katie and the Carnival. It’s an evening of clips and music to honour Monroe’s movie legacy and unique voice.


Looking towards the end of next week, writer and script editor Terrance Dicks, most famous for his long association with Doctor Who, will be giving a talk at Waterstone’s in the city centre on Friday. The previous night Doctor Who – The Mind Of Evil is being screened at the BFF microcinema.


The horror blockbuster The Evil Dead 2 will be screened in the city’s Ormeau Park on Saturday 20th April.


Full information on the 11-day extravaganza is now available through the 13thth Belfast Film Festival Programme, distributed at key venues around the city, or online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org


Tickets for the festival are available online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org, by phoning the Festival Box Office on 028 9024 6609 or from the Belfast Welcome Centre at 47 Donegall Place, Belfast.


Call For: Belfast Film Festival call for submissions

The Belfast Film Festival is taking submissions for the 2013 Festival.

Irish shorts, which fulfill the criteria below will be eligible for the Short Film award.

Short film entries MUST be:

  • Under 20 minutes long
  • Completed in the LAST year (i.e.2012-2013)
  • Made in Ireland
  • Be available for screening in one of the following formats- 35mm/Beta SP/DVD

Closing date for submissions is 31st December 2012.

Successful applicants will be notified by 11th February 2013.

For more details & to apply online please go to: www.belfastfilmfestival.org


‘Good Vibrations’ Raises Curtain on the 12th Belfast Film Festival

Stars from the local and international entertainment industry will flock to the Ulster Hall tonight for the highly-anticipated World Premiere of Good Vibrations – the opening premiere of this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The film’s cast and crew will be joined by special guests such as Snow Patrol for a Gala red carpet evening.


Good Vibrations is the locally filmed biopic of record shop owner and godfather of Northern Ireland’s 70s punk music scene Terri Hooley. The film boasts an ensemble cast of local actors including Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley, Michael Colgan and Adrian Dunbar.


The film’s creative team also hails locally with husband and wife directors, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn; scriptwriters Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry and David Holmes who worked on the music selection and score. The film was largely shot in the shops and alley ways of North Street, Belfast, where the Good Vibrations Record Store was established.


Tickets for the World Premiere have been in such high demand that Belfast Film Festival has arranged an additional screening tonight at the Ulster Hall along with another at the Movie House, Belfast.


Commenting on the Gala Event and the opening screening of the Belfast Film Festival, Michele Devlin, Belfast Film Festival Director said –


“We are absolutely thrilled to be showcasing this landmark premiere on our opening night. Securing Good Vibrations is a real coup for the Belfast Film Festival and shows just how far the city has come. The global interest in this World Premiere is a real indication of the high profile Belfast Film Festival now enjoys and the film’s production demonstrates the world-class level of Northern Ireland’s Film Industry.”


The Belfast Film Festival is funded by Northern Ireland Screen supported by DCAL and by Belfast City Council. To view the full Festival Programme and to book tickets for the screenings and events visit www.belfastfilmfestival.org