Review: ‘The Lighthouse’ @ Cork Film Festival

 

Sean O’Rourke was at the Cork Film Festival to watch The Light House, Robert Eggers’ enthralling, evocative follow-up to the chilling period horror The Witch

Robert Egger’s latest spooky period piece is so bizarre, so borderline indescribable, that an attempt to sing its praises in any unified, cogent manner seems as doomed to spiral outward into the realm of incoherence as the lead characters themselves. All the same, I’ll do my best to explain why you should go see it.

From its wordless opening, The Lighthouse drops us right into the harsh reality (or perhaps unreality) its characters must endure for the film’s duration. Much like he and his team did in The Witch, Eggers immerses us in this setting completely – mixing harsh realism with expressionistic qualities in a manner not dissimilar to Jennifer Kent’s excellent work on The Babadook. We experience the difficult, everyday realities faced by the two lead characters, played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, as they operate a lighthouse on a 19th century American island. However, we also witness their steady loss of reality painted onto the film’s visuals, creating a complex visual style that is enhanced by a stark, gritty, unromantic, black and white colour scheme that makes the film feel at home in the 19th century in the same way that particular typefaces and styles of illustration might help a reader visually place a novel in a particular time period. Mark Korven’s excellent score helps with this sense of period appropriateness while also feeling fresh and terrifying.

The film’s visceral assault on the senses is helped by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson who give stunning performances as the two leads. They expertly portray painful transitions between anger, sexual desire, hatred, affection and despair. Often, the only thing that seems to keep them from killing each other is the alcohol that sometimes lulls their angriest impulses and lets them experience something like love for each other. There is a wonderfully strange loathing and fondness between them that is continually compelling.

And all the while, the film skilfully builds an omnipresent sense of doom. Sailor superstitions become horrifyingly present – whether they are real or not. Characters’ suspicions about the nature of their reality and about each other become realized and amplified, creating a sense of mounting terror. Adding to this terror is a sense that time has lost meaning, that logic has become unsatisfactory, that any coherent conception of reality is lost. 

I will stop myself from going into more specifics. This film deserves to be experienced with its many surprises and absurdities intact, and it’s best that I don’t lose the run of myself trying to detail why it’s all so captivating. Suffice to say, the film artfully pulls its audience into its setting and the fragile mental states of its characters. If any of that sounds appealing (or at least morbidly interesting) to you, then a viewing of this film is well worth your time.
 
The Lighthouse is released in cinemas 31st January 2020
 

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Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire @ Cork Film Festival

Sean O’Rourke takes a look at Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

In a scene midway through Portrait of a Lady on Fire (or Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) the two lead characters, Marianna, and Héloïse, one an artist, the other a lady awaiting her encroaching marriage, point out each other’s habitual gestures and their meanings – a bitten lip that signifies anger, a slightly raised eyebrow that signifies a loss of control. And for the rest of the film, those gestures become highlighted and significant. A raised eyebrow might suddenly seem crucial to our understanding of a scene. We might wonder if a bitten lip means the same thing now as it did when it was first identified, giving us insight into the evolution of these characters. It even begins to seem as though each one starts exhibiting some of the habitual gestures of the other.

We see their points of connection in these increasingly shared gestures and the already accomplished performances of Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel become even more meaningful, more revealing. It’s just one example of the excellent plotting done by director Céline Sciamma, who continually begins threads like this that weave their way throughout the film such that each ensuing scene becomes further layered with meaning and emotional resonance. Her skill behind the camera, both as director and screenwriter, is astounding and, on this simple plot, a love story between two women, she paints an astounding portrait of dynamic human connection within societal structures and the possibilities of what those connections might look like when the most harmful of those structures are stripped away. 

The film examines this theme by following Marianna, an artist in the 19th century, who has been sent to an island where she is to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young aristocrat. This portrait is to be sent away to Héloïse’s future, unknown Milanese husband. The painting of it, therefore, signals a sort of death of liberty for Héloïse. For this reason, inconveniently enough for Marianna, Héloïse refuses to sit for her portrait. Therefore, Marianna begins to befriend Héloïse, all the while covertly and closely observing her, painting her in secret. However, once all remnants of patriarchal control (which hold Héloïse to her coming marriage, hold back Marianna’s career, and police the types of relationships women are able to have with one another) leave the Island temporarily, Marianna and Héloïse are able to connect more and more closely with one another. They form a loving, ever-evolving bond that has a built-in time limit as Marianna’s painting of Héloïse, and indeed Héloïse herself, must soon be shipped away from this temporary utopia to Milan.

Since the film so adeptly and continually builds and displays the complexities of this relationship as I have said, we get the chance to see and deeply feel the building intimacy between these characters. We see this building relationship in an environment that is usually intensely realistic, with close attention to, for example, the realistic details of the act of painting, of clothing oneself, of cooking and eating. Sciamma uses these realistic details to give us tangible insight into how these characters are growing to perceive each other through how they perform these actions – especially through the act of painting where Marianna must constantly adjust how she depicts Héloïse in accordance with her evolving perception of Héloïse. Therefore, it is startling when this realism is occasionally and suddenly intruded on by myth and the uncanny in moments of artistic inspiration, longing, and anxiety, represented in a non-realistic manner. These moments are made all the more notable for being entirely unexpected in the context of the aesthetic of the rest of the film. And yet, these strange, eerie moments feel perfectly at home in the story, bringing us further into these characters’ perspectives, perhaps implying a shifting perception of the world brought on by their shifting perceptions of each other and vice-versa.

Sciamma handles these altering tones so well and uses them to further her insights on gender, class, human connection, and queerness, fully immersing us in this dynamic relationship and its implications. This unique, beautiful, queer, love story seemed to profoundly affect the audience I saw it with at the Cork Film Festival. I can assure you that it has affected me like no other film this year and I sincerely recommend you seek it out as it becomes more widely available in the coming months.

 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire screened on Saturday, 16th November 2019 as part of the Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November).

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WFT Ireland at Cork Film Festival 2019

 

Women in Film and Television Ireland (WFT Ireland) in partnership with Cork Film Festival 2019 will hold several events to help inform, inspire and celebrate women in the film and television industry. 

“Women in Film and Television Ireland is delighted to be heading down to the Cork Film Festival again, always a great event,” said Dr. Susan Liddy, Chair of WFT Ireland. “Earlier this year Cork Film Festival led the way by being one of eight Irish film festivals to sign the 5050×2020 Parity Pledge for gender equality and inclusion which was launched at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, so they’re good partners in the push for 50/50 across the industry. We’re really looking forward to catching up with our members,  supporters and the festival team.” 

WFT Ireland will hold a special legal event for filmmakers on Thursday, 14th November, 2019 at 3:00 pm at the Maldron Hotel 93 South Mall, Cork, T12 EE72. Led by Aideen Burke and Jeanne Kelly of the entertainment law firm LK Shields the presentation will be on Copyright Law and Section 481, a tax incentive for film and TV production in Ireland. The presentation will be followed by a legal clinic for WFT Ireland members on issues that relate to film and TV production. WFT members can sign up for 10 minute consultations with the law firm. 

Also on the same day, a panel of leading Irish and international film programmers delve into the 50/50 by 2020 initiative, the gender parity and inclusion pledge which was launched at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. This day-long event features case studies and panel discussions which will promote fresh thinking amongst attendees and to inspire them to be proactive in promoting their own film work. Speakers include: 

Anna Bogutskaya, Festival Director, Underwire Festival

Fiona Clark, Director and CEO, Cork Film Festival

Diane Henderson, Deputy Artistic Director, Edinburgh International Film Festival

Susan Liddy, Chair, Women in Film & Television Ireland

Thursday evening, WFT Ireland will celebrate with a drinks mixer at 8:30 pm at the Cellar Theatre, Mardyke Entertainment Complex Sheares Street, Cork, T12 CX7A.

“The voice of Irish women has never been so clear and so articulate: we stand together for an equal and inclusive film industry and nothing less is acceptable anymore.” said Dr. Liddy.

Producer/Director and WFT Ireland board member, Vanessa Gildea, will be moderating a panel called “Working with the Archives,” during Cork Film Festival’s Doc Day on Friday, 15 Nov 2019. An assembly of leading documentary directors and producers will discuss their experience and creative approaches to using archival materials. 

Register for the legal clinic, the industry panel, and the drinks mixer on Billetto at the links below. 

WFT Ireland Events at Cork Film Festival:

50/50 by 2020: The Quest for Gender Parity

Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

11:00-16:15

The Cellar Theatre

Mardyke Entertainment Complex
Sheares Street, Cork 

T12 CX7A

https://wft.ie/wft-chair-dr-susan-liddy-on-first-take-panel/

 

WFT Ireland Legal Clinic

Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

15:00

Maldron Hotel 

93 South Mall, Cork

T12 EE72

https://wft.ie/wft-legal-clinic-at-the-maldron-south-mall/

 

WFT Ireland Drinks Mixer

Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

20:30

The Cellar Theatre

Mardyke Entertainment Complex
Sheares Street, Cork 

T12 CX7A

https://billetto.ie/e/wft-cork-film-festival-networking-drinks-tickets-391181

 

For more information please go to: www.wft.ie or contact us at info@wft.ie

 

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Preview of Irish Film at the 2019 Cork Film Festival

 

Over 300 films and events are included in the packed 2019 Cork Film Festival programme, with 90% of the features, documentaries and shorts having their first screening in Cork. The festival runs from 7 – 17 November. Tickets are available at www.corkfilmfest.org.

This year a trio of Irish premiere Galas have been announced, with the much-anticipated drama Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, having its Irish premiere at the Opening Gala on Thursday, 7 November.  Closing the 11-day festival will be the Irish premiere of new Irish-Belgian drama, The Other Lamb, direct from its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, on Sunday, 17 November. Plus there’s the Irish gala film The Last Right, the debut feature from the very talented Aoife Creghan.

Below we preview all the Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

Ordinary Love

DIR: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn • WRI: Owen McCafferty

Thu, 7th Nov 2019 @ 19:30 • The Everyman Theatre

Joan and Tom  are a long-married couple settled in their ways, enjoying brisk walks at sunset and playful bickering. Then Joan discovers a lump in her breast, which starts a chain of events that threatens to change their relationship completely.

CAST:  Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson

Tickets


Lost Lives

DIR: Dermot Lavery, Michael Hewitt

Fri, 8th Nov @ 18:15 • The Everyman Theatre

Adapted from the book that aims to document the stories of the men, women and children who have died as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Lost Lives is an elegiac, powerful and sadly pertinent film that acknowledges the human cost of 50 years of sectarian conflict and comes at a time when the fragility of the peace process is distressingly evident.

Tickets


Into the West

 DIR: Mike Newell • WRI: Jim Sheridan

Sat, 9th Nov @ 13:00 & Sat 16th Nov @ 18:30 • The Everyman Theatre

The ever-popular tale of two Traveller boys who escape the harsh reality of their grim lives in a Dublin high-rise with the aid of a magical white horse. Papa Reilly  drinks himself into a stupor after the death of his wife. His sons Ossie  and Tito are comforted by the gift of a white stallion, Tír na nÓg, from their grandfather.When their beautiful steed is stolen, they begin a quest to retrieve him and head west, with their father and police in hot pursuit.

CAST: Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, Ciarán Fitzgerald, Rúaidhrí Conroy, David Kelly

Tickets


Irish Shorts 1: Legacies

Sat, 9th Nov 2019 @ 15:30 •  The Gate Cinema Cork City

Bound (Amy Corrigan), Stray (Sinéad O’Loughlin), Cúl an Tí (Stuart Douglas), Pat (Emma Wall), Ruby (Michael Creagh, Peggy and the Grim (Luke Morgan)

Tickets


The Cave 

DIR/WRI: Tom Waller 

Sat, 9th Nov @ 18:15 • The Everyman Theatre

When the Wild Boars soccer team, consisting of 12 schoolboys and their coach, became trapped deep inside a waterlogged cave in northern Thailand during the summer of 2018, the efforts to rescue them drew the concerned attention of the world. In this thrilling, visceral recreation of events, Irish filmmaker Tom Waller tells the story from the perspective of the people who often made selfless decisions as they witnessed young lives at stake.

CAST: Ron Smoorenburg, Lawrence de Stefano, Eoin O’Brien

Tickets


Irish Shorts 2: Daughters

Sun 10th Nov @ 13:00 •  The Gate Cinema Cork City

Moth (Allyn Quigley), Young Mother (John Robert Brown), Chestnuts (Tom Lenihan), Relic (Christy Scoltock), Coming to Terms (Patrick Ketch), 134 (Sarah-Jane Drummey), A White Horse (Shaun O Connor), Ciúnas (Tristan Heanue).


Sweetness in the Belly

DIR: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari • WRI: Laura Phillips

Sun 10th Nov @ 17:45 & Mon 11th Nov @ 15:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Having grown up under the guardianship of a celebrated Sufi master after being abandoned by her wayward hippie parents, Lilly  finds herself in Ethiopia and in love during the final years of Haile Selassie’s reign. As revolutionary fervour erupts in violence, she ships to England, where her status as a white woman sees her favoured before black refugees, though her devout Muslim faith means she is still regarded an outsider. She contributes to building a growing community of migrants while searching for her lost love.

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Wunmi Mosaku

Tickets


Free Radicals

Mon 11th Nov @ 20:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

A selection of international experimental filmmaking that includes Meat (Silvio Severino) and Epoch (Kevin McGloughlin).

Tickets


What Time Is Death?

Tue 12th Nov @ 18:00  Triskel Christchurch

After retiring from the music business, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, formerly The KLF, entered the art world as the K Foundation. Following their biggest artistic statement to date (filming the burning of a million pounds) they signed a contract on the bonnet of a Nissan vowing not to mention the burning for 23 years, then promptly disappeared. Sure enough, 23 years later, in 2017, the K Foundation resurfaced with plans to build a ‘People’s Pyramid’ in Liverpool filled with human ashes.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 3: Friends, Families & Other Strangers

Wed 13th Nov @ 15:30 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Evergreen (Dominic Curran), In the Narrow Shade of a Pen (Taro Madden), Just Fine (Ciarán Hickey), The Owl (Neil Winterlich) Limbo (Matthew McGuigan), The Space Between (Elaine Kennedy). 

Tickets


The Evening Redness in the South

DIR: Colin Hickey

Wed 13th Nov @ 18:00 & Thu 14th Nov @  12:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Amidst images of men at work on building sites, mist rolling over the countryside, gloriously vivid skylines and tenderly reconstructed memories, a narrative of sorts is played out, as the life and loves of an unnamed protagonist (portrayed by Louis Jacob with compelling screen presence) are hinted at.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 4: Finding Their Place

Thu 14th Nov @ 17:00The Gate Cinema Cork City

Kelly (Solène Guichard), No Place (Laura Kavanagh), Rosalyn (Olivia J Middleton), The House Fell (Maeve Stone), Humblebrag (Sinead O’Shea), In Orbit (Katie McNeice), Wishbone (Myrid Carten), Hasta La Vista (Laragh A McCann).

Tickets


The Yellow Bittern

DIR: Alan Gilsenan

Thu 14th Nov @ 18:00  The Gate Cinema Cork City

To mark the tenth anniversary of its original release, Cork Film Festival presents a special screening of The Yellow Bittern, Alan Gilsenan’s remarkable documentary biopic of Liam Clancy. Recounting his life in his own words, Clancy’s personal reflections are insightful and inspirational, constructing a revealing portrait of great candour and honesty. Like his musical work, the film is lyrical and poetic, and a fitting tribute to this great man at the end of his life.

Tickets


Floating Structures

DIR: Adrian Duncan, Feargal Ward

Thu 14th Nov @ 18:15  • Triskel Christchurch

Beginning with the world’s first metal cantilever bridge, which was located in Bavaria, Floating Structures charts a course to Paris where it encounters the visionary engineering work of Ireland’s Peter Rice. Co-directed by visual artist and writer Adrian Duncan and Feargal Ward (The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid), Floating Structures is a flâneur-like quest to consider the gravity-defying mysteries of structural engineering.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 5: It’s No Longer a Journey Down the Road

Fri 15th Nov @ 16:00 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Lovestruck (Eli Dolliver), Kathleen (Liam O’Neill), Streets of Fury (Aidan McAteer), Leave the Road Behind You (Daniel Butler), HALO (Michael-David McKernan), John Don’t Know Nothin’! (Conor Kehelly), The Dream Report(Jack O’Shea), Something Doesn’t Feel Right (Fergal Costello).

Tickets


The Last Right 

DIR/WRI: Aoife Crehan

Thu 14th Nov @ 20:45 •  The Everyman Theatre

A fateful exchange on a flight from New York to Ireland has complicated consequences for Daniel Murphy.He’s left in charge of a corpse, the body of someone he never knew. He is persuaded to take on the challenge of getting an environmentally friendly cardboard coffin from his family home in Clonakilty to Rathlin Island by his autistic younger brother Louis ) and Mary, a flighty young mortician with her own agenda.

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Samuel Bottomley, Niamh Algar, Brian Cox

Tickets


Irish Shorts 6: Documentary Shorts

Sat 16th Nov @ 12:30 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Blankets of Hope: Cork Cancer Care Centre (Edvinas Maciulevicius), Outside the Box (Janet Grainger), Postcard from a Crisis (Kathleen Harris, Samuel Meyler), Ramón: Notes from a Beekeeper (Hilary Kennedy), The Last Organist (Paddy McConnell), The Sunny Side Up (Peter Kilmartin), Hydebank (Ross McClean), Recommended Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey), 99 Problems (Ross Killeen), The First was a Boy (Shaun Dunne)

Tickets


Cork on Camera
Sat 16th Nov @ 15:15  Triskel Christchurch

The Irish Film Institute presents a programme of Cork-themed films from collections at the IFI Irish Film Archive. This year’s programme includes ‘Silent Art’ (1958), a portrait of sculptor Séamus Murphy by Oscar-nominated documentarian Louis Marcus; ‘Travels Through Erin’ (1978), a US homage to the Aran jumper taking a trio of models around Cork on a photo shoot; ‘Dark Moon Hollow’ (1972) following an elderly gentleman as he meanders from Roches Point to Gougane Barra in a film directed by then BBC film editor Colin Hill; and tantalising rushes from ‘Car Touring’ (1965), Jim Mulkern’s uncompleted travelogue of two young couples touring the county.

Tickets


Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts

Sat 16th Nov @ 15:30 The Everyman Theatre

Above the Law (Bryony Dunne), Kalchalka (Gar O’Rourke), Welcome to a Bright White Limbo (Cara Holmes), A Better You) (Eamonn Murphy), Maya (Sophia Tamburrini), Christy (Brendan Canty), Sister This (Claire Byrne), Corporate Monster (Ruairi Robinson), A Cat Called Jam (Lorraine Lordan), The Grass Ceiling (Iseult Howlett).


Best of Cork

Sun 17th Nov @ 13:00 • The Everyman Theatre

Blankets of Hope: Cork Cancer Care Centre (Edvinas Maciulevicius), The Space Between Us (Elaine Kennedy),  Coming to Terms (Patrick Ketch), Stray (Sinéad O’Loughlin), Rosalyn (Olivia J Middleton), A White Horse (Shaun O Connor), Outside the Box (Janet Grainger),  Lovestruck (Eli Dolliver).

Tickets


The Other Lamb

DIR: Małgorzata Szumowska • WRI: Catherine S McMullen

Sun, 17th Nov 2019 @  18:00 • The Everyman Theatre

Hidden away from civilisation, an all-female cult serves its spiritual leader, a man known as Shepherd. Selah has grown into a teenager as part of this self-sufficient community, but as she approaches adulthood, pervasive doubts about her faith inspire dark, bloody visions. As the Shepherd leads his flock on a journey to find a new paradisal retreat, Selah is shocked to learn what her role in the group is to become.

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Raffey Cassidy

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8 Irish Film Festivals Sign Pledge for Gender Parity and Inclusion

Women in Film and Television Ireland (wft.ie) a chapter of Women in Film and Television International, has announced that to date 8 Irish Film festivals have accepted their invitation to sign up to the 5050×2020 Gender Parity and Inclusion Pledge which was launched by Cannes Festival chiefs at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

These are: Animation Dingle, Cork Film Festival, Dublin Feminist Film Festival, Galway Film Fleadh, GAZE LGBT Film Festival, Kerry Film Festival, Still Voices Short Film Festival and Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.
Founded in 2003, the Dublin International Film Festival sets the agenda of the year with its programme of outstanding Irish and international film.

The official Irish festival signing was held yesterday at The Lighthouse Cinema with John Rice (Co-Founder & Director Animation Dingle), Aoife O’Toole (Director Dublin Feminist Film Festival), Fiona Clark (Producer & CEO Cork Film Festival), Ronan O’ Toole (Director Still Voices Short Film Festival) and Gráinne Humphreys (Festival Director Dublin International Film Festival) in attendance alongside Dr. Susan Liddy, (Chair of Women in Film & Television Ireland).

 

Dr Susan Liddy Chair of Women in Film and Television Ireland, Fiona Clark Producer & CEO Cork Film Festival, Aoife O’ Toole Director Dublin Feminist Film Festival, Grainne Humphreys Festival Director Dublin International Film Festival, John Rice Founder Animation Dingle and Ronan O Toole Director Still Voices Short Film Festival. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

It’s heartening that so many Irish film festivals have joined forces with us to formally commit to the principle of gender parity and inclusion in festivals. We warmly welcome their enthusiasm and solidarity and we hope this initiative will mark the beginning of a supportive partnership between us. We need more women in the film industry at every level. While girls’ and women’s voices are not heard and their stories are not told, our culture is the poorer for it. Film festivals are a hugely important part of any conversation about equality. They are an important link in the journey of a film and filmmaker. This is why we need greater transparency about what films are submitted, what films are selected and who is making the decisions. As with anything, information must be the starting point and we commend these festivals for agreeing to track that. This is an initiative that WFT Ireland will be building on over the coming months and we call on other festivals to join with us and embrace the challenge.
Dr. Susan Liddy, Chair – Women in Film & Television Ireland

Initiated by the 5050 Pour 2020 Collective, a charter was signed in 2018 by Cannes’ festival chiefs to work towards gender parity and inclusion.

The charter invites film festivals across the world to make the following commitment to gender parity and inclusion:

  • To compile statistics of gender of the directors of all the films submitted to selection (and when possible, to also compile statistics of the cast and crew when mentioned in the registration process).
  • To make public the gender of the members of selection committees, programmers and programming consultants.
    To make public the gender of executive boards and/or boards of directors and/or to commit to a schedule to achieve parity in these bodies.
    All Irish festival signatories have committed to giving a full update to Women in Film & Television Ireland, who will make public their progress during their respective 2020 festivals.
  • Women in Film & Television Ireland will also update the 5050 Pour 2020 Collective about the new signatories in time for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

As Ireland’s first and largest film festival, Cork Film Festival (CFF) is pleased to join WFTV in partnering with the 5050×2020 Cannes Collective to pledge our commitment to the 5050×2020 Charter, alongside the first Irish signatories. CFF supports increased transparency and gender-focused change across the Irish film landscape. CFF actively advocates for equality and inclusion in our industry by creating opportunities for meaningful public and sector dialogue as part of the Festival and by monitoring gender parity across our programme, submissions, jurors, panelists, programmers, staff, Board and volunteers.

The 63rd edition of the Festival in 2018 demonstrated that the Festival is actively making steps towards achieving its gender parity commitment. For example, 42% of our Shorts Programme was directed, co-directed and/or produced by women and 72% of our award-winning films were directed, co-directed and/or produced by women, with 47% female awards jurors. While this demonstrates CFF’s commitment to achieving greater representation for women in our programme, we recognise the need to focus our collective energy on advocating for gender equality in the sector. We welcome the opportunity to participate in the 5050×2020 Cannes Collective to strive for equal representation for women’s voices in film.
Fiona Clark, Producer & CEO – Cork Film Festival

Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival is proud to be part of the first group of signatories to the 5050×2020 Charter. The festival puts the films and filmmakers at its heart and understands the importance of nurturing new and experienced talent alike.

In 2019, of the over 100 feature length films screened at the festival, we are glad to say that 59% had women producers and 30% were produced by people of colour. However, the Festival is not complacent about its progress to date, and recognises that there is more work to be done to achieve diversity in all of its activities.

This partnership between the festival, WIFT and Cannes is another important step in proactively changing the power dynamics and creative output of the Irish film industry for the better.
Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director – Dublin International Film Festival

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Interview with Miwako van Weyenberg

Gabrielle Ulubay introduces Belgium filmmaker Miwako van Weyenberg and talks to her about her film Summer Rain, which screened at the 2018 Cork Film Festival.

Miwako van Weyenberg is a filmmaker from Belgium who has so far produced three masterful shorts: Hitorikko (2014), Il Faisait Noir (2015), and Zomerregen (2017). Her protagonists find themselves in emotionally challenging situations which often lead to personal growth, greater emotional intelligence, or an altered sense of identity. Having grown up at the crux of multiple cultures, van Weyenberg has a particularly astute sensitivity to these issues and to the minute details of life that often change our relationships, our outlooks, and even the way we see ourselves. Hitorikko (or Only Child) , for instance, gives audiences insight into the psyche of a young boy who discovers that his divorced father has since taken up a new girlfriend, re-situating the boy as an older brother rather than the only child he has always been. Il Faisait Noir (or It Was Still Dark), on the other hand, explores the world of two twin brothers, along with the psychological effects on one twin when tragedy strikes them.

Zomerregen (Summer Rain), van Weyenberg’s most recent film, focuses on a ten-day period of time in which a young boy with mixed-race identity stays with his grandparents. The grandfather is faced with his own prejudices, and this tension heightens when the two are left alone for a length of the child’s stay. After seeing this film at the Cork International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with van Weyenberg about her film.

 

Your film Summer Rain addresses all sorts of relevant issues like prejudice, multiculturalism within families, and diversity. Could you talk about your process in making the film.

So first of all, while I wouldn’t say Summer Rain is an autobiographical film, of course many elements of it come from a personal space – like the main character, I am half Japanese and half Belgian myself. I wanted to make something that’s really personal, but I also think that the subject is something that’s really universal.”

 

Would you be able to expand on that subject?

The subject is identity, and the search for identity in many different ways. I think that on one hand, it’s in a family, but on the other hand it’s in the idea of double nationality, where people have this ideas about what you are and what you should be.I think that’s something that can complicate the search for identity, and the search for identity in a family is complicated anyway. You have your father and your mother, and you came out of those two people, but you always look for yourself in that mix. I think when you also have that aspect of culture, that also complicates the search.

 

 

Speaking of the parents, and the idea that each of us are half of each, a choice in the film that I found really interesting is that the audience never sees the parents. We hear the father’s voice, but there isn’t much elaborated on in terms of the mother and father. I appreciated that detail, and have my own thoughts about why that’s a fitting and appropriate choice, but could you expand on what your intentions were in leaving those characters so vague?

For me, the story is just about the relationship between the child and his grandfather, so that is what I focused on. I think that in short film, it’s tempting to want to say everything, but it’s impossible because it’s a short film. So I really wanted to focus on that relationship. Also, he’s dropped there for ten days, nearly two weeks, so he doesn’t have access to his parents. His mom is in Japan, so he can only talk to her on the phone, but then there is still a time difference. So he’s really isolated in this countryside environment in Belgium, which he’s not used to because he’s from Brussels. I wanted him to be really out of his comfort zone, and I think that his parents are the comfort that he has, so I wanted to eliminate that. The grandmother is also a source of comfort, but then she ends up being taken out of the picture. So I really wanted to focus on the relationship between the grandfather and the grandson, and what happens when they are forced to live together and have no other option.

 

I appreciated that, and I also really enjoyed how you used the claustrophobic, isolated space of the home, along with the symbolism of planes in the film. I am glad that there were planes chosen specifically in the film for the child to fold, because there’s that stereotype around Japanese children that they will be folding paper cranes.

[laughs]

 

I think the choice of planes really subverts those problematic expectations. On the one hand, the little boy also likes planes because that’s a very normal thing for a child to be preoccupied with, but I also think that in the context of Summer Rain, the planes symbolize freedom. Could you talk about the choice of using planes in the film, and what that symbol meant to you?


It started from a point of planes being an obsession of a typical little boy, but it has more meaning when he finds himself stuck in a really isolated place. Also, his grandfather being a retired pilot, and discovering that connection, adds symbolism. So for me, the planes have a lot of meaning in a lot of different ways, but it starts from a really innocent obsession with things on wheels, and can fly, and go fast.

 

Right, and I feel like we go on that journey as we’re watching the film: It starts out as an adorable obsession of a little boy, and then the grandmother says, ‘look, he likes planes just like his grandfather,” and it becomes loaded with all this familial significance. It’s not just a plane, just this thing that flies and goes fast, anymore.

It’s not just the object anymore, by the end. I think the plane is the symbol of that relationship between the child and his grandfather.

 

I definitely appreciated that. Could you also talk about the process of casting the film? The little boy was excellent, and it can be very difficult to find child actors, yet you discovered this young boy who demonstrates such depth. Children are inclined to pantomime rather dramatically when they think of acting, but his performance was marked by incredible subtlety.

Right. I always work with children as main characters – this is my third short with children as main characters. For me, the acting process for a child is something that I’m used to. I did casting in Belgium, and I prefer working with children that have no acting experience at all. I did castings for half Japanese, half Belgian kids, and it was a difficult process because they needed to be able to speak Japanese but also French or Dutch, or they needed to at least be bilingual. But the boy, whose name is Kazuki, walked into the room and I knew after one second that he was the boy. And I did second rounds and the whole casting process to be sure, but I was convinced from the moment I saw him. It was an interesting process, because he brought so much to the character, and he became the character.

 

He really did. Did he understand the issues that the film was touching on? Because I think that children are exposed to those daily microaggressions and understand that they are being treated differently on a certain level, but on the other hand, you and I were talking earlier about how children who experience discrimination don’t necessarily understand why they are being treated badly or differently. So did that prompt any conversations with the boy? How do you think his age impacted the language and behavior used around these issues on set?

I think that children don’t really understand discrimination, because it makes no sense, but they do understand that it happens. They understand the concept of it, and of course him being half Japanese, and living in Brussels -that’s how I grow up. A lot of the scenes and the comments made in the film are also things that he gets on a daily basis, because I worked based on what I experienced. He’s an incredibly smart kid, and I never had to explain anything. Actually, I never give the screenplay to actors in advance. We just do it on set. But I read the screenplay together with him, we talked about the story, but we didn’t read the entire script as a dialogue. So we talked about the subject and how he experiences living in Belgium as a half-Japanese kid, but I didn’t have to explain anything. He felt a bit like a small version of myself, wherein he just understood what I wanted to say. He’s an amazing kid.

 

Yes, I can tell. That’s something that we can see an as audience: He embodies this duality between innocence and quiet, knowing observation. Every time someone is subject to discrimination or some microaggression, it’s like the incident is noted and filed away. It adds to this bank of somewhat unfortunate wisdom, and we can see this happening with the child in Summer Rain. Considering the rise of right-wingism, particularly in Western Europe, and the idea of being able to say whatever one wants to minorities without those words mattering, what has the reception been like for the film so far?

It’s really interesting, and a huge compliment, that what I hear a lot is that this film is something we need right now, and that this film needed to be made right now. Obviously it’s a compliment, but it’s not just something that’s needed right now. It’s been my story for my entire life, and it’s been other people’s story for their entire lives. So I think it feels more universal at this point, because people can relate it to what’s happening in the world right now.

 

Right, because it’s just that right now there’s a lot of visibility around those issues.

Yes. There’s more of a clear link between the film and things that are happening right now. It’s nice to hear that people link the story to themselves or things that they’ve heard, because it’s such a personal story for me and it’s nice to hear that such a personal story has resonated. It’s a personal story, but a universal impact.

 

I like the way you put that. I mean, there was a really interesting moment in the beginning when his grandparents think they’re doing something nice by giving him a pair of chopsticks. It was a great moment, because it’s so relatable. As a Latina, I can relate that to people presenting me with something like maracas and saying, ‘Here you go. This is your thing, isn’t it?’ And when the boy asks for a fork instead of chopsticks, the parents clearly think he’s being rude or ungrateful, though in reality it’s just that they don’t understand. So yes, it’s a film that we need now, but that’s because we’ve always needed it.

Yes, exactly.

 

So what made you use chopsticks for that moment in the film? It was such a subtle, poignant image.

Yes, because I think that the moments when I experienced that strangely naive racism – because I do like to call it naive racism – I get it through those small moments. It’s not people screaming at me on the streets like, ‘You’re Asian,’ it’s more like, ‘Here are some chopsticks. I’m sorry we don’t have rice. Is it okay if you have bread?’ [laughs], It’s more of those subtle things that are so naively racist, because it’s such a misconception but so funny at the same time. It’s just absurd, and to them it’s a nice gesture, even though it makes no sense. That’s why I chose the chopsticks, because it’s so racist yet so funny at the same time.

 

I also like that about the film, because it’s not too serious all of the time. That’s not to say that serious films are invalid, because in truth they can be excellent, but sometimes films about racism can be so heart-wrenching and emotionally traumatic that they’re largely inaccessible. This film, on the other hand, has comedy built into it, and it’s also very touching and hopeful, whereas many shorts tend to end violently.”

Yes, yes.

 

There’s also that movement within the filmmaking community that happy endings in films are overrated, but I like that Summer Rain ends on a note of hope. Of course it’s not that traditional, classical Hollywood, Singin’ in the Rain type of ending, but it’s still a positive one. What led you to end the film in that the way?

For me, it was important to have some kind of closure, because those two weeks at his grandparents’ house do something to him, of course. But I also didn’t want to make a full circle, and for me it was important for the audience to know that this was the end of those two weeks at house, but it was the beginning of a whole new relationship with his grandfather that would be even more complex. Then, of course, the hospitalization of the grandmother isn’t explained, and you know that will be a big part of his life from that point on. So, for me it was important to end on the beginning of a new thing.

 

Right, because there was a moment I really liked with the actress who played the grandmother, in which the child asks if she’s going to be home soon and she says yes, but there’s a hesitation in her voice that adults can certainly pick up on. And then the doctor is so kind to the child, but then asks the grandfather to step outside. It’s very jarring for a child to be in a hospital and see tubes spilling out of someone he cares for, but the grandmother tries her best to comfort him very subtly. Is that someone that you directed the actress to do?

 

Yes, for me, in the script and in the way I directed it, it’s very clear that it’s not going well with the grandmother in the film, and I think that’s the habit of adults trying to save a child from the truth. But a child is smart, and they sense these things.

 

Right. I love the line where he says, ‘I’m not stupid.’

Yes [laughs]. I think it’s just that adults like to believe they know more than children, and they may have more knowledge but children sense things in a purer way than adults, I think, because they’re not relying on all of the facts and information. They just sense what’s happening.

 

Exactly. So to start to wrap things up, I think that the medium of short film is overlooked within the realm of film-going. Filmmakers often seem to appreciate and seek out shorts, because they’ve often made them before, but shorts are not promulgated to the rest of society to the same degree that feature are. So, having made three short films, could you talk about the medium of short film and why you find it valuable and more appropriate for certain stories? It’d be great if you could talk about that within the context of your past work and any projects you’re working on moving forward.

I love the short film medium. I think that you can be very direct and that you can get to the point in shorts, because you don’t have the time to go around the story. You just show what’s happening, and you have all the backstory that you need within those 15 minutes.

 

Right, it needs to be very tight.

Yes, and that’s what I love about short films. But of course, like I said, I want to believe that I am make very personal and intimate stories that can reach a universal audience, and to reach a universal audience, short film is a difficult medium. That is why now I’m writing my first feature film, and I feel that it’s just a different form of art, so it doesn’t feel like a feature film is a long short film and short film is a short feature film. It’s just two different things and two different ways of expressing something.

 

It’s like the difference between a novel and a short story – completely different mediums and ways of telling stories. People accept that, but I do think it’s an indication that audiences have yet to fully take film art seriously. Film has been considered art for a long time, of course, but I think many people are stuck in the mindset that films are mindless entertainment, as opposed to writing. So people are less inclined to see divisions within the medium of film art, and are more likely to see shorts and features simply as variations of each other.”

Yes, exactly.

 

Finally, what’s the common thread that runs through your work? What do you tend to focus on?

For me, it’s the search for identity, in many different ways. Of course, they are all coming of age, but I don’t really like the term ‘coming of age,’ because I don’t think it fits. In a way, the search for identity is a coming of age story, but I think that a search for identity can happen in so many different ways, and then it will just so happen to be the story of a child, or a child who grew up in different cultures. I do keep coming back to those search for identity stories.


Summer Rain (Zomerregen)
Miwako Van Weyenberg / Belgium / 2017 / 20 mins / Subtitled
Keita, an 8-year-old boy from a Belgian-Japanese family, has a difficult relationship with his grandfather.
Producer: Antonino Lombardo


Summer Rain screened on 12th November, 2018 as part of the International Shorts 3 programme at the Cork Film Festival.

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: One Million American Dreams

Loretta Goff discovers the secrets of New York’s mass graves in Brendan Byrne’s One Million American Dreams.

Brendan Byrne’s One Million American Dreams brings into focus the often unnoticed Hart Island, a small New York City island that is used as a burial ground for the city’s unclaimed dead, and for those whose families cannot afford burial expenses. Byrne’s documentary takes a personal approach to the subject matter, following the stories of four families with members buried here. In doing so, he removes the anonymity of the Hart Island cemetery, reinscribing it with the narratives of these individuals and providing a sort of commemoration for them that is not fully offered on the island itself.

Introducing the film at the 63rd Cork Film Festival, Byrne commented on his own relationship with New York City, from his first visit at age 17, when he was in complete awe, to his multiple returns that have also revealed the city’s tougher edge. When he was made aware of a two-minute recorded news piece on Hart Island he realised it deserved more attention and that he could make a whole film about it. This led to One Million American Dreams, which he describes as “a difficult love letter to the place I’ve had a longstanding love affair with” that takes a “deeper look into the soul” of the city.

Several animated segments in the documentary, along with narration by Sam Rockwell, provide viewers with the necessary historical details of Hart Island, which are expanded upon in interviews with scholars, journalists and politicians. We learn that burials began there in 1869, with over one million individuals laid to rest on the island to date, that it was also used as a Union Civil War camp (amongst other things) and that it is currently run by the Department of Correction, with inmates employed to bury the bodies and no access to the general public. These details are made more visceral with the striking animations that accompany them. One of these, in particular, stands out; it shows layers upon layers of nameless coffins piling up below the island, forming it, but also giving shape to a human head, reminding us that each coffin contains an individual that had a part to play in the story of New York City, and that those who are marginalised should not be forgotten or cast away.

Our attention is turned to some of these marginalised individuals through the stories of the families affected by loved ones’ burials on Hart Island. We meet an African-American Vietnam War Vet whose baby daughter was buried there while he was away, a Cuban family whose father died alone with dementia in the city, a Puerto Rican woman whose stillborn child was due to be buried on Hart Island and the family of a man suffering from drug and alcohol addiction who ultimately ended up there without his family’s knowledge. Through their stories, not only is Hart Island personalised, but we are confronted with the deeper underlying issues affecting New York City and contemporary American culture more broadly—racism, immigration, substance abuse and poverty.

Commenting on his film in a Q&A after the screening, Byrne noted that he used the cemetery on Hart Island, and the stories that emerged from it, as a “frame to confront issues that still face America”, which are threaded throughout the film. We see this in the stories of the individuals that the documentary follows, but also through the film’s carefully crafted cinematography. This captures the beauty of New York City—in the bright lights of Time’s Square, the skyline and diverse groups of people—but also its struggles and darker sides, focusing attention on the homeless sitting overlooked on busy streets and those that exist in the fringes. A particularly striking image follows the ferry travelling out to Hart Island as it, and the island are engulfed in fog. This offers a skillful visual depiction of the islands shrouded nature, cast into the shadows of the dazzling city.

Discussing the process of making the film, Byrne noted that the project as a whole took between three and four years (with 18 months of filming). He commented that it was a process to get the stories of the individuals, but that “without their stories we wouldn’t have the film”. It is the honesty of these that resonates with the audience, offering the documentary’s powerful social commentary.

One Million American Dreams is a timely, well-crafted, poignantly shot and animated documentary that speaks to a number of contemporary social issues neatly encapsulated by Hart Island—the story of which is remarkable in itself.

 

One Million American Dreams screened on Saturday, 17th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival   (9 – 18 November)

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: The Belly of the Whale

Cian Griffin enters The Belly of the Whale which screened at this year’s Cork Film Festival.

The Belly of the Whale is the debut film from Irish director Morgan Bushe and stars veteran Irish comedy star Pat Shortt and up-and-coming Scottish actor Lewis McDougall. The film tells the story of recovering alcoholic Ronald (Shortt) and his relationship with young misfit Joe Moody (McDougall) as they plot to steal from local politician Gits Hegarty.

The main strengths of the film are its characters and the performances. The two main characters are extremely relatable but tragically flawed at the same time. Both Shortt and McDougall turn in great performances that make you laugh out loud while also pulling at your heartstrings. Shortt’s performance is especially moving as he departs from his typical over-the-top comedic roots and delivers a surprisingly nuanced and layered performance as a man struggling to come to terms with the blows that life has dealt him. Michael Smiley (known for his work in Luther, The Lobster and Rogue One) also turns in a memorable performance as local politician Gits Hegarty. He is extremely menacing and threatening while also chewing the scenery in every single scene, providing most of the laughs in the film. The cast as a whole are great with strong supporting performances from Game of Thrones star Art Parkinson and young Irish actress Lauren Kinsella as Moody’s friends Lanks and Sinead.

However, the film suffers a bit from some pacing issues. The film takes too long to get to the actual plot, spending the majority of the runtime setting up the characters and their circumstances and at times drags, spending a lot of time wallowing in the misery of the characters. In contrast then, the ending of the film is a bit rushed and clumsy, culminating in a finale that lacks the emotional payoff we have been building up to throughout the film.

In saying that, for a first-time director, Bushe (who also co-wrote the script) manages to find a great balance between humour and tragedy to make a film that is bursting with heart. On top of this, he makes some great artistic choices and the film is quite beautiful, creating a vivid and realistic picture of rural Ireland. Based on his first film, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Overall, The Belly of the Whale is a charming and endearing film that tells a poignant and at times, heartbreaking story of two flawed characters coming to terms with the challenges in their lives. It’s a touching story of love, loss and friendship bolstered by a great director and strong performances and while it’s not perfect, it is sure to delight audiences while also making them cry.

 

The Belly of the Whale screened on Friday, 16th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival    (9 – 18 November)

Opens in Irish cinemas 7th December 2018.

 

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