Irish Film Festa Full Programme Announced

 

Full line-up revealed for the 12th Irish Film Festa, the only Italian film festival completely dedicated to Irish cinema and culture, which is taking place from 27-31 March 2019, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.


Northern Irish actor John Lynch will attend the festival as a guest of honour. Lynch has a special bond with Italy, since his mother is from Trivento, Molise; at IFF he will take part in a public interview and look back over his career, from Pat O’Connor’s Cal (1984) and Michael Rymer’s Angel Baby (1995, to be screened at the festival) to Mary McGuckian’s Best (2000), and more. John Lynch will also hold an acting workshop, open to students and professionals.

This year’s opening film is The Drummer and the Keeper, directed by Nick Kelly and winner of Best First Feature at the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh: Gabriel (Dermot Murphy), recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), who is suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, are two teenage boys who meet each other as players in a special football team and develop a strong friendship.


As previously announced, IFF will host the Italian premiere of Lance Daly‘s Black ’47, the historical drama set during the Great Famine which was a big hit at the Irish box office last year. The cast features Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford and Sarah Greene. The screenplay of Black ’47 – written by Daly with PJ Dillon, Pierce Ryan and Eugene O’Brien – is partly inspired by the Irish-language short film An Ranger, directed by Dillon and also screened at the IFF in 2010.

Metal Heart marks the debut as a director of Irish actor Hugh O’Conor: young twin sisters Emma (Jordanne Jones) and Chantal (Leah McNamara) are worlds apart, and when their parents go away for the summer, their simmering rivalry threatens to boil over. A photography exhibition will also be held at the Casa del Cinema during the festival, featuring 18 portraits of Irish directors and actors (Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford, Barry Keoghan, Nora Twomey, among the others) taken by O’Conor himself.


Hugh O’Conor is also linked to this year’s Irish Classic, Colin Gregg’s Lamb (1985), where ten-year-old Hugh was cast opposite Liam Neeson.

 

The Dig, a Northern Irish tense thriller directed by Andy and Ryan Tohill, won the 2018 Galway Film Fleadh as Best Irish Feature: after serving fifteen years for murder, Callahan returns home to find Sean, his victim’s grieving father, searching for the body in an endless bog. Ryan Tohill and the two lead actors, Moe Dunford and Lorcan Cranitch, are expected to attend the Italian premiere of the film.

Michael Inside is the new film by Frank Berry, following I Used to Live Here, which also screened at IFF in 2016. The titular character Michael (Dafhyd Flynn) is an impressionable 18-year-old sentenced to three months in prison after he is caught holding a bag of drugs for a friend’s older brother. The cast also includes Lalor Roddy, Moe Dunford and Robbie Walsh.


The 12th IFF gives more space to documentaries, organising a panel discussion on the topic, as well as a series of dedicated screenings.

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, by Feargal Ward, brings on screen the story of unyielding Irish farmer Thomas Reid who refuses to sell his 300-year-old farm to the multinational microchip manufacturer Intel. The film premiered in the main competition at IDFA Amsterdam in 2017 before screening at Hot Docs and Sheffield DocFest.

Directed by Seán Murray and narrated by Stephen Rea, Unquiet Graves details how members of the RUC and UDR, (a British Army regiment) were centrally involved in the murder of over 120 innocent civilians during the recent conflict in Ireland. Belfast-born Murray, whose previous work Ballymurphy screened at IFF in 2015, will take part in this year’s documentary panel.


Also expected to attend, Northern Irish director and producer Brendan J Byrne: IFF will screen his short documentary Hear My Voice, a touching tribute to those who suffered a loss during the Troubles. The film combines Colin Davidson’s portrait collection “Silent Testimony” with the spoken words of the people, victims and survivors of the conflict, featured in the paintings.


The Mam Trasna Murders (Murdair Mhám Trasna), a docu-drama written and directed by Colm Bairéad, tells the story of barbaric murders committed in the midst of a rural

community in Joyce Country, in 1882. The truth about those crimes was only recently unveiled and established. Lead actor Dara Devaney will attend the screening.


This year, the short film competition also focuses on documentaries, with a dedicated section, and includes Bog Graffiti, the latest experimental work by veteran author Bob Quinn.

 

The special screening of three episodes from hit comedy series Derry Girls (Channel 4), created by Lisa McGee, will close the festival: set in Derry in the early 90s, this sit-com is a warm, laugh-out-loud funny and honest look at the lives of ordinary people living under the spectre of the Troubles, all seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Erin and her friends.

 

As part of the IFFbooks section, dedicated to literature and authors from Ireland, the festival will host a conversation with Irish-born writer Karl Geary. He’s also an actor (Jimmy’s Hall by Ken Loach) and a screenwriter (Coney Island Baby, 2003), and published his first novel, Montpelier Parade, in 2017.

www.irishfilmfesta.org | #IRISHFILMFESTA


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‘Hold the Line’ Screens @ Irish Film Festa

Laura O’ Shea’s short film Hold the Line has been selected to screen at the Irish Film Festa in Rome (March 27 – 31, 2019).

Em works in a call centre. She faces a day more difficult than the usual ‘customer care queries’ and is on the brink. That’s until: she picks up the phone to Patsy.
The film stars Laura O’ Shea, Lesa Thurman Russell, Tony Doyle.
Co-directed by Laura O’ Shea & Karen Killeen.
Written & Produced by Laura O’ Shea.
Cinematography by Conor Tobin.
Editing by Philip Shanahan.
Sound recording by Rían Mahood Gallagher.
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Call For: Submissions for Irish Film Festa

                                                                                               

The 12th IRISH FILM FESTA, which will take place in March 2019, is now open to submissions for short films from Ireland. In order to be eligible for IRISH FILM FESTA competition, films must be under 20 minutes in length, and produced or co-produced in Ireland.

Accepted categories are Drama (all genres), Documentary and Animation (all techniques).

Entries must be submitted as an online screener to submissions.IFF@gmail.com or as a DVD to
Associazione Culturale ARCHIMEDIA
via Segesta 16
00179 Roma (Italia)

Deadline is January 10th, 2019.
No fee requested. DVDs sent by post will not be returned.

Out of all the accepted entries, IRISH FILM FESTA will select – at its sole and absolute discretion – a shortlist of films for the competition. IRISH FILM FESTA will notify all the authors of selected films; not-selected applicants won’t be notified.

Within a week after admission, authors of selected films must provide:
• a high-definition copy of the film for the festival screening (DCP/DVD/Blu-Ray);
• a timecoded dialogue list *;
• a high-resolution still from the film, a brief synopsis, and a full-credits list to be used for the festival catalogue.
* Please note that this is mandatory. If the timecoded dialogue list won’t be provided, the short film will be disqualified from the competition.

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/06/30/festivals-funding-schemes-deadlines-2015/

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Call For: Submissions for Irish Film Festa

 

The 11th Irish Film Festa, which will take place in March 2018, is now open to submissions for short films from Ireland.

 

In order to be eligible for Irish Film Festa competition, films must be under 20 minutes in length, and produced or co-produced in Ireland.

 

Accepted categories are Live Action (all genres) and Animation (all techniques).

 

Entries must be submitted as an online screener to submissions.IFF@gmail.com or as a DVD to

Associazione Culturale ARCHIMEDIA

via Segesta 16

00179 Roma (Italia)

 

Deadline is January 10th, 2018.

No fee requested. DVDs sent by post will not be returned.

 

Out of all the accepted entries, IRISH FILM FESTA will select – at its sole and absolute discretion – a shortlist of films for the competition. IRISH FILM FESTA will notify all the authors of selected films; not-selected applicants won’t be notified.

 

Within a week after admission, authors of selected films must provide:

  •    a high-definition copy of the film for the festival screening (DCP/DVD/Blu-Ray);
  •    a timecoded dialogue list *;
  •    a high-resolution still from the film, a brief synopsis, and a full-credits list to be used for the festival catalogue.

 

* Please note that this is mandatory. If the timecoded dialogue list won’t be provided, the short film will be disqualified from the competition.

 

Prizes will be awarded by a professional jury to the Best Live Action Short Film and to the Best Animated Short Film.

 

 

 

 

 

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Report from Rome: Celebrating Ten Years of the Irish Film Festa

 

Áine O’Healy takes in the celebrations at the Irish Film Festa tenth anniversary.

This year’s iteration of the Irish Film Festa in Rome, which ran from March 30 to April 2, marked the tenth anniversary of its inception. Unfolding as usual at the Casa del Cinema in the splendid surroundings of the Villa Borghese, it featured an impressive line-up of screenings, interviews, and other ancillary events. The Festa is entirely a grassroots organization, nurtured by the creative vision and organizational skills of Susanna Pellis, who had written two books on Irish cinema before devoting her energies to directing the festival. Far from a random sampling of new Irish titles, her screening selections invariably offer a coherent insight into Ireland’s contemporary cultural production.

Speaking to the audience on the opening night, Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh noted with irony how the dates of this year’s Festa coincided with the implementation of Brexit, a process that will bring unknown consequences to the people of Ireland, now confronted with the strong possibility of a re-instated border and with the material and symbolic restrictions it will impose. In contrast to the isolationism signalled by Brexit, the transnational spirit embodied in events like Rome’s Irish Film Festa suggests a salutary openness and a quest for reciprocal cultural enrichment.

Jim Sheridan & Susanna Pellis

The 2017 Festa was particularly rich and varied, showcasing several new feature films of different genres and production budgets, as well as two “classics” (John Boorman’s The General and Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer). Since 2010, the festival has included a competition of short films, the visibility of which has grown over the years, attracting entries of increasingly high quality. This year, following a record number of submissions, fifteen finalists were screened in competition, running the gamut from documentary to drama, comedy, horror and thriller. The winners, announced on closing night, were Vincent Gallagher’s Second to None (animated) and Ian Hunt Duffy’s Gridlock (live action).

Martin McLoone

Also on the programme was a range of stimulating supplementary offerings, including a lecture on cinema and the Troubles by Martin McLoone, professor emeritus of media and film at the University of Ulster; interviews with numerous actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers active in Irish filmmaking; question and answer sessions that produced genuine conversations among the filmmakers and a very attentive audience; a literary event featuring Dublin writer Dermot Bolger; and a photo exhibition featuring highlights of the Festa’s ten-year history.

The broad cultural sweep reflected in the programme makes this event strikingly different from the handful of Irish film festivals held annually in the United States. The Festa has built a strong following in Italy, not only in the Irish expatriate community, but also among growing numbers of Italians, who return each year to discover a new crop of Irish releases and to mingle with the invited guests. The relative smallness of the venue (with just two screening spaces) creates an intimacy unimaginable at larger festivals, facilitating communication among participants, industry specialists, and viewers alike. Most screenings and events were packed to capacity.

Caoilfhionn Dunne, In View

Pellis always comes up with a broad mix of films, reflecting the speed with which Irish filmmakers have accommodated a range of genres, styles, and themes over the past quarter century. The 2017 programme showed the remarkable variety of contemporary Irish film production, with titles that included the caper film The Flag (Declan Recks), the zany road movie The Young Offenders (Peter Foott), the recession-themed thriller Traders, and the finely observed psychological drama, In View (Ciarán Creagh). In the dramatic feature films screened at the festival a richly reflective meditation on social life in Ireland emerges with striking force through stories offering insight into contemporary social problems such as suicide, alcoholism, and the inadequate accommodation of intellectual disability. While the Irish landscape, both north and south of the border, is very much in evidence, views of Dublin no longer sharply dominate images of urban life in the Republic. Instead, there are alluring glimpses of urbanized Galway in Sanctuary, directed by Len Collin, and a lovingly fetishized Cork in Foott’s The Young Offenders).

Another important aspect of the Festa’s attention to diversity and inclusiveness is evident in Pellis’ consistent effort to bring filmmaking in Northern Ireland into dialogue with the cinema of the Republic by inviting film professionals from both constituencies to the festival each year. The section devoted to Northern Ireland in the 2017 programme featured two very different but equally accomplished short films, Two Angry Men (Toto Ellis) and Starz (Kevin Treacy and Martin McCann). The former is a period piece based on real events, which packs considerable force into just under seventeen minutes of running time. Its story focuses on the struggle of shipyard-worker-turned-playwright Tom Thompson and theatre director James Ellis, to bring the play Over The Bridge to the Belfast stage in 1959. Inspired by a sectarian dispute in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which many now see as a prelude to the Troubles, Thompson’s play was initially censored by the Belfast establishment because of its political content. Two Angry Men recounts the ultimately successful efforts of Thomson and Ellis to resist this censorship and to stage Over the Bridge in its original form. Directed by Toto Ellis—son of the now deceased James Ellis—and starring seasoned actors Adrian Dunbar and Mark Shea, this surprisingly compact work powerfully evokes the mood of the period and the political tensions that underpinned it.

Martin McCann & Gerard McSorley

Starz offers comedic contrast to the darker tones of Two Angry Men. A 30-minute low-budget mockumentary, it follows the maniacally self-deceptive antics of a theatrical agent down on his luck in contemporary Belfast. In the lead role, Gerard McSorley delivers a rare comic performance that is laced with subtlety and nuance. Martin McCann, one of the co-directors of Starz and a guest of this year’s festival, took part in the lively post-screening discussion alongside McSorley.

McCann also played a role in the most important documentary screened at the 2017 Festa, Brendan Byrne’s Bobby Sands: 66 Days, where he provides a poignant voiceover reading of Sands’ “hunger diary.” This is the diary written during the first 17 days of Sands’ highly publicized slow death by self-starvation in 1981. Co-produced by Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, the film exemplifies the hybridity and vitality of contemporary documentary practices. Mixing animation, reenactment, interviews and archival material to retell the story of Sands, it provides fresh insights not only into the personality of this now legendary figure but also into the historical context and eventual political effects of the hunger strike.

One of the highlights of the Festa’s tenth anniversary edition was the presence of Jim Sheridan, acknowledged in the programme notes for having “kick-started” Irish cinema at the end of the 1980s. In the course of a generous, wide-ranging interview with Pellis, Sheridan shared reflections on his artistic process, his international career, and the dynamics of transnational reception. A striking moment occurred in the discussion with the audience when Carlo Carlei – a well-known Italian director attending the screenings – acknowledged Sheridan’s formidable talent as a storyteller, so powerfully reflected in The Boxer. Sheridan’s gracious capacity to interact with people of different backgrounds made the interview and open mic discussion with him one of the festival’s most memorable elements.

The two Sheridan films on the programme, The Boxer (1997) and The Secret Scripture (2016), offer a fascinating sample of the director’s work at different stages of his career. Set on the cusp of the Northern Ireland peace agreement and highlighting tensions among supporters of the Republican cause, the earlier film has not lost its ability to rivet audiences to their seats, even if the circumstances it recounts have by now receded into distant memory. The Boxer’s enduring power is clearly due to Sheridan’s keen sense of timing and direction, as well as the stellar performances of Daniel Day-Lewis, Gerard McSorley and Emily Watson.

The Secret Scripture is a more complicated work, in part because of the challenges of adapting a widely acclaimed novel with a complex narrative structure. Opening at the Toronto Film Festival last year, the film has largely perplexed festival audiences and overseas reviewers. Adopting the novel’s dual narrative track, it is set both in rural Sligo in the 1940s and in a crumbling psychiatric hospital in the Celtic Tiger era. Rooney Mara plays the youthful embodiment of the leading character, Roseanne, who becomes a victim of misogyny, bigotry, sectarian prejudice, and fanatical nationalism in the Sligo village to which she has fled after the Belfast bombings of 1941. Eventually institutionalized for life on suspicion of infanticide, she reappears fifty-odd years later in the guise of Vanessa Redgrave. Now a tormented old woman who has painfully recorded her memories in the margins of a bible, she refuses to leave the hospital that is slated for demolition. Like the novel, the film offers a last-minute twist that builds toward an improbably happy resolution, in spite of the overwhelming pessimism inherent in the narrative as a whole.

Both Mara and Redgrave deliver fine performances, but there is little that unites their respective styles. Furthermore, the sectarian divisions and political tensions that drive much of the violence in the story may well be lost on non-Irish viewers, as the contextual elements are minimally developed. However, thanks to the striking cinematography of Mikhail Krichman, The Secret Scripture is a visually arresting film, where the beauty of the Irish landscape (and of the actors) is in sharp contrast with the brutality and mean spiritedness of the characters inhabiting this provincial world.

Gerard McSorley tickles the ivory

Gerard McSorley, who has collaborated with Sheridan over the years, also proved to be an extremely popular guest at the Festa, appearing in three of the films on this year’s program (The Boxer, In View, and Starz) in widely contrasting roles. Interviewed after the screening of In View alongside the talented leading actress Caoilfhionn Dunne, he offered the audience some fascinating insights into his career, personal life, and some of the social problems currently afflicting Ireland. Later, much to the delight of the festival audience, he launched into a spontaneous performance on the grand piano.

Peter Foott, The Young Offenders

Among the films screened at the 2017 Festa, a clear audience favourite was Peter Foott’s The Young Offenders, which focuses on a pair of 15-yeard old working- class adolescents intent on tracking down the huge shipment of cocaine “misplaced” by smugglers off the coast of West Cork. Highlights of the film are the impeccable comic performances of newcomers Alex Murphy and Chris Walley as the titular “offenders,” and a remarkable chase scene – on bicycles – through the bucolic landscape of Co. Cork. Though the plot unfolds to a large extent in rural surroundings, the characters are decidedly urban, and Cork itself is presented as a rough-edged, but entirely distinctive contemporary city, whose charms are highlighted at every possible turn. Foott noted in the Q & A following the screening that The Young Offenders has drawn record numbers of viewers in Cork, playing to packed houses for weeks on end.

Perhaps the most original feature film shown at the festival this year was Len Collin’s Sanctuary, which tells the story of a trip to the cinema by group of young, cognitively disabled individuals and their carer. Based on a play of the same title produced by the Blue Teapot Company in Galway, it features a fine ensemble of actors, with the lead performers drawn from the original theatrical cast. All members of the group (excluding the carer) are played by actors with real cognitive disabilities, lending a vibrant sense of authenticity to the unfolding events. The two characters at the centre of the plot, Larry and Sophie, have arranged, with the paid complicity of the carer, to dodge the cinema and spend some time together, unsupervised, in a hotel room, a move that leads to tragicomic consequences for all. The film raises many fascinating ethical, legal, social and psychological issues. What stands out, however, is Collin’s remarkable directing skill and the bracing performances elicited from his extraordinary cast.

That Pellis continues to bring films like these to Rome year after year – along with many filmmakers, writers, and actors – is a remarkable achievement. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to her and to her small, dedicated team for offering audiences a demonstration of genuine cultural transnationalism at a time when the growth of isolationist rhetoric and xenophobic sentiment seems to threaten the fragile peace of our globe.

 

Áine O’Healy is a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where I teach Italian cinema, Irish film, transnational film, and cultural studies.

 

La 10a edizione di Irish Film Festa, dal 30 marzo al 2 aprile 2017 alla Casa del Cinema di Roma.

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Irish Film Festa Announces Short Films Competition Line-Up

 

SECOND-TO-NONE_IFF10

 

The 10th Irish Film Festa, the only Italian film festival completely dedicated to Irish cinema, will take place from March 30th to April 2nd, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

 

The competition section, reserved for short films produced or co-produced in Ireland, comprises 15 works this year, spanning various genres and techniques: three animated shorts (A Coat Made Dark, The Lost Letter and Second to None), a documentary (Seán Hillen, Merging Views), a mockumentary (Starz), a horror (Blight), a thriller (Gridlock), a fantasy (The Clockmaker’s Dream), a humorous and contemporary adaptation of an ancient Gaelic poem (The Court, directed by actor Seán T. Ó Meallaigh who attended the last edition of IFF), a biopic (Two Angry Men), a romantic comedy starring children (The Debt), a formative tale with an LGBT theme (Lily), and three dramas (Homecoming, Pause and Today).

 

Also of note is the presence of big names among the cast of the selected short films: the protagonist of Gridlock is Moe Dunford (guest at the festival in 2015 with Patrick’s Day by Terry McMahon, and actor in the series Vikings); Gerard McSorley offers an extraordinary performance in Starz, whose co-director, Martin McCann, is himself an actor (as we saw last year in The Survivalist by Stephen Fingleton); Two Angry Men sees Adrian Dunbar in the shoes of the Northern Irish playwright Sam Thompson, and newcomer Michael Shea in those of a theatre director James Ellis (the son of Ellis, Toto, is the director of the short); Jared Harris and Kate Winslet are, respectively, the narrators of The Clockmaker’s Dream and The Lost Letter, directed by the winner of the IFF in 2012 (with The Boy in the Bubble, narrated by Alan Rickman) Kealan O’Rourke.
“The short film competition, which we launched in 2010, becomes more interesting and attracts a greater following each year: both by the filmmakers (this year we received nearly 100 submissions) and the public. Moreover, as the names of the actors appearing in the selected short films attest, this is an area that Irish film industry considers highly important, and in which is reflected the vitality and richness of Irish cinema. ” says artistic director Susanna Pellis.


IRISH FILM FESTA 10 – SHORT FILMS COMPETITION

 

Blight (2015), Brian Deane

with George Blagden, Alicia Gerrard, Joe Hanley, Marie Ruane, Matthew O’Brien, John Delaney, Tristan Heanue, Donnacha Crowley
A young priest is sent to a remote island off the Irish coast to help protect an estranged fishing community from dark supernatural forces, but nothing is as it seems.

 

An Chúirt (The Court, 2014), Seán T. Ó Meallaigh 

with Séamus Hughes, Michelle Beamish, Joanne Ryan

A modern adaptation of the epic Irish poem Cúirt An Mhéan Oíche / The Midnight Court, written in the 1700s by Brian Merriman.

 

The Clockmaker’s Dream (2015), Cashell Horgan

with Joe Mullins, Jared Harris (narrator)

A Clockmaker, in an automata world, tries to build the perfect woman to replace his lost wife but finds his creations are proving more difficult than he imagined; he must find a solution before his time runs out and his world stops forever…

A Coat Made Dark (2015), Jack O’Shea [animation]

with the voice of Hugh O’Connor, Declan Conlon, Antonia Campbell Hughes
A man follows the orders of a dog to wear a mysterious coat with impossible pockets.

 

The Debt (2015), Helen Flanagan

with Lee O’Donoghue, Susie Power, Eabha Last
When lovestruck ten year old Daithi falls for his classmate Jessica, he turns to his best friend Penny to help win her heart.

Gridlock (2016), Ian Hunt Duffy

with Moe Dunford, Peter Coonan, Steve Wall

When a child go missing during a traffic jam, her distraught father form a search party to find her. But soon everyone is a suspect.

Homecoming (2016), Sinéad O’Loughlin 
with David Greene, Johanna O’Brien
A young man struggles to find his place in life after returning to Ireland. A familiar face makes him wonder if things are about to change.

 

Lily (2016), Graham Cantwell

with Clara Harte, Dean Quinn, Leah McNamara, Amy-Joyce Hastings
Lily, a girl with a secret on the cusp of becoming a young woman, is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life.

 

The Lost Letter (2016), Kealan O’Rourke [animation]

with Kate Winslet as the narrator

The tale of a young boy as he prepares his neighbourhood for Christmas.

Pause (2016), Niamh Heery

with Janine Hardy
A woman arrives on an island in an altered state to confront her past. As she listens to old family tape recordings her surroundings begin to take on new life.

 

Seán Hillen, Merging Views (2016) Paddy Cahill [documentary]
This portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage – he shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery.

 

Second To None (2016), Vincent Gallagher [animation]

A dark comedy about the world’s second oldest man.

 

Starz (2016), Kevin Treacy, Martin McCann

with Gerard McSorley, Martin McCann, Michael Smiley, Tierna McGeown, Shane Todd, Laura Webster, Gerard McCabe
A documentary film crew follows hopeless actors agent Dan Cambell as he tries to save his sinking business from another industrial tribunal.

 

Today (2015), Tristan Heanue

with John Connors, Lalor Roddy
A hard hitting drama about a man who wakes up one morning in his car, disorientated, with no recollection of how he ended up parked in the middle of nowhere. The harsh reality soon comes flooding back once he gathers his thoughts.

 

Two Angry Men (2016), Toto Ellis

with Adrian Dunbar, Michael Shea, Conleth Hill, Michael Smilie, Julie Dearden, Lalor Roddy, Stefan Dunbar
The battle of James Ellis and Sam Thompson to stage the play Over the Bridge in face of censorship in 1950s Belfast.

 

 


 

 

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Extended Deadline: Short Film Submissions for Irish Film Festa

logo IRISHFILMFESTA copia

 

The 10th  Irish Film Festa , the only Italian film festival completely dedicated to Irish cinema, will take place from March 30th to April 2nd, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

Submissions for the short films competition are open until January 15th: films must be under 30 minutes in length and produced or co-produced in Ireland. Entries must be submitted as an online screener link to submissions.IFF@gmail.com. Complete rules are available on the festival website.

 

“In the past ten years we showcased the best of contemporary Irish cinema, screening films unreleased in Italy but highly awarded abroad. We also were honored by the presence of guests such as Stephen Rea, Fionnula Flanagan, Lenny Abrahamson, Adrian Dunbar, and many more. The 10th  Irish Film Festa will be a special occasion to celebrate the past and give new strength to the future of the festival” (Susanna Pellis, artistic director).
Irish Film Festa, founded and directed by Susanna Pellis, is produced by the cultural association Archimedia in collaboration with the Irish Film Institute; with the support of Culture Ireland, the Irish Film Board, Tourism Ireland; and the patronage of Ireland’s Embassy in Italy.

 

 

www.irishfilmfesta.org

 

Facebook: facebook.com/irishfilmfesta

Twitter: @IrishFilmFesta

Instagram: @irishfilmfesta

YouTube: IrishFilmFesta Roma

 

 

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Call For: Submissions for Irish Film Festa

 

 

rp_Callfor-Final154-150x150.jpg

The 10th edition of Irish Film Festa, which will take place in March 2017, is now open to submissions for short films from Ireland.

 

In order to be eligible for Irish Film Festa competition, films must be under 30 minutes in length and produced or co-produced in Ireland.

 

Accepted categories are Live Action, Documentary, Animation.

 

Entries must be submitted as an online screener link to submissions.IFF@gmail.com or as a DVD to

Associazione Culturale ARCHIMEDIA
via Segesta 16
00179 Roma (Italia)

 

Deadline is December 20th, 2016. No fee requested.

 

DVDs sent by post will not be returned.

 

Out of all the accepted entries, Irish Film Festawill select – at its sole and absolute discretion – a shortlist of films for the competition. Irish Film Festa will notify all the authors of selected films; not-selected applicants won’t be notified.
Within a week after admission, authors of selected film must provide:

  • a high-definition copy of the film (Digibeta/DCP/DVD/Blu-Ray)
  • a timecoded dialogue list
  • a high-resolution still from the film to be used for the festival catalogue


Please note that this is mandatory. If a timecoded dialogue list won’t be provided, the short film will be disqualified from the competition.

 

 

 

 

 

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Report: ‘Pursuit’ at the Irish Film Festa, Rome

Paul Mercier (Pursuit), Irish Film Festa 2016 [ph. Mario Bodo]

Director Paul Mercier (Pursuit), Irish Film Festa 2016 [ph. Mario Bodo]

 

Dr John McCourt delves into the love triangle at the heart of Paul Mercier’s Pursuit, which screened at the recent Irish Film Festa in Rome.

One of the highlights of the ninth annual Irish Film Festa held at the Casa del Cinema in Rome and organised by the indefatigable Susanna Pellis, was Paul Mercier’s 2015 film, Pursuit. A full house reacted warmly to this a rich, all-action, multi-layered gangster movie which works on many levels simultaneously. A multi-generic film, it is at once passionately compelling, tragic, and comic. Pursuit is an all-too real and topical film which narrates a war between criminal gangs in Dublin.

Should anyone in the audience have thought that the scenes of urban violence, of criminality, were in some way exaggerated, all we need do is open the Irish newspapers of the past few months to see that this film corresponds to a grim reality in the capital. An alternative underground world reigns in Ireland and this violent parallel universe, this criminal kingdom within the State, is suggested in the film by Mercier’s decision to call this Dublin by another name, Tara. At once recalling the ancient seat of Irish Kings, Mercier’s Tara is more obviously the battleground of the criminal Kingpins and drugs lords that carve up the city and are all unyielding in pursuing their destructive agendas.

Set in an Ireland of poverty-stricken and lawless housing estates which are the nests of gangland Dublin, the film also offers glimpses of a more peaceful but ultimately marginal Ireland, that of its magnificent rural mountain and coastal regions. It is also partly set in Spain. The plot is set in motion with a failed attempt to assassinate Fionn. In order to save his own life and to make a truce which might lead to peace between criminal rivals, Fionn follows his lawyer’s advice and makes a proposal to marry Gráinne, the daughter of Mr King, a leading criminal figure in the city. Given that Fionn is much older than his intended bride, this is little more than a marriage of convenience and yet all seems to get off to a good start until Gráinne rebels and takes Fionn’s trusted bodyguard, Diarmuid, hostage and flees with him. A long and dramatic chase ensues.

The film has an excellent cast, many of whom, such as the excellent Owen Roe (Mr King) and Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham (Fionn) started their careers with Mercier back in the eighties with the hugely innovative theatre company, Passion Machine which did so much to reinvigorate and reinvent Irish theatre. Brendan Gleeson also started out with Passion Machine and here plays a small but significant role as the Searbhán, a sleazy criminal leader who has escaped working class Dublin squalor for the comforts of a luxurious villa in Spain, entirely financed by his criminal network at home. The two protagonists are played with passion and energy by Barry Ward (Diarmuid) who builds on his excellent performance in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall, and Ruth Bradley (Gráinne). Bradley is the emotional centre of the film, fully owning and clearly relishing this unusually rich and complex female role.

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Ruth Bradley

Pursuit is a love story. It tells of a love that was buried for years but which is nonetheless real and important. It is the story of a love which is momentarily a thing of beauty, but is also desperate and fleeting. Like many love stories, Pursuit is also the story of betrayal and revenge.

It is also, crucially, a story of the desire for freedom. It portrays the desire to escape from a violent upbringing, a home life in which  exploitation, drug and alcohol abuse is the daily reality; the desire to leave behind a family whose roots are ineluctably tied into the world of criminality. It breathlessly narrates an attempt to escape a lawless, exploitative world, telling the story of a flight which is inevitably followed by a relentless pursuit by a criminal world which will permit no escape. Writing of Ulysses, T.S. Eliot coined the term “mythic method” to describe how Joyce juxtaposed the classical and the contemporary, how he used the template of Homer’s Odyssey and built upon it a rich and complex modern text of his contemporary Dublin. Reading Ulysses we are conscious of two simultaneous time frames, that of Homer’s classic text and that of 1904 Dublin. Something similar or analogous happens in Mercier’s Pursuit, which is a rewriting, a transposition of the classic Irish legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne – Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Gráinne. This ancient Gaelic text from the Fenian Cycle of Celtic mythology forms a foundational layer for this very contemporary film (hence the names and place names as well as countless other references the alert viewer will spot and enjoy). The Diarmuid and Gráinne myth is the palimpsest upon which Mercier constructs his unforgiving vision of modern Dublin. The myth is that of a love triangle between the great but aging warrior and widower, Fionn MacCumhaill, the beautiful but headstrong princess, Gráinne, and Fionn’s loyal bodyguard, Diarmuid. This is a text that dates back over a thousand years, with various sixteenth century texts available today. It is a protean foundational myth within Irish culture and one which has been reinvigorated, reinterpreted down through time, for example in Diarmuid and Grania,  a poetic play co-written by George Moore and W. B. Yeats in 1901, in Austin Clarke’s The Vengeance of Fionn (1917), in Eavan Boland’s version of the story, called “Song”, which appears in her 1975 collection The War Horse and in various re-modelings for film and theatre by Billy Roche. It is given a remarkable new reading in Mercier’s radical resetting.

And yet the beauty of his film (much like Joyce’s Ulysses), is that the viewer does not need to know a thing about the original legend. The film stands firmly on its own two feet even if a profound layer of meaning and nuance is added for those familiar with the legend. In an interview, Mercier stated that his film “is really aimed at an Irish audience, it’s hard to know how it will travel”.

Mercier can rest assured that it will travel very well indeed. Precisely because of its local rootedness, its fidelity to a harsh Irish reality, the film has a broad appeal. Although it is a cliché, it is true to say that the universal is contained within the local. The unforgiving narration of the Irish criminal world, the use of vibrant and bristling Irish-English speech, coupled with the universal themes of love, jealousy, betrayal and violence, and the quest for freedom, which are filtered from the foundational Diarmuid and Gráinne narrative, together make this a film that can be seen, understood, and enjoyed around the world.

It met with an enthusiastic response after its screening at the Roma Film Festa at the Casa del Cinema in the Villa Borghese, an event which, under the guidance of Susanna Pellis, has grown into an important showcase for Irish cinema in Europe.

In addition to showing full-length features such as Lenny Abrahamson’s universally acclaimed Room and Dathai Keane’s An Klondike  (which won four IFTA awards the following evening in Dublin), this year’s Festa also showed several 1916 documentaries and films (including, Liam Neeson’s now twenty-year-old Michael Collins). But for many the highlight was the Film Festa’s focus on Irish shorts. Maurice Joyce picked up the best animated film award for his wonderfully paced and beautifully drawn Violet while Paris-based Audrey O’Reilly won best short  film with her spare and moving Wait (another notable performance by Owen Roe, flanked by Rory Keenan as his son).

This may be the time of highly successful big-budget Irish films like Brooklyn and Room but the Irish Film Festa in Rome and events like it serve to remind us just how much more cinematic creativity is bubbling along just below the surface spotlight.

Dr John McCourt is Associate Professor of English Literature at Università Roma Tre.

The Irish Film Festa 2016 took place 7 – 10 April 2016

 

 

 

 

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Call For: Short Films for Irish Film Festa

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The 9th edition of Irish Film Festa, which will take place from 7th to 10th April, 2016, is now open to submissions for short films from Ireland.

In order to be eligible, entries must be submitted before December 20th, 2015.

A shortlist will later be selected from all the entries for the competitive section of the festival.

Films, under 30 minutes in length, can be sent on DVD by post to

Associazione Culturale ARCHIMEDIA
via Segesta 16
00179 Roma (Italia)

Films can also be uploaded online. In this case, a private link must be sent to
info@irishfilmfesta.org or susanna@irishfilmfesta.org.

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Irish Film Festa

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The 8th edition of Irish Film Festa (March 26th – 29th) takes place at the Casa del Cinema in Villa Borghese, Rome, showcasing Irish feature films, documentaries and short films, and providing conferences and public interviews with special guests.

The programme line-up is:

 

THURSDAY 26th MARCH

Sala Deluxe

17:00Irish Classic ADAM & PAUL (2004, L. Abrahamson) 84’ (it.sub.)

18:30A CITY DREAMING (2014, M. McCauley) 64’ (v.o. sott.it.)
The director will attend

20:30 — Welcome address by the Irish Ambassador to Italy, H.E. Bobby McDonagh
POISON PEN (2014, S. Benedict, L. Fitzsimons, J. Shortall) 95’ (it.sub.)
[before the film, short The Good Word, 21’]

 

FRIDAY 27th MARCH

Sala Deluxe

17:00 — Special ScreeningBALLYMURPHY (2014, S. Murray) 38’ (it.sub.)
The director and writer-journalist Silvia Calamati will attend

19:00 — BRENDAN BEHAN – THE ROARING BOY (2014, M. Sweeney) 53’ (it.sub.)
following: Interview with actor Adrian Dunbar
chaired by John Mc Court (University Roma Tre) and Susanna Pellis (Director IFF),

21:00 — GOLD (2014, N. Heery) 93’ (it.sub.)
[before the film, short The Weather Report, 5’]

 

Sala Kodak

17:00 — SHORTS IN COMPETITION – 98’ (eng.sub.)
The Measure of a ManComaThe BreakKeeeping TimeNovenaRúbaíDeadlyI’ve Been a Sweeper

 

SATURDAY 28th MARCH

Sala Deluxe

15:30 — SHORTS IN COMPETITION 68‘ (it.sub.)
Somewhere Down The LineThe Weather ReportAnyaThe DuelGhost TrainThe Ledge End of PhilThe Good Word
Some of the directors will attend

17:30PATRICK’S DAY (2014, T. McMahon) 99’ (it.sub.)
after the film Q&A with director Terry McMahon and producer Tim Palmer

20:30 — Winning shorts announcement
following #GaelicFocus
AN BRONNTANAS/THE GIFT (2014, T. Collins) 112’ (it.sub.)
Introduced by Barry McCrea (University of Notre Dame)
[before the film, short Rúbaí, 11’]

 

SUNDAY 29th MARCH

Sala Deluxe

15:30 — SONG OF THE SEA (2014, T. Moore) 80’ (it.sub.)
[Before the film, the winning animated short film]

17:30 — FRANK (2014, L. Abrahamson) 94’ (it.sub.)
Introduced by Fabio Villanis, Hard Rock Cafè Roma
Following
Public interview with Lenny Abrahamson
chaired by Maurice Seezer, musician, and Susanna Pellis, IFF Director

20:30 — Closing film ’71 (2014, Y. Demange) 102’ (it.sub.)
[Before the film, the winning live action short film]

 

 

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Call For: Submissions for Irish Film Festa 2015

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The 8th edition of Irish Film Festa, which will take place in March 2015, is now open to submissions for short films from Ireland.

In order to be eligible, entries must be submitted before December 15th, 2014.

A shortlist will later be selected from all the entries for the competitive section of the festival.

Films, under 30 minutes in length, can be sent on DVD by mail to

Associazione Culturale ARCHIMEDIA
via Segesta 16
00179 Roma (Italia)

Films can also be uploaded online. In this case, a private link must be sent toinfo@irishfilmfesta.org or susanna@irishfilmfesta.org.

The authors of selected films will later be asked to provide a DVD copy with English subtitles.

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A Film Festival of Ideas: Reflections on the 7th Irish Film Festa in Rome

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Ciara Chambers and Barry Monahan report from Rome, where the Irish Film Festa shone with stories and sizzled with ideas.

 

As has been the case annually since its inception in 2007, once again this year one of the triumphs of the Irish Film Festa (27 – 30 March 2014) was its amalgamation of a regular core structure with an interesting diversity of supplementary events. The festival used to be held in late-November but has now been moved to March by creative director Susanna Pellis for reasons of publicity (it’s closer to Saint Patrick’s Day) and practicality (it allows Pellis more time to gather her selection of films from the previous year’s festivals). Now in its seventh incarnation, the four-day event again offered participants and patrons a rich schedule of interviews, presentations, workshops, and question and answer sessions, along with the opportunity to see some of the best of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, short and feature-length productions from the island. With her ear close to the Irish turf, Susanna Pellis has always been quick to seize upon any chance to celebrate innovations in Irish cinema, and this year’s surprise was the screening of two of the four digitally remastered programmes from Bob Quinn’s Atlantean (first broadcast in 1984).

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 Atlantean (Bob Quinn)

The eclectic miscellany of personalities and events that make up the programme contributes in a substantial way to the appeal of the festival and marks its distinction among others. This time was no different from any other season and, once again, invited guests included established and up-and-coming filmmakers and actors, practitioners, critics and journalists. Audiences were invited to engage actively in discussions with the participating artists and, this year, there was a strong sense that the conversations that took place on Irish cinema were not merely dialogues sharing ideas, but dialogues about ideas. In a post-screening exchange between Bob Quinn and Lelia Doolan – two of the creative intellectuals who were influential protagonists in the original and long-fought drive for government support for an Irish film industry – notwithstanding optimism for the future with a strong call to greater philosophical and aesthetic engagement with the medium by filmmakers, feelings of frustration were also aired. Ireland needs to be a place of more profound thought; where cultural texts express ideas, challenge diurnal attitudes, and propose radical concepts. The implication, needing no clarification, was that makers of cinema should be the avant garde of this revolution.

 

It’s no longer novel to proclaim the democratisation of the medium through individuals’ access to, or use of, the available filmmaking technologies; and no longer innovative to proclaim the fact that each of us with a smart phone and internet access can record material and make a film. What is at question is the quality of what is being produced in this mass tsunami of making and dissemination. We can send and see anything – that’s taken as read – but how and what are we seeing, and how profoundly and probingly this material is asking us to question our life in the 21st century, seem to be residual ideas that need greater mainstream interrogation. The talent and knowledge of a technical production of images for our screens is becoming increasingly widespread, but perhaps this breadth of experience has not been met with a commensurate conceptual depth?

 

Holding on to this thought, audiences were invited to see several recently-produced short and feature-length productions, all of which were generally representative of how filmmaking was developing in Ireland. While the festival director has stated that her ideal was that it never become an outright “competition festival”, patrons did hold until the last evening’s announcement of “Best Short Film in Festival” to see what the Italian jury endorsed from our output. The winner was Brian Deane’s Volkswagen Joe (2013) which had been contextualised for the audience by its main actor, Stuart Graham. Set in 1981 and following the financial and political manipulation of border-town mechanic Joe, it also leaves itself open to readings of current economic desperation for small business owners. Its powerful climactic standoff thus resonates with a range of local and international audiences. In terms of its programming, Volkswagen Joe opened the festival’s “Belfast Day” which also included a lively post-screening discussion about Made in Belfast with Ciarán McMenamin and Stuart Graham. The film is the first feature to be produced by Graham’s independent production company, KGB Screen, which he established with Paul Kennedy and Louise Gallagher. Shot over just thirteen days, the film repositions Belfast, so often the site of violent political conflict in cinema, as an evolving cultural centre. The film shows that the city has other stories to tell, but it also functions well in its coverage of writer Jack Kelly, returning home to visit his dying father, as a tale of post-conflict optimism. Jack must mend the rifts he left behind because of his bad behaviour towards his family, friends and former fiancée. He returns from his current home, Paris, to find a city in transition and he spends his time there making amends for his past actions. Once this is done, Belfast has transformed into a place he can consider living in once again, rather than one he must leave to escape further conflict. So much of this echoes in the on-going efforts of all involved in the complicated regeneration of Northern Ireland and its liminal spaces as part of the continuing peace process. Made in Belfast’s rousing soundtrack showcases a number of local bands, testifying to the diversity of ways in which the film displays the city, its locations and its local talent, and it offers a sign to other independent filmmakers that such production is possible. Belfast day concluded with another rousing and optimistic narrative in the form of Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa’s Good Vibrations (2012), the tale of provocative local music producer Terri Hooley. The film acts as a musical call to arms, with the suggestion that shared cultural experiences can heal the wounds of conflict. All of the films included in Belfast day testify to the diversity of ways in which filmmakers are interrogating Northern Ireland’s troubled past but also recognising the range of other stories that its central city has to tell.

Stuart Graham receiving the award for best short for Volkswagen Joe from Ambassandor Bobby McD​o​nagh and creative director Susanna Pellis.

The features programming opened with John Butler’s raucous comedy The Stag (2013), an exploration of contemporary Irish masculinity and recessionary woes. Also included were the lighthearted romantic comedy The Callback Queen (2013, Graham Cantwell), the frenetic exploration of corrupt border cultures, Black Ice (Johnny Gogan 2013) and stalwart Neil Jordan’s visceral vampire epic Byzantium (2013). Perhaps one of the highlights was Steph Green’s charmingly melancholic Run and Jump (2013), which depicts one family’s struggle to cope with challenging circumstances after a young father suffers a stroke. A visiting American doctor, conducting research into the man’s health after the event, further upsets the fragile family equilibrium. The film’s musings on tensions between individual desires and family responsibility contribute to a contemplative and bittersweet portrait of an outsider’s interaction with the Irish family.

 

The shorts and animation programming boasted an excellent selection of films which were both thematically engaging and aesthetically accomplished. The animations included Damien O’Connor’s nostalgic tale of a Dublin doorman, After You (2012), Teemu Auersalo’s Learning to Fish (2012) a quirky animation with awkwardly angular seagulls fighting for fish, and the charming stop animation Irish Folk Furniture by Tony Donoghue. One of the highlights was Conor Finnegan’s hilarious Fear of Flying (2012), a film that definitely merits repeat viewings. The partially animated Two Wheels Good (Barry Gene Murphy, 2012) is a wonderfully evocative portrait of cycling that celebrates the pleasures of movement – both physically and cinematically. The joy of movement was also the focus of live action dance-based short Off Your Trolley (Terence White, 2011). The other shorts included the stylish supernatural drama Nocturne Passage (Amy Joyce Hastings, 2013), a nostalgic celebration of childhood in The Daisy Chain (Denis Fitzpatrick & Ken Williams, 2013) and an exploration of how one group of “shed poets” deal with life, love and loss in Tidings (Greg Colley, 2013). Michael Kinirons’ hospital drama I Can’t See You Anymore (2013) had a particularly interesting premise for an audience of devoted cinemagoers, and the heartbreaking drama Stolen (Yvonne Keane, 2013) provided a startlingly moving narrative twist. Cathy Brady’s Morning offered excellent performances from Eileen Walsh as a grieving mother and Johnny Harris as a tabloid photographer with a conscience. Tom Sullivan and Feidlim Cannon’s evocative drama Mechanic (2013) also boasted sturdy performances from Paul Roe as the suicidal central protagonist and Sil Fox as the older man who (perhaps) unwittingly intervenes in his plans for a quiet death.

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Two Wheels Good (Barry Gene Murphy)

Audiences in Rome had an opportunity to see two of the four parts of Bob Quinn’s 1984 documentary, Atlantean; Quinn’s offering that proposes a cultural and historical connection between Irish and North African societies. The thesis of the programme presents the idea that there has been a greater influence on our heritage from that continent than from the Celtic European spread and developments of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Fundamentally, the episodes argue that cultural influences have moved more fluidly from the sea than from the land; thus connecting us more significantly to other sea-faring nations. The argument is only half of the substance, here, as so much of what Bob Quinn has done – with his typical naughtiness – is to play with the structure in which information is presented. His agility with the form and his brilliant creativity are so conceptually exact that it is very difficult to tie him down on the conviction of what he’s proposing. But this is not really the point. Ultimately, what Quinn wants to remind us is that history is “up for grabs”; that it can be – and is – written and rewritten, made and remade, that it is open to negotiation and debate. What he does with his documentary is invite our critical reflection on the material. Formally his process is profoundly innovative – as has always been the case with his work – he plays with interviews, voice overs, found material and the documentary style in a way that unceasingly challenges the spectator to think. His authorial commentary, by Alan Stanford, acknowledges with some irony the precision of his findings, but this specialist is only allowed to refer to the documentarian in the third person. What Quinn has done with this complex piece was so ahead of its time in 1984, that its relevance today on thinking about how and who we are, cannot but be held as an expression of what it is to make films about ourselves in the 21st century, and demand that we keep thinking about our national sense-of-self.

 

Following Quinn’s documentary, audiences were invited to Lelia Doolan’s Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey. This film was more contemporary, deliberately politically focussed, and formally conventional, but just as powerful. Going back to the late-1960s, the film documents the activities of the 21 year old Bernadette Devlin whose struggle for social equality in Northern Ireland gathered a momentum that ultimately resulted in her being voted to the House of Commons. As the film charts Devlin’s political progress it demonstrates how her voice was variously used and misrepresented by opposing Republican and Loyalist sides in ways that falsely mobilised her agenda as sectarian rather than socialist. Her youth, brilliance and charisma earned her attention on both sides of the Atlantic and she explains in interview how meeting with African American activists during a visit to the United States crystallised her sense of the desperate need for the fight against societal inequality in all of its manifestations.  As surely as Devlin’s agenda was commandeered by the political apologists on both sides of the Northern debate, once the Good Friday agreement was signed, her public position seems to have been relegated, her voice marginalised by the same media that had once feverishly documented her ideological contentions. The documentary leaves her as an active member of the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme – an organisation that she endorses in its “grassroots” affectivity – with some comment offered on her feelings about the jailing of her daughter in Britain as negative consequence of her own personal profile and political struggle.

_PER4551 Lelia Doolan (left) Q&A after the screening of Bernadette, with Susanna Pelis.

After the screening of each film, we had the chance to hear from the directors, who were present. Whatever about the rarity of this kind of opportunity, to be able to access the thinking behind the creative process and listen to the philosophical perspectives of the filmmakers is a complement to the screening that is unfortunately too uncommon. Bob Quinn and Lelia Doolan spoke about the processes of the productions, and the motivations behind them, and then also entered into a dialogue with one another. The conversation about the contemporary state of Irish film was richly addressed by two contemporaries whose productions, created almost three decades apart, shared a number of implicit ideals: that we need a greater cinema of ideas; that our films must continue to entertain but should never avoid taking a political stance and asking difficult ideological questions; that we should never stop questioning our cultural situation; and that our cinema ought to endorse, defend and challenge our sense of what it is to be Irish in the 21st century.

 

The excellent features and shorts programming was further bolstered by a focussed set of workshops including an opportunity to “Meet Ireland on Screen” facilitated by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Film Board and an “Acting for Camera” session by Academy Award nominated director Graham Cantwell. Aine O’Healy’s interview with Kate O’Toole offered a fascinating portrait of her father, Peter O’Toole, which was humorous, moving and certainly left the audience wanting more. Simona Pellis’ talk on the festival’s recommended reading, quirky Belfast novel Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, further testifies to the rich interdisciplinarity of the festival overall, as it tapped into themes of identity, memory, history, music, acting, and the politics of filmmaking itself.

 

There’s an implicit expectation that, over the course of their development, film festivals grow and become more diverse in the design of their menu and the range of what they offer. In this respect the Rome Irish Film Festival has constantly out-performed itself: with appearing guest filmmakers and commentators; with the breadth of short and feature length documentaries and fiction films screened; and with the number of additional presentations and workshops offered. The vision and design of its Artistic Director – Susanna Pellis – is evidentially spot-on, as large queues of Roman audiences flocked to everything they could possibly attend during the course of the four-day event. She has successfully developed a celebration of Irish cinema that has garnered the support of enthusiastic Italians and, increasingly, the attention of some of the most interesting Irish women and men working in the industry. Her innovation and creativity are relentless, and we should acknowledge, from home, our fortune at having such a dedicated cultural ambassador inviting audiences from overseas to celebrate what is, still regrettably, a small part of our creative output.

 

It is certainly humbling, for enthusiasts of this medium, to have such recognition and support from patrons of the nation that gave us Neorealism in the 1940s, and directors like Rossellini, De Sica, Fellini, Antonioni, Bertolucci and Leone. That our cinema is being seen, and furthermore discussed, in this kind of forum is enough to demand that, back on Irish shores, we seek to facilitate similar engagement with, and discussion around, what is increasingly the most significant cultural format of our lives. If festivals like this in Italy prove that Rome is truly an open city of ideas, let us embark upon a similar agenda of critical reflection on our cinematic cultural production when we gather to celebrate our filmmaking at home-based festivals.

 

Ciara Chambers (UU, Coleraine) & Barry Monahan (UCC), April 2014

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