Festival Report: The Inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival

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Jenny Loughman reports from the Gala screening of Life’s a Breeze at the Inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival.

 

The opening of the Inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival was spectacular to say the least! Everyone who was anyone in Limerick was there and some notable extras.  Damian and Ella Harris, Richard Harris’ eldest son and his granddaughter were there to open the festivities. Also deserving a mention was Joe Jackson, famed Harris auto-biographer, Patrick Cassidy, noted film composer and the ‘Glitterati’ of Limerick City. There was a ‘red carpet’ and a fire breather to greet you upon arrival.

 

Before the film started Zeb Moore, the festival production manager, introduced Limerick City’s mayor, Kathleen Leddin, who spoke about her honour at being there and also about how it was a pity the festival was not better financially supported by the ‘powers that be’.  Next Zeb introduced Damian Harris, who spoke about how proud his father would have been to have been honoured in this way. He told an amusing story about his father’s soccer movie in Iran that had the audience in stitches. Lastly Zeb read out a statement from Jared and Jamie Harris, who were unable to attend due to filming commitments. They stated their full support for the festival and promised not to miss it the following year.  Now that the film festival was officially opened, the film started.

 

 

Life’s A Breeze focuses on a working class Dublin family, as they try to get by in a post-recession Ireland. Nan is elderly and her son Colm still lives at home, while daughter Margaret struggles to provide enough food for her own daughter Emma’s school lunch. Plus the other children have monetary problems of their own. Most people are on the dole, and life is very bland and bleak.

 

However, Colm and his siblings decide to treat Nan, by de-cluttering her house, which has built up 30 years worth of rubbish. This includes throwing away litter, old furniture, and her old mattress.

 

Unfortunately, the mattress happened to contain 1 million euro, her entire life’s savings – or so we were led to be believed. What follows is a madcap rat race to find the cash-filled mattress, while trying to keep the family all in one piece.

 

The film is funny, was very well received by all who watched it, and contained a humour reminiscent of The Commitments, or The Snapper. The film also showcases the talent of the infamous Pat Shortt, and his capability for dramatic scenes, Fionnuala Flanagan as his long-suffering mother, as well as being the film debut of 16-year-old actress Kelly Thornton, who was easily the star of the film in the role of Emma.

 

Life’s A Breeze was the first film to be shown at the first annual Richard Harris Film Festival, in front of a massive audience. In an audience that contained the Mayor of Limerick, as well as members of the Harris family, Life’s A Breeze was a perfect film to show to reflect a weekend of Irish cinema.

 

Life’s A Breeze screened on Friday, 6th December as part of the Inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival (6 – 8 December 2013, Limerick)

 

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‘Life’s a Breeze’ to have International Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival

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Lance Daly’s Life’s a Breeze is set to have its international premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) next month. The film, produced by Fastnet Films, showcases a host of Irish acting talent including Pat Shortt, Fionnula Flanagan and newcomer Kelly Thornton who picked up the Bingham Ray New Talent Award at the Galway Film Fleadh last month. Both Pat and Kelly will travel to the Toronto festival with director Lance Daly. Pat is currently starring in The Cripple of Inishmaan in the West End with Daniel Radcliffe who will also be in Toronto for a number of films including the Irish co-production The F Word (co-produced by Fastnet Films) which filmed in Dublin last year.

 

TIFF is the most high-profile public film festival in the world and has established itself as an important venue to showcase and launch films on an international stage. Life’s A Breeze will screen alongside some of the most eagerly awaited Hollywood films of the year at TIFF such as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave which stars Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt, Ron Howard’s latest film Rush, about racing car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Speaking about the selection, Life’s A Breeze producer Macdara Kelleher, Fastnet Films said “We are delighted to be returning to the Toronto International Film Festival with Life’s A Breeze and The F Word. It’s one of the biggest film festivals in the world and a great place to launch a movie.”

Life’s A Breeze is close to securing a US theatrical distribution deal, details of which will be announced at the festival. The film is creating a buzz in the US with popular film website Twitch.com hailing it as “the next Full Monty”.

TIFF is the leading public film festival in the world and is one of the most important film festivals in North America, previously showcasing successful independent films such as Juno, Slumdog Millionaire and Little Miss Sunshine. Irish films have had a presence at the festival throughout the years with many films from Jim Sheridan’s In America, to Neil Jordan’s Ondine to Fastnet Film’s The Other Side of Sleep, Colony and Kisses which was also directed by Lance Daly.

The film, which will screen in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the festival, is a feel-good comedy about a family struggling to stay afloat and stay together through hard times in Ireland. Unemployed slacker Colm (Pat Shortt), his aging mother Nan (Fionnula Flanagan) and his niece Emma (Kelly Thornton) must overcome their many differences to lead their family in a race against time to find a lost fortune.


Life’s A Breeze is currently screening in selected cinemas throughout Ireland and will be available and DVD on Video on Demand later this year. TIFF will take place 5th – 15th September.

 

The film was produced by Dublin-based Fastnet Films, with the support of the Irish Film Board / Bord Scannán na hÉireann, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

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Report: Galway Film Fleadh 2013

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Matt Miccuci looks back over his 7 days following Irish film in the sweltering heat of Galway for the Fleadh’s 25th anniversary.

“We borrowed the weather from Cannes,” was this year’s joke at the Fleadh.

Indeed, this could easily be remembered as the ‘hottest’  edition of the festival on account of the weather alone. It was hot, very hot, and the unventilated Town Hall Theatre often felt like one big oven. Yet, the programme was too stimulating to give into the call of the beach and strange urges to build a sand castle.

Of course, the people who decided to spend the hottest days Galway has possibly ever seen locked in a theatre were widely rewarded. Just like every year since its birth twenty-five years ago, the festival showcased some of the best home-grown productions today which in turn represented the good health and ambition of Irish cinema.

Things kicked off to a crowd pleasing start with Roger Gual’s Tasting Menu, a very charming comedy of errors telling the story of intertwining lives at the closing night of a Catalonian restaurant, regarded as the best restaurant in the world. Its theatrical approach aided by a good pace and great timing recalled the works of great names from Robert Altman to none other than William Shakespeare! Just as impressively, it closed with the introverted and reflective drama The Sea, in which director Stephen Brown skilfully made the task of turning the famous John Banville novel based on memory and regret look easy in a compact production complete with refined visual touches and compellingly withdrawn performances by Ciarán Hinds and Charlotte Rampling.

There were many different stories told and a wide assortment of styles and genres presented, but the recession inevitably came out as the prevailing theme. Two films in particular, though very different, represented it directly.

Lance Daly’s Life’s a Breeze, billed as a feelgood recession comedy, saw the return of the working class comedy à la Ealing Studios of Passport to Pimlico. This film is quite entertaining and commercially appealing – this is also the reason why it will probably be among the most successful films shown at the Fleadh during its domestic cinema run.

Alternatively, Out of Here used a much more direct and though-provoking approach to capture the essence of the everyday urban monotony and frustration of the life of a young Dubliner. Donal Foreman’s film is nothing short of praiseworthy for its passive anger and realist approach, as well as a visual style that is beautiful in its simplicity. Foreman also represented the kind of independent filmmaking that Irish cinema should thrive on for the way in which he brought Out of Here together through crowd-funding but also through determination, passion and a will to go out there and really make it happen.

The influence of the recession in the new Irish films could also be seen by the vulnerability of a lot of the lead characters, particularly the male characters. In fact, many aspects of masculinity were revealed in original ways. An excellent example is found in Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy’s hypnotic modern noir Mister John with its wonderfully unconventional character study of a man – played by Aiden Gillen in what is hands down one of this year’s most enchanting and haunting performances – whose troubled family life and misery lead him to re-invent himself as his dead brother’s alter ego in Singapore. The film is driven by a unique brand of mystery, with a hypnotic flow and stunning 35mm photography that enrich the experience and take full advantage of the naturally sinister beauty of a humid Singapore.

Similarly, in the documentary Coming Home, Viko Nikci captures the life of Angel Cordero, a man incarcerated for thirteen years for a crime he did not commit and chooses to examine the man rather than the case by focusing on his struggles as he reconnects with the outside world and his estranged daughter. Nikci’s use of narrative filmmaking photography and Angel’s own genuine magnetism as well as a desire to open up to the camera eye made this film very popular and without a doubt the most touching film of this year’s Fleadh. Indeed Nikci’s film was justly rewarded at Galway, picking up the Best Irish Documentary prize at Sunday’s award ceremony.

One could even read a specific viewpoint on masculine stubbornness and how it threatened to end the world in the gripping documentary, Here Was Cuba by John Murray and Emer Reynolds. Muldowney’s beautifully bizarre Love Eternal, on the other hand, is about a necrophiliac – in fact it may well be the sweetest film that could possibly ever be made about necrophilia.

The horror genre was well represented with Rossella de Ventuo’s Irish Italian production House of Shadows, a film which carries many new ideas and a genuine dramatic depth – both things lacking in the vast majority of today’s horror films – as well as an absorbing performance by Fiona Glascott.

My greatest personal regret is that I didn’t get to see the best Irish feature prize by Academy Award nominee Steph Green Run & Jump, though the positive feedback it received will have me rushing to the cinema as soon as it hits the screens. I also regret missing films like Discoverdale and Hill Street. Yet, in the end it didn’t matter that much, as I felt highly rewarded for the time I dedicated to following this year’s festival and highly rewarded by the quality of the many premieres I attended. So, I think it’s fair to congratulate everyone involved on the organising team who was responsible for yet another exciting Fleadh. But maybe let’s get some air conditioning for the Town Hall Theatre for next year, yeah?

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Interview: Kelly Thornton, star of ‘Life’s a Breeze’

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Kelly Thornton chats to Film Ireland about her debut acting role in Life’s a Breeze.

Life’s a Breeze features an impressive cast including the likes of Patt Shortt, Brian Gleeson, Eva Birthistle and Fionnula Flanagan. But it’s debutante Kelly Thornton who steals the show in Lance Daly’s feel-good “recession comedy” about a family struggling to stay afloat and stay together through hard times in Ireland. Kelly plays Emma, the niece of unemployed slacker Colm (Shortt), who along with his aging mother Nan (Flanagan) must overcome their many differences to lead their family in a race against time to find a lost fortune.

Kelly’s performance has already garnered recognition, picking up the Bingham Ray New Talent award at the Galway Film Fleadh.

As well as being her first feature, it was also her first experience of acting. Her entry into the world of film makes for a great story of discovery. As she explains herself: “Someone just came up to me on Grafton Street and asked me if I’d audition for a movie. It was a casting scout. It was unreal. So I left my details with her and they gave my mam a ring and and I went to 2 auditions, which were open auditions. They called me back a third time and told me I had it!”

Only 14 at the time, Kelly’s first experience of a film set was on Halloween night 2011 as Lance wanted to get footage of the bonfires and Halloween activities for the film with the shoot concluding in August 2012. For a couple of months it was Monday to Friday for Kelly, who was in third year at the time. How did that effect her school? “I had a tutor when I was on set so I didn’t do too bad in my Junior Cert!”

Kelly says she learnt so much from working on the film in particular the little things like “taking a breath before saying your lines, and not always having your mouth closed when I’m not speaking on camera –  just things that make it look more real on the screen.” In particular director Lance Daly was a great help during the shoot. “We did some rehearsals and Lance  would always let me know the little things I needed to know. Obviously I had no experience so he taught me a lot of things. He was always letting me know what’s going on and how things should be and what we were trying to get across in the scenes.”

After the work and thrill of making a film was over, the  run-up to the film’s release proved to be just as exciting for Kelly as “all my friends kept telling me ‘I saw you on the side of a bus’ and seeing the trailer online was great fun.” Now that the film is in the cinemas her friends can tell her ‘I saw you on the big screen.’

And judging from her performance, we’ll be seeing alot of more of Kelly Thornton on the big screen in the future.

 

Life’s a Breeze is in cinemas now

Click here for a Film Ireland interview with Macdara Kelleher, producer of Life’s a Breeze

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Interview: Macdara Kelleher, producer of ‘Life’s a Breeze’

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Life’s a Breeze is a feel-good “recession comedy” about a family struggling to stay afloat and stay together through hard times in Ireland. Directed by Lance Daly, the film stars Pat Shortt as unemployed slacker Colm, Fionnula Flanagan as his aging mother Nan, and Kelly Thornton as his niece Emma, who must overcome their many differences to lead their family in a race against time to find a lost fortune.

The film is an Irish-Swedish coproduction between Fastnet Films and Anagram Produktions. Macdara Kelleher is one of the co-founders of the Dublin-based production company Fastnet Films with Morgan Bushe and director Lance Daly. Film Ireland caught up with Macdara to find out about how Life’s a Breeze came together.

 

How did the idea originally come about?

It was inspired by a newspaper clipping about a woman who threw out her own life savings by mistake. We thought it was a nice starting point for a movie and it went from there. We took that element and developed it into the idea of what would happen if it became a national story with the whole country out looking for this lost fortune. The story follows a struggling family and, considering everything that has happened with the bank bailout and the current recession we are experiencing, it felt like it could be something quite timely. But we didn’t want to make something too depressing, as there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the papers on pretty much a daily basis. So we decided to make a comedy but its very honest and has a real heart to it, so it I think it ends up staying with you a lot longer than you would expect.

You’ve worked with Lance Daly on almost all his films. How has that relationship developed over the years?

We are basically Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show or Walter Matthau and George Burns in The Sunshine Boys. In short, it’s a perfect match.

It’s an ensemble comedy with a great cast – but Kelly Thornton, who won the New Talent Award in Galway, really stands out as a talent to watch. How was the process of casting her? As a new actor how did she fit in on a film set with so many established actors?

Kelly is an incredible young actress. She got on so well with the other actors right from the beginning because they all recognised her talent and responded to that. Also Lance has a amazing ability with young actors to illicit almost impossibly brilliant performances from them, making them seem somehow wise beyond their years and their performances feel completely real in every frame. The casting process, when you are casting kids who have usually not acted before, is a lengthy one – you want to leave no stone unturned. And to go into the detail of it here would take a long time, but essentially it’s the same process we used for Kisses. In this case however, all the schools were closed for summer so we sent an incredible woman (Hilary McCarthy) out onto the streets of Dublin, to summer schools, drama groups and so on, with a mission to find someone with that certain spark that makes a great actor. And she did.

Pat Shortt and Fionnula Flanagan are both great actors in very different ways, but they are always busy. What do you think attracted them to this project?

It always starts with a good script which they were both drawn to and the chance to work with Lance, knowing the kind of performances he gets from his cast.

Then in Pat’s case, I think that he is a really great actor. And he’s been in a lot of movies. But before Garage he wasn’t really thought of as a serious actor – more a great comic one. So he surprised a lot of people. His character Colm in Life’s a Breeze, combines his brilliant comic timing with his ability to play it serious and that’s what the role required. Also his character is a bit of a rascal at the best of times and he tends to put himself first, so you really need an actor that people warm. The worse he is, the more you’re rooting for him – and that’s Pat – people really love him.

In the case of Fionnula, in truth, it’s not very often that a really great part comes along for an older actress where they are front and centre, as opposed to supporting cast and I think she jumped at the chance to play this part. The film was a real opportunity for her to play a character that drives the story, along with Pat and Kelly’s characters and something different to what she’s played in the past. It’s a complex part and that really shows in her brilliant performance. Also it afforded her the opportunity to play someone who is still quite a bit older than she is in real life and this represented an interesting challenge (2hrs of ageing make up everyday…). As a portrayal of someone in their eighties it’s very interesting and at times heartbreaking; because here is a character who still has fire in her belly and a sparkle in her eye, but it’s very easy for people to dismiss the older generation and the film, in its quieter moments, is a touching reflection on this.

It’s important to get the dynamic right on such a large ensemble comedy. How did you work on that for this film?

We agonised long and hard over this and tried to really cast a family that you would believe could be related in real life and I think we achieved this. Nick McGinley, our casting director, played a key role in this. Ultimately if you cast the right actors for the right part, people will believe it – like The Commitments or The Snapper – you just never question it. But also it comes down to the writing and Lance really understands how to write a believable family dynamic.

How long was the project in development, and what were the major changes to the film over that period?

It was probably a year and a half in development from when Lance first gave me the script to when we started shooting. Not much changed – the script, when he first gave it to me, was quite fully formed – maybe we added a few more laughs here and there – I probably pushed for a laugh at the end – Lance probably wanted to send people out at the end thinking about something deeper. Any other changes that came were in the edit, where we brought the rest of the family into the story more, because that’s really where it’s heart was at – its about family and how you should always stick together through good times and bad.

You’ve recently set up a distribution company, Wildcard Distribution, who are handling the release of the film with over 40 prints. That’s a very big release for Ireland and the first big release for Wildcard. Can you outline your plans for the release and for getting the audience to go see it?

We’ve used all the traditional methods for the publicity campaign, which includes advertising methods like television and radio, making the cast from the film available for interviews in national and regional media. Patrick O’ Neill, who runs Wildcard Distribution, came up with some great ideas in addition to this, working with a number of promotional partners in the run-up to the release that were involved in the film, such as Greenstar Recycling, and Four Star Pizza – both of which organised competitions that involved direct marketing and mixed this with online and social media advertising and other tie-ins.

We focused on regional audiences just as much as in the major cities based on Pat Shortt’s nationwide appeal and also the fact that film deals with subjects that are in the national interest. The film is meant for a wide audience that also doesn’t alienate an older audience the way a lot of mainstream Hollywood movies might, hence the 40 print release. We partnered with iRadio which are based out of Athlone, and a lot of the first run cinemas for the film are outside of Dublin. We will also be working with Access Cinema and the Cinemobile later in the release to bring the film to audiences without access to a local cinema.

So the only thing that could stop us is a heatwave, but what are the odds of that…

What are the plans for international release?

We will premiere at an international festival – though I can’t say where just yet. And the international release we develop out of that.

What are your personal favourite scenes from the film?

There are two moments I think.There are are lot of laughs in the film, but the scene just after the family have played a huge practical joke on Pat Shortt and are all laughing at him standing there, topless, covered in shaving foam. He gives this little heartbreaking speech about not wanting to be a total loser living with his mother all his life. The other is this incredible scene we shot on the top of Bolands Mills, this crumbling old building on the canal basin, a memory of a bygone era, now owed by NAMA for all it’s worth – which is not much – a reminder of all that folly. With the Aviva stadium in the background a further reminder of the boom times. Kelly’s character goes out onto the roof at dusk and you see a 360° view of Dublin, in all it’s dirty old town glory, and you can forget for a second that the country is banjaxed – it’s a little bit of magic.

What were the most challenging parts of the film to complete?

Well we filmed on some pretty glamorous locations which included dumps and landfills on the outskirts of Dublin in the depths of winter, which definitely provided some unique challenges.

Fastnet has a great track record now in working across a very diverse range of films. Do you have a personal preference for the types of films Fastnet should be making? Any favourites from the back catalogue, and why?

As filmmakers we are really focused on working with talent – be that writers, directors, cast  – and that drives our decisions. Outside of our own films, if I was to make a wishlist of the type of films we’d like to make I’d be listing films like Let The Right One In, Gomorrah, A Prophet, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hunt. All of which are great films that are director-driven. They happen to have a genre element to them but that is almost secondary to the fact that they are just great films with a unique voice. That is what interests us. In terms of our own films, there are many films that I am really proud of, but I think Kisses probably stands out for me as the one that has a special place in my heart. Its ability to move people is the reason I started making films. I’ve seen the film maybe fifty times and travelled all over the world with it. But every time I’ve watched it with an audience I’ve gotten a different perspective on it. Probably my favourite screening was at a cinema in Les Arcs for about five hundred French kids aged between 10-14. It was a really incredible experience to see these kids watch the film and understand it and love it. The energy in the theatre was just remarkable and it has stayed with me to this day.

Yourself, Morgan Bushe and Conor Barry, who all produce through Fastnet, have all been nominated as Ireland’s Producers on the Move at Cannes. How does that help you in developing your careers as a producer?

It’s just a really good network, bringing together young European producers. I think we’ve all gotten something useful from it. From my own perspective it helped finance a number of our films, like The Runway and The Other Side of Sleep, and I’ve continued to work with producers whom I established a relationship with there.

Life’s a Breeze opens in cinemas Friday, 19th July 2013

Click here for an interview with Kelly Thornton, star of Life’s a Breeze

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Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: Life’s a Breeze

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The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

Life’s A Breeze

Friday, 12th July

Town Hall Theatre

21.00

Life’s a Breeze, the new “recession comedy” from director Lance Daly (Kisses) will see its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh this Friday. The film, which also opens in cinemas 19th July, is an Irish-Swedish co-production between Fastnet Films and Anagram Productions and stars Pat Shortt (The Guard, Garage) and Fionnula Flanagan (The Guard, The Others).

Life’s a Breeze is a feelgood comedy about the hard times of a recession hit Irish family. When slacker Colm (Pat Shortt), surprises his aging mother (Fionnula Flanagan) with a home makeover, little does he know an old mattress containing a small family fortune was amongst the thrown out furniture. Together with niece Emma (newcomer Kelly Thornton) and half the country, the family must put aside their differences in a search for the lost fortune.

Following the success of his award winning feature, Kisses, Lance Daly delivers a life-affirming film with a noble aim – to be a feel-good comedy that actually delivers on its promise.

Life’s a Breeze opens in cinemas 19th July, and tickets for its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at www.tht.ie.

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