Lochlainn O’Mearain (Poison Pen)

Cormac O’Brien reports from the recent Irish Film Festival London, which ran from 19-23 November 2014

November’s Irish Film Festival London was the 4th year the UK capital got a taste of Irish cinematic offerings, and it might’ve been the most successful one yet. Screening a record six UK premieres, the ever-growing festival brought the best of recent Irish documentary, film and panel discussions to five different London locations.

Catering to all (good) tastes the varied range of films featured politics, romance, action, crime and drama; catching up with festival director Kelly O’Connor, she told me, “We are proud of our programme being diverse, screening shorts, animations, low-budget and up-and-coming films alongside those with all-singing-all-dancing international distribution. The creative voices from Ireland are increasingly articulate, regardless of their directors’, or production teams’ experience or training. The Irish have always been among the finest storytellers in the world. It’s our job to make sure those stories are told here in the UK, where so many of our emigrants are gathering.”

Claire Dix, director of one of the festival highlights, Broken Song, had this to say: “It’s wonderful. Hopefully it’ll offer a different Irish theme, and a fresh way of looking at the city on screen. It’s a real honour to be included in the festival programme.” With co-directors of Poison Pen, Jenny Shortall and Lorna Fitzsimons, chiming in, “It’s really important to for us as directors and the film crew as a whole to bring our film to a wider audience outside of the homegrown scene.”

The Irish in London (as well as everyone else) came out in full force to attend.

Opening the festival, IFTA’s foreign language Oscar-hopeful, An Bronntanas, makes excellent use of its Wesht of Ireland location, in the tale of two brothers and a violently escalating tale of drugs, greed, murder and keeping the family fish factory open. Connemara Noir at its finest.

Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams takes time off from being Ayra Stark for the entrancingly off-beat Gold. When a father returns to his family after a ten-year absence he finds himself the unwitting source of a series of unfortunate tragi-comic entanglements. Niall Heery’s follow up to his 2006 film Small Engine Repair also features Kerry Condon, James Nesbitt and David Wilmot.

Claire Dix’s debut doc, Broken Song, follows three Dublin Hip Hop artists, as they bring their own unique diction to life in North Dublin. GI, Costello and Willa Lee are street poets, modern-day preachers with an aim to articulate their experience of inner-city life.

Coming from a trio of directors, Steven Benedict, Jennifer Shortall and Lorna Fitzsimons, Poison Pen adapts Artemis Fowl-scribe Eoin Colfer’s story to film. Made as part of Filmbase MSc in Filmmaking, Poison Pen follows high-brow author PC Molloy as he becomes embroiled in a world of celebrity secrets and intrigue!

Blood Fruit, directed by Sinead O’Brien, takes us back to the 1984 Dunnes Stores strike, when a group of shopworkers picketed to cease the handling of South African goods during apartheid. Lasting 3 years, and with the help of the exiled South African activist Nimrod Sejake (who shared a cell with Nelson Mandela in Robben Island) the Dunnes Stores Strike became an important landmark in the history of the anti-apartheid movement.

The charming Irish rom-com The Standby takes Mad Men star Jessica Paré on a whirlwind tour through Dublin at night, with Brian Gleeson. A real treat for old romantics.

A showcase of some of the best talent Ireland has to offer, 2014’s Irish Film Festival London was a tremendous success, setting a standard for future editions of the increasingly popular festival and providing a platform for the new generation of filmmakers coming from Ireland to promote that certain sensibility of Irish cinema in the UK market and the international stage. 


You can listen to an interview from the festival here with 2 of the co-directors of Poison Pen, Jennifer Shortall and Lorna Fitzsimons.



The Irish Film Festival London would like to thank the Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, IFI International, and Grange Hotels for their support.


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