Fionn Warren attended a selection of Screen Ireland shorts curated by the Dublin International Film Festival.
This selection of Screen Ireland-funded short films included a diverse selection of films, both documentaries and live action, that explored a wide variety of themes and issues. Made up of all-female filmmakers, the six films provided a a wonderful opportunity to catch some great filmmaking talent on the big screen in front of a packed audience.
The Grass Ceiling
DIR: Iseult Howlett • WRI: Eimear Ryan
The Grass Ceiling is a short documentary that profiles three successful female athletes. Adapted from Eimear Ryan’s The Fear of Winning, an essay about Eimear’s experience as a Camogie player, The Grass Ceiling is ostensibly a sports documentary, but like the essay it is based on, it is really so much more.
Eimear is one of the three protagonists in the film, alongside soccer international Rianna Jarrett, and rugby player Elise O’Byrne-White. Accompanied by images of each athlete in competition, they talk about what sport has meant to them. The Grass Ceiling explores the relationship between the athletes and their bodies and looks at women’s role in society. At the core of the film is the transformative power of sport and how certain qualities valued in team sport – competitiveness, physicality, passion – have helped them to realise the best versions of themselves.
DIR/WRI: Suri Grennell
Wrath, written and directed by Suri Grennell, tells the story of Maria, a girl at the precipice of womanhood as a strange epidemic sweeps the nation. Plagued with mythological premonitions, Maria must navigate her new circumstances as well as her disloyal brother.
Filmed on location in Straide and Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, Wrath is a visceral short which contains some unsettling imagery and an eerie atmosphere. Suri has explained how she came up with the idea for Wrath at the same time that the Me Too movement “was becoming prevalent [and the] Abortion Rights vote was happening.” As a result, she claims there was an element of anger when making the film, it is an anger that is palpable throughout it.
Above the Law
DIR: Bryony Dunne
Above the Law is a documentary that conceptually links the intercontinental routes of migratory birds with the journeys of refugees and migrants. Traversing the same bodies of land and water, the film does a good job of highlighting the contrast between the freedom of the bird’s travel with the arduous and constricted travel of their human counterparts. Above the Law compliments this core idea with really strong visuals. I found the shot of the discarded lifejackets to be particularly moving and the ‘bird’s-eye view’ shots, achieved by mounting a camera on a bird of prey, are stunning.
DIR: Claire Byrne • WRI: Tracy Martin
Sister This depicts a phone conversation between two sisters who argue over work and family commitments. A number of themes and issues run through this short – family, motherhood, work, the porn industry – but ultimately it explores the sisters’ relationship. Claire Byrne has even called it “a love story between the two sisters.” Both actors put in really moving performances and, despite the fact they never appear on screen together, there feels to be a real bond between the two. The difficulty of going between both locations and viewpoints while retaining drama is also navigated really well.
DIR/WRI: Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair
Break Us is a live action short which depicts the robbery of a rural post office by a young couple, Mark and Sophie. However things go awry for the two protagonists and they soon discover what they are truly made of.
The action sequences in Break Us are very well done, feeling both real and cinematic at the same time. The two leads also do a great job as a young, dangerous couple in love. As a self professed fan of Sam Peckinpah, Rioghnach successfully captures that grainy, old-school feel to the heist film. However, having taken issue with the fact that “women took a back seat in those movies,” Rioghnach’s film offers a new and welcome twist on the genre.
Welcome to a Bright White Limbo
Director: Cara Holmes
Welcome to a Bright White Limbo is an experimental documentary that focuses on Oona Doherty, a Belfast-based dancer and choreographer, and follows the creative process of her award-winning show Hope Hunt. This poetic documentary does a great job of illuminating Oona, incorporating some visually arresting imagery with really creative uses of voice over and music. The experimental nature of the film mirroring the creativity and unusual approach of its subject.
Screen Ireland Shorts 1 screened on 1st March as part of the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival.