June Butler finds there’s no short supply of talent working in Irish film..

Bardo – 4 minutes – 2021 – Director Aisling Conroy – Screenwriter Aisling Conroy

A beautifully rendered, animated short story about the joys of fully living and seeing the wood for the trees. A young woman visits her grandmother who tells the tale of her youth – of dances and innocent fun. By contrast, the young woman is drinking, taking drugs and seems to be endlessly hungover. The title, Bardo, refers to a transitional, intermediate state between death and rebirth. The story, while cautionary, lends itself to true self-actualization and finding inner peace. It is about knowing when to stay still and yet be equally brim full of exuberant expectancy.   

Signal – 10 minutes – 2021 – Director Diarmuid Donohoe – Screenwriter Tony Kiernan

Screenwriter Tony Kiernan narrates a story about two young boys, Sean (James Quinn Markey), and Michael (Calum Jess), who try to create an auditory path to the universe in order to converse with all creatures living or dead. They somehow obtain a satellite dish and smuggle it into Sean’s home. Sean rigs up a complex array of machines and tries to make contact with an unknown entity. An innocent mishap causes the contraption to break and the youngsters engage in a fight with each blaming the other for the setback. Kiernan has scripted a tense tale about the existence of life beyond our common understanding. Director Diarmuid Donohoe has brought the story into wondrous being. 

Lady Betty – 7 minutes – 2021 – Director Paul McGrath – Screenwriter Bobby Moloney

‘Based on a true myth’ is the opening line of this sublime short film. Paddy (Colm Meaney) and Mick (David Pears) drunkenly parade a litany of tall tales in an endless endeavor at one-upmanship. Mick tries to convince Paddy that he has been bitten by a ferocious beast, showing what he terms as a huge scar on his arm. Paddy dismisses the disfigurement as a mere scratch and goes on to show Mick a wound on his neck. Mick wonders if Paddy has cut himself shaving. Back and forward the banter goes until Paddy starts to speak of Betty Sugrue, the first female hangwoman in Ireland. Lady Betty is a witty and hilarious anime, ably narrated by two armchair historicists who believe that the truth should never get in the way of a good story.   

Memento Mori – 9 minutes – 2021 – Director Paul O’Flanagan – Screenwriter Paul and Laura O’Flanagan

Henry Huxley (Mark Gatiss) is an enigmatic and urbane photographer who takes images of the recently deceased. Director Paul O’Flanagan has wrought a dark and mysterious story about how those in death are seen more clearly than when they lived. Laura O’Flanagan plays the role of ‘The Girl’, a young woman who, having departed this mortal coil, leaves behind a note addressed to Huxley and exhorts him to show more empathy towards the plight of others. Huxley boasts of being impartial when posing his subjects but soon comes to realise that true compassion is the defender of humanity. Paul O’Flanagan delivers an exceptionally skilled animation film that has gothic overtones and elements of the macabre. 

Pork – 5 minutes – 2021 – Director Gareth Lyons – Screenwriter Gareth Lyons

Another superb animated film with director Gareth Lyons at the helm, Pork is a wry, rib- tickling comment on consumerism and the mundanities of life. All narrated through the jaded eyes of a pig. Pork hits the ground running and never lets up. The title is a little ambiguous. The content is not. Filled with good-natured asides, Pork explores the pedestrian and redefines the meaning of sentient being. 

An Encounter – 20 minutes – 2021 – Director Kelly Campbell – Screenwriter Mark O Halloran

A boy gazes out to sea. He stands motionless and watches the distant waves ebb and flow. Moments earlier, the same boy is under a canal bridge with another youth as they change clothes. It becomes clear that both parties have decided to ‘mitch’ off school.  Hauntingly beautiful music by Slow Meadow and Klaus Schulze accompanies Stephen (Moses Murphy) and Jay (Robert Carney) along their winding path through the docklands. In an attempt to evade being seen by school authorities and parents, they choose a lesser taken route through whispering alleys and wasteland. Hidden from sight, they come across an old ship, covered in graffiti and rust. They bounce stones off the hull when suddenly an official chases them away.  Later on, they walk to the Bull Island and lie in the dunes while Jay chatters in a word-salad of running commentary. An older man (Gary Lydon) appears and states that he is looking for his bitch terrier. Jay ambles off to look for the dog while the man begins to make sinister overtures to Stephen. Taken from a short story by James Joyce and wonderfully adapted by Mark O Halloran, An Encounter is a weirdly beautiful yet grotesque coming of age. Director Kelly Campbell is definitely one to watch. The cinematography and images are utterly stunning and the cast is genius. The world-weary Stephen provides a perfect foil to the bumbling clumsiness of Jay. A pearl of a short film.  

If Neon Meets Argon – 15 minutes – 2021 – Director and Screenwriter James Doherty

Liam (Lalor Roddy) runs an ailing neon sign business and without the funds to keep himself afloat, lives, works and watches over a warehouse full of neon signs. Thomas (Dane Whyte O’Hara) breaks in and is confronted by Liam who flips a switch illuminating all of the neon signs at once. Thomas flees but later returns and tries to persuade Liam to hire him as an assistant. In the meantime, a belligerent customer (John Connors) repeatedly phones Liam demanding that Liam finish a job he has paid him to do. Thomas appears lonely and ill at ease but shows great interest in making neon lights. Liam shows him the skills and slowly Thomas starts to come into his own. Simon Crowe, Director of Photography, has to receive special mention here because the images are startlingly mesmerising and the lighting is atmospheric and ethereal. Director and screenwriter James Doherty has created a thing of beauty, aided and abetted by music from Ready Player Piano and The Stringed Theory. If Neon Meets Argon looks like a cohesive construct with some fine directing and a first-rate cast. 

Hedy = 11 minutes – 2021 – Director and Screenwriter Andy B Clarke

Sophie Clarke plays the role of Hedy, a young woman, homeless and living off her wits. She has created a robot that embodies her younger brother (voiced by Oscar Clarke) and together they busk in the streets in order to earn some money. In the distance, a beggar (Megan Elle Day) jealously observes the duo and one day while Hedy is away, takes the robot and destroys it, much to Hedy’s grief. The story should end there but a charming and heart-warming twist follows, leading viewers to note that kindness runs deep in all humans. Hedy is an endearing story that delights the heart.  Shown against a backdrop of gritty dystopia, Hedy displays beauty in the darkest of corners. 

Nightlink – 10 minutes – 2021 – Director Aidan O’Sullivan

Director Aidan O’Sullivan has devised an animated story of love and loss. A drunken man meanders home, wearily bewailing his lot. A group of four mysterious ghost-like creatures bear witness to his musings. There are images of a funeral and the streets are strangely empty – further enhancing the feeling of a trancelike dreaminess. The strange creatures encourage the man to take a Nightlink bus, where all of the other passengers appear to be zombies. Suddenly the man realises that life is not so bad and begs to be returned to his daughter claiming that she needs him in her life. Nightlink is a metaphor of being grateful for every inhaled breath and each beating heart. If you hail from Dublin, the streets and environs will become eerily familiar. But unpopulated as you have never seen it. This unique short film is a great yarn and forces the viewer to confront the fact that happiness is a state of mind.     


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