Irish Films in Cinema 2015

 

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11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski)

4th December

 

The lives of urbanites intertwine in a world where anything can happen at any time.

Reviewed here

 

The Hallow (Corin Hardy)

13th November

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A family who move into a remote milllhouse in Ireland find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.

Reviewed here

 

Night People (Gerard Lough)

13th November

A pair of professional but badly mismatched criminals break into a vacant house to carry out an insurance scam. Awkwardly thrown together with an hour to kill, they reluctantly start telling each other tall tales.

Reviewed here

 

Brooklyn (John Crowley)

6th November

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Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of a young woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn, NY where, unlike home, she has the opportunity for work and for a future – and love, in the shape of Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen).  When a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, she finds herself absorbed into her old community, but now with eligible Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) courting her.  As she repeatedly postpones her return to America, Eilis finds herself confronting a terrible dilemma – a heart-breaking choice between two men and two countries.

Brooklyn is adapted from Colm Tóibín’s New York Times Bestseller by Nick Hornby  and directed by John Crowley.

Reviewed here

 

The Legend Of Longwood (Lisa Mulcahy)

23rd October

 

When 12-year-old Mickey Miller moves with her family from New York to Ireland, she soon discovers a mysterious link between herself and the 300-year-old legend of the mysterious Black Knight, who regularly haunts the sleepy Irish village of Longwood. With her new best friend in tow, Mickey sets out to redeem the knight while saving a precious herd of white horses and thwarting the evil plans of a greedy, ambitious woman  – a mighty handful even for the bravest girl.

Reviewed here

 

The Queen Of Ireland (Conor Horgan)

21st October

 

Conor Horgan’s documentary follows Rory O’Neill’s journey from the small Mayo town of Ballinrobe to striding the world stage. The film takes us behind the scenes with his alter ego Panti in the year she became the symbol of Ireland’s march towards marriage equality.

Reviewed here

 

The Hit Producer (Kevin de la Isla)

 

A struggling movie producer in search of an investor reluctantly follows the promise of money into Dublin’s drug underworld where she witnesses a botched murder attempt.

 

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)

16th October

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The Lobster is a love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel.  There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days.  If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods.  A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.

Reviewed here

 

Talking to My Father (Sé Merry Doyle)

16th October

 

Talking to my Father features two voices from two eras each concerned with how we as a nation understand the architecture that surrounds our lives. Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early sixties and one of its most celebrated and influential figures was Robin Walker.

Reviewed here

 

Tana Bana (Pat Murphy)

9th October

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In Varanasi, the uneasy peace between Hindu and Moslem hinges on the world renowned silk weaving.  The existence of this ancient Hindu city depends upon Moslem weavers.

Reviewed here

 

Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails (Tobi Baumann)

2nd October

 

Based on the bestselling novel “Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost” by Cornelia Funke, Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails, which features Amy Huberman, follows a young boy Tom who discovers an ASG, an Averagely Spooky Ghost called Hugo in his cellar.  He soon realizes that Hugo is not only completely harmless, but also desperately needs his help. Hugo cannot go back to his haunted house, because a dangerous AIG, an Ancient Ice Ghost, has moved in and is spreading an arctic cold over the entire town in the middle of summer. Tom and Hugo go to professional ghost-hunter Hetty Cuminseed, who doesn’t like children or ghosts very much, and who just lost her job at the CGI, the Central Ghosthunting Institute. Hetty teaches Tom and Hugo the basics of ghost-hunting and the three become an unusual team: only with friendship, courage and self-confidence can they overcome their adversary and save the town from the AIG.

Reviewed here

 

Older Than Ireland (Alex Fegan)

25th September

 

Older Than Ireland features thirty men and women aged 100 years and over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland. Older Than Ireland ‘s observational style offers a rare insight into the personal lives of these remarkable individuals.

Reviewed here

 

Pursuit (Paul Mercier)

18th September

A modern take on the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a contemporary myth about the pursuit of power, class, love and the chance to start again.

Reviewed here

 

The Callback Queen (Graham Cantwell)

11th September

 

In the cut-throat London film industry a vivacious actress chasing her big break struggles to maintain her integrity in the face of the director’s advances

 

The Great Wall ( Tadhg O’Sullivan)

21st August

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This bold new documentary, an adaptation of a Kafka story, looks at the enclosure of Europe by a complex system of walls and fences. Mysterious and visually dazzling, the film journeys across a range of European landscapes, and encounters those whose lives are defined by these walls – detainees within European migrant camps. [IFI Programme Notes]

Reviewed here

 

A Doctor’s Sword (Gary Lennon)

7th August

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Tells the incredible story of Aidan MacCarthy, a young doctor from West Cork who survived some of the most harrowing episodes of World War II (including the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) and his family’s search to uncover the origin of the Japanese Samurai sword, which now resides in MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere.

 

 

You’re Ugly Too (Mark Noonan)

10th July

 

Will (Aidan Gillen) is released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his niece Stacey after the death of her mother. As they both head into the sleepy Irish midlands and attempt to be a family, they suffer a series of setbacks; Stacey is refused admission to the local school because of her recently developed narcolepsy; Will repeatedly comes close to breaking his prison-ordered curfew; and his attempts at being a father figure to her prove disastrous…As their future hangs in the balance they must search for a new way forward together.

Reviewed here

 

 

Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore)

10th July

Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated animated feature tells the story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.

Reviewed here

 

Let Us Prey (Brian O’Malley)

12th June

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2fnLntATUo

Rachel, a rookie cop, is about to begin her first nightshift in a neglected police station in a Scottish, backwater town. The kind of place where the tide has gone out and stranded a motley bunch of the aimless, the forgotten, the bitter-and-twisted who all think that, really, they deserve to be somewhere else. They all think they’re there by accident and that, with a little luck, life is going to get better. Wrong, on both counts. Six is about to arrive – and All Hell Will Break Loose!

Reviewed here

 

Queen and Country (John Boorman)

12th June

The sequel to Boorman’s 1987 Academy Award®-nominated picture, Queen and Country takes place in 1952. Bill Rohan is eighteen years old, dreaming his life away at the family’s riverside home, waiting to be called up for two years’ conscription in the British Army. His idyll is shattered by the harsh realities of boot camp. He meets Percy, an amoral prankster; they are rivals and antagonists, but they gradually forge a deep friendship in the claustrophobic environment of a closed, prison-like training camp. The pressure is briefly relieved by excursions into the outside world, where they both fall in love. Finally, Bill is confronted with the shattered lives of wounded boys returning from Korea.

Reviewed here

 

Fortune’s Wheel (Joe Lee)

5th June

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Fortune’s Wheel is a documentary feature film about Bill Stephens, an ordinary young man in 1950s Ireland with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star.  It is also a love story about Bill and his young and beautiful wife May, from East Wall.  Their double act, Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner, was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the stage.  With this act they hoped to break free from the suffocating reality of Irish life, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped.
The story gained national and international attention at the time, but it is only now – after 60 years of silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.

Reviewed here

 

The Canal (Ivan Kavanagh)

8th May

Set in rural Ireland, The Canal stars Rupert Evans as David, a film archivist with a morbid fascination for old films in which the subjects have since died. Right after learning that his wife may be cheating on him, she mysteriously disappears at the same time that his assistant Claire finds an old reel of film that points to a murder that took place in his house a hundred years ago. David starts to suspect her disappearance may involve some form of the supernatural but he also quickly becomes the prime suspect.

Reviewed here

 

Get Up & Go (Brendan Grant)

1st May

A slacker comedy which chronicles a hectic 24 hours in the life of would-be comedian Coilin (Killian Scott) and frustrated musician Alex (Peter Coonan). When Alex’s girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant, he refuses to allow her to derail his long-held plan to escape to London. Meanwhile the hapless Coilin is striking out on stage and off, as he attempts to get his faltering comedy career off the ground and win the heart of his dream girl. With time ticking down to Alex’s departure, the mismatched pair will be forced to confront the reality of their childhood dreams of artistic greatness while their lifelong friendship is tested to the limit.

Reviewed here

 

Two by Two (Toby Genkel, Sean McCormack)

1st May

It’s the end of the world. A flood is coming. Luckily for Finny and his dad Dave, a couple of clumsy Nestrians, an Ark has been built and all animals are welcome… well almost all. Unfortunately for them, Nestrians are not on the list! But Dave has a plan, and Finny and he manage to sneak onto the Ark disguised as Grymps – much to the horror of real Grymps, Hazel and her daughter Leah.

However their troubles are just beginning as the two curious youngsters end up falling over board. Now Finny and Leah have to brave the elements in their quest to find higher ground while fighting off hungry predators and making unlikely friends. Meanwhile on board the Ark the parents must set aside their differences and hatch a plan to turn the boat around and make it back in time to rescue their kids.

Reviewed here

 

Glassland (Gerard Barrett)

17th April

In in a desperate bid to save his mother from addiction and unite his broken family, a young taxi driver on the fringes of the criminal underworld is forced to take a job which will see him pushed further into its underbelly. But will John be prepared to act when the time comes knowing that whatever he decides to do, his and his family’s lives will be changed forever.

Reviewed here

 

 I Used To Live Here (Frank Berry)

3rd April

I Used To Live Here follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.

Reviewed here

 

In A House That Ceased To Be (Ciarín Scott)

13th March

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q9aesjHjeU

A documentary that focuses on Irish humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble, whose unwavering commitment and selfless efforts have seen her change the lives of countless children and families for the better since 1989. Her drive stems from a childhood in Ireland fraught with poverty, loss and institutional abuse. However, despite achieving so much in the face of adversity and the success of her global children’s foundation, Christina remains scarred by the memory of the three children she was unable to save, namely her own brother and two sisters, from whom she was separated at a very young age. Hundreds of thousands have benefitted as a result of her courage, daring and steadfast dedication to protecting the vulnerable from the evils of the world, but is it possible for Christina to put her own family back together after being separated for fifty-three years?

 

Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon) 

6th February

 

 

A young man with mental health issues becomes intimate with a suicidal air hostess, but his obsessive mother enlists a dysfunctional cop to separate them.

Reviewed here

 

Apples of the Golan (Keith Walsh & Jill Beardsworth)

16th January

The epic story of one village in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Before the Six Day War, Majdal Shams was one of 139 villages in the Golan Heights region. Only five remain. Over 130,000 Syrian Arabs were forced from their homes never to return. Amongst those who remain a stoic pragmatism prevails, Israel their home, Syria their homeland. Neither is paradise. They are too few to fight. The apples are the people’s bombs.

Reviewed here

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Interview: Joe Lee, director of ‘Fortune’s Wheel’

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Joe Lee spoke to Film Ireland about his documentary Fortune’s Wheel, which tells the fascinating story of lion-tamer Bill Stephens in 1950s Dublin.

 

One Sunday afternoon in 1951 in Dublin’s Fairview Cinema, audiences were being transported to the exotic plains of the film Jungle Stampede, which featured a wild beast stalking its human prey – little did cinemagoers know that outside the cinema that same afternoon, Fairview was playing host to its very own beast roaming the streets as a lioness, owned by local man Bill Stephens, escaped from her pen menacing shocked locals.

Joe Lee’s documentary Fortune’s Wheel, which is currently screening at the IFI, introduces us to the events that occurred that day which ended when police were forced to shoot the lioness dead. From this point on we are led into the remarkable world of the lioness’ owner Bill Stephens, the Fairview lion tamer, whose act, ‘Jungle Capers with Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner’ (his wife, May) travelled around Ireland.

Joe gives a bit of background to Bill Stephens – “he was a welder by trade and something of a mechanic but he was also a drummer in The Billy Carter Swing Band. But he had always had an interest in animals. He bought a lion cub from Dublin zoo and he reared it alongside his own Alsatians. He soon began travelling with Fossetts and Duffys, two of Ireland’s biggest circus families. At the time of the escape in November 1951 Bill was keeping 3 or 4 lions at the back of Fairview cinema, which he used for his act.”

The escape, which is remembered in the film by a colourful cast of local people, turned Bill into a star as the story spread across the world. He became, as Joe describes, “that famous guy whose lioness escaped in Fairview” – but that fame was a doubled-edged sword as Bill had lost a very valuable animal which would prove very difficult to replace. But if he was to fulfill his ambition of taking his act to America, Bill knew he had to do it with his next lion.

The lion he replaced her with was a very difficult lion – a very aggressive one that would  ultimately lead to tragedy. Joe refers to Bill’s time with his newly acquired lion as his year of living dangerously. Seeking to emulate his hero Clyde Beatty, the famous American lion-tamer, Bill had raised the stakes, performing more and more dangerous acts with a more aggressive animal.  As Joe explains, “He was a guy in his 20s and like a racing car driver he always wants to drive that extra 5 miles per hour  to push the boundaries of what it was. All the time he would have been looking at Clyde Beatty with his 12 animals and mixing lions and tigers and wanting to do that himself. In Beatty’s book Jungle Performers it says Get an angry animal into your act. It makes it more exciting.” Unfortunately for Bill, seeking such excitement involved taking one risk too many.

Alongside his partner May, a lot of Stephens’ life has been clouded in myth, stories that had stayed untold and memories that had remained hidden for various reasons. Thankfully, Fortune’s Wheel provides a voice for those stories and a space for those memories culminating in moments of catharsis that are a testament to a remarkable man who truly dared to dream.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzUOQh99-nY

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Review: Fortune’s Wheel

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DIR: Joe Lee • WRI: Lorraine Kennedy, Joe Lee, Bill Whelan • PRO: Joe Lee • ED: Joe Lee • MUS: Les Keye • DES: Alex Bradley • CAST: Bill Whelan, Bob Cuthbert, George Smith, Alice Hazley, Patrick Caufield

 

While Bill and Mai Stephens may not be familiar to contemporary audiences, in early 1950s Ireland and North Dublin City in particular, this ordinary yet eccentric couple were somewhat celebrities thanks to their audacious circus act, “Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner” involving their band of lions and Alsatian dogs. Captivating audiences with wildly reckless capers including putting his head between the lions’ teeth and feeding them from his own mouth, Bill’s unrestrained fearlessness and Mai’s exotic mysteriousness isolated them from the prevailing socio-economic austerities of the decade and brought an element of glamour and excitement to the north city area.

 

A welder and drummer but always yearning to become a lion-tamer, Bill Stephens first gained notoriety when one of his lionesses escaped and went on the prowl for almost two hours on the streets of Fairview in November 1951. The incident garnered huge media interest and untold panic in the local community, including attacking Bill himself but as his celebrity grew from the incident so did his burning ambition in becoming a successful international circus star. He travelled the country with Irish circus troupes, the Duffys and the Fossetts and under the influence of American lion trainer Clyde Beatty but against the advice of his circus associates, Bill acquired a temperamental lion named Pasha from Dublin Zoo. This decision was to culminate in tragic consequences for both Bill and Mai and along with the escaped lioness incident, the Stephens have remained shrouded in mystery ever since, until now.

 

Sixty-four years on since Bill’s lioness prowled the north city streets, Dublin film director and visual artist Joe Lee brings the intriguing story of the duo to life in his documentary Fortune’s Wheel. Acclaimed for his work in investigating urban Irish cultures through a visually captivating style, Lee returns to the Fairview and Marino areas to unearth the urban legend surrounding the ambiguous pair. Despite the story being largely forgotten outside the local area and many not having spoken of the incident since that day, Bill, Mai and the lioness remain firmly entrenched in the memories of the community, families and friends of the curious circus couple.

 

Archive stills and loquaciously illustrative recollections vividly recreate the day the lioness stalked the streets and largely motivates the reflective tale, which is also driven by an investigative hunt to unearth what happened to the elusive Mai Stephens. Lee unravels the urban myth behind the couple, with residents wittily recalling memories that range from the factual to the fabricated, some with great fondness and some with slight fear but all consolidated by a genuine warmth, fascination and pride for the simple Dublin man whose love of animals brought international media attention to their unassuming community one November day in 1951.

 

Fortune’s Wheel fuses Dublin’s past with its present through engaging perceptions and recollections of an event that shaped a local area and resonates with its community to this day. Bill Stephen’s Fairview recalls an economically tough Dublin but one that was solidly united through its palpable sense of social cohesion and community resilience. Amidst the abundance of wit and warmth however, a profound sense of sadness and regret imbues the community’s parable of their local hero whose simple ambitions rooted him in a by-gone age that has since eroded thanks to the city’s ever-changing identity. While Bill’s challenging feats garnered him acclaim and celebrity amidst the economic hardships, his abiding passion for animals and his dogged determination to become an international circus star proved to be his undoing and as Fortune’s Wheel delineates, would go on to have a profound affect on Mai Stephens and this local Dublin community for decades to come.

 

 

     Dee O’Donoghue

76 minutes

Fortune’s Wheel is released 5th June 2015

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzUOQh99-nY
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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