GOING SHORT!

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Wednesday night marks the close of the 14th Chicago Irish Film Festival, but its not too late to grab some tickets, watch some films … all shorts, all night!….get into an intense debate over which one deserves to win the Audience Award …vote, vote vote and then head on over to Lizzie McNeill’s to down a pint. Don’t let the festival pass you by or you’ll be kicking your shillelagh until next year when we will be celebrating 15 years of brilliant Irish cinema.

DOCUMENTING IRELAND

 

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What do mid century Irish architects, “The Troubles”, the Congo: 1961, an iconic American photo from 1932 and Mohammed Ail have in common, they are all the subjects of documentaries in the 14th Chicago Irish Film Festival, made by some of Ireland’s finest award-winning documentary filmmakers.Still Films’ Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley bring architectural precision to their film BUILD SOMETHING MODERN that tells the story of a group of young Irish architects who embark on a remarkable journey, both personally and architecturally, when they decide to design and build schools, hospitals and churches across Africa in the 1950’s and 60’s commissioned by Catholic missionaries. Religion, which has played a major role throughout “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, but it takes a back seat in Margo Harkin’s THE FAR SIDE OF REVENGE as six women weave their stories of pain, lose, regret, and remorse into a mantle of forgiveness and support as they move towards peace and understanding in post-conflict Belfast. Peace was the objective when the United Nations stepped in to protect the newly established Democratic Republic of Congo in 1960 after it gained independence from Belgium. Directed by Brendan Culleton and Irina Maldea the documentary, CONGO: AN IRISH AFFAIR, focuses on the Irish Army’s 35th Battalion as it struggled to preserve democracy while being attacked by both native and international forces. Immigration, skyscrapers, jobs and New York City were all caught in one iconic photograph taken in 1932 of a group men perched on a steel beam 69 stories high taking a break during the construction of the GE Building, known as Lunch Atop A Skyscraper. Directed by Seán Ò Cualáin of Sonta Films, MEN AT LUNCH tells the marvelous and previously untold story of the men and the photograph with narration by Fionnula Flanagan. Although it’s not an untold story the fight between Muhammad Ali and Al “Blue” Lewis at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland in 1972 was not well known outside of Ireland. WHEN ALI CAME TO IRELAND, directed by Ross Whitaker, is a ringside seat to one of the most colorful and amazing sports stories ever told with a cast of characters that includes Yul Brynner’s son Rock, John Houston and Ronald Reagan….truly a great story about “The Greatest.”

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CIFF FEATURE FILMS 2013

KEYS TO THE CITY

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KEYS TO THE CITY weaves together three separate stories : Eoin is a businessman with bills and a mortgage, Paul is a landlord with overdue bank payments and Monika’s minimum wage job is under threat by her boss. As all three struggle for survival they becoming increasingly desperate in their actions hoping to keep their lives and families together and survive in recession -era Dublin.

KEYS TO THE CITY, was the first feature to be produced under the supervision of Filmbase in Dublin and Staffordshire University in the UK and was directed by Laura Way, Chris Brennan and Mel Cannon , and co-produced by Peter Bodie and Trisha Flood and is having its U.S. premier at the festival. The cast includes Rory Keenan (The Guard), Conor Mullen (Holby City); Una Kavanagh (Garage), Natalia Kostrzewa (The Looking Glass) and David Murray (King of the Travellers). KEYS TO THE CITY will screen Saturday, March 2.

DERELICT

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Also having its U.S. debut at the festival is Frank Kelly´s DERELICT the story of a group of men, down on their luck, who decide to hold a bank manager’s family hostage while robbing his bank. A dark thriller filled with tension the film is set in a derelict building and focuses on the friction between the kidnappers and the family and between the kidnappers themselves; but things take a frightening turn when it appears that the kidnappers are not alone in the building. With an edgy soundtrack by Dermot O’Mahony what seemed like a simple kidnapping turns into a fight for survival for everyone involved.

Writer/Director Frank Kelly ( Emily´s Song, 140) was so committed to the film that he also edited the film and was the lead fundraiser securing over €6,500 with donations from the Drogheda community, as well as online through Kickstarter. The cast included Michael Bates (The Escapist), Steve Gunn (Titanic: Blood and Steel), Gerry Shanahan (Shackled) , Patrick O’Donnell (The Looking Glass), Elaine Reddy (Slán agus Beannacht), Catherine Wrigglesworth (Railway Children), Rory Mullen (Portrait of a Zombie) and Brian Fortune (Game of Thrones). DERELICT will screen Tuesday, March 5th.

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EARTHBOUND

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The sci-fi romantic comedy EARTHBOUND will screen Saturday, March 2nd in its first U.S. screening since picking up a Best of the Fest at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival.

A debut feature by Writer/Director Alan Brennan EARTHBOUND has terrific performances by Rafe Spall ( Prometheus) as a nerdy young man that’s convinced he is a space alien and Jenn Murray the geeky girl of his dreams that walks into his comic book shop one fateful day. Produced by Ripple World Pictures and Paper Dreams Limited. The Director will attend.

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IRISH FOLKLORE FURNITURE

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Tony Donoghue´s IRISH FOLK FURNITURE will screen opening night, March 1st at the 14th Chicago Irish Film Festival having just won the prize for Best Animation at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

The film uses stop-motion animation to breathe life into old pieces of furniture found rotting in Irish barns and sheds.

IRISH FOLK FURNITURE was produced by Cathal Black . This is the second short film directed by Donoghue to screen at the festival, the first was A FILM FROM MY PARISH : 6 FARMS that won a festival award in 2008.


SANCTUARY

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SANCTUARY is the story Jan, a successful Polish surgeon and his encounter with an intriguing young woman at a conference in Ireland. The film stars Jan Frycz (80 Millions, Little Rose) and Anne-Marie Duff (Magdeline Sisters, Nowhere Boy) and made its international debut at the Galway Film Fleadh.

SANCTUARY Is Norah McGettigan’s first feature film and was produced by Venom Film, Dublin, and Wajda Studio, Warsaw. SANCTUARY will opene the festvial March 1st.

 

SPOTLIGHT ON SHORTS

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IRISH STORIES….

Award winning, entertaining, witty, animated, edgy, cultural, anticipated, this year’s short films are all this and more.

The festival will open with Tony Donoghue’s 2013 Sundance award winner, IRISH FOLK FURNITURE, an animated testament to what a new coat of paint can do. IRISH FOLK FURNITURE is part of the Spotlight on Shorts Program, a selected group of shorts that will screen with feature films and documentaries throughout the festival. This selection of shorts also includes… Lorcan Finnigan’s FOXES, an eerie portrait of nighttime happenings in one of Ireland’s “ghost estates”;  C.J. Scuffin’s THE BLOW-INS, which finds a very determined young woman attempting to redeem her family’s name—even if she has to join the sea rescue service to do it; Eoghan Kidney’s  animated film, WE, THE MASSES, is based on the art work of Robyn O’Neil, as beautiful as it is unsettling; HOME TURF, the award winning film by Ross Whitaker, beautifully captures the joys of comraderie and the ancient art of turf cutting; Shaun O’Connor’s UISCE BRETHA  won the 2012 Best of Cork Award, a fateful story of a young man with a ticket to America on the Titanic; Irish architect Orla Murphy’s animated film, TOWN, highlights the “suburbanization” of rural villages into indistinguishable centers of garages and big box outlets; Lanka Perren’s tribute to Dingle’s FOXY JOHN’S , a pub and a hardware store both day and night!; and NO JUSTICE, Alan Walsh’s gritty drama about drugs, death and revenge.

 

SHORTS PROGRAM I

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Shorts Program I is filled with smiles and triumphs as lives are sorted out and obstacles are overcome through small stories with big hearts. Mark Coogan’s PARTLY CLOUDY is a lovely and honest portrait of sisterly love and patience… read more

SHORTS PROGRAM II

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Shorts Program II has everything from science fiction fantasy to documentary, hard choices to cheeky Irish humor. Two  films by Andrew Legge will open and close the program: THE GIRL WITH THE MECHANICAL MAIDEN takes a most fantastical approach to childcare while A KINGDOM ONCE AGAIN presents a most radical idea to solve Ireland’s current financial situation. read more

Ciaran Foy’s CITADEL screens in Chicago

 Award Winning IRISH Film Opens in Chicago!

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CITADEL
directed by Ciaran Foy

Starts Friday  
December 14, 2012

Facets Cinematheque 
1517 W. Fullerton Ave Chicago, IL 60614

CITADEL is the story of Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) who is afflicted with chronic agoraphobia after his wife is brutally killed by a gang of twisted feral children. Trapped in the dilapidated suburbia of Edenstown Tommy sets out to learn the nightmarish truth surrounding these hooded children. CITADEL brings a fresh take to classic horror winning the 2012 Midnight Audience Award at SXSWFF, the 2012 Audience Award at the Celluloid Screams Festival and nominated for two 2012 Scottish NAFTA Awards.

Check out the trailer at : http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3501434649/

Last Night in Cork

Well the festival has been absolutely amazing and the days have literally flown by filled with great movies, lively discussions and mad dashes across the city so as not to miss a single screening many of which were sold out….really sold out!

Today was filled with a number of great programs starting off with Cathy Pearson’s documentary about Chicago born photojournalist John G. Morris entitled Get The Picture? Morris began his career just before the start of WWII and is still a part of the industry at 96….An extraordinary story about an extraordinary man! Next was a quick visit into an industry gathering with DIT School of Media, the Galway Film Centre, the Houston School of Media and Cork College among others showcasing their programs  and highlighting the students that are now working around the world in film and winning lots of awards…….. Of course we were there to encourage them to apply to the fest in Chicago.

One of the most anticipated programs at the festival each year is the premier screening of the Irish Film Board shorts and this year’s group where as wonderful as they were varied touching on everything from the history of grocers to immigration and cycling and capped off with one of the Chicago festival’s favorite filmmakers, Morgan Bushe, and his short Doghouse which had the audience in stitches. Hopefully, we will be able to snag it for a screening come March.

So back to the States tomorrow morning and then the real work of securing the programming that will light the screens for the 14th Chicago festival…November wouldn’t be November with out Cork ….and Thanksgiving…hope you enjoyed the posts from Cork.

 

Festival Madness

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The festival is half way done, but the energy has increased tenfold as filmmakers, producers and distributors have started to arrive in droves and the number of films with Irish roots fill the schedule; seven screenings today!

But back to yesterday with three screenings that really stood out. First was the continuing program from The National Film School that screened the ground breaking documentary Boys For Rent (1993) by Liam McGrath about teenage boy prostitution and Kirsten Sheridan’s Patterns(1998) an extraordinarily authentic look at autism. This earlier film which is controlled and tightly paced stood in sharp contrast to her new film Dollhouse (2012) which was filmed using a fifteen page script, multiple cameras and a great deal of improve. In the Q&A that followed the screening Sheridan and the cast revealed that frequently only a few people on set knew what was coming next in an attempt to make the film feel authentic and “live”. Whether they were successful was certainly debatable, but that elevated the film as everyone was still debating the film on multiple levels right into the after party at the festival club.

The other screening of note was part of the Free Radicals program entitled Low Definition Control by Austrian filmmaker Michael Palm that looked at how technology has become so intertwined with our everyday lives no one seems to be paying attention anymore. The film looked at both the bio-political and governmental processes that could at some point be used to control society…food for thought as all the Free Radical films always are.

Today promises to be grand with the screening of four Irish films, two documentaries, Very Extremely Dangerous by Paul Duane and Skin In The Game by Donald Taylor Black and two features, Good Vibrations by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn and Phil Harrison’s The Good Man whose short Even Gods screened in Chicago and has won multiple awards worldwide… all very exciting….and of course at last two dozen more shorts!!!!!

 

Made In Cork

Last night saw the final night of the Made in Cork shorts program and it really is incredible to see how much the program has grown now covering three nights. Although there was quite a number that centered on small moments such as Mark Cogan’s Partly Cloudy and Christina Utzeri’s Riddled, there was also a fair representation of intense personal drama with Blake Norton’s Psychosis and out right horror in Twinkle Toes by Daniel O’Connell. One of the highlights of the program was the amazingly animated film Daithi Agus Goliath (David and Goliath) by Gerald O’Brien that updates the classic bible story with vibrant colors and a great soundtrack. And of course, there was a fair amount of Irish humor especially Shaun O’Connor’s Rint and Mutt two films that had the audiences roaring.

This year was the first time we were able to attend the Slow Foods program at the festival and it was amazing. A lovely box of small bites catered by BiteSize set the tone for two wonderful films Conor Ferguson’s short Un Peu Plus, about a women’s insatiable quest for french pastries and the fascinating story of the Michelin starred French chef Michel Bras and his son Sebastian who has worked by his side for over 15 years. Step Up To The Plate ( Entre Les Bras)  is an extraordinary documentary that skillfully depicts the creativity and passion that are the hallmarks of french cuisine.

 

Today has already started on a high note with a screening of Andrew Legge’s the Girl With The Mechanical Maiden as we start the whirlwind screenings of six Irish Shorts programs, a half dozen Irish documentaries and tonight’s screening of Kirsten Sheridan’s Dollhouse which she will introduce and hopefully do a Q&A after, hopefully in the festival bar over a glass of wine….!

One last note, yesterday nostalgia filled the air when Clair Lynch’s Fruit 15 was screened along with Ken Wardrop’s Undressing My Mother and Declan Reck’s Big Swinger among others that prove great films, or in this case shorts, do stand the test of time, they were indeed amazing. Looking forward to the rest of the IADT program.