The 26th Galway Film Fleadh: Day 4

deadbookDay 4 of the Fleadh started off with three back to back shorts programs that ran the spectrum of subject matter….a variable field day for screen writers. Here’s a few we hope to screen in Chicago. For fans and addicts of social media DEADBOOK, directed by Richard Scobie, keeps friends and family connected…from beyond the grave…forever…seriously! For those who are worried about global warming director Maria-Elena Doyle’s ORGANIC has a new twist on “renew, reuse and recycle”. And  FEARLESS, directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring Fionnula Flanagan, looks at suicide from two angles, those who can’t cope with an uncertain future and those that want to preserve a picture perfect past….
poison_penPOISON PEN is the latest film from the Filmbase / Staffordshire University production course and it is another crowd pleasing rom-com with high production values and a great cast that includes Lochlann O Mearain (The O’Brien’s King Arthur) and Aoibhinn McGinnity (Love/Hate) Written by the best selling author of the Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Coffer, POISON PEN is story of a Booker Award winning author and university professor forced  into writing for a gossip/tabloid magazine. The clash of literary worlds is amusing and provides loads of laughs, but the film is interesting in its behind the scenes look at how media is can be both informative and exploited at the same time and how easily we all get caught up in celebrity gossip.
goldNiall Heery’s new film GOLD is a heartfelt collision of Modern Family meets What About Bob? when a family is turned upside down by the sudden appearance of an old high school sweetheart returning to town after a 12 year absence. With a wonderful cast that includes David Wilmot (Ripper Street /The Guard ), Masie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Jim Nesbitt (The Hobbitt /Bloody Sunday) GOLD is all about Ray, a down and outer who has come back to reconnect with Abbie, his teenage daughter, and set things right with his dying father. Having nowhere to go he moves into Abbie’s home setting off a string of a chaotic events that will change everyone’s life forever. A funny, touching and witty film about redemption and family.
shooting_for_socratesWith all of the 2014 World Cup excitement still lingering in the air it was the perfect time to see James Erskine’s SHOOTING FOR SOCRATES a film about Northern Ireland’s 1986 World Cup game against Brazil. The story is told through the eyes of the players, the coach, members of the media and fans on both sides of the border weaving together a wonderful piece of football history that is filled with excitement and nail biting even though everyone knows the outcome. A great David vs Goliath tale with a little football thrown in for good measure. And everyone was thrilled to meet David Campbell and Sammy McIlroy from the 1986 team who still  both look as if they could play a match tomorrow….wow!
Next up Day 5…

The 26th Galway Film Fleadh: Day 3

the_swingWell if we thought there was variety on Day 2 , Day 3 took things to the next level covering topics as divergent as apartheid, an Irish weather station on June 5, 1941, a futuristic wild west without water and maybe the worst vampire movie ever made.

Three short films stood out in today shorts’ programs: Liam O Machain’s THE TENT based on a true story about a Polish couple and the Irishman who sets up camp in their back yard, Paul Murphy’s THE WEATHER REPORT, also based on real events, about a small Irish weather station whose report is called into question on the eve of the landings on Normandy Beach and Damien Dunne’s THE SWING a coming of age story on a rural farm.

blood_fruit_englishBLOOD FRUIT, a documentary directed by Sinead O’Brien, is the remarkable story of a group of young Dubliners, mostly women, who in 1984 began a strike against the Dunne grocery store against apartheid that lasted almost 3 years. The strike began over the refusal to handle and ring-up grapefruits harvested in South African under apartheid labor practices and their strike eventually resulted in changing the WTO’s definition of fair trade and labor. The cost to the women involved, most in their late teens and early 20’s at the time, is almost unimaginable, but they never gave up and all that attended the world premiere of the film said they would do it again. The standing ovation was long and well deserved.
get_up_and_goJumping in the totally opposite direction is Brendan Grant’s new film GET UP AND GO about two friends who do neither. Peter Coonan (Love/Hate) and Killian Scott (Calvary) wonder around Dublin suffering the slings and arrows of just about everyone as their love lives, marginal careers and overall future seems to be going up in flames. The best thing to do is leave town, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds; touching, funny and outrageous in turns.
young_onesBleak and unrelenting captures the essence of YOUNG ONES by director Jake Paltrow. Set out west in a time when water has become the most precious commodity a small family struggles to survive against the elements. Starring Michael Shannon as the patriarch and Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult as young lovers the film evolves into a Greek tragedy of sorts as greed, lies and secrets take root in a barren landscape.
light_of_dayAmy Carroll, Conor Dowling and Eoin O’Neill’s LIGHT OF DAY was the perfect late night film within a film about a completely inept, narcissistic director making a low budget vampire film. Along for the ride is the long suffering crew, a producer who keeps losing control of the situation and the young graphic novelist who supplied the source material and is falling in love with the DOP. A roller-coaster of film production clichés that had the audience laughing throughout its entire 85 minute run…there’s something to be said for good old fashioned mindless entertainment.

The 26th Galway Film Fleadh: Day 2

h-kicking_the_wallIrish films on Day 2 could not have been more varied, literally. The day began with a group of shorts from the west of Ireland that covered topics big and small. Director Michelle McDonagh attempted to explain the unique custom of KICKING THE WALL on a Galway promenade while filmmaker Micháel Ó Flaithearta paid a lovely tribute to Irish composer in CHARLIE LENNON and filmmakers Ed and Mark Griffin put a novel spin on grieving and closure as a young man tries to deal with the death of his father in DRIFT.

corman_1A packed house laughed, hooted and howled through filmmaker Brian Reddin’s documentary about B-movie legend Roger Corman in IT CAME FROM CONAMARA. For five years Corman crank out his signature films, including The Very Unlucky Leprechaun, on the west coast of Ireland and many of his former crew where in the audience validating the amazing stories behind Corman’s directing style and the revolving door of well-known Hollywood actors that appeared in his Irish productions including James Brolin, Corbin Berstein, and Tim Matheson. An amazing story about an amazing man who is still producing films today.
anightingalefall620350The last years of Ireland’s War of Independence is the setting for a gripping love story in Garrett Daly and Martina McGlynn’s world premiere of A NIGHINGALE FALLING. When fate finds two sisters caring for a wounded Black & Tan soldier their lives are changed forever as fear of retaliation by the British is balanced against their fear of the IRA if the young man is discovered under their roof. With wonderful performances by Tara Breathnach, Muireann Bird and Gerard McCarthy coupled with stellar cinematography and music A NIGHTINGALE FALLING is a fascinating story of fear, jealousy and secrets by those drawn into the conflict.

The 26th Galway Film Fleadh: Day 1

The Fleadh kicked off last night on a truly high note with festival board president, Kate O’Toole, welcoming Fleadh “floozies” one and all including a Fleadh floozy favorite, Fionnula Flanagan, who’s short film “Fearless” screens Friday. Next up was festival programmer, Gar O’Brien, whose enthusiasm for this year’s slate of films was palatable as he ticked off highlights and premieres, special guests and festival events.
IMG_1501Standing next to him was director John Carney (Once) to start the festival with a screening of his latest film Begin Again starring Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine which opened in the states a few weeks ago to a very mixed bag of reviews…the consensus of the Fleadh audience would be “go see it” if applause and after screening discussions are anything to go by. And a quick apology for a late night Tweet noting that the soundtrack was downloadable…of course it is, we meant to say it was absolutely worth downloading, the music was wonderful throughout the film.
We also briefly met Joe Caslin, the artist behind this year’s festival program cover image which is part of a project called Our Nation’s Sons, that includes large scale drawings in public places in the hope of kick starting conversations about the needs of young people around the world especially those that have been marginalized by governments and society at large. Melding social issues, politics, public discourse and film isn’t a new concept here at the Fleadh, nor at other Irish film festivals, but it brings an interesting dimension to the program.
Definitely looking forward to Day 2…

15th Chicago Irish Film Festival Award Winners…


 STORY BUD? Jenny Keogh




3rd PLACE WASTED  Kathy Brady







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This year’s Consulate of Ireland Award winner STORY BUD? directed by Jenny Keogh is a delightful and informative lesson in Irish slang sure to be used in classrooms for years to come. When presenting the award Aidan Cronin, The Consul General of Chicago, noted that although the slang was spot on for many living in Ireland the filmmaker should consider a new production based solely on slang words with Cork heritage for which presumably she would also win the award again as the consul general is from Cork! We see a visual dictionary in the works and there are a number of regions in the US that could use a slang primer with the Windy City kicking off with “da Bears” and “da Mare!

Beautifully directed by Shimmy Marcus  with an amazing performance by Lucy Sky Dunne HANNAH COHEN’S HOLY COMMUNION  was the run away winner for the Audience Award. The heart warming story of a young girl who wants to “have the best day ever” just like her friend and the lesson she learns about friends, family and faith.

This year’s Festival Award winners closely resembled  the popular vote with THE MISSING SCARF directed by Eoin Duffy chosen for its achievements not only in animation but a script that seamlessly melded eye popping colors and graphics with droll observations on human frailties and the fate of the universe.

There are so many reasons to applaud this year’s award recipients for their talents in cinematography, writing and editing, but most importantly for the over all quality of their films. For 15 years we have been amazed by short film in all its variations from the 30 second blink and you miss it “Short Shorts” producing quick laughs and gasps to the mini novels of 30 minute shorts that often tell powerful stories of struggle, endurance and triumph. This year’s collection of short films was all that and more proving that the desire to make films is as strong and diverse as the audiences’ passion for seeing these films. We truly wish we could give an award to all the filmmakers whose films were presented in this year’s program, they certainly deserve it. Congratulations to all and thank you.

Mere Thanks…..


We could never fully express our gratitude to our sponsors, but THANK YOU! Your support of the festival allows us to reach for the stars and put them on the screen. Thank you to Tullamore Dew, The University of Chicago Office of Alumni Relations, Brooklyn Brewery, 3 Sheeps Beer and Under the Milky Way and to our many individual supporters that have helped in so many ways for 15 years….. Go raibh maith agat

New Irish Cinema from iTunes in the U.S. and Canada…

Looking to see more Irish films after the festival? Discover a slice of new Irish cinema through a special selection brought to you on iTunes by UNDER THE MILKY WAY  to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2014. Starting March 10th, the following four films will be presented in a dedicated St. Patrick’s section of the iTunes store.









GOOD VIBRATIONS: Enjoy the musical spirit of this BAFTA nominated biopic and dive into the worn-torn 1970″s Belfast. “Richard Dormer’s performance is a transcendent, anarchic, amazing joy. If you love music, movies or being alive, you’ll love Good Vibrations” Bono (U2)

BLACK ICE: Set in the world of clandestine road racing in rural Donegal, this action film follows Jimmy Devlin, played by Love/Hate’s Killian Scott, who dreams of breaking into the legitimate rally driving scene. “A well -shot, thought provoking drama featuring excellent performances.” RTE Guide

THE HARDY BUCKS MOVIE: A bunch of lovable slackers leave the confines of small-town Irish life and head across Europe in support of the Irish football team. Things take an unexpected turn after an unscheduled stop-off in Amsterdam. “The Irish Hangover…laugh-out-loud funny.” The Irish Daily Mail

KING OF THE TRAVELERS: John Paul Moorehouse is on a destructive quest to uncover the truth about his father’s killer. His desire for revenge is swayed when he falls for Winnie Power, the daughter of the man he suspects killed his father. “Genuinely engrossing action…A Gaelic Godfather.” Variety



Shorts Start…In the begining


IMG_0900 The short’s program began last night with a proper kick off at City Hall and greetings from the Lord Mayor of Cork, the festival chairman, Denis McSweeney and James Mullighan the new festival director.   The event really served to highlight just how important a place shorts have at the festival not the least being sold out screenings and great networking opportunities for filmmakers and producers especially with one of the festival’s new sponsors, Vimeo, with one of their reps serving on the Grand Prix Irish jury. On a minor note, the festival is also a platform for winning shorts to screen in the EU and then Academy Award submissions. All eight of the short Irish films that have been short listed, nominated or ultimately won (Martin McDonagh’s Six Shooter(2004) and Terry George’s The Shore(20012) all screened in Cork, so the bar has been set quite high and its no surprise the first group to screen did not disappoint.

handsome shadowsThe first program was Cork Shorts, all the films were produced in Cork, that have had a remarkable evolution since their inclusion into the festival about more than a decade ago. Without casting aspersions on past entries this year’s entries are really remarkable on every level from production values, to story line and acting. There were thirteen presented and few of our favorites were from filmmakers that have screened in Chicago in the past and as is always the case some new discoveries. On the heals of the brilliantly animated Daitha Agus Golaith (David and Goliath)  by animator, Gerald O’Brien which screened at last year’s fest comes, The Scumbagnetic Effect, a wickedly funny animated film that “looks at the nature of bad behavior in Irish society” from the ASBO to bankers; looking forward to O’Brien’s take in obsessive social media users. Relationships have been the core of Mark Cogan’s series of three friends that started with Heart and Partly Cloudy and ends with The Handsome Shadows which was filled with pathos and a subtle reminder that we can’t control things happening, but with good friends we get by and move on.

Cork Film Fest 2013

IMG_0885The sun was blazing down on the River Lee as we drove into Cork City yesterday afternoon and it seemed to be the perfect omen to kick off our annual visit to one of Ireland’s most cultural cities and the 58th Cork Film Festival. First stop was the guest offices where we caught up with old friends, most especially Dawn McAllister and Ruby Moore who always treat us like American royalty, and got the inside scoop on festival and industry happenings we didn’t already have on our agenda. After posing for a jet lag picture to post on the “look who’s in Cork” wall we turned and there was the new festival director James Mullighan who was absolutely charming and most welcoming.

Dark TouchNot wanting to miss a single Irish film we have a quick dinner and then headed to The Pavilion for a screening of Luno Valleti’s The Invention of Failure…both the film and the space were quite interesting, the film a huge montage of vintage clips showcasing mankind’s missteps accompanied by live music and the space an old movie house broken into a bar and a dance club, strobe lights and all…we were warned. Then it was off to a midnight screening at Triskel Christchurch for a midnight screening of Marina DeVan’s Dark Touch a film that brings to mind Carrie and Firestarter featuring some brilliant special affects and acting by its young stars with absolutely no shortage of blood curdling screams and curdling blood. A good first day and no shortage of nightmare producing images…thank goodness for jet lag.

Colin DowneyThis morning we were in our seats for the 10 am screening of Colin Downey’s The Shadows, a small budget, but well executed, revamping of an old Scottish fairy tale by George Macdonald about a witched queen and the shadow people that help keep her evil designs in check over the centuries. Although the film may not have the rapid action and techno wizardry of most of today’s children’s films it was still really enjoyable and well received by the 100+ Jr. high students we viewed it with. Their Q&A after the screening with the director certainly proved that it held their attention and they were very interested in learning about “green screen” filming and the make-up used to create some of the characters.

The day is ending on high note with the first of eight shorts programs…tonight will be Cork Shorts I and we are very excited as always to see what’s new in a city that seems to have a young filmmaker standing on every corner. So we are off to grab a pint and hopefully snag the first of many great Irish shorts for our fest.

Back tomorrow with another festival update and hopefully a few films in hand.


Festival’s Closing Night 2013




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Do you like films that make you laugh out loud? How about films that capture small moments ? Mini history lessons? New economic recovery schemes? How about a bird that can’t fly? These and other topics great and small are part of the festival’s closing night SHORTS PROGRAM II. You will laugh, cry, gasp and  smile  when the films by 9 Irish filmmakers and 1 Irish American filmmaker light up the screen.

Maeve Mc GrathThe festival welcomes Maeve McGrath the producer of the short film VANNER who also starred in the role of Marion. Turns out Maeve loves snow and Chicago so do say hello. Maeve is currently working on an Irish language documentary An Teach Mor In Eireann about castles and big houses in Ireland.  BUY TICKETS

The evening begins with the announcement of two of the festival’s awards:

Mary Francis Bragiel,  WLS News 890 AM,  will announce  the 2013 CIFF Festival Award winners,  and  Katie Hamilton, Public Affaires Officer at the Irish Consulate of Chicago, will announce the 2013 Consulate of Ireland Award to the film that best represented Irish culture In this year’s festival.  Following the screening everyone is asked to vote for their favorite short and the 2013 CIFF Audience Award winners will be announced on line.  The evening ends with the closing night reception  at Lizzie McNeill’s.                        BUY TICKETS


Thank you to everyone who attended screenings at this year’s festival, we hope you had a wonderful time and  look forward to sharing the best in Irish cinema with you at the 15th Chicago Irish Film Festival, March 2014.



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.





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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.”


Congo_3Documenting Ireland: amazing stories about amazing people by amazing filmmakers….