The closing day at the 24th Galway Film Fleadh

Good Vibrations had ended Saturday’s viewing at Galway Film Fleadh very nicely a good story of Terri Hooley with music to bring it to life, the theatre audience made up of a lot of crew members it must said, really enjoyed it. Following the screening I headed to Hughes Bar on Market Square to meet up with some theatre people down for the Galway Arts Festival which was starting on Monday. There I met members of Fishamble the new play company and Julian Gough and whose play The Great Goat Bubble was premièring on Monday at The Druid Theatre.  Julian one time member of the band Toasted Heretic told me that he had slept on Terri Hooleys couch a few times in Belfast way back.  I also meet up with some of the cast of Jump were having a quiet drink following the screening of Good Vibrations – the overall view was Good Vibrations deserved to be a success.

Sunday morning came around very quickly I had hoped to see the New Irish Shorts at 9am, but on getting it was raining for the first time since arriving on Friday. With a 15 minute walk into The Town Hall Theatre I decided it was best to wait hoping the rain would ease. Eventually it stopped about 11am and I set off; having missed most of the early morning shorts I decided to have a quick coffee before my first visit to Cinemobile at The Galway Film Fleadh. For those of you who don’t know much about the Cinemobile, its a large truck which transforms into a 100 seater state of the art cinema, fully heated, air conditioned and with Dolby Surround Sound. Mobile cinemas have been in existence in France for over 20 years. This Irish cinema was built in France 2001 has now been touring Ireland since; other mobile cinemas also operate in Scotland and Eastern Europe.

The 12 O’clock show was Poorhouse made in 1996 script and directed by Frank Stapleton, produced by Catherine Tiernan. Poorhouse is set in the time of the famine tells the story of a young woman Anna Magee who following a fever was bought to a workhouse, the story is told through the eyes of an old man (Birdy Sweeny) who worked in the Poorhouse.

I have never seen or heard of this film before but the period is of great interest to me.  The cast included Derbhle Crotty as the young girl with the late Birdy Sweeny, Joan O’Hara and Harry Toub and an appearance by Pat Kinevane as a grave digger. The discarded film rushes were discovered outdoors on the Ringsend Peninsula, Dublin restored and re-edited with music set to a haunting score by Brian Conniffe and Suzanne Walsh.  The film depicts the harsh realities of life in a Poorhouse and in particular Anna Magee’s short time there. Shot in County Cavan this was an excellent film I sometime feel Irish society has become so wrapped up in the need for more we have forgotten the suffering, starvation and death the country went through less than 200 years ago. Poorhouse should be shown to every leaving cert class in the country of the harsh realities of that period.

With no much time I cross the road to The Town Hall Theatre again to the New Irish Shorts programme 9 Animation a packed auditorium with a much younger audience this time.  Shown over two sessions there were 13 animation shorts in total, all provided an insight to the level of talent that is coming through Ballyfermot College and . With animation a growing industry worldwide and particularly the level of success and growth in Irish Film, every effort must be made to ensure it and the gaming sector receive great support through changes in section 481.

The animation programme was followed by an interview with Isabelle Huppert by Sean Rocks of RTE’S radio 1 arts programme Arena. Huppert is one of the most enduring and respected French actresses. She began her career appearing Michael Cimino’s epic film Heaven’s Gate in 1980. This is film was of great interest to me as earlier in the year I had recreated the barn for an interactive art installation for artist Brian Duggan in the Visual Arts Centre in Carlow.

Cimino’s film ‘Heaven’s Gate’ is a film (1980) that broke many rules through Cimino’s often ruthless pursuit of authenticity, to the extent of challenging the powerful studio system. There were many delays and overruns of the budget with the full length version running to almost 3 hours 40minutes, although the general theatrical release was 149 minutes. The all-star cast includes Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Mickey Rourke, and Willem Dafoe. The film is an epic story of Eastern Europeans immigrants in America who find themselves embroiled in a, violent struggle when a wealthy cattle breeders’ association, headed by Frank Canton (Sam Waterston), hires a mercenary private army of fifty-two cattlemen and hired gunmen to assassinate 125 European immigrants who are labelled as cattle thieves, anarchists, and killers in Johnson Country, Wyoming, in April 1892. Following two decades of dreadful violence it suddenly all ends. Life goes on in America in the form of unchecked capitalism, where greed is good and the God of profit.  Though the film was an ultimate failure at the box office, Heaven’s Gate did reprieve some credibility following its release on DVD.

Following Heaven’s Gate it was off to An Spiddal to enjoy the sunshine, some food then it was back to The Town Hall Theatre for the awards ceremony at 7.30. The theatre was packed to capacity everyone hopeful that the project they were involved in would receive due recognition. There were many fine films shown at the 24th Galway Film Fleadh along with some fine technical work and performances.

The full list of winners can be found at Irish Film Portal

A very short turn around and it was time following the awards and it was time for the closing film Shadow Dancer. One could be forgiven for thinking here we go another film about the troubles……, but this was a bit of a surprise. Scripted by ITV news correspondent Tom Bradby from his novel, Shadow Dancer, it’s a good psychological thriller which manages to avoid getting bogged down in much of the political argument as so many previous films have done.

Shadow Dancer refers to Colette (Andrea Riseborough), a single mother and active member of the IRA member picked up in a covert MI5 operation in London after an abortive bombing mission. Mac (Clive Owen) a driven M15 officer had been carefully monitoring Collette’s movements for some time, presents her with some information about the death of her brother as a child. Faced with years in prison without seeing her young son, she reluctantly becomes an informer.  This well worked script is a knife-edge thriller, for Colette (Andrea Riseborough), it’s her attempt to protect her family, for MI5’s Mac (Clive Owen’s) it’s his endeavour to protect her identity from his fellow agents; can anyone be really trusted? With such high stakes one false move and the consequence’s will catastrophic. It was yet another good Irish movie on show at this year Galway Film Fleadh and a fitting ending to a very enjoyable festival.

There is plenty to look forward to with the release of Grabbers, Jump, Citadel and Good Vibrations and Neil Jordan’s Byzantium. A special mention to – two films at the Fleadh Pilgrim Hill and Stalker who did so well without any IFB project funding.

Finally I would like thank all of the staff at Galway Film Fleadh who did a magnificent job through the week of the Galway Film Fleadh.

A selection of images I took during the Galway Film Fleadh

©Tom Dowling 2012 all images by Tom Dowling

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