Irish Film Festival

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Irish Film Festival
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A Date for Mad Mary

Emerald City gets a third season of films from the Emerald Isle

This film festival owes its existence, weirdly, to Irish rules football. Also known as Gaelic football, the game is similar to Aussie rules and is played by many expats from the Emerald Isle in Australia; Irish filmmaker Dr Enda Murray originally came out to make a documentary about the phenomenon, and ended up staying on to work in academia (he’s currently teaching film at UNSW).

“I lived in London before Australia and was really impressed by their Irish Film Festival,” he explains. “I thought it would be a great addition to the cultural life of Sydney, and the Irish Government have supported us really well, and this year we are going to Melbourne for the first time.”

The Irish industry, Murray says, is “going gangbusters” thanks to both the production of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland’s strong connections both to Europe and the US. “Ireland being just four hours from New York, there’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing of actors and technicians. There were a total nine films last year with Irish connections nominated for Oscars. The future is looking pretty bright.”

Murray promises the festival’s opening night will be a great party, if last year’s event is any measure. “We’ll have Irish food, Irish drinks, Irish music; we had céilí dancing. We had support from PJ O’Brien's and Jameson Whiskey – a surfeit of alcohol, but we managed to drink it all.”

Murray talked us through five of the festival’s offerings.

A Date for Mad Mary

“It’s a comedy about a woman out of prison trying to find a date for her best friend’s wedding. I love it extra, because it’s made in my home town, Drogheda – I can spot locations where I misspent my youth. It’s [also] a gay story, which reflects the fact we’ve got marriage equality in Ireland, and for a country that was priest-riddled, that’s a pretty interesting step.” 

Mammal

Mammal has Australia’s Rachel Griffiths as a woman in Dublin who has lost her son and she forms a very unorthodox relationship with a homeless boy. This was an official entry in Sundance and it’s got Barry Keoghan, a very well known face in Ireland, and Michael McElhatton, who is [Roose Bolton] from Game of Thrones. That’s a beautifully crafted film.” 

The Young Offenders

“It’s a hilarious film about two guys who go searching for a bale of cocaine that they have read has been washed up on a beach in West Cork. It features two fantastic performances from the young lead actors. They are pursued by the police on stolen bicycles. It’s a laugh-outloud slapstick comedy.”  

Sanctuary

“It’s from Galway, a really funny, joyous film. The actors are people with learning disabilities which sounds like it might be worthwhile-but-boring but it’s the opposite. The two leads, Larry and Sophie, are in love but society keeps putting barriers in their way, so they sneak off to a hotel to have a dirty weekend and they have a pretty chaotic tour of Galway and its finer pubs.” 

Bobby Sands: 66 Days

“This is a new documentary looking back at the 1981 H-Blocks Prison hunger strike, a pivotal moment in the Northern Ireland conflict and very much the point at which everything almost blew up. It’s the closest that we came to civil war. It looks at the legacy of Bobby Sands through his prison diaries. This was also the topic for Hunger, the Michael Fassbender movie.” 

By: Nick Dent

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