The 11th edition of IRISH FILM FESTA, the festival dedicated entirely to Irish cinema, takes place once more at Rome’s Casa del Cinema from 21st to 25th March 2018.
“While the Irish cinema continues to develop and surprise, our festival welcomes a growing number of films and filmmakers who also come from Northern Ireland. After all, IRISH FILM FESTA has always looked at Ireland as an artistically-united island, we have been an All Ireland event since the first edition”, says the festival’s artistic director Susanna Pellis.
As always IRISH FILM FESTA dedicates ample space to short films: this year’s competition section, created in 2010, includes 16 works, as well as Making Shorts, an in-depth panel on the short film sector in the Irish and Northern Irish film industry, with the participation of directors, distributors and industry professionals. The out-of-competition animated short film An Béal Bocht (The Poor Mouth) by Tom Collins, based on the eponymous story by Flann O’Brien and awarded at the Galway Film Fleadh 2017, will also be presented.
The feature films scheduled for the festival’s 11th edition include Song of Granite by Pat Collins: a highly original reinterpretation of the biopic genre centred on the life and art of the Irish singer Joe Heaney (1919-1984). Defined by Variety as ” solemn, stirring and surprisingly radical “, Song of Granite won the Best Photography Award (by Richard Kendrick) at the Galway Film Fleadh 2017, and received three IFTA nominations – Irish Film & Television Awards – including that of best film.
Also to look forward to is Stephen Burke’s Maze, inspired by the real life story behind the escape of 38 Republican prisoners from Long Kesh prison in 1983. Burke and the film’s producer Jane Doolan will be guests of the festival along with the film’s protagonist Barry Ward (who we recall from Jimmy’s Hall by Ken Loach, Pursuit by Paul Mercier seen at the IFF two years ago, and L’accabadora by Enrico Pau). Maze has been nominated for four IFTA awards.
No Party for Billy Burns, written and directed by newcomer Padraig Conaty, is a contemporary western set in the town of Cavan, on the border with Northern Ireland. Conaty will also be present at the festival with You’re not at Man at All, one of the short films in competition.
The festival will host the Italian premiere of Kissing Candice, the debut film by the music video director Aoife McArdle, fresh from the Toronto Film Festival and the Berlinale. Kissing Candice effectively fuses reality, dream and imagination through the fantasies of a teenager. The role of the protagonist’s father is played by the Northern Irish actor John Lynch.
The documentary Rocky Ros Muc by Michael Fanning tells the life and the sporting career of Sean Mannion, an Irish boxer who emigrated from Connemara to Boston in the 1970s. Rocky Ros Muc was presented at the Irish Film Festival in Boston and won the award for the best documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh 2017.
Handsome Devil is the new film written and directed by John Butler, whose film The Stag (2014) was presented at the IRISH FILM FESTA in 2014; Handsome Devil is a delicate coming-of-age story set in university, between study, rugby and personal awakening. Alongside the two young protagonists Fionn O’Shea and Nicholas Galitzine, the actors Andrew Scott and Moe Dunford stand out in their role as teachers.
IRISH FILM FESTA reinforces its links with Cartoon Saloon, the Kilkenny-based animation studio which is gaining increasing international renown: after The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014), this year’s festival will screen The Breadwinner by Nora Twomey. Well received on the film festival circuit and nominated for a 2018 Oscar, The Breadwinner is based on the novel of the same name by Canadian writer Deborah Ellis and features Parvana, an Afghan girl who lives under the Taliban regime. Twomey’s film, whose production also involved Angelina Jolie, is an ode to the power of stories and imagination, brought to the screen thanks to thorough research into the visual and folklore culture of Afghanistan.
As part of the new #IFFbooks section, dedicated to Irish literature, IRISH FILM FESTA will present My Astonishing Self: Gabriel Byrne on George Bernard Shaw, a documentary made by Gerry Hoban for RTÉ and BBC in which the celebrated actor Gabriel Byrne guides viewers through Shaw’s life and works. Gabriel Byrne, who received the IFTA career award this year, is also linked to this year’s Irish Classic, Into the West (1992): written by Jim Sheridan and directed by Mike Newell, the film is a modern-day fairytale set in the world of the Irish Travellers. In addition to Byrne, the cast also includes Ellen Barkin, Colm Meaney and Brendan Gleeson.
#IFFbooks will include an encounter with the award-winning Irish writer Paul Lynch, author of three novels: Red Sky in Morning (2013), already published in Italy by the publishing house 66thand2nd), The Black Snow (2014) and Grace (2017). Lynch’s style has been compared to that of Seamus Heaney and Cormac McCarthy, earning praise from established Irish writers such as Sebastian Barry and Colm Tóibín.
IRISH FILM FESTA 2018 LINE-UP
• Handsome Devil, John Butler
• Kissing Candice, Aoife McArdle
• Maze, Stephen Burke
• My Astonishing Self: Gabriel Byrne on George Bernard Shaw, Gerry Hoban
• No Party for Billy Burns, Padraig Conaty
• Rocky Ros Muc, Michael Fanning
• Song of Granite, Pat Collins
• The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey
• Irish Classic, Tribute to Gabriel Byrne: Into the West, Mike Newell