Documentary Bobby Sands: 66 Days at the 10th Irish Film Festa

Documentary Bobby Sands: 66 Days at the 10th Irish Film Festa


The 10th IRISH FILM FESTA, the only Italian film festival completely dedicated to Irish cinema, will take place from March 30th to April 2nd 2017, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

The features programmed this year include the Italian premiere of documentary Bobby Sands: 66 Days by Brendan J. Byrne, dedicated to 66 days of hunger strike in 1981 that led to the death of Bobby Sands in Long Kesh prison. The film examines the symbolic and cultural value of fasting in Ireland’s historical-political context and is based on the prison diaries kept by the same Bobby Sands, with narration by actor Martin McCann, expected to attend the festival: “They serve to place his voice at the centre of the film and take us inside his head — the director explains — the place where Sands eventually found freedom”. 66 Days was presented last year at the Galway Film Fleadh and at the international documentary festival Hot Docs in Toronto.

The history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and their cinematic representation in works such as Angel, Some Mother’s Son, Nothing Personal, The Boxer, Hunger, and others, will also be the focus of a conference at the festival by Prof. Martin McLoone (University of Ulster, Emeritus).

Martin McCann will be at the festival also as co-director of Starz, one of the short films in competition. The competition section, reserved for short films produced or co-produced in Ireland, comprises 15 works this year, spanning various genres and techniques (animation, documentary, thriller, horror — see the full list).


BOBBY SANDS: 66 DAYS (NI, Ireland, USA, Denmark, Sweden 2016) Documentary

Director: Brendan J. Byrne; screenplay: Brendan J. Byrne; cinematography: David Barker; editing: Paul Devlin; music: Edith Progue; animation: Peter Strain, Ryan Kane; production design: David Craig; producers: Trevor Birney, Brendan J. Byrne; consulting producer: Alex Gibney; production companies: Fine Points Films, Cyprus Avenue Films. Running time: 105’

Narrated by Martin McCann

In the spring of 1981 Irish Republican Bobby Sands’ 66-day hunger strike brought the attention of the world to his cause. 66 Days is a major feature length documentary exploring Sands’ remarkable life and death, 35 years on from his ultimate sacrifice.
Using eye-witness testimony, unseen archive, reconstructions and animation, this cinematic odyssey serves as both the definitive account of a self-created Irish martyr and a seismic moment in 20th century Irish history, the legacy of which we continue to live with today.

Brendan J. Byrne is an experienced filmmaker, specialising in documentary and feature films. He was been making high end documentaries for both BBC Television, C4 and RTÉ in the UK and Ireland for over 20 years, including the winning documentary Breaking The Silence (2010) about families coping in the aftermath of suicide. His first feature film as a producer Jump was selected for the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. 66 Days is first feature documentary as a director.


Three questions to… Ian Hunt Duffy, director of Gridlock

Gridlock - Interview with Ian Hunt Duffy - Irish Film Festa

When a child go missing during a traffic jam, her distraught father form a search party to find her, but soon everyone is a suspect: Gridlock is one of the short films in competition at the 10th Irish Film Festa (March 30th – April 2nd, Rome).

We spoke to the director Ian Hunt Duffy (who was also the producer of Love is a Sting, part of last year’s short film selection).


Where was the film shot? And how long did the shooting take?

Gridlock was shot on a road in Donadea Forest, in Co. Kildare in Ireland. The shoot was five days long.


Gridlock is set in a very limited space: how did you work in terms of camera movements and, later, editing?

Myself and my cinematographer Narayan Van Maele decided to opt for a handheld approach to give an energy and immediacy to the film. Our aim was to create a feeling of claustrophobia for the characters, even though they are out in the open. So we tried to get as close to our actors as possible and shoot in and amongst the crowd, to give that sense of an angry mob closing in.

As it was an ensemble piece with a group of actors we would shoot long master shots for each scene, and often these takes would have the most urgency and tension. So where possible we would block scenes into longer continuous shots without cutting away.


All actors – Moe Dunford, Peter Coonan, Steve Wall – are amazing: was the casting difficult?

We got very lucky with our casting on this film. As I mentioned, Gridlock was always going to be an ensemble piece, so I needed a group of actors who were excited by the material and who could work well together as a team. So my producer and I were determined to get the best cast possible.

I had our lead actor Moe Dunford in mind after seeing his amazing performance in Patrick’s Day, so I approached him and walked him through my vision for the film and his role, and we immediately clicked. Luckily the same continued to happen throughout the rest of the casting process. Every actor was very approachable and responded extremely positively to our script.


Three questions to… Helen Flanagan, director of The Debt

The Debt - Interview with Helen Flanagan - Irish Film Festa

When lovestruck ten year old Daithi falls for his classmate Jessica, he turns to his best friend Penny to help win her heart: The Debt is one of the short films in competition at the 10th Irish Film Festa.

We spoke to the director Helen Flanagan.


How did you come up with the idea for this story about love and friendship between little kids?

The script evolved naturally out of a very basic idea I had about a kid running a tooth fairy scam for cash. As the characters developed, the story took shape around them, and thematically the script became about learning the value of friendship as a child. A lot of the story elements came from my own experience as someone who was not the most socially mobile kid on the playground, so putting a plutonic friendship at the heart of the story was really important.


How did you choose and work with the young actors? Especially referring to Susie Power, whose Penny proves to be a very strong, non-conformist character.

We spent a really long time casting and we were so lucky to get to work with Lee O’Donoghue and Susie Power. They are such fantastic young actors, and both of them were so smart and intuitive about the characters. Both Daithi and Penny are non-conformist characters, but Penny was really personally important for me. I wanted to make sure she was more than just a supporting character, and that she was a real person with a real background and feelings rather than the usual stereotypical “tomboy” character trope. Susie is so smart, she really understood how to get across the subtext in such a naturalistic way. Lee was also so great, he brought so much of his personality to the character.


Where was the film shot?

We shot the film in a small country town called Birr, in Co. Offaly. The film was funded through Film Offaly’s film bursary award. I had been in Birr a few years before and I thought it would be a really great location for the story, so I submitted the script to them for consideration. Birr was a really gorgeous location, the kind of place you could imagine two kids running around and getting into lots of trouble.

10th Irish Film Festa — Short Films Competition Line-Up

10th Irish Film Festa - Short Films competition Line-Up


The 10th Irish Film Festa, the only Italian film festival completely dedicated to Irish cinema, will take place from March 30th to April 2nd, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

The competition section, reserved for short films produced or co-produced in Ireland, comprises 15 works this year, spanning various genres and techniques: three animated shorts (A Coat Made Dark, The Lost Letter and Second to None), a documentary (Seán Hillen, Merging Views), a mockumentary (Starz), a horror (Blight), a thriller (Gridlock), a fantasy (The Clockmaker’s Dream), a humorous and contemporary adaptation of an ancient Gaelic poem (The Court, directed by actor Seán T. Ó Meallaigh who attended the last edition of IFF), a biopic (Two Angry Men), a romantic comedy starring children (The Debt), a formative tale with an LGBT theme (Lily), and three dramas (Homecoming, Pause and Today).

Also of note is the presence of big names among the cast of the selected short films: the protagonist of Gridlock is Moe Dunford (guest at the festival in 2015 with Patrick’s Day by Terry McMahon, and actor in the series Vikings); Gerard McSorley offers an extraordinary performance in Starz, whose co-director, Martin McCann, is himself an actor (as we saw last year in The Survivalist by Stephen Fingleton); Two Angry Men sees Adrian Dunbar in the shoes of the Northern Irish playwright Sam Thompson, and newcomer Michael Shea in those of a theatre director James Ellis (the son of Ellis, Toto, is the director of the short); Jared Harris and Kate Winslet are, respectively, the narrators of The Clockmaker’s Dream and The Lost Letter, directed by the winner of the IFF in 2012 (with The Boy in the Bubble, narrated by Alan Rickman) Kealan O’Rourke.

“The short film competition, which we launched in 2010, becomes more interesting and attracts a greater following each year: both by the filmmakers (this year we received nearly 100 submissions) and the public. Moreover, as the names of the actors appearing in the selected short films attest, this is an area that Irish film industry considers highly important, and in which is reflected the vitality and richness of Irish cinema, ” says artistic director Susanna Pellis.



BLIGHT (2015), Brian Deane
with George Blagden, Alicia Gerrard, Joe Hanley, Marie Ruane, Matthew O’Brien, John Delaney, Tristan Heanue, Donnacha Crowley
A young priest is sent to a remote island off the Irish coast to help protect an estranged fishing community from dark supernatural forces, but nothing is as it seems.

AN CHÚIRT (THE COURT, 2014), Seán T. Ó Meallaigh
with Séamus Hughes, Michelle Beamish, Joanne Ryan
A modern adaptation of the epic Irish poem Cúirt An Mhéan Oíche / The Midnight Court, written in the 1700s by Brian Merriman.

THE CLOCKMAKER’S DREAM (2015), Cashell Horgan
with Joe Mullins, Jared Harris (narrator)
A Clockmaker, in an automata world, tries to build the perfect woman to replace his lost wife but finds his creations are proving more difficult than he imagined; he must find a solution before his time runs out and his world stops forever…

A COAT MADE DARK (2015), Jack O’Shea [animation]
with the voice of Hugh O’Connor, Declan Conlon, Antonia Campbell Hughes
A man follows the orders of a dog to wear a mysterious coat with impossible pockets.

THE DEBT (2015), Helen Flanagan
with Lee O’Donoghue, Susie Power, Eabha Last
When lovestruck ten year old Daithi falls for his classmate Jessica, he turns to his best friend Penny to help win her heart.

GRIDLOCK (2016), Ian Hunt Duffy
with Moe Dunford, Peter Coonan, Steve Wall
When a child go missing during a traffic jam, her distraught father form a search party to find her. But soon everyone is a suspect.

HOMECOMING (2016), Sinéad O’Loughlin
with David Greene, Johanna O’Brien
A young man struggles to find his place in life after returning to Ireland. A familiar face makes him wonder if things are about to change.

LILY (2016), Graham Cantwell
with Clara Harte, Dean Quinn, Leah McNamara, Amy-Joyce Hastings
Lily, a girl with a secret on the cusp of becoming a young woman, is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life.

THE LOST LETTER (2016), Kealan O’Rourke [animation]
with Kate Winslet as the narrator
The tale of a young boy as he prepares his neighbourhood for Christmas.

PAUSE (2016), Niamh Heery
with Janine Hardy
A woman arrives on an island in an altered state to confront her past. As she listens to old family tape recordings her surroundings begin to take on new life.

SEÁN HILLEN, MERGING VIEWS (2016), Paddy Cahill [documentary]
This portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage – he shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery.

SECOND TO NONE (2016), Vincent Gallagher [animation]
A dark comedy about the world’s second oldest man.

STARZ (2016), Kevin Treacy, Martin McCann
with Gerard McSorley, Martin McCann, Michael Smiley, Tierna McGeown, Shane Todd, Laura Webster, Gerard McCabe
A documentary film crew follows hopeless actors agent Dan Cambell as he tries to save his sinking business from another industrial tribunal.

TODAY (2015), Tristan Heanue
with John Connors, Lalor Roddy
A hard hitting drama about a man who wakes up one morning in his car, disorientated, with no recollection of how he ended up parked in the middle of nowhere. The harsh reality soon comes flooding back once he gathers his thoughts.

TWO ANGRY MEN (2016), Toto Ellis
with Adrian Dunbar, Michael Shea, Conleth Hill, Michael Smilie, Julie Dearden, Lalor Roddy, Stefan Dunbar
The battle of James Ellis and Sam Thompson to stage the play Over the Bridge in face of censorship in 1950s Belfast.

10th Irish Film Festa, from March 30th to April 2nd



The 10th Irish Film Festa will take place from March 30th to April 2nd, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

Submissions for the short films competition are open until January 15th.

“In the past ten years we showcased the best of contemporary Irish cinema, screening films unreleased in Italy but highly awarded abroad. We also were honored by the presence of guests such as Stephen Rea, Fionnula Flanagan, Lenny Abrahamson, Adrian Dunbar, and many more. The 10th IRISH FILM FESTA will be a special occasion to celebrate the past and give new strength to the future of the festival,” director Susanna Pellis says.

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