Three questions to… Paul McGuigan, director of Girona


Paul McGuigan is the director of Girona, one of the live action short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.

Girona stars Scottish actor John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Mummy) and Northern Irish actress Séainín Brennan (The Fall).

On a long stormy night an encounter with a dark mysterious woman (Brennan) in a strange hotel causes a lonely man (Hannah) to confront his past…


Where was the film shot?

The film was shot in a boutique hotel in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, a maze of streets and side streets with Saint Anne’s Cathedral at its heart. We shot over St. Patrick’s Day when we knew the streets would be thronged with revellers, enjoying the festivities: the hotel then had to become other-worldly, ethereal, a place-apart. The location for the hotel was quite difficult to find as it needed to have a suite with an inter connecting door to another bedroom. It also needed to have a certain ambience that suited the mise en scéne.


How did you cast John Hannah to play Hart?

We never thought we could attract an actor of the calibre of John Hannah to our film, after all it was a short! When myself and the producer, Eamonn Devlin, were kicking around some names, we played a game of “in an ideal world who would we like to play Hart“, and John Hannah was on both of our lists. Of course we dismissed it as pie in the sky.

Then we spoke to the agent of another actor we were interested in and she also happened to be the agent for John – she asked if she could show the script to him. The next day I got a call from John saying that he loved the script and the character and really wanted to play the role. He came over to Belfast for four days and was amazing, generous, erudite and most importantly, great craic.


As a director, your attention is very focused on details: how did you work on the visual aspect of the story?

The film is quite claustrophobic, because it takes place in a hotel room: moving the camera becomes a luxury, so the fine details must reveal character and reveal the story. Hart values substance, his father’s battered Rolex sits proudly on his wrist, his silver razor catches the light as he shaves, sending shards of light across the darkness of the bathroom. The sound of a sharp blade harvesting stubble cuts through the silence.

The film is symmetrical, and like Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: Sophie puts on her make-up, Hart shaves in the mirror; Sophie puts on her stockings, Hart fixes his braces. Karma is the great law of cause and effect, of action and reaction, which directly influences their very existence.

The framing reflects symmetry and balance, the yin and yang. Longish takes, giving the actors space to explore their characters, pervade. The camera moves rather than cuts, close-ups are for emphasis. Sometimes a shadow appears before its owner follows. Characters move through pools of light, reflecting their lives, inhabiting dark spaces synonymous with their characters.

I looked at classic films that inhabit small spaces, the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, Alain Resnais’ Last Year in Marienbad, and Wes Anderson’s Hotel Chevalier. The characters become intertwined with the location – this was important to our film, one couldn’t exist without the other.


Three questions to… Damien O’Donnell, director of How Was Your Day?


How Was Your Day?, directed by Damien O’Donnell and adapted from a short story by Nollaig Rowan, is one one of the short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.

Eileen Walsh (Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters) plays a woman who is excited about the approaching birth of her first child, but things won’t be what she expects.

How Was Your Day?, funded by the Irish Film Board under the Signatures scheme, won as best Irish short at IndieCork and just got an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Academy) Awards nomination.


The film is based on a short story by Nollaig Rowan: can you tell us something about the adaptation?

I heard Nollaig’s short story on the radio and it stopped me in my tracks. I was mesmerised by the story and by its theme – which questions the presumption of maternal love.

I wrote about five or six drafts of the screenplay over a period of about two years and during that time we spoke to a lot of professionals and women who find themselves in the same situation as the mother in this film. A lot of the details in the film came as a result of this research and we had to make other changes from the original story for practical purposes, but overall the film is very faithful to the theme and intention of Nollaig’s original story.


Eileen Walsh is courageous as usual in the short. Did you give her some space for improvisation for this role?

Eileen and I spoke a lot about the film and its theme a long time before we filmed it, and a lot of the script was firmly in place, but wherever there was a need or an opportunity to improvise we did so, and the film is much better because of it.


Where was the film shot?

We filmed over five days in spring of 2015, around Dublin City and its surroundings.

Three questions to… Andrew Kavanagh, director of City of Roses


Andrew Kavanagh is the director of City of Roses, the only short film in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016 to combine animation and live action tecniques.

City of Roses tells the real story of Paddy Fitzpatrick, emigrated from Dublin to Oregon in the early 1950s, through the letters he wrote home to his mother telling all about his new life in America, his new job, and his new love: Rose.

Kavanagh’s short film features the work of graphic designer Annie Atkins, who recently created props and set pieces for Laika’s stop-motion film The Boxtrolls, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, and tv series Penny Dreadful.


Why did you choose to tell the story of Paddy Fitzpatrick combining live action and animation?

The original idea was to do an animated film based on the letters, but I spent so long telling the story that my own involvement in events became a separate narrative, particularly after I managed to make contact with the family. The easiest way to stylistically contrast the two narratives was to do one in live action and one in animation. It also helped to have the artefacts of the letters themselves as the portal in which the audience is brought into the animated timeline. The letters are the bridging point for the two narratives and feature as the link point in overall the art direction, so it reinforces their vital importance and the fact that they were almost lost.


Can you tell us something about the animation technique, especially regarding the composition of the backgrounds? And what about the contribution of graphic designer Annie Atkins?

The letters are the basis for the overall artistic direction of the animation. All the textures are notepaper, the characters were modelled on ink signatures passing across the page and the backgrounds feature post marks, stamps and even windows are modelled on cellophane windows in envelopes. We tried to use as much ephemera from the original letters as possible, particularly in the key scenes at the hospital and cemetery, but the text of the letters is used in practically every scene, often in a very subtle way. I had returned the original letters to Rose before we started the film, so I needed to make several key props for the live action scenes based on scans.

Annie Atkins’s involvement was pure serendipity: our location for the key scenes was at a neighbour’s house – he happens to be a hairdresser. He had been styling Annie’s hair and they got talking about the film. She expressed an interest in the story and we got in touch. I couldn’t believe it, she was a dream choice for this role. She remade the letters down to the smallest detail, even hand making the stamps for each individual envelope.


Music plays a big part in the film: how did you work with the composer David Harmax?

I had been contacted by Greg Magee who had done the scores for several of my films: he was working closely with David, who was on a Masters program at the time. He really felt David had the orchestral style needed to interpret the score. All the music is based on Thomas Moore’s “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms“, a song mentioned in one of Rose’s letters as Paddy’s favourite, and one which made him very homesick. As I had so little biographical detail on Paddy at the start of the film, this tune became anthemic for me. It’s a sentimental song about love and it really represents Paddy and Rose’s story very effectively. I needed someone who could arrange it in many different ways and create something entirely new. So I was very fortunate in getting David on board, he recorded the score with live musicians and mixed it separately. There are only about eight musicians but he made it sound so much larger.


Three questions to… Michael Lennox, director of Boogaloo and Graham


Michael Lennox is the director of Boogaloo and Graham, one of the short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016. It was nominated for best short film at the 2015 Oscars and won a BAFTA Award for the same category.

Boogaloo and Graham tells the story of Jamesy and Malachy, two young brothers living in Belfast during the 1970s. One day their soft-hearted dad presents them with two baby chicks to care for…


Boogaloo & Graham got a lot of success last year, all over the world: what were the responses of the different audiences to this Northern Irish story?

The responses were amazing and positive. A fear for this type of story was: would it translate globally? And it was exceeded our expectations. That’s the power of cinema.


How did you choose Riley Hamilton and Aaron Lynch, the young boys who play Jamesy and Malachy?

I found Riley Hamilton in a Kick Boxing Club in East Belfast. One of the issues with casting young actors is it can seem forced and theatrical. I wanted to find someone untainted by the acting world and use that rawness as an advantage. I could hear Riley having an argument with his mother after a class and I though he has exactly the naturalness I was looking for. You find gems in the most unusual places. Aaron Lynch is a massively talented young actor. He already had experience on film, so was the perfect counterpart to help young Riley as his older brother in Boogaloo.


What did you love the most about the screenplay by Ronan Blaney?

I love Ronan’s heart in every story he writes. No matter the subject matter or genre, his story has heart. He has a wildly dark sense of humour with his dialogue, which I find hilarious.


Irish Film Festa 2016 Short Films Competition



Fifteen short films have been selected for the Irish Film Festa 2016 competition. Ten shorts will compete in the live action category and five shorts will compete in the animation one.

This year we received about eighty submissions (animation, live action, fiction, documentary) and we would like to thank all the Irish filmmakers for their participation.

The 9th edition of Irish Film Festa will take place from April 7th to 10th at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.


Here’s the list of the selected short films:



1. BOOGALOO & GRAHAM (2014) by Michael Lennox

Jamesy and Malachy are over the moon when their soft-hearted dad presents them with two baby chicks to care for. Raising their tiny charges, declaring themselves vegetarian and dreaming of running a chicken farm, the two boys are in for a shock when their parents announce that big changes are coming to the family.

2. GIRONA (2015) by Paul McGuigan

On a long stormy night an encounter with a dark mysterious woman in a strange hotel causes a lonely man to confront his past.

3. HOW WAS YOUR DAY (2015) by Damien O’Donnell

A woman is excited about the approaching birth of her first child.

4. LOVE IS A STING (2015) by Vincent Gallagher

Struggling children’s book writer Harold Finch gains an unexpected house guest- a 20 year

old, hyper-intelligent mosquito named Anabel.

5. LYING DOWN (2015) by Susan Collins and Brian O’Brien

Will needs to move on with his life; unfortunately, Will can’t move in any direction at all. Alannah can’t see what his problem is. Can she help him if she doesn’t understand him? Or will Will stay stuck in the same place, forever?

6. INSULIN (2015) by Andy Tohill and Ryan Tohill

Holed up in a run down pharmacy, a man helps his diabetic wife to survive on dwindling supplies of insulin, trading medicine for food from the outside world. When a stranger comes looking for insulin, and refuses to be turned away, both husband and wife must face the reality of her rapidly shortening life.

7. JOSEPH’S REEL (2015) by Michael Lavers

An elderly man, upon dying, is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

8. MY BONNIE (2015) by Hannah Quinn

Two people at sea, trapped between a rock and a hard place, must face the distance between them.

9. WAIT (2015) by Audrey O’ Reilly

When an important pigeon race and a rare visit home by his son Martin coincide, Charlie waits anxiously for a safe journey home.

10. WATERLILIES (2014) by Tanya Doyle

In their sixties seven women have decided to take themselves out of their comfort zone and learn to swim.



1. CITY OF ROSES (2015) by Andrew Kavanagh

In 1950, Paddy Fitzpatrick emigrated to the USA from Ireland. Told through his letters home, the story details his new life, finding a job at Meier & Frank, meeting his future wife, Rose and being drafted for army.

2. AN ODE TO LOVE (2014) by Matthew Darragh

A lonely man on a desert island explores the highs and lows of romantic love when a mysterious companion is washed ashore. Nothing will ever be the same. Or will it?

3. THE TEACUP (2015) by Elif Boyacioglu

Once there was a man who was afraid to go out…

4. UNHINGED (2015) by Tom Caulfield

The squeaky hinge gets the oil. But when the squeak escapes the oil its sure to get you!

5. VIOLET (2015) by Maurice Joyce

Violet is a a young girl who despises her reflection. On the night of the school ball, tired of the abuse, Violet’s reflection decides she’s not going to take it anymore.

Irish Film Festa 2016, short films submissions now closed



Short films submissions for the competitive section of the 9th Irish Film Festa are now closed. The festival will take place from April 7h to 10th, 2016, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

This year we received about eighty submissions (animation, live action, fiction, documentary) and we would like to thank all the Irish filmmakers for their participation.

We are now working on the final selection and the titles of the shorts chosen for the competition will be announced by the end of January.

Follow us also on Twitter @IrishFilmFesta and on our Facebook page: you’ll find daily news about Irish cinema as well as all the updates about the festival.

Irish Film Festa 2016, submissions for short films competition are open

Ghost TrainPP
“Ghost Train” by Lee Cronin – Irish Film Festa 2015 winning short (live action)

The 9th edition of IRISH FILM FESTA, which will take place from 7th to 10th April, 2016, is now open to submissions for short films from Ireland.

In order to be eligible, entries must be submitted before December 20th, 2015.

shortlist will later be selected from all the entries for the competitive section of the festival.

Films, under 30 minutes in length, can be sent on DVD by post to

Associazione Culturale ARCHIMEDIA
via Segesta 16
00179 Roma (Italia)

Films can also be uploaded online. In this case, a private link must be sent to or

The authors of selected films will be later asked to provide a DVD copy with English subtitles (please note this is mandatory).

“The Ledge End of Phil” by Paul Ó Muiris – Irish Film Festa 2015 winning short (animation)