The IRISH FILM FESTA, the festival dedicated to Irish cinema and culture returns to Rome’s Casa del Cinema (Villa Borghese) from the 25th to the 28th of May. The event, now in its 14th edition, offers the public a wide selection of feature film premieres, meetings with filmmakers and the traditional short-film competition.
“This is the year of Irish and Irish-language cinema, with the significant Oscar nomination of The Quiet Girl/ An Cailín Ciúin. It is also the year when An Irish Goodbye, the winner of the IRISH FILM FESTA’s Best Short Award in 2022, won both the BAFTA prize and an Oscar. It is the year when Irish actors who reaped a ripe harvest of nominations ceased to be defined as British anymore,” says Susanna Pellis, IFF director. “Many are finally taking notice of this small-scale, yet lively film industry and its many, great talents. We of the IRISH FILM FESTA, as it approaches its 14th edition, are satisfied, though by no means surprised”.
This year’s programme focuses on Irish-language cinema as a tribute to the extraordinary international success of The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin) in the presence of director Colm Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoí.
The programme also features Irish-language drama Tarrac which will be presented in Rome by director Declan Recks, screenwriter Eugene O’Brien and actors Lorcan Cranitch and Cillian O’Gairbhi.
The Irish-language section is completed by the shorts taking part in the competition: Big Griff – Lánchúlaí (Fullback) by Nathan Griffin and Uilíoch (Universal), a student project by the young Seosamh Mac Seoin. Also in Irish, though not competing, the IRISH FILM FESTA presents the animated short An Béal Bocht (The Poor Mouth) a tribute to director Tom Collins, who passed away last year.
Among the feature films, Aisha stands out. This is Frank Berry’s most recent work which has just won two IFTA Awards as best director and best screenplay. Berry is one of the IRISH FILM FESTA’s best-loved directors and the IFF has already presented his I Used to Live Here (IFF 2016) and Michael Inside (IFF 2019).
In collaboration with the Italian distribution companies DNC Entertainment Factory and RaiPlay, The Sparrow will be screened during the festival. This drama is Michael Kinirons’s directorial debut which won the Best Irish First Feature Award at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2022.
The IRISH FILM FESTA bears witness to the vivacity of contemporary Irish cinema and the variety of the genres it produces, ranging from the horror comedy Let the Wrong One In by Conor McMahon, set in a Dublin under vampire attack, to the bromance Sunlight by Claire Dix. The lead actor, Barry Ward, hosted several times by the festival (Maze, Extra Ordinary), will return to the Casa del Cinema to meet the public.
The Irish film industry is attracting more and more professionals of different geographical backgrounds. This is the case of My Sailor, My Love, an Irish-Finnish co-production directed by Klaus Härö and starring James Cosmo and Bríd Brennan.
The only Northern-Irish co-production in this edition is Ballywalter, set in the small fishing village of the same name, situated not far from Belfast on the Ards Peninsula. Directed by English newcomer Prasanna Puwanarajah it stars Seána Kerslake and stand-up comedian Patrick Kielty.
Among the documentaries, in a festival that has always paid special attention to the acting profession, there will be The Ghost of Richard Harris, dedicated to the life and career of the great artist who hailed from Limerick. The screening will be introduced by Dr Barry Monahan representing the University of Cork, to which the Harris family has recently donated the artist’s vast archive of photographs, letters, objects and personal writings.
Seán Mullan’s short film HYFIN, produced as part of the Netflix’s Documentary Talent Fund, features a young rapper from Derry and asks if you can rap with a Northern Irish accent? Jordan-Lee Brady-James, aka HYFIN, proves that you can.
For their How to Tell a Secret, the authors Anna Rodgers and Shaun Dunne chose a hybrid form, a mix between documentary, fiction and theatrical performance, to tell about the experiences of those living with a diagnosis of HIV. The producer Zlata Filipovic will be present at the screening.
The Irish Classic chosen for this edition, twenty years after its release, is Joel Schumacher’s Veronica Guerin. Among the producers of the film was James Flynn, one of the most active in the Irish film industry, who passed away last February at the age of 57. Flynn was hosted during the first editions of the IRISH FILM FESTA, which intends to pay homage to him with this screening.