The Dublin Film festival goes from strength to strength and this year was no exception with over seventy five and a half films being shown in a variety of venues throughout the city. (The half comes from the fact that because short films are shorter, they only count for half a film.)
A festival in Dublin is always something of a curiosity. Dublin’s size means that it is not always apparent that a festival is going on. Quite often the population will go about its business, a minority only vaguely aware that a festival is in full swing
This is not the way with Galway festivals. In Galway, the government (Macnas) will order all non-entertainment related enterprises to shut for up to three weeks. It is not unknown for militias of men with beards and colourful woolly hats, whose express intention is to police this shutdown, to spontaneously form, and threatening anyone who doesn’t comply with fire poi.
Children as young as five or six will be taken from their parents for months in advance to attend gruelling papier mache training courses. Those who are unable to master even the simplest figures from Galway’s mythological past are brutally cast aside.
Despite the capital’s indifference to the festival I enjoyed myself immensely as I do every year.
In such a full programme, it can be difficult to describe one’s highlights but I will try and identify a few choice cuts that you can look out for in the coming months.
The undoubted glamour event of the festival was the premier of Big Irish Film directed by
Yer Man. Big Irish Film tells the story of a man (Colin Farrell) who lets his grows his hair long and acts a bit different to how he was in Other Big Irish Film. A strong supporting cast of BrendanGleesonColmMeaney as Mulligan, Fionnuala Flanagan as Sexy Auld Wan not to mention the ever reliable IrecognisethevoiceFromtheBulmersAd make this an acting tour de force. Look out for a cameo from up and coming Irish actor John Cheekbones who more than makes up for the brevity of his onscreen time with a rousing rendition of Boolavogue.
Far away from the bright lights, the real joy in attending a native film festival can be in discovering hidden gems in Irish cinema. These will often be labours of love for all involved and you can sense the excitement in the theatre as projector whirs into life.
I’ve picked out two very different examples of this that are worthy of mention.
Miserable Dublin Working Class and Black and White As Well tells the story of Bazzo who lives in a North Dublin housing estate in a room which he shares with a horse. He has a special gift. Because of his accent he is very much in demand as a voiceover artist who plays the unreliable working class Dublin male in advertisements warning consumers about the dangers of using unregulated tradesmen. However life imitates art and years of being unreliable in advertisements starts to seep into Bazzo’s life as he stops turning up for work. What’s worse, Hugo the voiceover artist who plays the middle class regulator-type who warns consumers about people with Dublin accents, snatches Bazzo’s horse away from him. It’s ironically against regulations to have a horse in a boxroom.
We follow Bazzo through the years on his descent into high-tar cigarette and booze driven madness but there is redemption as an older and wiser Bazzo finds his niche as the fella in the Brennan’s Bread ad.
A very different atmosphere pervades Miserable Midlands County Town and Black and White As Well, the elegiac and haunting second feature from Director Paul Glasses (who made is festival debut here last year with Slaps in the Head)
The story begins in a bog where it’s cloudy and an angry man is doing some sort of manual labour. A child watches him in awe. Few words pass between them.
Later we see them eat a silent dinner together and there’s only Rich Tea Biscuits for afterwards with no ice cream or anything. Then there’s a priest and some sort of sexual abuse and then a big city before a final shocking confrontation where someone turns out to be someone else’s child given up for adoption.
Both films are showcases for wonderful camera work and both manage to avoid showing any trees except where there is a silhouette of a crow.
For me it was a truly disturbing a thought provoking afternoon and a glimpse into the black and white underbelly of an Irish society which is normally shown in colour when you’re looking at it but is much sadder in black and white.
The final thumbs up from me goes to festival favourite Valeriu Munteanu the Moldovan auteur.
His latest offering is an enjoyable romp through the lives of three Kishinev sisters who open a shop selling love potions to the sex starved men of the region.
Their lives and loves form a rich comedic tapestry and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions because you tend to do that more at foreign films even if they’re not that funny.
Munteanu bookended the showing of his twelfth film with a brief and entertaining introduction to his cherished beliefs of cinema. Ever the trickster, Munteanu revealed that this was his fourth film in a row whose dialogue did not contain any vowels. “For me it challenges the audience to understand the power of letters and to mourn those ones that are not available to us” he explained to a rapt crowd.
That is but a brief taster of what has just passed here at the Dublin Film festival. All eyes are already on next year where the big coup is already slated to be the premiere of Famous Holywood Actor Makes a Film in Ireland and Most People in Fair City get A Nice Bit of Work Out of It