Irish Screen America Festival – NY Friday September 30th through Sunday October 2nd. – NYU Cantor Film Center

How it’s New York: At the Cantor Film Center at New York University
How it’s Irish: Presenting the best of current Irish Film and Media

Print   I had a blast covering the 2016 Irish Screen America Festival in New York at the NYU Cantor Film Center. 

The Festival is the brainchild of Irish film-maker/producer Niall McKay and his Deputy Director Clodagh Bowyer.  There was an entertaining collection of films, shorts, television and an insight-filled panel discussion to boot.  Have a look at their trailer to get a taste of what they are about.

Irish Screen America Trailer


Don’t miss ‘Dancing at the Crossroads’

How it’s New York: The Catskills are in New York state, and Catskills Irish Arts Week has become a destination, at Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 1.08.08 PMleast for a day, for all the trad players on the East Coast.
How it’s Irish: Before air conditioning and cheap flights, East Durham was where Irish immigrants went to relax over the summer, and dance, and play. Joanie Madden played there as a girl with her father Joe.

I was blessed to meet Kevin Ferguson while he was making this important documentary, “The Irish Catskills: Dancing at The Crossroads.”

The film, which celebrates the legacy of Irish music and dance in the Northern Catskills, premiered just before St. Patrick’s Day this year, and airs tonight on PBS here in the Tri-State area at 7 p.m.

AND you can purchase a digital copy at

 Pat Fenton, writing in the Irish Echo, said that the film

…pulls you along the rural roads of East Durham on long-ago hot summer days and nights when children ran freely through hay fields without a worry. It pulls you out onto the crowded dance floors of historic Irish hotels like the Weldon House as rows of dancers line up to do the Ceili on a Saturday night in the 1950s.

This was a time in a simpler America when there were no craft beers, the beer was Irish, and the sound of Irish music and heels clacking against bare wooden floors could be heard echoing out of the dance halls along Route 145. There were no iPads, no Facebook, and, way back then, no air conditioners even.

Paul Keating in Irish Central wrote, when the film was still raising money at Kickstarter (yay for Crowd funding):

Since the 1930s Irish families sought the cooler mountain fresh air especially from New York City just 125 miles away, but also around the northeast because it was where the Irish vacationed when they couldn’t afford to go back to Ireland.

The lush green hills of the Catskills reminded them of the Emerald Isle.  Music and dance were the social elixirs that brought young men and women from the Old Country out to dance halls in the cities, and they were also the allure to the Catskills where in the summertime music could be heard seven nights a week in the resorts and roadhouses.

IMG_0280Paul was the reason I first dipped a toe into the Irish Catskills, attending my first CIAW in 2009.

I didn’t make it this year due to a foot surgery but hope to make it to Columbus Day weekend, or at other points during the year. There are many wonderful teaching weeks and festivals in America (and Ireland too of course), but the heritage of the Irish Catskills makes it of particular interest to people who love history. This Jewish girl had no idea there even WAS another Catskills. Of course I’d heard of the Borscht Belt, but that was really before my time– and though I’m a Jersey girl, my parents are Yankees and we visited Cape Cod and Long Island Sound.

So the Irish Catskills with their beauty, their signs in English and Irish, were a revelation.

I love that if you visit the Facebook page for the film and look at the photos, there are comments like, “that’s my mother”

And, “the banjo player was a regular in Dad’s band!”



TriBeCa Film Festval 2016 Roundup

How it’s New York: It takes place in the triangle below Canal street in NYC!
How it’s Irish: There is one Irish short covered in this roundup, but a tonne of great non-Irish stuff worth reading about.

The festival is getting more and more diverse every year. My closet tech nerd side came out to play at the wide array of virtual reality storytelling media on offer this year, and I didn’t even get to see the many talks and live music events that were interspersed throughout. The aptly named Hub was indeed the focal point of the festival at Spring Studios and is where all the fun tech entertainment took place. And of course, there were some movies too … 🙂

Tiger Raid Thrills Tribeca Film Festival

Brian Gleeson and Damien Molony in "Tiger Raid"

Brian Gleeson and Damien Molony in Tiger Raid

How it’s New York: US Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival
How it’s Irish: Starring Irish Actors Brian Gleeson and Damien Molony

This year my time at the Tribeca Film Festival started with the visceral thriller from director Simon DixonTiger Raid.  Straight out of the gate, this film pits its two main characters, Paddy (Damien Molony) and Joe (Brian Gleeson) against each other, across the vista of war torn Iraq.

A devilish mix of psycho-drama and buddy-road pic, we find the two main characters, Irish mercenary cast-offs set adrift after the end of The Troubles in Northern Ireland,  on a mission to carry out a Tiger kidnapping of the daughter of a well-heeled Iraqi businessman.


The (Irish) Force Awakens

How it’s New York: Who in New York doesn’t like Star Wars? (Well, there might be a few. But still.)
How it’s Irish: Strong ties to Dublin, Skellig Michael, and the Bridge Bar pub in Portmagee, Co. Kerry. Not to mention the Scots smuggler Bela-Tik,  played by Brian Vernel, and that some scenes were filmed in Scotland.

Warning: Here there be spoilers, so if you’ve not seen the movie, read no further.

How Irish is “Star Wars?” Well this one had its Irish up. Domhnall Gleeson is Hux… we knew we recognized him from somewhere! Here’s Domhnall a few years ago talking about his film “Noreen,” in the Tribeca Film Festival, on the New York Irish Arts Podcast.

(And in case you’re interested, here’s Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan talking about “The Guard”)

Dubliner Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (Photo courtesy of Disney/Lucasfilm.)

Dubliner Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (Photo courtesy of Disney/Lucasfilm.)

The Star Wars universe exists “in a galaxy far, far away,” but some of the places and people in “The Force Awakens” have very close ties to Ireland.

Luke Skywalker’s Jedi refuge – or place to brood over how your nephew went bad in epic fashion – is a few miles off the coast of County Kerry, while the evil General Hux is a Dubliner.

Domhnall Gleeson, eldest son of Brendan and his wife Mary, plays the part of General Hux: officer in charge of the First Order’s wintry Starkiller Base, and close-ish friend to baddie-in-training Kylo Ren.


From Enniscorthy to Brooklyn, and back

How it’s New York: Half of the story is set in Brooklyn, New York.
How it’s Irish: The movie is based on the Irish writer, Colm Toibin’s, novel of the same name, the director is Irish, as are the cast primarily.
Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan

Though not lauded as one of Colm Toibin’s best books, Brooklyn, shines on the screen. Perhaps it’s the 1950’s costumes by Odile Dicks-Mireaux, or the settings: Brooklyn and Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, both of which are visually stunning. More likely however, it is Saoirse (pronounced Say-r-sha and fun fact: is the Irish word for freedom), Ronan’s star turn, as the young Irish woman forced into economic emigration leaving behind her beloved sister, (Fiona Glasgott) and mother.  (more…)

Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”

How it’s New York:  Who in New York doesn’t have/use/hate macs?
How it’s Irish: Steve Jobs, no; Michael Fassbender, yes
Fassbender as Steve Jobs

Fassbender as Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender can add another successful role to his already stunning achievements as an actor in his new film “Steve Jobs”.

Fassbender completely inhabits the role and I totally believed he was Steve Jobs.
He managed to pull off the difficult task of showing you how Steve Jobs would think through a problem and come up with ideas that were to make Apple the company it is today. I was curious to see how a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin would work with director Danny Boyle’s style and although not always as gracefully matched as Sorkin was with David Fincher (The Social Network) it worked very well here. The film was very entertaining, fast paced and visually beautiful. There were great supporting roles by Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels.


Jimmy’s Hall from director Ken Loach

How it’s New York: Now running in New York movie theaters
How it’s Irish:  Tells the story of Irish activist Jimmy Gralton
Photo courtesy of Sony Classics

Photo courtesy of Sony Classics

Jimmy’s Hall – Tribeca Film Festival

Directed by Ken Loach

Screenplay by Paul Laverty

Music – George Fenton

Starring: Barry Ward (Jimmy), Simone Kirby (Oonagh), Jim Norton (Fr. Sheridan), Francis Magee (Mossie), Aisling Franciosi (Marie), Andrew Scott (Fr. Seamus), Brían F. O’Byrne (The Commander)

Set in 1932 in County Leitrim, Ireland, the main message and focus of this beautifully gritty new film from Ken Loach is focused on the real-life story of Jimmy Gralton.  Jimmy and his group of free-thinking friends created a Community Hall to give the youth of area a place to gather, learn and share in the arts.  The Hall afforded them an opportunity to experience culture outside of their normal educational routine which was highly supervised and censored by the church.

Photo courtesy of Sony Classics

Photo courtesy of Sony Classics

Jimmy had gone off to work in America and returns to help his aging mother, only to find that the Hall has been shuttered at a time when the youth of the town need it most.  Not long after his arrival a powerful scene shows Jimmy helping his friend Mossie to move cattle and they come across a group of local youths dancing and playing music at the crossroads.  This was common practice, as the church looked down on the traditional dances as too spirited and would penalize or shame the youths if they were caught.  Gathering at the crossroads they would be outside the town and shielded from view by the high grasses in the surrounding fields. (more…)

‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Russell Brand.

How it’s New York: Movie was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Film focuses on recent economic turmoil in UK, which also heavily affected Ireland.

There was a time, not so long ago, where Russell Brand was not that well-known a political activist. Just a few years ago, the comic began adding his name to a number of often celebrity-driven political causes. He protested the 2009 G-20 London summit, and that same year wrote to The Times, in defense of the Baha’i leaders, who were at that time, on trial in Iran. Along with other notable entertainers and literary types, such as: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Annie Lennox, Will Self, Jools Holland, Bobby Gillespie, Harry Enfield, Bryan Adams and many more, he wrote to The Independent on behalf of The Hoping Foundation, to condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza, and some time later, was selected by the Dalai Lama, to host a youth event that the Buddhist leader staged in Manchester. He’s also spoken before a parliamentary committee about drug addiction, where he shared his personal experiences, and his view that drugs should be decriminalized. He went on to share more of his views on drugs in the BBC Three documentary, “Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery,” in December 2012. a film he says he was compelled to make after the tragic death of his close friend, Amy Winehouse. In March of this year, he financed the establishment of a coffee shop, the Trew Era Cafe, on the New Era estate, in London’s Hackney. So, Mr. Brand, it appears, is far more than merely a tabloid favorite with interesting hair, who curses a lot and dates famous women. (more…)

Imelda O’Reilly’s “Eggs and Soldiers” UPDATE: successfully funded

How it’s New York: The film takes place in the Inwood section of ManhattanEggs and Soldiers 1
How it’s Irish: Features an Irish father coping with two boys on his own and is written and directed by Irish filmmaker Imelda O’Reilly

Coming out of the Tribeca Film Festival, I came across an exciting new short being written and produced by Imelda O’Reilly named “Eggs and Soldiers” 

Imelda has been living and working in New York for over 20 years and is an accomplished writer, poet, director and educator.  She was also one of the founding members of the Irish women’s arts collective “Banshee” which took the NY Irish Arts scene by storm in the early 1990’s.

The film tells the story of an Irish immigrant single-father, living in the Inwood section of the Bronx, and struggling to make ends meet.  He also is fighting his demons and not always living up to the expectations of his boys.  The story follows his elder son, who steps up to fill in the gaps and care for his younger brother.

As is often the case these days, the costs of filming even a short are prohibitive and Imelda would like to reach out to readers of NY Irish Arts to help finish their funding campaign.

You can see a trailer here and find additional information on their Indiegogo campaign.  Crowdfunding has become the quickest modern way to get the final money together for a project.  Listen to Imelda talk about the project and get in on the ground floor to help her finish this film and get your feet wet in the film production biz:


UPDATE: the project was funded at 111%!


NOBLE – The compelling story of Christina Noble comes to the screen

Noble poster
How it’s New York: Film opened in New York and other cities on May 8th.
How it’s Irish: Story of Irish activist and philanthropist Christina Noble who helped save over a million of Vietnam’s street children.

The new film from Writer/Director Stephen Bradley, starring his wife actress/comedienne Dierdre O’Kane, NOBLE is a heartwarming and dramatic look at the amazing life of Christina Noble.

Opening today in theatres across the US, NOBLE starts out with Christina as a young girl and follows her incredible journey through her troubled youth in Dublin, to finding her calling in saving children in similar circumstances half a world away.

Writer/Director Stephen Bradley has crafted an intimate and gut-wrenching screenplay that draws upon the drama of Christina’s circumstances, peppered with the humor and music that helped her maintain her sanity.

O’Kane (known for “Rory O’Shea Was Here” and “Intermission”) stars as the adult Christina and was in large part responsible for bringing this story to the screen.  I sat down with Bradley to talk about the project and his excitement and commitment to telling Christina’s story in a real and truthful way.

The grit of Christina’s life in Dublin and England can’t even come close to what she witnesses when she arrives in steamy Ho Chi Minh City. She finds children who have been abandoned by family and country and are living like wild animals on the outskirts of town or in derelict buildings. (more…)

The Survivalist at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

How it’s New York: the film was part of the Tribeca Film Festival

How it’s Irish: It is a post-apocalyptic film set in Northern Ireland


The Survivalist – Northern Ireland                         Written and Directed by Stephen Fingleton

Cast: Martin McCann, Mia Goth and Olwen Fouéré

the Survivalist

As the days grow longer and the warmer weather approaches, the Triangle Below Canal springs to life with the Tribeca Film Festival that is the brain child of Robert De Niro.  I took in a couple of the films that were either made by Irish filmmakers, or had an Irish, UK or Arts theme to them, and am amazed at the incredible range of films on offer.

The first film I saw was The Survivalist from Northern Ireland.  Set in a post-apocalyptic time, it tells the story of a lone man (McCann) hunkered down in a cabin trying to eke out a meager existence with a stash of seeds that enable him to grow enough food to keep himself alive.

It’s a rough tale of him surviving against all odds, which include poachers coming in the night to take all his produce, hunting for his golden cache of seeds, and wracked with guilt over not being able to save his brother.

A mother (Kathryn, played by Fouéré) and daughter (Milja, played by Goth) happen upon him and try to barter what little they have in order to get some food.  They end up staying and trading a lot more than they bargained for.  Milja and the Survivalist form a relationship of sorts, but there is always the question in the background of just how safe they are.  He trusts nobody, and they don’t seem to have much faith in him. They even plot to overtake him. (more…)

Song of the Sea ~ Animated Folklore Story Charms

How it’s New York: Song of the Sea just finished a run at the IFC and is now showing at City Cinemas East (East Village on 2nd Ave.)
How it’s Irish: It is made and set in Ireland, and features an all Irish cast.

Based on the Irish myth about selkies ~ seals that shapeshift into humans – the extremely charming Oscar nominated, Song of the Sea written by Tomm Moore and Will Collins, and directed by Moore is running in City Cinemas East – nice and timely, when NYC embraces all things Irish for the month of March.


The story is the classic search for identity using Ireland’s ancient mythology and connection with the natural and spiritual world as a vehicle. (I also saw aspects of the reverse in the story ~ a search for Ireland’s re~identification with it’s origin.) But the heart of the fairytale is the loss of a mother and the ensuing sibling rivalry between lead character, Ben, played but the wonderful David Rawle, and his little sister, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell).
I had an opportunity to interview the director, Tomm Moore, this week, and he told me that the genesis of the story was a chance meeting with a local in the fishing village of Dingle, who told him that the brutal killing of the seals they came across on the beach would not have happened in the not too distant past. There was a respect for the sea creatures then she told him, as they were said to carry the souls of lost fishermen. Fascinated, he began to read whatever he could about the history of the seals and came upon the selkie stories in a 1920’s book.

The films opens with the Yeats poem, “The Stolen Child”, beautiful words, which gained popular exposure in the late 80’s, when The Waterboys used an excerpt on their “Fisherman”s Blues” album.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
To a world more full of weeping than you can understand

The celtic group, Kíla provide the haunting soundtrack, and the voice of Bronagh, the mother figure, is played by Lisa Hannigan, who also sings on the soundtrack. As with much Irish work, music is never far from it’s core.

With the all star Irish cast of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula O’Flanagan, Pat Shortt, John Kenny and Rawle, (who plays the child version of Chris O’Dowd in Moone Boy on Hulu), we are transported to a land of faeries and fantastic tales.


She Lives Life to the Fullest – My InterReview with Jacquie “Tajah” Murdock, The Face of Lanvin

How it’s New York: Jacquie Murdock is a native New Yorker

Face of Lanvin 2012

How it’s (Irish) Scottish: She’s Scottish

Yahoo is currently featuring an article called “Awe-Inspiring Women of 2014.” But my choice is Jacquie “Tajah” Murdock, featured in the documentary Advanced Style, and a Face of Lanvin 2012. In two generous interviews, Murdock impressed me as being one of the most dynamic and courageous women I have ever known.

Murdock, a former dancer with the Apollo Theater, had always known who she was. After church in 1930’s Harlem, her cultured, middle-class family (Her father was a restauranteur.) attended salons at inspiring hosts’ beautiful homes that were filled with wonderful music and conversation. One day, at the age of 5, this youngest of three daughters announced to her family that she wanted to be a ballet dancer. This would not be exceptional by today’s standards but back then, it wasn’t an considered an acceptable occupation for a well-brought-up young lady – or a lucrative career choice. So her parents – Scottish, Jamaican-born Edward Templeton Campbell and his Jamaican wife, Izilda Fyffe Campbell (childhood sweethearts who grew up and married in Jamaica, lived in Cuba, then emigrated the United States in the 1930s) – gave her piano lessons. This did little to deter Murdock’s ambitions, for she was born to stand out.

06_ADVANCED STYLE_Photo Credit to Ari Seth Cohen

I was always a fashionista

Then her mother sent 8-year old Murdock for sewing lessons. Tall, with the looks and posture of a dancer, she became her mother’s seamstress’ model. She was finally in the spotlight. (Murdock allows that she might be related to Naomi Campbell. “I was always a fashionista,” she assured me.)

Her dancing was never far behind, though. This was the time of Cafe Society, and Murdock performed at famed NYC ballrooms when she was 15: the Renaissance, the Savoy, the Audubon. But she “grew up at the Apollo.” Frankie Manning and Norma Miller were

She grew up at the Apollo

looking for tall girls who could dance, and Murdock began to dance there when she was 17. When she turned 20, she found that she couldn’t get a show, so Murdock took a typing job at Universal Films – the first black woman to get a job there. Then she joined Eubie Blake’s show, “Black-Skinned Models.” She was 25, and she took off!