War Movies and Film Festivals

How It’s New York: Irish Screen America and New York Film Festival happen in New York City. Irish Rep’s Ciarán O’Reilly is in one of the shorts, and several of the directors live here.
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How It’s Irish: “No Stone Unturned” is a film about the Troubles and New York Irish Shorts are made by Irish filmmakers

Last weekend was quite the film buff’s dream. Not only was Irish Film America hosting their annual film festival, but Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival also opened. I was lucky enough to attend both in one day. Focused on Irish cinema, I began by seeing Alex Gibney’s “No Stone Unturned” at the Elinor Bunin Monroe film center. Described as a murder mystery in its title, going in I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a drama or a documentary, but it’s a murder mystery doc. (more…)

Podcast #41: ‘Find Your Way Home’ and ‘The Journey’

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How it’s New York: ‘Find Your Way Home’ plays Symphony Space on Tuesday, July 25. ‘The Journey’ had a New York premiere.
How it’s Irish: The musical ‘Find Your Way Home’ is about an Irish family in 1910. ‘The Journey’ fictionalizes in film an encounter between Ian Paisley and IRA leader Martin McGuinness in 2006, as they attempt to end the conflict in Northern Ireland.

We spoke to “Find Your Way Home” co-author Jimmy Kelly, and to “The Journey” director Nick Hamm.

Featured song: “Heaven Hear Me Now,” from “Find Your Way Home.”

 

Tribeca Film Festival: The Lovers is a Screwball Valentine

How it’s New York: The spotlight narrative film, The Lovers, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Broadway playwright and actor Tracy Letts, of Irish descent, plays one of the leads (“Michael”). And Aiden Gillen (“Robert”) IS an Irish actor.

Debra Winger as Mary and Tracy Letts as Michael in THE LOVERS.

Azazel Jacobs, screenwriter, director, and producer of The Lovers, maintains that the film is a fond look back at screwball comedies. But this reviewer only had to take a look at his parents, who were seated in the audience and took an informal bow at the screening I attended, to figure out the real reason for this film: they have been married for a gazillion years, but there’s still a glowing “something” going on there for them. This film explores, among other things, middle-aged, long-term married “love” and what makes it tick. One might wonder how Jacobs could possibly keep such a theme interesting for 94 minutes much less how a couple could keep a marriage vital year after year.

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Tribeca Film Festival: ‘The Public Image is Rotten’

How it’s New York: Documentary aired at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Focuses on the work of John Lydon, the London-born son of Irish immigrants.

He’s lived the life, of that there can be little doubt,  and the man at the forefront of Britain, no, the world’s, punk explosion back in the mid 1970s is still living it. Perhaps it’s not the ostentatious existence of obnoxiousness which representatives from other musical genres are, for reasons unknown, proud to display, but John Lydon, a man who shocked, even disgusted, most of the population while enjoying his heyday as the UK’s supposed public enemy Number 1, is still here, and has no plans on going anywhere. His supposed alter-ego, Johnny Rotten, may have been somewhat forced into semi-retirement many years ago, and while the attitude has softened somewhat, and the ironic sneer has metomphorphozed into a cheeky grin, the charismatic personality that some of us loved, and more loved to hate, is here, at Tribeca, and on the big screen.

 

Lydon, who fronted The Sex Pistols, Britain’s most outrageous musical act, for three years before they imploded in 1978, is no stranger to controversy, or indeed, documentaries, having been the subject of a number over the years, most notably 2000’s ‘The Filth and the Fury’, the director of which, Julien Temple, is one of those interviewed for this one.

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Tribeca Film Festival: ‘Pilgrimage’

Jon Bernthal as the Mute.

How it’s New York: “Pilgrimage'”was included in the Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Set and filmed in Ireland,  it features an Irish cast and crew.

“Pilgrimage,” the upcoming Brendan Muldowney film which featured last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, is one of those rare cinematic gems, which ticks all the appropriate boxes. It is a road movie, or perhaps a ‘little-used woodland path’ movie, without the motorized vehicles.

It is a buddy flick, where men become friends and companions, but, perhaps more importantly, allies. It is an action flick, with enough battles and blood to keep hearts racing and pulses rising.

More than any of that however, it is an Irish production, set in an era we don’t often see represented in film (the 13th century),

featuring a talented ensemble cast of established and recognizable actors, mingle with a number of up-and-coming faces from Ireland’s drama scene. (more…)

‘Love After Love’ at Tribeca Film Festival 2017

Cast of Love After Love at premiere at Tribeca Film Festival (Photo by Nicholas Hunt – © 2017 Getty Images – Image courtesy gettyimages.com)

How it’s New York: The film played at  the Tribeca Film Festival, a festival designed to get New Yorkers back downtown after 9/11. Russell Harbaugh is a New York director.
How it’s Irish: Features Irish Actor and Comedian Chris O’Dowd as Nicholas in slice of life drama by Russell Harbaugh.

“Love after Love” at Tribeca just received

  • Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Chris Teague forLove After Love. The award was given by Alex Orlovsky

 

Usually walking into a movie starring Chris O’Dowd I would expect a laugh-fest, and that was not at all what I encountered with Love After Love this week at Tribeca.  This piece is definitely a more serious and sometimes somber look at the ways that life, love and loss affect us all.  The story from

Dree Hemingway and Chris O’Dowd in Love After Love

director Russell Harbaugh and writer Eric Mendelsohn wends its way through the struggles and emotional chasms of loss and finding love again.

In the lead role of the womanizing and high-strung Nicholas, O’Dowd is miles away from his usual hilarious persona, and gives a riveting look into what makes this guy come unhinged. (more…)

Podcast #38: Wils Wilson on ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart;’ ‘Narcan’

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How it’s New York: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was a big hit Off-Broadway. “Narcan” played at Irish Screen America and at the Manhattan Film Festival.   rssheadphones1
How it’s Irish and Scottish: Jim Halpin, of “Narcan,” is from Limerick (he played young Malachy in “Angela’s Ashes.”)
“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” is by Scottish playwright David Grieg, presented by The National Theatre of Scotland and the McKittrick Hotel (home of “Sleep No More.”)

We spoke to director Wils Wilson about the brilliant and unforgettable Scottish immersive drama “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,”a campfire pub play if there ever was one, with brilliance running through each line like water inside a snowflake. Alice Farrell spoke to Peter Halpin, star of the short film “Narcan,” which may turn into a feature film Stay tuned.

Featured tune is from Annie Grace’s “The Bell.” Annie was in the cast of  “Prudencia” when we attended. We think she has a voice to rival Dolores Keane and were sorely tempted to end with two of her songs.

‘Emerald City’ – A Cinematic Gem That May Speak for a Generation

How it’s New York: A New York story shot on location in the Big Apple.
How it’s Irish: Written and directed by a native of Tyrone, and featuring an ensemble of Irish actors.

Some of the cast and crew at the recent London Film Festival.

For an Irish emigrant in the latter half of the 20th century, there was a supposed ‘holy triumvirate’ of occupations that one could, not so much enjoy, but experience. Three jobs the weary long-term ‘visitor’ has, over generations, been either, welcome to try his hand at, or been firmly nudged towards, due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere. There’s the pulling of pints and there’s the moving of furniture. Then there is the knocking down, and building up of; walls, ceilings, floors, apartments, skyscrapers, neighborhoods and entire cities. See, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve torn things down, and built them up. Whether it be buildings and businesses, or friendships and families. We’ve held them together, and torn them apart, for over 200 years in this town. This home from home, this Big Apple, this ‘Emerald City’.
Writer/director Colin Broderick, one of those unique breeds, a County Tyrone-born and reared New Yorker, has set out to tell a tale or three, involving several memorable characters from this, his first movie, detailing the lives and loves of an ageing Irish construction crew. ‘Emerald City’ expertly weaves a number of storylines together into a colorful tapestry, one that is rich in character and colorful of language. It is as much a tribute to the immigrants who came and stayed and those who never made it back, as it is to Broderick’s beloved New York.  This is where he, before honing his skills as an acclaimed writer of two biographical works (‘Orangutan’ and ‘That’s That’) and a number of plays, worked in the construction industry, where ideas for many of his characters no doubt, first developed.  (more…)

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

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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 narrowbackfilms.com.

 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!”

 

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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 … 🙂
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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.

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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.

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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…)