How it’s New York: Craic Film Festival held in New York City
How it’s Irish: US Premieres of Irish Independent Films
The week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day saw the 20th Anniversary of the Craic Fest, a music and film fest featuring the best of independent film and music from Ireland. I went along to see a day filled with a broad range of new films spanning the amazing talent currently coming out of the Irish Indie film scene.
First up was the documentary Pota Óir from filmmaker Anthony White on the Irish traditional band Kila. A cannily shot inside look into the incredible stage energy of this long-time Irish staple, it follows the band on tour and in rehearsals and in interviews. It’s a great peek into the amazing energy of this seminal trad phenomenon which has been gracing stages around the world and Ireland for 30 years now.
Giving a broad range of concert footage, the film highlights the power and ambiance of their shows, from the plaintive instrumental solos to the wild frenzy of their upbeat numbers. There was a great feeling of the camaraderie of the band and their loyal fans who are an integral part of their performances. Growing out of White’s own interest in their music, there is a great fan’s eye given to the look and feel of the film, capturing those moments that every fan would love to see. As someone who has followed the band for most of their 30 years, I was thrilled to see some songs played in their entirety, something which is sorely overlooked in the more MTV-driven modern editing style. The film is currently being screened around the world and I hope it will find a home for folks to see it soon in a cinema near you or online. Until then you can find out more information here: Kila Pota Oir.
Following were two films from the collaboration of Irish actor John Connors and filmmaker Mark O’Connor. First up was the film Stalker which stars Connors as a homeless man forging a relationship with a young kid in inner-city Dublin. A gritty, yet at times poignant tale of a man living on the street and his interactions with a kid, played by Barry Keoghan whom he tries to rescue from the clutches of his evil uncle played by Peter Coonan. You may know Connors from his work on the hit TV show Love/Hate, (which also helped make stars of Keoghan and Coonan) or his viral acceptance speech at this year’s IFTA awards for the lead role in his semi-autobiographical film Cardboard Gangsters. This was quite a departure for him, having mostly played hardened and gruff hitmen and heavies, and here he is a soft and almost poetic soul trying to struggle with his own demons and do good. Meanwhile he ends up surrounded by not so savory folks, who definitely don’t have the best of intentions. It’s a thrill ride of a film that packs quite a punch at the end.
Next up was Cardboard Gangsters the award winning semi-autobiographical tale penned by O’Connor and Connors and starring Connors as a DJ turned thug in the North Dublin town of Darndale. I loved the flow of this story and the characters that gave at true flavor of the comedy and tragedy that are a part of the story of getting swallowed up in the drug culture and treachery surrounding them. Just a regular gang of lads who happen into dealing nearly by accident, the story follows them through the partying, violence, and deception that become part of their lives. But they never seem to lose their humanity in this piece which shows their flaws and allows them to laugh at themselves as well. Available now on Irish Netflix, hopefully it will be available to US audiences soon. I got to chat with Connors later that week and part of that interview will come in a future NYIrishArts podcast.
The final film of the day was the U.S. premiere of Shelter Me : Apollo House. A documentary produced by Jim Sheridan and shot by Zahara Moufid, of the activist take-over of a vacant NAMA building over the Christmas period of 2016 into 2017 to house the homeless in Dublin. It follows the activists as they plot how to go about taking over the building and the outpouring of help coming to them from all over Dublin.
Featured in the film are Glen Hansard, Dean Scurry, Jim Sheridan as well as host of other volunteers who help plan, coordinate and manage the massive effort to give a respite to the homeless people living on the streets of Dublin. The film follows them as they wrangle all the supplies, getting lights on and beds ready, as well as providing meals and arranging signage and connecting the people with services that will help them locate more amenable accommodations for the future.
Even though the effort was only successful for a few weeks, it was an amazing wake up call to the people of Ireland and has helped to feed the ongoing discussion and action currently going on to try and solve this problem countrywide.
All of these films made for a great day’s entertainment, and I would recommend going to see them if and when they reach a theatre near you!