Heather Hardy is the subject of the documentary "Hardy!"
By Orla O’Sullivan
An opportunity to hang out in the “filmmakers’ lounge” with the directors of films to be screened will be a new element to this year’s Craic Fest.
The festival, taking place from March 3-5, at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, is now in its 18th year.
The Craic Fest has expanded from showing Irish feature films every March before St. Patrick’s Day, to concerts (this year’s Craic Music Fest is on Sat. March 12 in Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge) plus an LGBT festival in April and a shorts’ festival, the Wee Craic, towards the end of the year.
More than 2,000 people are expected to attend the main festival next month, said Terrence Mulligan, creator and chief executive of the Craic Fest. This divides out with “well over 1,000 of them,” attending the concert, he said, adding that overall “festival attendance has held very steady for about the past seven years.”
Filmgoers can expect to see several New York premieres and some of the key people behind them over the three-day Thursday-to-Saturday event.
Opening night features a documentary about Irish American boxer Heather “The Heat” Hardy. Both the Brooklyn-born subject and the director of “Hardy,” Natasha Varma, will host a Q&A.
They are also among those expected in the filmmakers’ lounge during the course of the event, where audience members can drop in for a complimentary drink and chat. Others expected are directors Mark Noonan (“You’re Ugly Too”) and Paul Webster (“Let Those Blues In”).
Noonan’s film starring Aidan Gillen has its New York premiere on Friday night. Gillen, who some may know from his roles on HBO’s “The Wire” (Baltimore politician Tommy Carcetti) and “Game of Thrones” (Petyr Baelish), plays the uncle of an orphaned girl who reports that she has been raped, but is not believed.
Mulligan described “You’re Ugly Too” as “funny, dark and really well
written,” with acting that is “superb.” He cited it as an example where, “If you have a voice you can make a film in Ireland that is not necessarily ‘an Irish film.’”
Saturday features a Kid’s Fleadh (11a.m.- 1p.m.) an LGBT brunch (at 1p.m.) and screening, “Viva,” at 1 p.m.
The Kid’s Fleadh has sold out every year since it was introduced in 2010, Mulligan said. It includes story-telling, step-dancing and the screening of short films, mostly animation.
The film festival concludes that night with the New York premiere of “The Lobster,” starring Irish heartthrob Colin Farrell. The romantic satire was produced by a team of companies in Ireland, the UK, France, Greece, and the Netherlands. A Q&A follows.
Mulligan dubs the Craic Fest “the premier Irish film and music festival in the U.S.” Asked by what measure, he said, “We get films a lot of other festivals don’t, not just Irish festivals, but festivals, period.”
The premieres he has brought to New York include hits, such as “Intermission,” “The Wind That Shakes The Barley,” and “In Bruges,” he said.
When launching the festival in 1999 it was “designed as a lead-in to St. Patrick’s Day for more press. Filmmakers come to us because they know they’re going to get media attention.” It’s also, he added “a fun time” with all filmmakers knowing that they will be treated equally.
Mulligan, who grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, shows new Irish cinema, which could be Irish in one of many senses: having an Irish subject or director or simply having been shot in Ireland.
Asked about his personal favorite films or directors of all time, he mentioned a 2004 one shot in Dublin, “Adam & Paul.” The director, Dubliner Lenny Abrahamson, is up for an Oscar for last year’s feature, “Room.”
“I knew him before he was Lenny Abrahamson, the Oscar-nominated director,” Mulligan said. “It’s kind of ironic that we never showed ‘Adam & Paul.’ The scheduling didn’t work out.”
Advance tickets can be purchased at www.thecraicfest.com and cost $20 for the opening and closing films, which includes admission to a reception and the filmmakers’ lounge.