Marisa Tomei being interviewed during the Galway Film Fleadh.
PHOTOS BY ADRIAN REYES
By Jeanne L. Logan
While events on the world stage fret and stew, Galway town’s stage has been set for the entire month of July, an annual event, in which the place known as the City of Tribes gathers together kinsmen of every description across the land and the continent – artists, sculptors, actors, screenwriters, film producers, theatre-goers, singers, dancers, comedians. Doing what the Irish do best, extending a warm “fáilte” – and a pint, along with some grand storytelling.
This year’s Film Fleadh (pronounced “fla”) from July 10-15, was newly headed up by programmer Will Fitzgerald, no newcomer to the festival having previously served in other capacities. Mr. Fitzgerald stated there were four venues, including the newly-constructed central Palas Screen, offering 107 features of which 55 were first features and 21 World Premiers — and shorts, including Irish and international works; short and feature animation films, a special accent on LGBTQ, indicative of their growth, and a special tribute to the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
To wit, “The Story of Yes,” an inside look from Quintin Oliver who steered the YES Campaign in 1998, and “Hear My Voice,” a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Northern Irish conflict, directed by Brendan Byrne and inspired by Colin Davidson’s painting exhibition, “Silent Testimony.” This latter film was seen by Miriam Allen, proficient Managing Director of the Festival for many years, and brought to Galway as part of the “Northern Exposure” documentaries in commemoration of the 20th anniversary.
The Galway Film Fest opened with a charming, bitter-sweet film of Celtic misfits, struggling to better their lot in life in the backwaters of the Emerald Isle, produced, written and directed by Morgan Bushe, a great future lying before him. Marisa Tomei was in attendance at the World Premiere of her film, “Behold My Heart,” a mother/son drama, and received a special award by the Festival, along with co-winner Vanessa Redgrave, whose international documentary, “Sea Sorrow,” starred Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson.
Two short documentaries that captured this viewer’s imagination: the first, “Xavier Corbero, Portrait of an Artist in Winter,” the Catalan sculptor and friend of Dali’s; director and producer Nathalie Biancheri, recently moved to West of Ireland, and someone to certainly keep an eye on. The second, a young newcomer making his debut and winner of the Best Short Irish Documentary, “Inhale,” Sean Mullen from Belfast, a story of a man in pain and his horse, his joie de vivre, beautifully executed.
Other winners (USA): Best International Short Animation, “The Driver Is Red,” by Randall Christopher; Producers, Randall Christopher, Jared Callahan, which treats of secret agent Zvi Aharoni as he hunts Nazi war criminals on the run, set in 1960 Argentina. Kudos. Winner for 2018 Best Irish Feature, “The Dig,” by Stuart Drennan, a thriller about 4 men on a bog. Brother directors, Ryan and Andrew Tohill; Producer, Brian J. Falconer.
Two other features of note: the Irish Fiction, “Don’t Go,” starring Stephen Dorff and Melissa George, director and script David Gleeson, about a married couple who’ve lost their young daughter, beautifully shot. And winner of the Best Irish Feature Documentary, “Katie,” starring Katie Taylor, the boxer from Bray, Co. Wicklow, who’s captured the world’s heart, winning the London 2012 Olympic Games, going on to become a world-class athlete and promoter of women’s boxing. Director, writer, producer Ross Whitaker, produces a vivid portrait of the young fighter. Exciting to watch, and will be a Classic Sports Documentary.
The Fleadh closed with the startlingly raw, “Black 47,” starring Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea and Jim Broadbent with memorable performances. Director and Script writer Lance Daly has used the Great Hunger to great avail as 19th century backdrop to this intense period drama of a vengeful Irish Ranger wreaking havoc on the murderers of his family. Filmed partly in Connemara, and produced by the BAI and Screen Ireland (SI), among others, we were assured that Mr. James Hickey, CEO of SI, and his Team are partnering with Irish artists and craftsmen to bring great Irish stories to the world of cinema.
The President of Ireland, Mr. Michael D. Higgins, now an Irish icon, formerly a Labour Party politician of Galway, was at the presentation of the Fleadh’s 2018 Awards, along with his wife Sabina. His impassioned and moving closing speech, an ode to the Artists of Ireland for whom he got the ball rolling in 1993 as a minister, was a fitting finale to the Fleadh. . . and a grand time was had by all!
And that’s only for starters. Next is the notable Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF), beginning immediately after the Film Fest. If you have a knack for planning, you can fit them both in on your next visit across the pond. Galway offers all the amenities — good hotels, shops, and dining, great pubs, (a tip: try Black’s Tavern for the best chowder ever).
For sightseeing, there’s The Wild Atlantic Way, featuring several towns worth renting a car for. To the south, there’s Killarney of course (Prince Charles and Camilla just visited), the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, the Cliffs of Moher, the famous Aran Islands, the Burren; and to the north, Connemara, home to the famous Irish film with John Wayne and Maureen O’Sullivan, “A Quiet Man.”
But before you depart, make sure you see some wonderful theatre, perhaps coming to New York City very soon: Sonya Kelly’s new play, “Furniture,” an hilarious relationship comedy; an adaptation, “The Aspirations of Daise Morrow” of Australian Nobel Prize winner Patrick White’s “Down at the Dump,” directed by Chris Drummond; and the ingenious “Flight,” adapted by Oliver Emanuel from the novel “Hinterland” by Caroline Brothers, directed by Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds – a unique audience experience in which spectators sit in individual booths with 3-D screens, dialog and music, in a fragile miniature world!
Welcome to Galway, City of Tribes, where the art of storytelling is ever created anew.