Informative plattform of International Federation of Film Societies- Féderation Internationalle des Ciné-clubs- Federación Internacional de Cine Clubes
There is every possibility that this year’s Galway Film Fleadh will be remembered as much for the weather as for the quality of films in the packed programme; it came as no surprise to the faithful that the six-day event swelled with cinematic temptations from all corners of the globe, but what was unusual was the recordbreaking temperatures which provided a pleasant backdrop to the festivities. Not that the fine weather seems to have distracted people from the serious business of film watching with attendances reported as being considerably up on last year. Indeed this year’s silver jubilee Fleadh is being tagged as a particularly memorable edition of what is one of Ireland’s premier film events.
Taking place over six days in the bustling coastal city of Galway, one of the key locations for cultural activity in Ireland, the Fleadh makes use of a variety of cinemas and theatres giving the effect of a city-wide film event, the hub of which is the large Town Hall Theatre, the site for all flagship screenings and premieres of new Irish cinema. Not least among the items of note in this year’s Fleadh programme was the continued presence of the FICC jury, the third following a successful pilot in 2011. The jury was in town again to award the prestigious Don Quijote prize for the best animated Irish short feature. The prize is awarded in accordance with the general philosophy of the International Film Society movement, and it is intended to highlight a film of particular value to international film clubs. It is ultimately hoped that the winning title will have a life on the international film festival circuit. As such, the Prize is often awarded to a ‘hidden gem’ that might otherwise be overlooked.
The members on this year’s Galway Film Fleadh FICC jury were: Stefan Hunziker, Norwegian Federation of Film Societies; Joaquim Roqur Paret, Catalan Federation of Film Societies, Spain; David O Mahony, Programme Manager with access>CINEMA, Ireland. Following some light-hearted debate the jury reached a decision with relative ease – the Don Quijote Prize was awarded to Coda (dir: Alan Holly; prod: Ciaran Deeney). This moving, contemplative short animation was a visually arresting exploration of the afterlife, featuring a recently deceased young man being comforted by a more benign Grim Reaper figure than we are accustomed to. Special Mention was given to Two Wheels Good (dir/prod: Barry Gene Murphy), a playful and nostalgic look at what cycling has meant for a group of disparate people in rural Ireland. The jury were impressed with the skill with which the animation was interwoven with live-action footage.
It was the general feeling of the jury that the programmes of animated shorts presented were of mixed quality overall. It was however recognised that many were student shorts, and as such they displayed promise. The social aspect of a film festival is, depending on your priorities, almost as important to the experience as the films themselves. Sometimes it is the people you meet that provide the lasting memories. In this aspect, Galway Film Fleadh positively excels, positioning itself as an event where filmmakers, visiting talent and audiences intermingle freely, and where notional barriers are removed. One need only watch Hollywood A-lister Zachery Quinto (in town to host numerous acting master-classes and Q&As) queue in line for his own pint at the Rowing Club, whilst generously indulging well-wishers with camera-phones, to see this spirit of camaraderie born out. The Galway Film Fleadh is a great leveller.
Long perceived as a launching-pad for new Irish feature films, this year’s Fleadh hosted premieres for a number of new domestic titles, many of which will most likely appear in cinemas later in the year. As ever, multiple programmes of new Irish shorts were also presented. However, the Fleadh retains an international flavour through its dramatic features, its rich documentary strand, and also the Out On Film programme of new LGBT films. Here’s to another 25 years of the Galway Film Fleadh.
David O Mahony
Programme Manager access>CINEMA