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Posts Tagged ‘Sundance Film Festival’

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Today I’m trying something new here at In An Irish Home.  I am going to participate in the #weekendcoffeeshare on WordPress. These are going to be special posts going along with the theme shared by the Daily Post prompt– “Each weekend, bloggers publish posts about what they’d say to their readers if they were sitting down together over a cup of coffee. Some bloggers do it every weekend, while others dip in and out.” I’m not sure if I’ll do it more than this one time, but if feels like a good way to bring authenticity to my writing today. So…here goes…

If we were having coffee we would probably be sitting at your kitchen table or mine, as one does in Ireland {unless, of course, we’re in Avoca Handweavers looking out over a gray or possibly changing soft day!}. We’d be having tea…because that’s what most people do in Ireland. Our tea would be served from a tea pot, not in a plastic cup like you get at Starbucks. And we’d be having something wickedly sweet like a slice of lemon cake or a Mars Bar biscuit…ok, maybe I’d be having something sweet and you’d be having a healthy scone!

We’d probably talk about the simple things first and get them over quickly…just so we could delve into the nitty gritty details of our lives. You’d tell me about your kids, your job, your husband/your ex or how your dating life is going, your stresses. I’d tell you the same. I’d tell you how, just two days ago, I felt like packing it all in and running away to some beautiful beach {maybe Hawaii}…only to settle down after a good night sleep and realise how very much I love my beautiful, sometimes-make-me-crazy family, and how very much I miss my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and home (America when I’m in Ireland and Ireland when I’m in America). We’d laugh until we talked about your divorce or your ailing parent and then we’d get serious for a little while. We’d talk about our kids and how they’re coping in this crazy world…and making us crazy too. And we’d talk about how short life is and how much we’d like to slow down and spend it with the ones who really matter.

Politics would only come up if we were talking about the ridiculous American presidential candidates. Faith would only come up because we’d talk about how I saw your parents in church last week or how things are going with the plans for your son’s upcoming Confirmation. We don’t really talk politics or religion in Ireland otherwise.

We’d start talking about other friends…but in a way that is supportive…not gossipy. We’d fill each other in on what we don’t already know and we’d encourage each other to get in touch with someone we’ve let slip out of our hands. And, then, before we call it a “cuppa” we’d talk about and make plans for our next girls night out or girls weekend away. We’d whip out our mobile phones and send our other gal-pals a quick text to say, “Let’s meet up!”

And, with the world’s problems solved for another day, we’d hug each other and say our goodbyes. I’d close my hall door or walk out to my car…incredibly thankful for your friendship.

That’s what I imagine would happen if we were having coffee, what do you imagine?

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Here’s where If We Were Having Coffee… all started: Part-Time Monster

** Here’s where I learned about it.

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

 

“The secret magic of (Sundance) film festivals is that they offer audiences direct communication with the artist,” so says Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming Trevor Groth. And, oh how right he is.

I have been going to Sundance Film Festivals for 15 years. Some years are good, some years are even better, but what are always great are the Q & A sessions with people directly involved in a film immediately following a screening.

Unfortunately these Q & A sessions are rarely made public. So, if you can’t make it to Park City for ten days in January, you probably won’t get the inside scoop or see “the secret magic”.

And that got me to thinking…what if I could publish the Q & A’s? I’ve got an iPhone. I’ve been recording the Q & A’s for years. What if I published them at In an Irish Home? And so, for two weeks that’s what I’ve been trying to do! At first, I tried to upload them directly to my WordPress blog but, for whatever reason, it just wouldn’t work. Then, I set up a YouTube channel and gave that a go. It took several tries…but at long last…it’s done.

 

For the record, Q & A’s are sometimes serious, sometimes funny…above all, they are always informative. Their format is as follows: after the credits, a Sundance Programmer comes to the stage and introduces the director, producer, actors, cinematographer, etc. of the film just viewed. The Programmer asks one or two questions and then turns the questioning over to the audience.

In all, a Q & A last about 15-20 minutes. It seems a really short time, but, those 15-20 minutes can make the difference between an audience leaving a screening with a good feeling (which can elevate a film’s impact in the wider public) or a bad one (which will have the exact opposite effect).

I was fortunate to attend five or six films this year that were followed by Q & A’s, including one for the Irish-Cuban film Viva. Director Paddy Breathnach and Irish producer Rob Walpole answered questions candidly. It was fascinating to learn things like 1) how many years it took to make Viva; 2) what it was like to direct actors who spoke a different language; 3) how hard it was to find financial backers to support the project; and 4) how the wonderful music in the film almost did not make it into the movie.

So, for the first time ever, I’m delighted to bring you behind the scenes at Sundance 2016 with the Q & A from Viva!

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Viva nominated for an Oscar in 2016.

** How to do a film festival Q & A.

*** Watch the Viva trailer here.

**** Viva is the closing gala event at this year’s Dublin Film Festival (Feb 28th). To buy tickets visit here.

 

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The last of the credits have rolled at Sundance 2016, the awards have been handed out, and I am shattered. In ten days I saw 13 films, which is nothing compared to some of my friends and colleagues (who saw upwards of 20+). But somewhere along the way, between Morris from America and The Birth of a Nation, emotional exhaustion crept in. I believe it started with Mammal.

Mammal is the second film from Irish writer-director Rebecca Daly and her screenwriting partner Glenn Montgomery. Set in Dublin, it stars Australian actress Rachel Griffiths (‘Six Feet Under’, Muriel’s Wedding’), rising Irish star Barry Keoghan (‘Love/Hate, ’71’), and Irish actor Michael McElhatton (‘Game of Thrones’). Vaguely reminiscent of Gerard Barrett’s Glassland, which premiered at Sundance last year, Mammal is a dark tale: not at all for the faint of heart. It is also a thoughtful exploration of separation, grief, and love.

Rachel Griffiths plays the role of Margaret, a 40+ woman, living alone, except for the occasional lodger she takes in to supplement her income. When the husband she’s separated from (Michael McElhatton) calls to say that their son, whom she abandoned years before, has gone missing, something in Margaret cracks open.

As she unconsciously attempts to process her deep buried emotions, Margaret takes in a troubled young man (Barry Keoghan). At first, their relationship is akin to mother and son, but then it shifts to that of lovers and we (the audience) get sucked down the emotional rabbit hole Margaret is trying to climb out of.

Daly and Montgomery navigate the story of ‘mother abandoning child’ incredibly well. From beginning to end, Margaret never has more emotions then she needs and, for me, this character-casting works well. It would have been too cliché to pellet Griffith’s character with misplaced motherly love and grief.

Every character, Margaret’s ex, the son she never mothered, the lad she takes in, even Margaret herself, is broken, vulnerable, and looking for something/someone to help them move forward. And, just as you would expect from a Greek-tragedy-type-tale, grief morphs into some pretty risqué territory…which is why Mammal is a difficult film to see.

I’m glad I saw it, however. I can’t say I loved watching Mammal but, all in all, it is a very good film.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Sundance Channel Global secured broadcast rights for Mammal in multiple territories while at the festival.

** Mammal was produced by Macdara Kelleher and Conor Barry for Fastnet Films (‘Strangerland’, ‘Kisses’, ‘What If’) and was co- funded by the Irish Film Board, Luxembourg Film Fund, BAI, TV3 and the Netherlands Film Fund.

*** You can read an interview with Rachel Griffiths and Barry Keoghan over at Seventh Row.

**** To read another interesting article about Mammal’s subject matter, visit here.

 

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Sundance can be hard on the heart. With film topics covering things like war and cancer and physical assault, it’s not uncommon to leave a screening feeling exhausted and shell shocked.

So, when a movie comes to Sundance that has you tapping your toes and dancing in your seat, it’s wonderfully refreshing. And that is exactly what John Carney’s Sing Street is…wonderfully refreshing!

Oh sure, begrudgers have said that Carney “borrowed heavily from his own film Once to make Sing Street” but so what?…who cares!? If something ain’t broke…don’t mess with it!

At the Monday morning showing in The Eccles Theatre, audience members (myself included) were laughing out loud and thoroughly enjoying themselves for a change.

Sing Street is uplifting, funny, and infectious.

While the credits were rolling at the end of the film, people were clapping to the music and dancing in the aisles. When Carney and his cast walked up on stage, they received a standing ovation. Which says it all…doesn’t it?

Sundance audiences love Sing Street.

I don’t want to give anything away in this review, but I will say this…Irish newcomers Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who plays Conor) and Mark McKenna (playing Eamon) are rising stars. Remember that you heard it first here!

Go see Sing Street. Take the kids. This is a film that’s good for the heart.

 

 

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Sundance 2016 started yesterday and I’m back in snowy Park City, Utah for the sixth year in a row reporting on what the Irish are bringing to North America’s most prestigious film festival.

There are a record seven Irish Film Board funded entries this year ranging from musical comedy to short animation. They include:

Sing Street – With 1980s Dublin mired in recession, Conor’s parents move him from a comfortable private school to a rough inner-city public school where the scrappy 14-year-old forms a band. Mentored by his older brother, a dropout who’s hip to cool tunes, Conor starts to compose lyrics and the glam-ish band finds its “no covers” groove. Renaming himself Cosmo, he convinces the mysterious, über-cool Raphina to star in their music videos (and tries to win her heart in the process).

John Carney, whose musical passion and DIY vibe refreshed a genre with Once and Begin Again, spins a loosely autobiographical story in which music again offers a refuge–from school and family strife. He spent over a year collaborating on original music (a throwback to ‘80s vibrancy) that’s catchy but plausible for a youth band, and his talented cast plays it like they mean it. Carney’s nostalgia isn’t only for a bygone Dublin and its soundtrack, but for that moment when you pour your heart into something, and it can mean everything to you. When songs can save your life.

Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen and Mark McKenna. The film will screen in the Premieres section at Sundance. It was directed by John Carney and produced by Anthony Bregman, John Carney, and Martina Niland. It was filmed in Ireland. It will be released in the UK and Ireland on March 18th.

 

 

 

Viva – Jesus has spent most of his young adult life styling wigs at a drag club in Havana, longing for a purpose other than the pennies he scrapes together in the shadows of his surroundings. When Jesus is offered the chance to perform amongst the other queens, the cruel winds of fate bring his estranged, abusive father back into his life after 15 years. What unfolds is a bittersweet story of pain, regret, and reconciliation. As the two men’s lives violently collide, they are forced to grapple with their conflicting views.

Laced with the raw passion and drama of drag, director Paddy Breathnach and writer Mark O’Halloran bring Viva to life with exquisite tenderness. Actors Jorge Perugoría and Héctor Medina fill this wrenching love story with a raw humanity that runs beyond the confines of the screen. With a resounding case for compassion, Viva illuminates the oft-devastating path of family, neglect, and resolution.

Starring Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, and Luis Alberto García. The film will screen in the Spotlight section at Sundance. It was directed by Paddy Breathnach and produced by Rob Walpole, Rebecca O’Flanagan, Nelson Navarro Navarro, and Cathleen Dore. It was filmed in Cuba and Ireland. It is the Irish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars.

 

The Lobster – Recently dumped by his wife, David (Colin Farrell) goes to a countryside hotel where guests (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw amongst them) must find a suitable mate within 45 days or be turned into the animal of their choice. They attend group meetings and mixers designed by staff (a wryly Nurse Ratched-esque Olivia Colman) to foster compatible pairings. But David’s search ultimately leads to the “loners,” militant outcasts (led by Léa Seydoux) who live in the woods and are routinely hunted by hotel guests. Although the loners forbid intimacy, he befriends a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz).

With deadpan conviction and perfect comedic alchemy, The Lobster thrusts us into a darkly satirical world that posits love as a social construct, skewering ritualized coupledom and our base impulses toward romance (loneliness, insecurity, desperation, cruelty) before adopting a more emotional complexion. The Lobster’s debatably ironic conclusion is one of many engaging ambiguities that give it a philosophical allure.

Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, and Olivia Colman.  The film will screen in the Spotlight section at Sundance. It was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and produced by Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Ceci Dempsey and Yorgos Lanthimos. It was filmed in Ireland/United Kingdom/Greece/France. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

 

Mammal – After Margaret learns that her 18-year-old son, who she abandoned as a baby, has been found dead, her simple, solitary routine is tragically disrupted. But when Joe, a homeless teen from her neighborhood, enters her life, Margaret offers him a room, and she soon embodies the mother she never was. As Margaret copes with the volatile grief of her ex-husband, her own lonely trauma seeps into her relationship with Joe and begins to blur the line between motherly affection and a far more carnal nature of intimacy.

With a firm grasp on the devastating layers of grief, Rebecca Daly’s Mammalexpertly guides us through the isolating depth into which Margaret is thrust. Rachel Griffiths, Barry Keoghan, and Michael McElhatton infuse the film with raw vulnerability that pulsates with the animalistic nature of trauma. This quiet portrait of anguish further establishes Daly’s position as a director with astonishing command.

Starring Rachel Griffiths, Barry Keoghan, and Michael McElhatton. The film will screen in the World Cinema Drama section at Sundance. It was directed by Rebecca Daly and produced by Macdara Kelleher and Conor Barry. It was filmed in Ireland/Luxembourg/Netherlands. 

 

The Land of the Enlightened – In this seamless blend of fictional and documentary form, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan. Shot over five years on evocative 16mm footage, first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue paints a whimsical yet haunting look at the condition of Afghanistan left for the next generation. As American soldiers prepare to leave, we follow De Pue deep into this hidden land where young boys form wild gangs to control trade routes, sell explosives from mines left over from war, and climb rusting tanks as playgrounds—making the new rules of war based on the harsh landscape left to them.

De Pue’s transportative and wonderfully crafted film confronts the visceral beauty and roughness of survival, serving as a testament to the spirited innovation of childhood and the extreme resilience of a people and country.

The film will screen in the World Cinema Documentary section at Sundance. It was directed by Pieter-Jan De Pue and produced by Bart Van Langendonck. It was co-produced by Fastnet Films, Submarine, Eyeworks and gebrueder beet film produktion. It was filmed in Belgium.

 

Love & Friendship – Set in the opulent drawing rooms of eighteenth-century English society, Love & Friendship focuses on the machinations of a beautiful widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who, while waiting for social chatter about a personal indiscretion to pass, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica—and herself too, naturally. She enlists the assistance of her old friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), but two particularly handsome suitors (Xavier Samuel and Tom Bennett) complicate her orchestrations.

Adapting Jane Austen’s unpublished early novella Lady Susan, Whit Stillman returns to the Sundance Film Festival (where his Metropolitan premiered in 1990) in top form with his latest comedy of manners. Kate Beckinsale excels in her role as the deliciously devious Lady Vernon and delivers each line with relish. With exquisite period detail and a script teeming with bon mots and witty dialogue, Love & Friendship is a rare—and rarified—treat.

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Tom Bennett, and Stephen Fry. The film will screen in the Premieres section at Sundance. It was directed by Whit Stillman and produced by Katie Holly, Whit Stillman, and Lauranne Bourrachot. It was filmed in Ireland/France/Netherlands. 

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

 

A Coat Made Dark – Two burglars strike it rich after stealing a mysterious coat. So begins this darkly comic tale, in which Midnight, an anthropomorphized dog, and his human servant Peter struggle for power, courtesy of the coat. The film will screen in the Shorts Program 3 at Sundance. It was directed by Jack O’Shea produced by Damien Byrne and the music was composed by Neil O’Connor. The short features the voices of Hugh O’Conor, Declan Conlon, and Antonia Campbell-Hughes.

 

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* Viva nominated for an Oscar in 2016.

** The complete Sundance 2016 Film Guide may be seen here.

*** Love & Friendship secures distribution deals ahead of Sundance 2016. More here.

 

 

 

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Sundance 2015The Sundance 2015 Film Festival ends this weekend and it has been another strong year for Irish filmmakers and Irish co-productions. Brooklyn, The Hallow, and Glasslands, in particular, have been very well received in Park City, Utah.

The period drama Brooklyn has received the highest praise: not surprising given the power houses (both Irish and not) involved. Based on the novel written by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn was adapted for the screen by novelist-turned-script writer Nick Hornby. John Crowley, whose earlier work included Intermission, Boy A, Is Anybody There? and Closed Circuit, was the director. Irish actress, Saoirse Ronan, plays the lead character beautifully and is supported superbly by Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Waters and Jim Broadbent…to name but a few.

Set between Ireland and New York in the early 1950’s, the story line follows a young Irish woman’s coming of age while being pulled between the home she loves and the life she leads. Brooklyn received a standing ovation at the Eccles Theatre at Sundance when it premiered. Twenty-four hours later it started a distribution bidding war, which Fox Searchlight won, shortly thereafter.

As someone who’s left home (America) and started anew someplace else (Ireland), I felt the heartbreak and joy of Saoirse Ronan’s character deeply…so too, it seems, did my fellow audience members. Together we laughed, cried, gasped and enjoyed the film. Here’s what the press had to say about Brooklyn at Sundance:

“Brooklyn premiered at the Sundance Film Festival without much advance buzz. But when the lights at the Eccles Theatre in Park City came up two hours later to a rapturous standing ovation, it was clear that Sundance had just screened one of the best films of the year. Within 24 hours, Fox Searchlight defeated its rivals (including the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features) in a heated bidding war and landed “Brooklyn” for $9 million. That deal, the biggest at this year’s festival, also kicked off the Oscars 2016 race.” – Entertainment Weekly

“A robust romantic drama, rich in history and full of emotion, “Brooklyn” fills a niche in which the studios once specialized, using a well-read and respected novel as the grounds for a tenderly observed tear-jerker. With a classical, literate script from Nick Hornby unfussily interpreted by Crowley, the film satisfies the reason audiences of a certain age go to the movies in the first place: namely, to feel something”. – Variety 

“…this movie is magical…In an increasingly cynical age of cinema—especially at a Sundance where it feels like every film is about people dying—it’s remarkable to see that romance can still connect with an audience. On the shuttle after the standing O at the screening, I’ve never heard so many people proclaim a movie their favorite of the fest.” – RoberEbert.com

“Classily and classically crafted in the best sense by director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby, this superbly acted romantic drama is set in the early 1950s and provides the feeling of being lifted into a different world altogether, so transporting is the film’s sense of time and place and social mores…this British-Canadian-Irish co production is splendidly decked out in every department, notably including Yves Belanger’s cinematography, Francois Seguin’s spot-on period production design, Odil Dicks-Mireaux’s lively costume design and Michael Brook’s evocative scoring”.The Hollywood Reporter

“Brooklyn captures that bittersweet mix of excitement and longing really well, Crowley directing with patience and understatement. He’s helped immensely by his lead, Saoirse Ronan, who does wonderful work here—her Eilis isn’t always likable, she’s sometimes prickly and aloof, but she’s fully human, intelligent and determined and decent…the movie belongs wholly to Ronan, who at just 20 years old is such a remarkably poised and confident performer.”Vanity Fair

There were many video interviews with the cast and crew of Brooklyn this past week. These are amongst the most interesting:

 

And, finally Anya Jaremko-Greenwold of Indiewire did a short but interesting interview with John Crowley. You can read it here.

 

Notes:

The photos at the top of this blog post are courtesy of Sundance.org. In the collage: the photo from The Hallow was taken by Martin Maguire, the photo from Brooklyn was taken by Kerry Brown, and the photo from Glassland was taken by Pat Redmond. The photo single photo from Brooklyn was also taken by Kerry Brown.

 

 

 

 

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