Galway Film Fleadh: keeping the flag flying for Irish cinema
The festival, in its 25th year, continued to showcase new home-grown features, from mainstream-friendly recession comedy ‘Life’s a Breeze’ to the off-centre ‘Out of Here’
Run & Jump, which took the prize for best Irish feature
George Kane’s mock rock documentary Discoverdale, which won best international feature
Upstream Color, Shane Carruth’s follow-up to Primer
After several years of biblical torrents, the weather decided to put on a decent show for the 25th edition of the Galway Film Fleadh. Mind you, was this what the organisers really wanted? The subtropical fug may have lured auslanders to the silver jubilee. But would they enter the cinema when they got there?
So it seemed. The traditional buzz seemed no less noisy than in previous years. And Gar O’Brien, the energetic young programmer, drummed up several impressive coups to celebrate the bash’s anniversary. For the first time, the fleadh offered punters a surprise film. Zachary Quinto, Mr Spock in the current Star Trek series, was on hand to dramatically unveil the second ever festival screening of JC Chandor’s All Is Lost. Quinto co-produced the drama, which stars Robert Redford as a lone sailor lost at sea.
Two of the year’s best American pictures also screened as part of the international selection. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha features the perennially off-beam Greta Gerwig as a very mildly gifted dancer sent into a tailspin when her flatmate leaves their New York apartment. The picture offers Baumbach’s best blend of satire and indulgence since The Squid and the Whale.
If impenetrability is your thing then look no further than Shane Carruth’s much anticipated follow-up to his extraordinary 2004 time-travel adventure Primer. Upstream Color, which begins with a woman being drugged by a mysterious conman, is a wilfully baffling, limpidly attractive film that swims in the same waters as Philip K Dick’s fictions, but rapidly leaves the world of science fiction to access a kind of designer Dadaism. Nothing like it has been seen before.
New Irish features
The fleadh remains, however, most famous for its dedication to new Irish features. Not everything was magnificent (stuck for space, we will leave the wounded combatants unmolested by the side of the road) but the best films demonstrated the continuing variety and invention of domestic cinema.
John Murray and Emer Reynolds’s Here Was Cuba was billed as the first major documentary on the Cuban missile crisis. This fine film, made in co-operation with US broadcaster PBS, drags together an exemplary series of witnesses – Sergei Khrushchev, son of Nikita, is particularly enlightening – to flesh out corners of the story rarely touched on before.
Also in the documentary strand, Gerry Gregg’s gripping Close to Evil follows Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor resident in Ireland, as he sets out to meet a nonagenarian woman who worked as a guard in Bergen-Belsen. Close to Evil offers sobering truths about the level of denial that still hangs around the Nazi genocide.