My Galway Film Fleadh horror
NOBODY NEED PLACE a mirror over the mouth of the Irish film industry. Times are certainly hard. Despite the staggering success of The Guard, cinemas still have trouble flogging domestic releases to mainstream audiences. But this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, which ended on Sunday, confirmed that young (and not-so-young) film-makers are still determined to get their visions on screen.Already a young wizard of cut-price film-making, Mark O’Connor, director of 2011’s fresh Between the Canals, somehow managed to deliver two films to the festival: King of the Travellers and Stalker. That last piece, unveiled at a rather festive screening in the Cinemobile, is certainly not backwards in coming forwards. Stalker was, of course, also the title of a great film by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film features pigeons named, if my hearing is not wrong, for the directors Jean-Luc Godard and Pier Paolo Pasolini. But it’s hard to begrudge this year’s Stalker its occasional pretensions. Though disordered, it gets by on vivid fury and a taste for urban absurdity that is all the director’s own.
Stalker follows a voluble homeless person – part righteous avenger, part irredeemable psychopath – who takes a young fellow (the superb Barry Keoghan) under his wing in a heightened, nightmarish version of contemporary Dublin. The microbudgeted film is often indulgent. But O’Connor makes sure we are never too far from an excellent joke, and John Connors is first rate as the disturbed protagonist. Why does the dishevelled street prophet wear a tie? “In case I get an interview,” he explains as if to a fool.
Kieron J Walsh, the experienced director of When Brendan Met Trudy, takes a less confrontational, more digestible approach to urban discontent in his feisty Jump. Set in Derry on New Year’s Eve, the film uses a temporally shuffled narrative – the Tarantino influence lingers – to tell the story of a young girl (Nichola Burley), daughter of a hoodlum, and her whirlwind romance with a wide-eyed youth (the ever reliable Martin McCann) in search of revenge. Burley, a rising English star, experiences a few slight wobbles with her accent, and the film relies on a series of somewhat outrageous coincidences, but Jump exhibits a feisty zing that should secure it an audience. “There has to be more to life than Derry,” one character ponders. As if!
The fleadh also unveiled a dizzying array of documentaries. Sean McAllister’s The Reluctant Revolutionary addresses the recent Arab revolutions by following the political awakening of a good-natured Yemeni tour guide whose initial wariness is eventually brushed aside by escalating events. The picture reminds us how often the news treats discontented protesters as homogenous mobs.
Before the fleadh kicked off, publicity had gathered around two very different documentaries: Valeri Vaughn’s Art of Conflict and Seán Ó Cualáin’s Lón sa Spéir (Men at Lunch).