Outposts for Irish film, in Rome and Georgia
There’s an enthusiasm for Irish film abroad that is manifesting itself in festivals around the world
It might be half past three on a bitterly cold Roman December Saturday afternoon, but the house is full. Indeed, it seems that for the entire duration of the four-day Irish Film Festa at the Casa del Cinema (House of Film), the house is always full.
Of course, it helps that the films are free to the public. Furthermore, the splendid Casa del Cinema occupies a unique location in ultra fashionable Villa Borghese in central Rome. However, it would be less than fair to suggest that those are the only reasons why lots of Romani and others turn up to support this annual event, now in its sixth edition.
For a start, the quality of the programme merits attention. On the afternoon I went along, the Dutch-Irish feature film Milo turned out to be a not-so-little gem that held its audience spellbound. Brilliantly acted, beautifully filmed and well directed, Milo tells a coming-of-age tale that is both universal and also of particular relevance to post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.
It is always slightly disconcerting to see the main actor, whose dramatic vicissitudes you have just followed on screen for an hour and a half, standing in front of you when the lights go up, but that is the way a good Film Festa should work. So there he was, Stuart Graham (whose credits include Hunger and Grabbers) smiling at us and doing his best to field the rather drawn-out questions/dissertations offered by the enthusiastic audience.
Nor was Graham the only Irish actor on hand to explain his work: Fionnuala Flanagan (Some Mother’s Son), Una Kavanagh (Keys to the City), Joe Mullins (Pilgrim Hill) as well as director Laurence McKeown (Life As An Interface) were all present for screenings of their work.
This Irish Film Festa owes much, if not everything, to the enthusiasm and energy of its artistic director, Susanna Pellis. A lecturer in film at Rome’s La Sapienza university, she has long been interested in Irish cinema.
So some years ago, when the Irish Film Institute asked if she could help out with a one-off Irish Film festival, she jumped at the opportunity, in the process hoping to herself that she could transform it into an annual event.
Nowadays the Irish Film Institute, the Irish Film Board, the Arts Council, the Irish Embassy to Italy and Culture Ireland all contribute to her budget, while Rome city authorities provide the splendid Casa del Cinema. The festival’s budget is a modest €20,000, which is not bad for a four-day, 14-film festival.
Next up on the Italo-Irish cinema scene is a one-day Irish cinema event on St Patrick’s Day before the next, and seventh, Irish Film Festa in autumn.