Irish movie acclaimed at leading Cannes event

 

FOR THE second year running, the Irish Film Board has seen a movie it supported being screened in the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight strand at the Cannes Film Festival.

Following on from 2010’s All Good Children, Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep– the director’s debut feature – played to great acclaim at Le Théâtre Croisette last night.

Macdara Kelleher, co-producer of the picture for Fastnet Films, said: “For an arthouse film, getting into the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes is super important. And it’s even more amazing when it happens for your first film. In terms of selling the film, it just gives it added value.”

The film carries on the Irish Film Board’s recent policy of pursuing imaginative international co-productions. The Other Side of Sleep, set in the Irish midlands, was developed in co-operation with Hungarian and Dutch partners. Memento Films, a French sales agent, is pursuing international distribution deals for Daly’s film.

As is always the case at Cannes, the bars were alive with chatter about Irish productions in development. It has emerged that Cillian Murphy is in “advanced negotiations” to star in a second World War drama to be produced by Treasure Entertainment, a Dublin-based production company. Budgeted at $5 million (€3.5 million), Wayfaring Strangerswill follow a group of German soldiers captured in the same remote farmhouse where a Jewish couple is hiding.

The conversation will continue at the Irish Film Board’s annual reception, which takes place by the beach this evening. The event comes at a transitional period for the board. Next month, James Hickey, the veteran media lawyer, will take over as chief executive of the organisation.

On Friday, This Must Be the Place, an Irish co-production starring Seán Penn as an ageing rock star, which was supported by the board, plays in the main competition.

Meanwhile, a host of domestic productions including John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, Shane O’Sullivan’s Children of the Revolutionand Rodrigo García’s Albert Nobbswill be among hundreds desperately vying for distributors’ attentions at the Cannes Market.

The Other Side of Sleep ***

Director: Rebecca Daly. Starring: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Sam Keeley, Olwen Fouere, Aaron Monaghan, Morgan Bushe, Cathy Belton

ON PAPER, Irish director Rebecca Daly’s fine debut feature reads a little like All Good Children, last year’s Irish co-production at the Directors’ Fortnight. More mysterious glades. More intimations of looming violence. But Daly’s film – the story of a sleepwalker obsessed with a murder – is altogether different in tone. Clogged with midland grit, weighted with small-town claustrophobia, the picture has, appropriately enough, the quality of a waking dream.

People move slowly. Conversations are carried out in a near subsonic murmur. One feels that any sharp movement from the audience might shake the film into sudden, dangerous wakefulness.

An impressively icy Antonia Campbell-Hughes stars as Arlene, a factory worker from Co Offaly. From an early age, the protagonist has been prone to bouts of sleepwalking. On one occasion – round about the time a girl is murdered in nearby woods – she finds inexplicable blood on her hands. Other, even more peculiar things happen as the action progresses.

Arlene becomes interested in the crime and begins associating with the late girl’s friends and family.

There are the makings of a gimmicky cop show here: The Sleepwalking Detective.But Daly is aiming way wide of the mainstream.

Short on hard plot-points, at home to ambiguity, The Other Side of Sleepis an impressive exercise in atmosphere management. Slowly, carefully – perhaps a little too slowly and carefully – the director constructs a grim portrait of a grim location. Cinematographer Suzie Lavelle, who did such good work on the recent One Hundred Mornings, finds endlessly interesting things to do with ordinary places: dye runs down a sink, an arbour looms menacingly. By the close you feel you have lived in the town for an age.