Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Irish Film Festival opens in London

Dramas, documentaries, animations, comedies and real-life inspirational tales to be screened over five days

Pat Shortt and Fionuala Flanagan in whimsical comedy Life’s a Breeze, to be screened as part of the Irish Film Festival London this week

Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 17:57


Angela Sammon

When the third annual Irish Film Festival opens in London today, the glitz and glam will bely the hard graft which has taken place behind the scenes for many months.

Kelly O’Connor launched the Irish Film Festival London in 2011 in an effort to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of Irish Film. The festival has grown rapidly in stature and profile, thanks in no small measure to her dogged determination for it to become a festival of major significance for the London-Irish community, cinemagoers that appreciate great work and Irish filmmakers.

In 2011, the festival showed a handful of features over three nights. This year’s programme, in contrast, features five nights and two days of leading contemporary Irish cinematic talent, with seven directors’ Q&As. Dramas, documentaries, animations, comedies and real-life inspirational tales will be screened at the Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn, Riverside Studios Cinema and the Institute of Contemporary Arts on The Mall.

That aside, the engine room of the festival is still located in the home O’Connor shares with partner Olly, who shares the load in his role as festival technical consultant, driver, co-ordinator and general all-round problem solver. The festival also boasts a dynamic duo in Angela Sammon and Eibh Collins who work day and night in the lead up to the festival on everything from Press launches to travel arrangements.

The festival is a whirlwind of activity that dovetails beautifully into the Irish Cultural Centre‘s cultural programming, where O’Connor is the general manager. She works closely with both teams to provide a seamless experience for everyone to enjoy. There’s a great team of volunteers and staff to help on both sides.

“I am dedicated to Irish arts and proud to be a part of the high calibre cultural and educational programmes at the ICC. For me personally though, the moving image has always been my passion,” O’Connor explains, wearing her “I heart Irish Film” badge made for the festival’s launch last week at the Irish embassy in London.

As a publican’s daughter, who went on to work in the contemporary art world in Dublin and London, O’Connor has always made her living by combining practical work with the appreciation of arts and culture. The film festival is no different.

“London is so full of exciting things to do and the Irish film industry is producing some exceptional work that needs to be seen here. I developed the Irish Film Festival London so that Irish talent had a significant platform for presenting their work to a UK audience, and film fans had a chance to see some great films,” she says.

“Given this city’s diverse population, Irish people are naturally motivated to introduce non-Irish friends to our own culture. Irish film is such an accessible way to share the nuances of our unique ways with our friends.

“I always strive to strike a balance in programming that caters to a wide audience. This year there are beautiful artistic films, like Silence, but also more mainstream features that capture the unique whimsical tones of Irish life, as in Life’s A Breeze, for example. I particularly love the children’s cinema afternoon. We go to a great deal of trouble to create a fun environment for kids to enjoy, with a bit of a “chill out” zone for parents at the back. Everyone goes home happy from that one.

“This year is a bit of a new departure in that we have a feature at the Institute of Contemporary Arts where we will be showing the Luke Haine’s documentary Art Will Save The World. Each year the number of venues and the amount of films we can show increases and with that so does the profile of the festival.

“I have a soft spot for good documentaries, and this year we’re showing a superb collection, including The Irish Pub, and Breaking Ground; an Irish language double-bill of Lon sa Speir and An Bhean A Shuil Trasna Mheiricea. We couldn’t be happier to have landed the UK Premiere of the warm and beautiful festival closer that is a fabulous piece of honest and touching cinema in Run and Jump.

“We have grown rapidly and I am proud to say that we are one of only three Irish film festivals outside Ireland, including New York and LA, that has been funded by the Irish Film Board this year. Exciting things are happening in London for Irish film and we’re thrilled to be part of that.

“Our success so far has been largely due to the kind support from the Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, the IFI and the Emigrant Support Programme via the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith. Without them this simply would not be possible.”

The Irish Film Festival runs until Sunday. See for the full festival programme.