Galway Film Fleadh reveals programme for its virtual 32nd edition

The festival, long the prime spot for new Irish features, is moving online for just one year

The Galway Film Fleadh has revealed the programme for its 32nd edition. It had already been announced that, following the closure of cinemas during the Covid-19 pandemic, the busy festival, long the prime spot for launching new Irish features, would be moving online for just one year.

The upcoming event, which runs from July 7th until July 12th, will give virtual attendees the opportunity to view 11 world premieres, two European premieres and 10 Irish premieres from the comfort of their homes. The festival will also present the usual series of public interviews and panel conversations via online conference applications.

This year's Fleadh opens with a screening of Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy and Maeve O'Boyle's The 8th. Following campaigners during the 2018 referendum on the Eighth Amendment, the documentary has already received strong word of mouth.

World premieres include Phil Sheerin’s The Winter Lake, Eoin Macken’s Here are the Young Men, Philip Doherty’s Redemption of a Rogue and Dave Minogue’s Poster Boys.

From a script by David Turpin, The Winter Lake stars Charlie Murphy, Michael McElhatton and Emma Mackey – breakout star of the Netflix series Sex Education – in a tense drama concerning family betrayals in the Irish midlands. Here are the Young Men, based on a cult novel by Rob Doyle, concerns the chemically addled adventures of three wayward Dubliners. The busy Anya Taylor-Joy joins up-and-comers such as Finn Coyle and Dean-Charles Chapman in Macken's promising cast.

Redemption of a Rogue is a black comedy concerning a prodigal son hoping for a dry day in Cavan so that he may bury his father (the will specifies he is not to be interred if it’s raining). Poster Boys focuses on a dysfunctional adult who gains understanding when taking care of his 10-year-old nephew.

Enthusiasts for Pat Collins, one of the nation’s great contemporary filmmakers, will get the opportunity to enjoy his lovely new documentary Henry Glassie: Fieldwork. That film, examining the life of an extraordinary American scholar of folklore, received rave reviews on its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.

“The combination of wise words and beautiful objects is comfort viewing for the soul and given the state of the world it has rarely felt more welcome,” Allan Hunter wrote in Screen International. That is surely even truer now than it was last autumn.

Opportunities also arise to catch some of the films that impressed at the recent Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival (which ended days before lockdown hit). Tom Sullivan’s Arracht, a gripping, dark drama set during the Famine, won best Irish film from the Dublin Film Critics Circle at the Dublin event and is not to be missed.

Peter Mackie Burns’s powerful Rialto, written by polymath Mark O’Halloran, stars Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as a Dubliner coping with bereavement, redundancy and his own unresolved sexuality.

The announcement confirms that at least one strand of the Galway 2020 Capital of Culture programme will be taking place in the digital ether. The Peripheral Visions strand, associated with Galway 2020, welcomes European cinema, co-curated by programmers from Iceland, Spain, Finland, Hamburg and elsewhere. This strand offers a prize fund of €3,000 and winning entries will be presented in film societies across the county of Galway.

Emergency rule changes by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mean that entrants to the festival’s best live action short and best short competitions still qualify for the Oscars. This year a best short documentary strand has also achieved Oscar-qualification status.

Films will be available to stream at a set time in the programme for fees beginning at €5. Miriam Allen, managing director of the Fleadh, talked to The Irish Times about the challenges. “It has been an amazing learning curve,” she said. “It is about not being afraid of change. That is something the Fleadh has never felt.”

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