The Irish Film Festival London returns to London’s cinemas next week for the eighth year. The festival showcases Ireland’s latest mainstream and independent films over five days, and includes a host of UK premieres, panel discussions, networking events and director’s Q&As.
Colin Farrell, the Golden Globe award-winning Irish actor best known roles in In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, has become our latest patron, joining Academy award-winning director Lenny Abrahamson, and casting director Ros Hubbard.
As Ireland’s status in the global film industry grows year by year, so too has the interest in Irish film here in London. We now run the five-day Irish Film Festival London, the Irish Film London Awards, the three-day St Patrick’s Film Festival and the film section of the Embassy of Ireland’s St Brigid’s Day Festival. We also run numerous UK premiere screenings of Irish films, workshops and film tours every year.
The appetite for Irish film in the UK continues to expand, with an ever-growing number of Irish films released in cinemas here. The UK and Ireland are each other's closest co-production partner, peers with whom to explore new ideas. That relationship is heading for a testing time as Brexit approaches, but Irish film will always be of interest here in the UK regardless.
This September we were involved in the release of four major Irish films here, including the Irish famine revenge thriller Black 47. UK audiences are ready to receive more Irish film; we just need to make sure they see the best of it.
One of my favourite parts of this job is being able to give filmmakers awards each year, at the annual IFFL Awards. We have been kindly hosted by the Embassy of Ireland for this event for the last few years, which provides a stunning venue. It’s an honour to be able to reward the painstaking creative and technical efforts of such talented people.
Among the awards is the annual Ros Hubbard Award for Acting, which identifies the performance of the year. Previous winners of the award include The Young Offenders' Chris Walley and Alex Murphy. Only performances from the films in the festival are eligible for this award. I am delighted with the choice of Sarah Greene as this year's winner for her role in Paddy Breathnach's film Rosie, written by Roddy Doyle, of a woman experiencing unexpected homelessness with her family. I was greatly moved by her performance.
This year saw the addition of the Best Irish Music Video Award, in association with The Irish Jam. Many of the Irish films we have screened over these eight years have had music at their core, whether as a magnificent score, or as a central character, as in films like Good Vibrations, Sing Street and Frank. Last year we screened Kissing Candice as our secret film, which was the feature debut of music video director Aoife McCardle. Including music videos in our awards feels like a natural step. As a big music fan, this has been a very pleasing addition for me. It was fantastic to have Laura Whitmore involved as a judge for the award this year, which went to to Favourite by Pillow Queens
The winners for all our awards are agreed upon by a number of judges, but I’m often asked by people to pick a personal favourite film, which is a challenge. As the festival programmer, I choose each film for a reason, and become exceptionally fond of them through the process. It feels equivalent to picking a favourite child. If you had 40 children per year, that is.
I always look forward to the talks and panel discussions at the festival, as these can throw up many unexpected gems. This summer we had a Q&A with Andrew Scott, and I could not have hoped for a more engaging experience. He was a dream to work with and on stage he shared with great authenticity and humour. We live to create those kinds of moments. And with the huge number of guests we have coming over for the festival next week, including Sarah Greene, Lenny Abrahamson and Aidan Gillen, I am confident of more exciting surprises.
Kelly O’Connor is founder and director of the Irish Film Festival London, which takes place November 21st to 25th, primarily at Regent Street Cinema. Other screenings include Barbican, the BFI, Bertha Dochouse at Curzon Bloomsbury, and an event at The Union Private Members Club in Soho. The festival’s main support comes from the Emigrant Support Programme, Screen Ireland and Culture Ireland’s GB18 programme. More info is available at www.irishfilmlondon.com.