Galway film festival gets into top gear with acclaimed comedy 'Parked'


GALWAY FILM Fleadh marked its 23rd year last night as it kicked off with a screening of Darragh Byrne’s eccentric comedy Parked.

Starring a characteristically robust Colm Meaney, the film follows an eccentric middle-aged man who, after returning home to Ireland, finds himself forced to live in his car. Already something of a hit at festivals in Rotterdam and Torino, the picture played to a packed house in the Town Hall Theatre.

Michael D Higgins, former Labour TD and current presidential candidate, formally opened this year’s event.

As minister for arts, culture and the Gaeltacht during the 1990s, he was closely involved with the development of the fleadh.

Beginning as a section within the Galway Arts Festival, the event has gone on to become the preferred event for the screening of new Irish features and a busy location for industry interactions.

“I’ve been involved for all 23 years,” Mr Higgins said. “I remember attending Singin’ in the Rainhere and we all dressed up for it. Wonderful! If I was asked how it has changed, I would say that it has perhaps got a bit more professional and career orientated. There is a continued emphasis on professional development. That’s very important.”

This year sees the launch of domestic films The Guard, a crime comedy featuring Brendan Gleeson; Ian Palmer’s Knuckle, a documentary on bare knuckle boxing; and Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s Stella Days, starring Martin Sheen as a priest trying to establish a cinema in rural Ireland.

The fleadh, which runs until Sunday night, will also be hosting the first ever public screening of Keith Allen’s Unlawful Killing, a hugely controversial documentary on the death of Princess Diana.

Allen’s film posits the theory that the British establishment – driven by the Windsors – conspired to plan the fatal car crash.

Mr Higgins was keen to acknowledge how films such as The Pipe, a successful documentary on the Corrib gas controversy, profited from their launches at the fleadh.

“They are undefeatable people here,” he said. “Looking back, I can remember so many projects that were launched here. Risteard Ó Domhnaill’s The Pipeis certainly a very good example. Thinking of that, it reminds me that, during my time as minister for film, the best way of starting an argument was to ask: what is an Irish film?”

Asked if his presidential campaign would mean less time to attend fleadh events, Mr Higgins insisted: “Oh I will still attempt to go to as much as possible. I am always happiest when meeting the people.”