Locals win at Film Fleadh

Picture of Will Forte courtesy Wiki Commons.

David Prendeville

Local company Wildcard Distribution scored another big hit at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, which ran from the 9th to the 14th of July. Their supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary took home the prize for Best Irish Film.

The film stars Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward and Will Forte and was directed by debutants Mike Aherne and Enda Loughman. It follows a lonely driving instructor, played by Higgins, who has supernatural abilities.

The film will be released by Wildcard across the country in September. It is an Irish-Belgian co-production with Dublin’s Blinder Films co-producing with Umedia, with funding from Screen Ireland, Umedia and Inevitable Pictures.

The film had previously played to a great reception at the prestigious SXSW festival in Austin earlier this year. American comedian and co-star of the film, Forte, was one of the big name guests present at this year’s festival, providing an acting masterclass.

Other notable guests at the festival included American writer/director Alison Anders, known for films such as Gas Food Lodging, who also provided a masterclass. 

Wildcard will also distribute two other acclaimed Irish films that premiered at the festival. Never Grow Old, a western starring John Cusack and Emile Hirsch and directed by the supremely talented, eccentric Irish film-maker Ivan Kavanagh. Kavanagh’s previous work includes the micro-budget Eraserhead-esque Tin Can Man and the post-modern, ornate horror The Canal. Irish viewers can check out his latest, when it is released here on August 23rd.

Wildcard will also oversee the release of Jihad Jane, Ciaran Cassidy’s debut feature documentary, which received its world premiere at the festival. While that hasn’t yet been set a release date, people can expect to see it in cinemas before the end of the year. 

Mespil Road-based Element Pictures were the other big winners at this year’s Fleadh. Their film A Bump Along the Way starring Bronagh Gallagher won Best First Irish Film. The drama, directed by Shelly Lowe, follows a boozy 44-year old played by Gallagher who becomes pregnant, much to the chagrin of her teenage daughter, played by Lola Petticrew. Petticrew also went home with the prestigious Bingham Ray New Talent award. The film will be released by Element on August 30th.   

There is also an Element connection in what was one of the undoubted highlights of the festival for this writer, Joanna Hogg’s superb The Souvenir. This painterly, highly intelligent films charts a doomed romance between a young film student and a complicated older man.

Based on a chapter in Hogg’s own life, the film works as a serious philosophical consideration of what cinema is and the role of the film-maker.

While that film was a UK/US co-production, Element Pictures are co-producing The Souvenir Part 2, which is currently filming. Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton-Byrne star in both parts. Part 1 is released here on August 30th, while we can look forward to Part 2 some time in 2020.

There was another vast array of shorts on show at this year’s festival, the most high-profile of which was Bainne, the directorial debut of Jack Reynor, fresh from his turn in Ari Aster’s Midsommar.

The film, which stars Reynor’s Midsommar co-star Will Poulter, is a black and white, Irish-language drama set during the famine. It played to warm reviews and landed the much coveted Best First Irish Short Drama award.

Another highlight of the shorts that played was the cinema debut of Barry O’ Connor and Grace Dyas (both known for their theatre work), Aftermath, a harrowing, extremely powerful depiction of grief.

Also impressive was Brute, a genre piece, directed by Brian Folan and starring Elva Trill. Micael Smiley, the veteran character actor and star of such films as Kill List, was also in town for the premiere of his directorial debut, the short Le Petite Mort. Film fans should keep their eyes peeled for those at upcoming festivals. 

It was another strong and eclectic line-up at this year’s festival, now in its 31st year. The sun was shining and there was a great atmosphere in the Rowing Club and the Galmont after the screenings, workshops and events that took place.

Will Fitzgearld must be congratulated on another highly successful, stimulating year, only his second in charge. We are already looking forward to next year’s event and extend our congratulations to the local companies and talent who enjoyed success at this year’s festival.