Top Tips from Irish Film Festival Australia's director, Enda Murray
As it returns for its third and biggest year, Screen NSW talks to festival director Enda Murray about the festival's direction and the hotly anticipated films on offer.
Now in its third year, how would you say that the Irish Film Festival has developed?
The festival has really come into its own over the last three years. When we started, we weren't sure that audiences would show up, but they did. The second year we almost doubled our audience with support of Sydney film fans. That has lead us to extend the festival west to Penrith and over the border to Melbourne this year.
Why do you feel NSW needs a Irish film festival?
The stock answer is that one in three Australians have Irish ancestry, but this doesn't speak to the experience of many people who really want to reach out to Ireland because they recognise that there is a tradition of storytelling, which is part of their legacy. I think that in a world that is increasingly mediated that people are seeking an authentic connection.
What trends have you noticed with the Irish film industry?
Ireland has been developing its industry over the last 25 years with the establishment of the Irish Film Board. I believe this nurturing is coming to fruition. There are very solid links to Europe in the area of funding and New York is only five hours from Dublin, so the exchange of actors and technicians, with the USA, is formidable. Also when the UK leaves Europe, Ireland will be the only English speaking country left, so we will be able to tell European stories to the English speaking world.
This year you are also doing a screening with Galway and Sydney UNESCO Cities of Film. Can you tell us about it?
The Sydney and Galway link arises from the UNESCO City of Film initiative. Sydney and Galway are both UNESCO Cities of Film, there are just eight in the world. The intitiative celebrates the making and watching of films and a vibrant film culture.
Our film from Galway, Sanctuary, is a unique and joyous movie. We hope it will be part of a relationship that will strengthen the artistic links between the two cities.
As you mentioned the festival is also screening in Penrith. What motivated the festival to show in multiple venues?
I've worked a lot with communities in western Sydney such as the Arabic and African communities. I know there is a real hunger for good storytelling and that audiences are crying out for more content. The Irish community in Penrith has a vibrant sporting and cultural hub in the Penrith Gaels Club - and they have supported us to bring the festival to Penrith. We are looking forward to a sneak preview of A Date for Mad Mary and a great night.
Will any guests be visiting for this year’s festival?
Our guest director this year is Len Collin, the director of Sanctuary. Len has a wealth of experience in many aspects of production. He is a talented writer and cut his teeth on some of the staples of British TV such as Eastenders, The Bill and Covies. Sanctuary is his first feature but it is a very assured piece of filmmaking. Len has also worked in front of the camera as an actor and he currently lectures in film in Newcastle in the UK - a talented man!
Where do you see the festival going in the future?
I would like to see the festival continue to tell the stories of contemporary Ireland Our programming goal is to find new and relevant Irish stories - not necessarily the films which will achieve commercial success but quite often films that we know will not make it to Australia because their subject matter is focused on Irish themes. There is not enough interest to warrant a theatrical release for these films but we are confident we can bring an Irish audience to these films and, over time, convince Australian audiences to come along too.
Can you share your top three picks for the festival with us?
This is a tough question as I have curated all of the films in the festival so there is something to commend each of them. I do have a soft spot for A Date for Mad Mary because it was made in my hometown of Drogheda and I can spot the locations of my mis-spent youth. I have followed the career of the director, Darren Thornton, for some years and it's fantastic to see such a talented young director create a story that can resonate with audiences 12,000 miles from home.
The Young Offenders is hilariously funny. The two young actors are a joy to watch although Sydney audiences may need a translator to make sense of their Cork brogue.
I really liked Mattress Men because it is a documentary that works on different levels. On the one hand there is the surreal humour of 'Mattress' Mick's outlandish viral marketing campaign but there is also the brutally honest and raw exploration of the implosion of the friendship between the two main characters.
Details on all films and tickets here: www.irishfilmfestival.com.au