Fancy a Fleadh? We select the highlights from this weekend’s Galway Film Fleadh.
If you’re not donning your wellies for Oxegen this weekend, keep in mind a welcome, and may I add drier, alternative: the Galway Film Fleadh. The festival, which started Tuesday, runs till Sunday throughout Galway city with multiple Irish world feature premieres, documentaries and masterclasses. Here are some of the highlights over the coming weekend:
Before the Rains
In the south of India in 1937, an Englishman could have his way with the land, the workers and sometimes with the woman of his choosing. Acclaimed director and cinematographer Santosh Sivan explores this shock of collision between the forces of will and desire in colonial India. Henry Moores has big plans to establish a spice plantation in Kerala. But his plans require a new road to be cleared through the vast hills, and the money and manpower to do it. To secure the trust of the local villagers, he depends on his righthand man, TK. To satisfy his baser needs, he depends on his lover – and house servant – Sajani. Their sojourn to collect honey in the forest turns into a chargederotic encounter, but they are witnessed by two local boys – and Sajani has a husband back in her village. How long will it be before her betrayal becomes known? The risk escalates when Henry’s wife and son arrive from England. Domestic demands rein him in, but Sajani will not be cast aside so easily. Threatened with death in her own village, she presses TK for help and Henry for refuge. Can Henry’s power and privilege still protect him?
The clock ticks on three strangers trapped in an elevator. Each of them has a desperate need to escape their confines. Claudia (Amber Tamblyn) is in a hurry to return to the hospital bedside of her dying grandmother. Tommy is a young punk on his way to elope with his girlfriend. Karl (Aiden Gillen) has guilty secrets that must be erased from his apartment before his wife and daughter get there. But all three are trapped in a deserted building on a holiday weekend – and are desperate to get out.The first attempt to escape results in a gruesome injury and an elevator that is now supported only by the emergency brakes, while the trio’s sole defence against the stifling heat is a single water bottle. While things are bad, they could be worse, if one of them is a murderer… Propelled by escalating tension and an increasingly desperate conflict, Blackout hurtles towards a terrifying climax.
If someone told me that one of the highlights in Cannes this year would be a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, I would have said they were mad. But Jean Claude Van Damme has just made a truly great film. In terms of its scripting, cinematography, humour, action, even dramatic performance – JCVD is one remarkable piece of work. The plot concerns Jean Claude Van Damme, aging star of direct-to-video low budget action films, who is returning home to Belgium after a lengthy court battle that cost him the custody of his daughter. The final straw in court is the daughter herself taking the stand and telling the judge that all of her friends laugh at her whenever her father appears on television. Funny without relying on punch-lines, clever and insightful, neatly balancing action with drama, impeccably crafted and blessed with a charismatic star willing to simply lay it all out there and let things fall where they may, Jean Claude Van Damme is a revelation.
Salma Zidane lives in a tiny Palestinian village on the West Bank. She is 45 years old and a widow. Her children have left home, and she is alone. When the Israeli Minister of Defence builds a house on the other side of the green line, Selma’s lemon trees come to the attention of his bodyguards. Her trees are a security risk. The lemon trees were planted by Salma’s family many generations ago – they are synonymous with Salma’s family history. It’s an unfair battle, that isn’t made any easier when she falls in love with her lawyer, a divorcee ten years her junior – a scandal as far as her Palestinian neighbours are concerned. On the other side of the grove, Salma’s struggle to keep her trees has not gone unnoticed. The defence minister’s wife, who has become more and more lonely and unhappy as her husband’s political career has blossomed, feels increasingly drawn to Salma as the unfair battle between her husband and their Palestinian neighbours drags on. An invisible bond connects these two very different women who find themselves on the brink of a new phase in their lives.
In the sweltering summer of 1994, Rudy Giuliani is scouring New York City within an inch of its life, hip-hop is permeating white youth culture, and a pot-dealing loser kid, Luke Shapiro, is trying to figure out how to solve his parents’ insolvency, beat depression, and get laid before pushing off to college. Luckily he’s got a nifty deal with a psychiatrist, Dr. Squires, who trades him therapy sessions for weed. It happens that the oddball doctor’s marriage is crumbling, so the two – one in late adolescence, the other in late middle-age – embark on messy passages into new life stages. As Luke falls for a classmate who just happens to be Squires’s daughter, the summer heats up, and he follows doctor’s orders, learning to coexist with pain and make it part of him, rather than let it become his downfall.The Wackness plays like the luscious rush of first love, discovering great new music, meeting amazing personalities who impart the meaning of life, and realising what you’re made of.
A Film with Me In It
Mark is having a bad day. A down on his luck actor, he’s just been through the ordeal of yet another fruitless audition for a bit part in a movie. With his long suffering girlfriend on the verge of walking out and his landlord ready to evict him, he’s only got his hilarious best mate Pierce (Dylan Moran) and their joint ambition of writing a film that will be the making of them both to sustain him. Life’s not easy for an unemployed actor, but things are about to get worse, much worse. And then someone dies and things get really bad. But perhaps Mark and Pierce could reverse their misfortunes by treating their predicament as a film scenario – can they re-write their day? A Film With Me In It is a black comedy with true wit and sophistication, with superb performances from Dylan Moran, Amy Huberman and Mark Doherty. In fact, as both writer and actor, Mark Doherty can truly boast that he has indeed accomplished a great achievement.
Summer of the Flying Saucer
What’s a good Catholic boy to do, when his first love turns out to be an alien-girl? It’s the summer of 1967, and while the rest of the world dances to the Beatles, miniskirts rule and hippie-fashion is all the rage, Dan Mullaney is stuck on a farm in rural Mayo. His biggest dream – to live anywhere else but here – is hindered by his father, Ciaran, who considers it Dan’s duty to stay and take over the farm. Life becomes more interesting when he meets two visitors, whose exotic, unusual appearance marks them out as decidedly foreign: one a beautiful girl, Janis, the other her adult companion. The two harbour an unbelievable secret: they are aliens who have crashlanded on Earth and are desperate to fix their flying saucer so they can leave before it is discovered. Dan drills them in the rudimentaries of Irish social skills, but passing the aliens off as humans and getting the prejudiced villagers to tolerate their presence is no easy task. Not only does Dan’s task bring him into direct conflict with his father and fellow villagers, to complicate matters he falls head over heels for the alien girl, Janis. Soon Dan will be forced to make the ultimate choice: between his family and friends on the one hand, and his newfound love for Janis on the other.
Based on the critically acclaimed and award winning play (Edinburgh Fringe First
2004), Peacefire is a moving account of one young man’s experience of crime and punishment on his local housing estate. He couldn’t give a toss about the political situation: he’s too busy out stealing cars with his mates. This is a dangerous pursuit, because as well as risking being caught by the authorities, he risks being caught by those ex-paramilitary elements that police the area – who would kneecap him if caught: an act referred to as Peacefire. But when Colin gets caught joyriding, and a ruthless detective turns him into an informer, he risks becoming a target for retribution for his father’s old mates in the IRA. In the violent upheaval that follows, Colin must struggle with the intense loyalty he feels for his mates, the need to protect his mother from her tragic past, and the political ideals of a dead father
On the fringes of Dublin, Kylie and Dylan – two pre-teen kids – live in a suburban housing estate devoid of life, colour and the prospects of escape. Kylie lives with five other sisters, her overworked mother and in constant dread of her uncle’s unwelcome visits. Next door, Dylan lives in the shadow of an abusive alcoholic father and the memory of an elder brother who ran away from home two years previously. After a violent altercation with his father, Dylan runs away from home and Kylie decides to run away with him. Together they make their way to the magical night time lights of inner city Dublin, to search for Dylan’s brother, and in the hope of finding, through him, the possibility of a new life. Lance Daly’s vision of Dublin, as seen through the innocent eyes of our protagonists, is a kaleidoscope of magic, wonder and mystery. But as the night wears on, and Dublin takes on a darker character, the two kids have to rely on the kindness of strangers, the advice of Bob Dylan and their trust in each other to survive the night. With two wonderful performances at the film’s heart, Lance Daly’s new feature is a sheer delight.
Kíla ‘Once Upon A Time’
The Fleadh presents the world premiere of Once Upon A Time a concert film of Kíla, an Irish band made up of seven individuals from a wide range of artistic backgrounds, drawn together by a common passion for music. The film has been described variously as “an Irish Stop Making Sense,” (Hot Press Editor Niall Stokes) and “a James Joyce ballet, an astonishing composition of light, movement and sound,” (writer Pat McCabe). Film director Neil Jordan was moved to say: “It catches all the wonderful, shamanistic energy of the amazing Kíla” and U2¹s Bono said: “Kíla are right there at the cusp of it.”
To close the festival Peter O’Toole, who to date has received eight Oscar nominations, will participate in a public interview . A short season of his films will include My Favorite Year, Goodbye Mr Chips and Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell .
The 20th Galway Film Fleadh runs from July 8th-13th. For more, see www.galwayfilmfleadh.com