IFI - Conor Dowling
Concerned with mortality but never morbid, One Millions Dubliners is a warm celebration of everyday life and a memorable contribution to Ireland's ongoing conversation with its dead.
Never has journeying into the world of Ireland's dead been as enlightening an experience as it is in One Million Dubliners, a fascinating exploration of Glasnevin Cemetery that was joint winner of the Best Irish Feature Documentary award at this year's Galway Film Fleadh.
Cultural icons, political heroes, and ordinary Dubliners all find their resting place at Glasnevin and, from the economics of arranging plots, to the French woman who lays flowers at Michael Collins' grave, the film unravels the richly detailed tapestry of these stories. Leading the way is Glasnevin's tour guide and resident historian Shane Mac Thomais, whose wisdom and charm breathes life into the stories buried under Glasnevin's varied headstones and monuments.
We have our dates picked out for our 23rd season, although some changes may still be made. Sign up if you'd like to be on our email list and get our latest updates.
Visit our Members' page to read how to enrol as a member for our 2015 Season - only $65, again this year. Our programmers have been scanning film fleadh catalogues and soliciting recommendations and screeners from our film and filmmaker contacts in Ireland, and especially from IFI, the Irish Film Institute . Our banner this year has lots of links to IFI content. As our schedule takes shape, we can tell you that we will have stars from Mad Men and from Game of Thrones on screen. Watch this space.
We are, of course, always interested in direct contact from filmmakers with films they'd like to submit. The 2013 winner of our first-time Short Films Audience Award was Shimmy Marcus, with Rhinos. He had contacted us with a submission before we'd discovered it ourselves. He was back again this past season with a second winner, Hannah Cohen's Holy Communion.
We are always interested in submissions and recommendations of Irish-related films, whether they be features, shorts, documentary, animation, in Irish or English.
88 min - Dir: Niall Heery with: James Nesbitt, Maisie Williams, David Wilmot, Kerry Condon.
:: Guest Speaker: Bill Brownstein
Twelve years after he left town because his childhood sweetheart dumped him and took his child away, Ray (David Wilmot) returns to see his ailing father. Ray decides to catch up with his former partner Alice (Kerry Condon) and his daughter Abbie (Maisie Williams), only to discover that Alice is dating his former high school PE teacher Frank (James Nesbitt).
There is something rather familiar about the premise of Gold, which makes the film not only comforting, but a lot of fun. David Wilmot plays up the loser, slacker character of Ray, making him likeable and sweet, and also a man who is hurt that his family has moved on, because it seems that he was never able to. Kerry Condon carries on her streak of playing extremely likeable and conflicted characters with Alice, James Nesbitt ramps up the silly with his performance as Frank. Not only are Frank's fitness videos verging on the ridiculous, but he is a man so intense and intent to make a difference, that he comes off as ridiculous as well. Maisie Williams rounds out the cast as Abbie, a young woman who is angry with the world, and takes most of her rage out on her family.
Writers Niall Heery and Brendan Heery have managed to find veins of tragedy and comedy in a familiar situation. They may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to the genre of family break up comedy, but there is something warm and sweet about the story of a man who is trying to make good, albeit several years too late.
Gold is a comic take on a tragic story, which is made by strong performances from David Wilmot and Maisie Williams. The dynamic between the two makes the film warm and funny, and lends weight to the choices that Ray must face. James Nesbitt does a fantastic job as the over the top PE teacher and, while the film is not going to change the world, it is a treat to see an Irish film with a whole lot of heart. JDIFF - Brogen Hayes
craic-it.com - Director Heery previously won the Breakthrough Talent Award at the IFTA's for his first feature Small Engine Repair. With a top-notch cast including James Nesbitt and Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams and co-written with his brother Brendan, Heery's film tells the tale, much like his breakthrough short, of a man very much on the edge of what would be described as a normal existence.
83 min - Dir: Rob Burke, Ronan Burke with: Brian Gleeson, Jessica Paré, Stanley Townsend, Francesca Cherruault
:: Guest Speakers: Rob and Ronan Burke ...with a one minute welcome video
Rom-coms and the Irish don't exactly go hand-in-hand. We're not big into sweeping romantic gestures here; they'll just get you grief from the lads down the pub. Standing in the rain whilst delivering a relationship-affirming monologue? Sure, you'll catch your death of cold. Perhaps it's because there's a distinct lack of authenticity in these Hollywood romances. In reality relationships are hard-work, full of little awkward moments and compromise. In that sense, Standby is very much a 'realistic' rom-com. Oh, it has cheese to spare but Gleeson's and Paré's dynamic gives this film a layer of thoughtfulness that is sadly lacking from its mainstream counterparts.
Alan (Gleeson) is in a bit of a slump. He's quickly approaching his thirties, was left at the alter by his fiancé, fired from his affluent banking job, is living at home with his Dad (Townsend) and restless with unfulfilled musical ambitions. It's a situation all Generation Y-ers can depressingly relate to.
Working with his mum in a part-time job as a tourist advisor in Dublin Airport, a chance twist of fate finds Alan face to face with Alice (Paré), the girl he had fallen in love with eight years prior while working for a summer in America. When the summer ended, however, Alan left and never returned, thus putting an end to their blossoming relationship. Stuck on standby for a flight home to New York - and experiencing similar artistic frustrations - Alan manages to convince Alice to stay the night with him so they can have a much needed catch up with one another.
She agrees, after some understandable hesitation, and so our protagonists embark on a Ulysses-like journey of self-discovery around the fair city of Dublin. A bit of a stretch perhaps but this is a film as much about Dublin as it is about its core couple's relationship. The capital is looking its best here and the audience is brought from one end of the city to another and back again throughout the course of the film. We fall in love with Dublin as we do with the characters. Plus, one always gets a sense of strange satisfaction when recognising a location used on screen.
That said Alan and Alice's relationship is what really makes the film work. In short, it feels genuine. They're both different people from who they were eight years ago when they first met and so the film dedicates some time for the two to get to know one another again. It's a little strained at first and they both tell some fibs to save face. This of course makes for some pretty inevitable reveals and 'I-can't-believe-you-lied-to-me' arguments but these scenes are handled surprisingly well, mainly thanks to Gleeson's and Paré's delivery. In fact, throughout the entire film directors Rob and Ronan Burke take the conventions of the rom-com genre and manage to make them seem fresh - not an easy feat. There's an overarching formula at work here but the Burke brothers are not afraid to play around with audience expectations in the middle scenes. The banter between the characters feels like something you would overhear in an average Dublin pub and never comes across as hackneyed, which unfortunately some other Irish films are prone to do.
There's also some interesting commentary about how we tend to approach the battle of the sexes as an 'us vs them' type scenario when in reality it takes two to make a successful relationship. Again, this is not a new concept but the film seems to take this question seriously rather than just see it as a chance for some gendered-stereotype humour.
Overall, this is a very charming film. Gleeson and Paré make for an unusual
yet undoubtedly endearing couple as they come to find that what they shared before never really died.
All the cast deliver engaging performances- and a particular shout out to Francesca Cherruault
as the been-there-done-that Beatrice who had many in the cinema laughing at loud multiple times.
94 min - Dir: Tomm Moore with a 3 min video on 'the making of...' with: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Pat Shortt
:: Guest Speaker: Emer O'Toole
Those who saw director Tomm Moore's previous film, 2009's Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells, will hardly be surprised. Unlike the brashness that often characterizes computer-generated animation, the old-fashioned two-dimensional look of the hand-drawn Song of the Sea is simple as well as sophisticated and especially adept at creating a specific sense of place.
Essential are the gorgeous watercolors, created in collaboration with artistic director Adrien Merigeau, that serve as vivid, vibrant backdrops to the animated action, stunning landscapes that alternate between the real and the outlandish.
Song of the Sea begins with the myth of the selkie, a creature (also featured in John Sayles' 1994 The Secret of Roan Inish) who manages to be a seal in the ocean but a human on land. That legend and others from Ireland's great treasure house of tales come to play a major part in the lives of a young brother and sister and their family.
Screenwriter Will Collins, working from an original story by Moore, memorably starts things with a few potent lines read from William Butler Yeats' "The Stolen Child": "Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild with a faery, hand in hand, for the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."
…a whole flotilla of lively and colorful supernatural folk appear in Song of the Sea, including energetic fairies, unpleasant elves, a disconcerting witch called Macha, the legendary storyteller, the Great Seanachai and the sea god Mac Lir.
As its title indicates, one of the messages of this emotional film is the power of song to change worlds. So it's appropriate that Song of the Sea's music, composed by Bruno Coulais in collaboration with the Irish group Kila, is exceptionally melodic and pure pleasure to listen to.
Filmmaker Moore has also chosen to have his key talent do double duty, voicing both creatures from the spirit universe and people from everyday reality. (Brendan Gleeson, for instance, is the Great Seanachai as well as Conor, while Fionnula Flanagan does both Macha and Granny.)
That choice underlines the connections between worlds, the sense that there can be wonder in ordinary lives, that Ireland's folklore takes for granted. It's a beautiful message, and one that's delivered with heart and graceful visual splendor. The day you choose to see this film is one you won't forget. Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
Festival International des Voix du Cinéma d'Animation (Port Leucate, France) Prix Spécial du Jury
70 min - Dir: Claire Dix who appears with a one minute video on how film was made with: Willa Lee, James Costello, GI (Christopher Buckley), Dean Scurry
:: Guest Speaker: T'Cha Dunlevy
- Don O'Mahony
Bantry-born filmmaker, Claire Dix, confesses she was sceptical of Irish hip-hop, but when she met some of the scene's leading lights, she knew there was a compelling story to be told.
"I met GI and Costello, in a room in the Record Centre in Ballymun, and they just rapped one of their pieces, called 'Flawless'," she says. "And there was just something about it, just the honesty and the lyricism and the power in the words, and in the way they delivered it.
"It wasn't what I was expecting, and I think that kind of stuff is always good with character. When you get something from a character that you're not expecting to get, that's always interesting."
Best known for her award-winning short fiction films, Free Chips Forever and Downpour, Dix was an outsider to hip-hop, but with her years of making observational documentaries, she could identify.
"I really liked the ethos of that, of kinda really getting involved with a community group, or in an area,
building up trust," she says.
Her work with Dublin Community Television put her in contact with artist and youth worker, Dean Scurry, who introduced her to GI and Costello.
Initially, Dix wasn't looking beyond the bounds of a short documentary, but having discussed the idea with her producer, Bandon native, Nodlag Houlihan, the project became more ambitious.
When Dix outlined her proposal to Costello, he was on board.
"I said 'I want to represent you as poets'. I said 'I really don't know anything about hip-hop, so you'll have to educate me. But I don't want to make a documentary. It's not like the definitive guide to hip-hop in Ireland, or anything like that, or in Dublin. Or, even I don't think it's going to be a hip-hop documentary; I think it's going to be a documentary about you guys as poets. And that's because that's what I think is what I can connect with. I can connect with the lyrics and the words, what you're trying to say and how you're delivering it, and I want the film then to have a kind of poetic, dreamy kind of feel'."
"Costello started talking about how hip-hop makes him feel. I kinda knew that I wanted that kind of buzz. I think Costello really got that. He started saying that the first time he ever heard hip-hop, he laid back on his bed and he listened to the track and he felt like he left the room. And I was, 'that's really good. That's lovely, dreamy kind of imaginative imagery and I want the film to have that kind of edge to it.' And I think he really liked that approach I was taking."
Costello wasn't alone in this. At last year's Dublin Film Festival, Broken Song
walked away with both the Discovery and the Audience Awards.
"It's an arthouse film, as well," Dix says, acknowledging the support of the Arts Council's Reel Art scheme. "That's the thing. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. It's quite slow-moving. It has a poetic kind of slant on it. So, it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but that's the kind of film we wanted to make."
129 min - Dir: Liv Ullmann. Screenplay, Ullmann, from the play by August Strindberg
with: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Nora McMenamy
:: Guest Speaker: Colleen Curran
The ten films in which Liv Ullmann starred for Ingmar Bergman - including such classics as Persona, Cries and Whispers, and Scenes from a Marriage - represent one of the greatest director-actor collaborations in cinema history. It was no surprise, then, that when Ullmann herself moved into the director's chair, she demonstrated an unerring ability to summon the best from her casts. That skill is once again on display in her adaptation of Miss Julie, a lacerating study of class, power, and desire that unfolds one Midsummer's Eve in the late 1800s.
Moving the action of August Strindberg's canonical play from Sweden to County Fermanagh in the north of Ireland, Ullmann's film opens as the eponymous Julie (Jessica Chastain), daughter of an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, sets out to seduce one of her father's senior servants, the worldly valet John (Colin Farrell). The charged flirtation between the two doubles as a kind of psychological gamesmanship, which deepens and darkens as the night rolls on - much of it witnessed by the house cook Kathleen (Samantha Morton), who, despite being John's's ostensible betrothed, remains quietly resigned throughout.
Seamlessly combining the spatial dictates of the stage with the geographical freedom of film, Ullmann makes brilliant use of the vast country manor in which the film is set, dividing its rooms into compartments of anxious activity, with the kitchen serving as the nucleus of simmering tensions waiting to boil over. As would be expected, Miss Julie's greatest strength derives from its performances. As Julie, Chastain possesses a beguiling blend of privileged petulance and vulnerability, while Farrell is deliciously duplicitous as John, slipping between bootlicking submission and sudden displays of dominance. Yet the film's secret weapon is Morton, frequently acting opposite an ailing pug yet exuding an eerie canniness about all that transpires as this upstairs-downstairs contest careens toward its chilling finish. TIFF - Michèle Maheux
Special presentation, to be introduced by the filmmaker and storyteller, MacLeod and Burns.
The Irishman - Child of the Gael (20 mins, animation) Dir: G. Scott MacLeod
Our narrator Sean recounts his maternal and paternal ancestors' dramatic immigrant experiences in Canada
from the 1800s to the early 20th century. Fleeing desperate conditions in Ireland, survival in the new world
is a struggle of a different sort, involving quarantine, isolation and backbreaking employment, building the Victoria Bridge,
constructing the railways and canals that will open Canada's frontiers to trade and settlement.
Montreal filmmaker G. Scott MacLeod fuses rich pencil animation with new digital media to provide a deeply moving depiction of an iconic early Canadian immigrant experience. Written and narrated by Mike Burns, a celebrated Montreal storyteller, here is the story of thousands of Irish immigrants to this country who arrived to unthinkable conditions and who went on to build the very roads and railways that made prosperity possible.
Rúbaí (12 mins, Irish language with English subtitles)
Dir: Louise Ní Fhiannachta
The First Holy Communion is fast approaching but as an atheist, eight-year-old Rúbaí refuses to be a part of it. In this quirky comedy, Rúbaí faces emotional blackmail, religious and philosophical debate, and out and out intolerance in today's supposedly diverse and modern Ireland.
Best first short - Galway FF
Best Irish short - Foyle FF
Best short - Belfast FF
Shoot (4 mins, animation) Dir:
An assassination attempt on a president is serendipitously foiled by a pigeon.
(Made available by kind permission of Network Ireland Television)
Animation Award - Royal Television Society
Special Mention - Galway FF
The Last Days of Peter Bergmann
(19 mins, documentary) Dir: Ciaran Cassidy
In the summer of 2009, a man calling himself Peter Bergmann arrived in Sligo Town. Over his final three days, he would go to great lengths to ensure no one would ever discover who he was or where he came from.
Best short - Irish Film and Television Awards
Best documentary short - Melbourne International FF
Our Unfenced Country
(18 mins, live action) Dir: Niamh Heery
An elderly railway engineer and a young female ex-con form an unlikely friendship while working on the narrow gauge railways that traverse the expansive, historic bogs of Ireland.
Best Short - Kerry Film Festival
(9 mins, animation) Dir: Aidan McAteer
'Deadly' tells the story of Boney, a working stiff who doesn't care about his dead-end job. That is, until he has a run-in with a spirited old lady named Bridie…
Academy award winner, Brenda Fricker and Love/Hate star Peter Coonan lend their voices to this bittersweet animated short about life, death and dancin'!
Best short - Irish Animation Awards
Boogaloo and Graham
(14 mins, drama) Dir: Michael Lennox
Jamesy and Malachy are over the moon when their soft-hearted Dad presents them with two baby chicks to care for, but the two boys are in for a shock when their parents announce that big changes are coming to the family.
(Made available by kind permission of Network Ireland Television)
Best Short - BAFTAs
Best live action short (nomination) - Oscars
85 min - Dir: Gerard Barrett, and screenplay and story with: Joe Mullins, Muiris Crowley, Corina Gough, Keith Byrne, Kevin McCormack
:: Guest Speakers: Tom Hutchinson and Dana Hearne
For the better part of Gerard Barrett's invisibly scripted debut, the only person onscreen is forlorn-looking Jimmy Walsh (Joe Mullins), who shares his life with a sick, offscreen father and nearly 20 head of cattle. Sampling introspective moments from the man's mostly solitary existence without ever slipping into tedium, this understated examination of a very specific microcosm features universal enough themes to move auds everywhere it travels.
Whatever rough edges the film may show can easily be forgiven upon learning that Barrett
shot the feature for less than $6,000 over seven virtually sunless days. The result feels like pure documentary
for the first hour or so, an illusion heightened by the helmer's decision to intercut Jimmy's routine -
tending the cows, selling the milk in town, silently watching television - with a somber oncamera interview.
Substituting for more traditional narration, this odd confessional footage heightens the pic's naturalistic approach,
making the unlucky breaks that follow feel more true-to-life.
Variety - Peter Debruge
€4,500 - that's how much it cost Kerry writer-director-editor-producer Gerard Barrett to make his debut feature, Pilgrim Hill. He shot it in his local area with a crew of three; found his star (and how) Joe Mullins in amateur theatre; Barrett's parents did the catering over the weeklong shoot and he watched back his edits and test-screened the film in his hometown cinema in Listowel.
The results prove a new kind of gold has been found in the Kingdom.
Bachelor farmer Jimmy Walsh's life, as he says himself, is "30 acres on the side of a hill out in the back end of nowhere, with no prospects". Jimmy's world consists of his stroke survivor father and his cattle, with regrets about what might have been - wife, children, education, escape - soundtracking every day.
But Jimmy's long march to old age is halted by tumultuous events over the course of one week, during which he must ask himself if he can salvage a different kind of future - and whether he really wants to.
The Jimmy Walshs weren't part of the party during the boom, so Pilgrim Hill's release now feels just right, and hopefully it will get a bigger audience thinking and talking. Whether it's the loneliness, the resignation, the guilt about an elderly parent or that harshest of critics in the bathroom mirror, we can all see something of our own lives in Barrett's film and Jimmy's eyes.
From Jimmy's four slices of ham and packet of biscuits treat in the town shop to the taped-up steering wheel on his car, everything here feels completely authentic, with Barrett and Mullins' own farming backgrounds ensuring that your immersion in this world is absolute. More than once you may wonder how they persuaded a real-life farmer called Jimmy to take the time to make the movie, such is the strength of Mullins' performance in the lead role and the freedom afforded to him by his director.
Shot documentary-style, Pilgrim Hill is a simple story, beautifully told and offers us a director and star to treasure. The damp will be in your bones from the very start, with the tears in your eyes coming not long after. RTE Ten
84 min - Dir: Aoife Kelleher with: Shane MacThomais
www.irishtimes.com [Donald Clarke]
Aoife Kelleher's One Million Dubliners is a dauntingly comprehensive and beautifully filmed study of the space. There are amusing and disconcerting observations about the shifting hierarchies of celebrity.
Homage to Glasnevin is a dead-cert winner
It seems so obvious now. We have, without knowing it, been crying out for a documentary on the myths, legends and everyday eccentricities of Glasnevin Cemetery. Opened in 1832 (more recently than one may have guessed), the largest multi-denominational graveyard in Ireland protects the remains of some 1.5 million Dubliners. There are all sorts in there. Prominent Republicans attract pilgrims. Earlier this year various loons shouted at President Higgins for daring to honour the first World War dead.
"Michael Collins is definitely very popular. He gets balloons, flowers," the lady in the flower kiosk explains. "De Valera a bit. But definitely not as much as Michael Collins." Indeed, a devoted French lady - won over to the Collins cause by Neil Jordan's film - has taken to tending the late rebel's grave devotedly. There's some sort of revenge there for the big fellow.
Elsewhere, a pint of Guinness sits by Brendan Behan's gravestone. We are talked through the mechanics of burial and the economics of graveyard real estate. Even in death it seems that location means everything.
Kelleher gets to every corner. We meet the staff and ponder their own feelings about mortality. Some have become blasé. At least one suggests that you never get used to the inevitable human catastrophe.
The hero of the piece is, surely, Shane MacThomais, the indomitable Glasnevin historian, who acts as our guide throughout the film. In an irony that hardly needs explaining, the breathless enthusiast died shortly after the film finished shooting. One death weaves itself with tales of a million other deaths. This attractive film offers him fair tribute.
www.rte.ie/ten [Paddy Kehoe]
Moving, tactful, and confident about conveying the air of mystery at the heart of the film, One Million Dubliners has a quiet majesty and lingers long after viewing.
Over 1.2 million people are buried in the 150 acres of Glasnevin cemetery, a vast amount of the dead, given that the population of County Dublin in 2013 was reckoned at 1,273,069.
200,000 visitors come to the cemetery each year, many of them to stand at the graves of figures such as Daniel O'Connell, and at the gravestones of Irish twentieth century heroes whose remains are buried there.
These include Michael Collins, Eamon De Valera, Countess Marcievicz, James Larkin, Maud Gonne McBride, Roger Casement, Arthur Griffith and Kevin Barry. Brendan Behan and Luke Kelly are also buried at Glasnevin.
Michael Collins' grave attracts the most visitors of all, and bouquets of flowers continually adorn the grave. "A lot of foreign people fell in love with him from the movie," says the woman who runs the florist shop. A young girl once came for a week's holiday and visited Collins' grave every day. She said she would never marry because no man would come up to his standard.
Veronique, a Frenchwoman explains her fascination with Collins. She has been visiting the grave six or seven times a year sometimes since 2001.
Cemetery guide and historian Shane Mac Thomáis is a valuable contributor to One Million Dubliners, presenting the story in an easy, accessible way.
The cemetery was founded in 1832, and the first burial took place at Glasnevin, on February 22 of that year. The deceased was Michael Carey, an 11-year-old boy from Dublin's Francis Street. In 1849 a cholera outbreak saw significant activity, the bodies of the deceased covered in quicklime for fear of contagion.
In the early years, the poorer of Dublin's citizens were buried in Glasnevin; the more prosperous families came later, and each iconic figure buried, notable now in the annals of history, raised the status of the cemetery.
The film moves very subtly from what up to a certain point has seemed to be a standard documentary about Irish history and graves, to become one which is suffused with contemporary human interest.
You sense the new direction in the film in the first of these stories, the daughter who comes to see her mother's grave, each Saturday and Sunday, four years after the Ballymun woman's early death at 35 in 2010. The young girl - herself a mother - says that she prefers to visit on a sunny day. In fact, she is filmed on a blowy, wintry St Valentine's Day, a very important day for many visitors to Glasnevin cemetery.
Kelleher also employs some gorgeous cinematography, capturing the cemetery in a warm, sunset-y glow that defies the grey tombstones
and brown dirt to make the site seem almost magically beautiful.
First things first, whoever came up with this movie's poster tagline - "Every Plot Has A Story" - deserves some kind of award.