Ireland is celebrating 2018 as the year of the Gaelic language - the year of Irish.
Each Ciné Gael season we always work to schedule features and short films in Gaelic. This practice started in 1995 with our first film in Gaelic, The Bishop's Story; two years later we screened Bob Quinn's film Poitin, and we were in the groove.
Click on either of the two images on our banner to learn about the 2018 Irish Language Celebrations (Blain na Gaeilge) and about Conradh na Gaeilge, the Gaelic League founded in 1893.
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 .
We're now up to seven of nine screenings confirmed, and 2018 will be a terrific season.
94 min - Dir: Nick Hamm; Written By: Colin Bateman with: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt, Freddie Highmore, Toby Stephens and Catherine McCormack
The movie focuses on the improbable friendship between Martin McGuinness (played by Meaney) and Ian Paisley (Spall) in a story that follows the two Northern Ireland political titans after the signing of the breakthrough St. Andrews Agreement in 2006.
The Journey is the gripping account of how two men from opposite sides of the political spectrum came together to change the course of history. In 2006, amid the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland, representatives from the two warring factions meet for negotiations. In one corner is Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall), the deeply conservative British loyalist; in the other is Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney), a former Irish Republican Army leader who has devoted his life to the cause of Irish reunification.
Over the course of an impromptu, detour-filled car ride through the Scottish countryside, each begins to see the other less as an enemy, and more as an individual - a breakthrough that promises to at last bring peace to the troubled region. Driven by two virtuoso central performances and co-starring John Hurt, Freddie Highmore and Toby Stephens, The Journey, an IFC Films theatrical release, is a relevant reminder of how simple humanity can overcome political division.
90 min - Dir: James Demo with: Padraig O'Malley
In the heart of the world’s most intractable conflicts, Padraig O’Malley brokers peace using unorthodox methods and dogged determination. With no formal training in conflict resolution, he convened Northern Ireland’s key peace conferences at the age of 33. His uncanny talent lies precisely where United Nations envoys and diplomats fail—gaining a person’s trust. Face to face with dogmatic leaders, O’Malley can get them to tell their stories
For five years, filmmaker James Demo follows the peacemaker through crisis zones from Nigeria to Iraq, and discovers an even more fractious frontline—O’Malley’s personal life. The man who creates meaningful connections for a living returns home to an empty apartment.
A recovering alcoholic, O’Malley’s relationships with partners and an adopted daughter bear the scars of addiction to the bottle and work. Struggling against time, his demons and an exhausting career, can this formidable character find salvation for both the world and himself?
The first half chronicles O’Malley’s major accomplishments in exceptional form, and Demo gets a lot of background material and context by following his subject. Then, the second half of the film becomes something deeply personal and almost heartbreakingly poetic as O’Malley has to come to terms with his own failing health. - Toronto Film Scene
87 min - Dir: Len Collin with: Christian O'Reilly, Kieran Coppinger, Charlene Kelly.
Movies can have big impacts on people's lives, but not many films can say they've actually changed the law.
Enter Irish film Sanctuary, about a couple who want to be together but face huge obstacles. The film's protagonists, Larry and Sophie, have Down Syndrome and severe epilepsy, respectively. (The film's entire cast is made up of actors with mental disabilities.) And since they both have mental disabilities, under Irish law, they're not allowed to have sex unless they're married — at least that was the case when this fictional film was shot a few years ago.
On Feb. 14, 2017, that law was changed thanks to the work of Inclusion Ireland and other lobbyists. The film was cited as one of the reasons behind that decision.
"When you look at Sanctuary, it's the first time that it's a story told about them,
by them," director Len Collin says, of representing mental disabilities in film. Colin adds that the film industry is still
far from breaking through with stories that reflect people and actors with disabilities, but that "it always takes someone to make
the first film, and maybe this is the first film that's going to crossover to the mainstream."
[ Screened at the ReelAbilities Film Festival in Toronto ] CBC [Tom Power and Jean Kim on Q]
81 min - Dir: Alex Fegan with 30 of Ireland’s oldest citizens
"Older Than Ireland is a landmark documentary that examines what it means to have lived one hundred years in Ireland, as seen through the eyes of its oldest citizens." Rotten Tomatoes
"A charming, moving and over-too-soon portrait of a country, and of what it means to have a longer than expected life." - Seattle Times [ Moira MacDonald]
"Fegan may not unearth why the Emerald Isle is home to so many spirited centenarians, but their presence makes for a lovely and inspiring experience in the enjoyable documentary Older Than Ireland" - Los Angeles Times [ Gary Goldstein]
Directed by Alex Fegan (The Irish Pub), Older Than Ireland is a landmark documentary that tells the story of a hundred years of a life as seen through the eyes of thirty Irish men and women aged 100 or over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland.
Reflecting on such key events as the day they got their first pair of shoes, the thrill of their first kiss, from the magic of their wedding day to the tragic loss of their loved ones, these centenarians have lived through it all. Having witnessed a century of immense social, political and technological change each centenarian has a unique perspective on life and its true meaning.
From the oldest Irish person ever on record, 113-year-old Kathleen Snavely to Ireland’s oldest man, 108-year-old Luke Dolan we meet a colourful cast of characters, from all walks of life, from the four corners of Ireland. These centenarians are our living history and these are their extraordinary stories.
92 min - Dir: Mark O'Connor; Writer:John Connors with: John Connors, Fionn Walton, Damien Dempsey, Kierston Wareing, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Kyle Bradley Donaldson and Lydia McGuinness
"Mark O'Connor's film isn't subtle, but it's made with swagger and its antihero fits the bill as a certain kind of crime-drama archetype: overambitious, stupid and doomed, he nonetheless has a crude poignancy." Sunday Times (UK) [ Edward Porter]
"The film is crackingly done, with a bleak humour when needed and a black savagery when not." Financial Times [ Nigel Andrews]
"Salty, funny, and enlivened by some fantastic Dublin rap music, Cardboard Gangsters has a rare authenticity in terms of its subject matter and location." Irish Independent [ Paul Whitington]
In Cardboard Gangsters is O’Connor’s most complete film yet. The picture, set among small-time criminals in Darndale, has admirable kinetic sweep and a keen sense of the absurdities of city life. The picture does lack story and structure. But it is so enjoyable on a scene-by-scene basis that it proves hard to care.
The charismatic, unshakeable John Connors – who also takes a screenplay credit – plays troubled young operator Jay. He has his share of problems. Hoodlum landlords are threatening to throw his ma out of her house. His girlfriend may be pregnant. The social welfare people are threatening to stop his dole because he does the odd gig as a DJ. Soon he and his pals are contemplating an assault on the upper rungs of the ladder. They rob an off-licence. They move from flogging weed to shifting heroin. We’ve seen enough crime movies to suspect their path will not be unimpeded.
The star of the show is Michael Lavelle’s camera. O’Connor has talked him into long shots that follow the characters all the way down the street and into busy houses. He sets the scene at a party by taking us all around the action in one enormously busy take. Jay’s DJ set buzzes with delicious, oily energy. The punch-ups and pursuits are choreographed with an invention that stops just short of inappropriate relish. The film is exciting, but it is unlikely to inspire much copycat behaviour. Irish Times [ Donald Clarke]
91 min - Dir: James Erskine; writers: Marie Jones, James Erskine with: Richard Dormer, Conleth Hill, John Hannah, Nico Mirallegro, Art Parkinson, Bronagh Gallagher
In November 1985, the troubled streets of Belfast are torn up by rioting yet again. In amongst the angry mob, we find nine year old Tommy, nonchalantly dribbling a ball through the insanity.
Whilst politicians argue over the peace process, there's only one thing on young Tommy's football-mad mind - the forthcoming World Cup, where Northern Ireland will take on Brazil. For the South American giants it's just another step on the path to inevitable global domination, yet for Northern Ireland, and young Tommy, it's the biggest game of their lives. They are two countries that couldn't seem further apart: Northern Ireland, with its Orange men and Republican curbstones, the Rev'd Ian Paisley and Fergal Sharkey; and Brazil with its carnival, its Samba, with Pelé and the 'beautiful game'.
On the football field, eccentric Northern Ireland coach Billy Bingham (they call him Mr FIFA - "a fee for this and a fee for that") must plug together a bunch of misfits and third divisioners. Brazil are led by none other than the philosopher-captain (Dr.) Sócrates, who has, in part, inspired the collapse of his country's ruthless military junta, and they are the hot favourites to scoop up football's ultimate prize.
As bunting replaces bombs on the streets of Belfast, and Catholic and Protestants alike turn their attention to the big match, Tommy's dockworker turned philosopher father Arthur uses his son's passion for football to enlighten him on the events that make up his chaotic world.
The story interweaves young Tommy's coming of age tale with the trials and travails of the hapless Northern Irish team over the nine months leading up to their ultimate game, in the stifling heat of Mexico at the world's greatest festival of football. As the hours tick down to the ultimate battle, with his lead striker crocked, Bingham is forced to place his faith in young rookie, Davey Campbell - "the next George Best".
Back home, Tommy waits anxiously for the biggest day of his life - because the day of the match is also his tenth birthday - and his father has promised to take him to the "top of the World" - the massive crane at Belfast Docks where Arthur works. From here he can see the whole of his world, but can he understand the lessons his father, inspired by the Greek philosopher Socrates, is trying to teach him?
This is a story of two nations, two teams, and a father and a son, the things that divide them
and the things that unite us all. Set against the backdrop of the 1986 World Cup and the sociopolitical backgrounds of both nations -
this is the story of the world's smallest footballing nation, taking on its best. With laughter and passion,
this is the ultimate story of the beautiful game and what it means.
-IMDB - [(anonymous)]
93 min - Director and Writer: Nick Kelly; Cinematography: Tom Comerford
with: Charlie Kelly; Olwen Fouéré; Aoibhinn McGinnity; Peter Coonan; Niamh Algar
The Drummer & The Keeper (unsurprisingly given its director’s career) has a good feel for the petty rivalries that characterise the music scene. The increasingly busy cinematographer Tom Comerford gives us an attractive urban half-light without overly prettifying.
The film’s main selling point remains, however, the relationship between the two leads. Murphy pulls furrows into his brow that communicate the simmering tensions bursting to break the handsome carapace. McCarthy keeps to a steady monotone that belies careful study and reminds us why – like Lear’s Fool – he is allowed to speak the raw truth while others obfuscate. – The Irish Times [Donald Clarke]
Drummer Gabriel (Dermot Murphy), recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, is forced to curb his erratic behaviour when his therapist changes his medication and insists he join a special football team.
When he meets goalkeeper Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), a 17-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, a fraught relationship gradually develops into a firm friendship as each learns to respect the other’s foibles.
Writer/director/composer Nick Kelly captures the mental health pitfalls of a rock’n’roll lifestyle with sharp insight, while his portrait of a young man with Asperger’s, drawn with affection and deep understanding, is perfectly observed.
This uplifting and comedic feature début deservedly bagged the Best Irish First Feature Award
at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
IFI Notes [Sunniva O’Flynn]
92 min - Dir: Stephen Burke; Cinematographer: David Grennan with: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Niamh McGrady, Barry Ward, Martin McCann, Eileen Walsh
It hardly needs to be said that a few unionist politicians have, before seeing the film, already denounced Stephen Burke’s Maze as an insult to this and a misrepresentation of that. There are certainly dangers here. It is sometimes forgotten that a prison officer, stabbed during the Maze prison escape of 1983, subsequently died of a heart attack. It was not just the brave lark of song and fable.
Working from his own tight script, Burke has taken a responsible approach to the material.
The core relationship is that between Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), a thoughtful republican prisoner,
and Gordon Close (Barry Ward), a stressed guard.
Marley is gaming Close to gain access to passwords and security loopholes, but, as the film progresses, he guiltily develops a respect for him. We see Gordon defending his family from a terrorist attack on an everyday shopping expedition. He ends up living in a sort of suburban cage. The subsequent violence from the screws is thus reasonably contextualised.
The picture is also sound on the legacy of the hunger strikes. Marley –
a genuine figure murdered by the UVF in 1987 – conceives the mass escape as a way of demonstrating that the movement remains unbowed.
Meanwhile, he worries about his own son following in his footsteps. Nobody who knows anything about this sorry history
would deny that it swells with such personal contradictions.
Here’s the surprise. Although the film-makers have dealt responsibility with the legacy, Maze is at its best when most like John Sturges’s The Great Escape. And it’s more like that film than we had any right to expect.
The tension is built up impressively. Vaughan-Lawlor combines raw commitment with a sneaky flexibility to give us an honest man who lies like a master. Ward works hard at allowing only hints of vulnerability to leak through his buffed Ulster carapace. Stephen Rennicks’s sinuous score Krautrocks us back to the early 1980s. Dave Grennan, a hugely experienced camera operator, brings damp menace to every shot of a depressed nation. Irish Times [Donald Clarke]