A question of taste: Mary McGrath, artistic director of First Cut Youth Film Festival

Mary McGrath is from Ballybrannigan near Cloyne, Co Cork, and is the artistic director of the First Cut Youth Film Festival. The tenth festival for school-aged film-makers takes place in Youghal from March 6-9. See firstcutfilmfestival.com

Best recent book you’ve read:

It’s a toss-up between Normal People by Sally Rooney and Milkman by Anna Burns.

Best recent film:

Of all the films released in 2018 I have two favourites: Lady Bird, where our own Saoirse Ronan is exceptional. The second is The Image You Missed, a documentary made by a young Irish filmmaker, Donal Foreman.

Best recent show or exhibition you’ve seen:

Earth, Wind & Fire: Made in Cork Contemporary at the Crawford Art Gallery, I am so glad I got to see this showcase of beautiful art and craft works from six local artists. The ‘art quilts’ and origami were stand out pieces which I really enjoyed.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old):

I’ve been listening to Dermot Kennedy for a while now, he is so talented and has just released a music video for For Island Fires and Family which he wrote about his aunt who lived on Inis Mór. The video is shot on the island and made by the talented filmmaker Brendan Canty who has worked with us on the First Cut festival for the last three years.

First ever piece of music or film that really moved you:

Betty Blue (pictured above) made in 1986, is my favourite film of all time, I saw it when I was 20, and have watched it again and again over the years since. I studied French in college and was in love with everything French at the time. This movie sums up all that intrigued me about France... the language, the geography (from the beaches of the Riviera to the streets of Paris), and the people (neurotic and sullen). Cannot recommend it enough, a beautiful moving film and great cinematography and soundtrack!

The best film or gig you’ve ever seen:

Leonard Cohen at Lissadell House in Sligo in 2010 with my friend Rose. Such an amazing place, full moon, it was magic!

Tell us about your TV viewing:

I have been addicted to Grand Designs, and even to Kevin McCloud, for years. More recently. Breaking Bad, Sharp Objects, The Handmaids Tale, The Good Fight and of course. The Young Offenders.

Radio listening and/or podcasts:

I listen to Arena on RTÉ Radio 1 whenever I can.

Your best celebrity encounter:

I introduced myself to Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh in Dingle once. I love his voice, it brings me back to childhood Sundays listening to a match on the radio.

You can portal back to any period of human cultural history or event — where, when, and why?

Nothing appeals to me more than the present, what is happening in Ireland at this time. Repeal the 8th, #MeToo movement, the Marriage Equality referendum… the times they are a changing, and it’s about time!

Do you have any interesting ancestors or family?

My grand aunts were an amazing bunch of strong women, born far before their time. Despite being born in the late 1800s on a small farm they all managed to get a third level qualification. Great role models to grow up with.

Unsung hero — individual or group you think don’t get the praise they deserve:

Young people. They are always the ones to get bad press. This kind of stereotyping has a very negative impact on how all members of that group feel about themselves and how they are valued and treated by society. Most of us don’t listen enough to young people. They are creative, enthusiastic and are energising to be around, and that is one of the great pleasures I take from being involved with First Cut Youth Film Festival.

You are queen for a day — what’s your first decree?

Ban the monarchy!

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