Insider tips: Those in the know pick their highlights of the Cork Film Festival

Insider tips: Those in the know pick their highlights of the Cork Film Festival
Alzheimer’s care in Thailand is featured in Mother.

The staff of Cork Film Festival tell Richard Fitzpatrick about some of their personal recommendations on what to see


System Crasher (Triskel, 6pm, Wednesday, Nov 13)

“The central character is a nine-year-old girl called Benni played by Helena Zengel. Her performance is extraordinary. She’s on screen most of the time.

She’s troubled. There’s clearly issues at home. Her mother can’t cope. She’s put into social services. They’ve pretty much given up on her — she crashes the system. She’s disruptive and violent, but you kind of love her. She’s assigned a school escort. He finds a route through. He empathises with her. A sort of bond forms. And then it kind of goes horribly wrong.

It’s the most affecting, spiralling-out-of-control portrait. It challenges the notion of how we help people with mental health even with good intentions. It stayed in my mind from the screening at the Berlin International Film Festival.”

Michael Hayden, Programme Director

Mother (Gate, 4pm, Saturday, Nov 16)

This documentary film by Kristof Bilsen is about people suffering from Alzheimer’s being farmed out to Thailand. It’s enlivened by two remarkable characters, a woman from Switzerland who suffers from Alzheimer’s and the Thai woman who cares for her, who actually leaves her own family [and children] behind to find work, to care for somebody else’s mother. Their relationship is a beautiful thing.

It’s a brilliant documentary about separation, guilt and a powerful contribution to the debate: How do we deal with [the rise in people suffering from Alzheimer’s in the western world]? The film leaves the viewer to make their own judgements.”


Colectiv (Gate, 8.45pm, Thursday, 14 November)

“Colectiv is a Romanian documentary by the director Alexander Nanau. The story hinges on a fire that took place in a nightclub called Colectiv in Bucharest, 2015.

It starts out as a simple medical malpractice documentary about the victims of that fire, but the entire story unfurls into this huge exposé of corruption in the Romanian government.

It unfolds in real time because the filmmaker was in the eye of the storm when this was all happening,following doctors, whistle-blowers, victims of the fire, politicians, journalists. He’s a master non-fiction filmmaker to be able to pace this story out and to look at it from so many different angles.

It’s incredible, one of the best investigative documentaries I’ve ever seen.

Si Edwards, Festival Programmer

To Live To Sing (Gate Cinema, 9pm, Friday, Nov 15)

“Directed by Johnny Ma, it’s a tale about a Sichuan opera troupe. They live together in this small theatre in a rundown area of Chengdu, China. Their manager — who’s quite a force to be reckoned with — finds out that the theatre is going to demolished due to massive urban regeneration.

It’s a great insight into what’s happening in China at the moment, plus it’s really funny and sad. I was in floods of tears.

People think of me as the guy who programmes all the horror films and depressing stuff, but I love a good weep!”

Don O’Mahony, Senior Programmer

Memory Room — International Shorts (Gate, Friday, 1.15pm Nov 15)

“This strand is filmmakers telling abstract stories. In the Dutch film The Animal That I Therefore Am you’re transported to a room with a woman with a guitar, a wolf dog, a bald eagle and a white rabbit. There’s this incredible build-up and tension. You’re thinking something is going to go wrong here.

Then there’s the German short The Divine Way, for example. Again there’s no real narrative arc. There’s a woman walking down staircases, and an association with Dante’s Divine Comedy and a descent into the depths. I just marvel at the simplicity — if you want to make a film you don’t have to have an elaborate script or lots of characters. You just need a good idea and be able to execute it.”

Best of Cork – Shorts (Everyman, 1pm, Sunday, 17 November)

“The afternoon programme Best of Cork is very much about new names. It features a mix of work — drama, horror and documentaries, including Blankets of Hope about Cork Cancer Care Centre; and Outside the Box by animator Janet Grainger, which is in the spirit of the marriage equality referendum, with little vignettes, people talking about their own lives.

There’s a particular Cork flavour to the the humour that runs through it. There’s one exchange where a guy comes out to his mother when her hearing aid was removed.

He says: “Mum, I’m gay,” and she starts crying.

She says: “You’re too young to be engaged.”

“No, mum. No. I’m gay.”

She was more upset that he was 20 and engaged than the fact he was gay.”

The 64th Cork Film Festival runs until Sunday, November 17. See:

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