Film festival opens amid financial criticism

The management of Cork Film Festival is gearing up for its 60th anniversary in 2016, engaging with new partners and hopeful of securing a title sponsor, despite incurring extensive financial losses last year.

Organisers have ascribed most of the losses it incurred in 2013 to the ending of a sponsorship arrangement with Corona, which is understood to have contributed €90,000 annually to the event.

The festival opens today in the Cork Opera House with the Irish premiere of Charlie’s Country directed by Rolf de Heer and starring Cannes best actor 2013 David Gulpilil.

Management yesterday defended its handling of the event in light of a barrage of criticism from former chief executive Mick Hannigan who was made redundant from the organisation along with festival programmer Úna Feely.

The festival recorded losses of €136,000 in 2013, as against a surplus of just over €5,000 in 2012.

“The festival’s title sponsorship from Corona came to an end after the 2012 event,” said a spokeswoman.

“The festival is midway through a period of necessary restructuring which process has incurred costs. The festival’s 2013 accounts — a matter of public record — reflect these changes.”

Mr Hannigan, who has since gone on to organise a rival film festival IndieCork in Cork, questioned the festival’s future as an organisation “carrying accumulated losses of €171,190”.

In a posting on Facebook, Mr Hannigan wrote: “In 2012, with Úna Feely (responsible for the programme) and myself (as CEO responsible for all financial matters) the company made an operating surplus of €9,065. Indeed surpluses were recorded each and every year I served as CEO of Cork Film Festival.

“In February 2013 we were dismissed on the basis of “no money available” or “the Arts Council demanded change” depending on which statement you read. There has certainly been change. In 2013 Cork Film Festival recorded a loss of €136,211.”

He said the loss was “quite scandalous and raises serious questions regarding the governance of the company”.

However, despite last year’s losses, the festival continues to receive the full support of the Arts Council Ireland, Cork City Council and Fáilte Ireland.

It has already pre-festival ticket sales double those of previous years.

With some 182 events over ten days, this year’s film festival promises to be one of the best yet, organisers say. It will feature seven world premieres, 65 Irish premieres, new and old feature films, documentaries, Irish and international short films, a reinvigorated Talent Development Programme and live music events.

Highlights for this year’s festival include the world premiere of the Irish film Standby and the Irish festival premiere of Disney blockbuster Big Hero 6.

The 59th festival will also spread its wings beyond its traditional city confines with screenings in Mallow and Midleton.

“I want the festival to be one for the whole county and not just for the city,” said festival creative director James Mullighan.

Australian-born Mr Mullighan was appointed in 2013 following the departure of Mr Hannigan.

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