Countdown to festival of film

THE 58th Cork Film Festival catalogue will be launched at the Electric bar this evening. The festival is six weeks away, but its new creative director, James Mullighan — a former director of the Edinburgh Film Festival — says the lead-in will allow for as many tickets as possible to be sold.

Countdown to  festival of film

“It’s what we did at Edinburgh. It’s standard practice. It also takes the pressure off the catalogue team, because there will be a page saying that additional programming will be announced in the run-up the festival. It will give me the opportunity to go to the London Film Festival and get a few last-minute titles,” he says.

Mullighan, a former journalist, says he will put his own stamp on the Cork Film Festival, while retaining what has made it a success. Contrary to reports that the board wanted to turn the festival into a glitzy event with red-carpet premieres, Mullighan says it would not be a draw for major, big-spending film studios launching star-studded movies.

“This is a repertory film festival for the film lovers of Cork City, Cork county and Munster. We’re playing films, not launching them,” Mullighan says.

The opening-night film, on Nov 10, is Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne, whose hit film, Sideways, will be screened the following day for “a bit of fun.”

“Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern, is a beautiful road-trip movie. The protagonist is a grumpy-old alcoholic found walking on the freeway, because he thinks he has won a million dollars. He’s too scared to put the chit in the mail and he’s not allowed drive anymore.

“His son, who takes the father to collect the prize, realises that there’s more going on than just the collection of the money,” Mullighan says.

The closing feature film will be held on Saturday night instead of the traditional Sunday. Sunday will consist of screenings too late for the brochure. There will also be repeat screenings of films that sold well during the week, as well as screenings of the best of the shorts, at the Cork Opera House. (The other venues are Triskel Christchurch, and the Gate Cinema on North Main Street.)

The closing film is Kill Your Darlings, directed by John Krokidas. It’s a new drama about beat poets, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, when they were young. “Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg. He’s amazing. It’s a really good film.”

The festival is renowned for short films. Mullighan is continuing this tradition. “I’m respecting it, but also altering it. There will be shorts screened every day, with an Irish short screened in front of each feature film.

“There will be a sub-genre, called shorts@corkfilmfestival, consisting of 27 events. Sixteen of these events are programmes of short films (including two programmes in the made-in-Cork category.) The rest of the events will consist of parties, opening-night receptions, a meet- the-sales-agents event and a new initiative, which I’m doing in partnership with London’s East End Film Festival. It’s a three-hour, conference-style event, which will explore the interception of technology in film, looking at the opportunities that the web affords filmmakers.”

Retrospectives will include the work of London-based animator and filmmaker, Chris Shepherd, and the work of Nic Roeg. One of Roeg’s early films, from 1971, Walkabout, will be screened. Filmed in Australia, it’s about a school girl and her young brother, who, stranded in the outback, team up with an Aboriginal youth.

Mullighan is introducing an ‘ideas’ strand to the festival. It is called ‘rich pickings’. “I believe that movies can change the way we think. Often times, during the festival, I want films to inspire discussion and even argument.”

‘Rich pickings’ is a film-and-discussion event. It will include films about the Occupy protest movement (99%) and the pathologising of mental illness (Battle for the Brain).

Canadian documentary maker, John Kastner, will attend the festival with his factual film, Not Criminally Responsible. “It’s a documentary about a chap who has obsessive-compulsive disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. The voices in his head tell him to go into a mall and stab a pretty girl.”

What is astonishing about this documentary, set in Canada, is how the perpetrator of the stabbing, who was deemed not criminally responsible, wins the hearts of the audience, despite being a hate figure after injuring the girl. Kessner has filmed the treatment that the man underwent.

Mullighan is a big fan of Mexican cinema. Six recent Mexican films, a mix of narrative features, documentary features and a couple of shorts, will be screened. “One of them, Heli, won the best director prize at Cannes this year.” The director is Amat Escalante.

The first original screenplay by novelist, Cormac McCarthy, will also be screened. Entitled The Counsellor, it stars Michael Fassbander.

The festival had 1,000 submissions this year, which is much less than in previous years. Mullighan says this is because he imposed a submission fee on entries.

He justifies this by saying that watching and selecting the films is labour-intensive. Some of the money will be used to endow the prizes for short films with cash.

Inevitably, some filmmakers are submitting their work to the new IndieCork film festival, as well. Mullighan says there may be some crossover with IndieCork. “The more opportunities for the Cork film-loving public to see films of quality, the better.”

* The Cork Film Festival runs from Nov 9 -17; www.corkfilmfest.org

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