The Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival is now entering its seventh year. Given the fact that it’s located in such a far-flung and cinema-less destination as Schull, it’s quite an achievement that it exists at all.
Yet this festival has more than punched above its weight for the last six years of its existence, pulling in some of the most interesting and sought-after personalities in the world of cinema.
This year, British actor/comedian Steve Coogan will be back again, as will his director on Philomena, Stephen Frears.
So how does such a short film festival in a tiny place manage to walk so tall?
Part of its secret stems from the fact that a lot of big hitters in the spheres of art and entertainment have ended up buying property and/or settling in West Cork, as event PRO Hilary McCarthy explains.
“Some of our committee members are involved in the film industry and have great contacts,” she says.
“When we approach guests, most are fascinated by the fact that we manage to run a film festival without a cinema. The guests who come to Schull find it impossible not to want to return again and again — Schull has that effect on people. The whole atmosphere is very relaxed with renowned international film experts on stage one minute and sharing a Corona with you the next minute in one of our local pubs.”
Another secret of its success is the inventive approach that the committee has towards different ways of presenting films to the public. Any visitors to Schull can watch all 160 selected short films for free on their laptops or portable devices anywhere in the village, for example.
“Each year we try to come up with some novel ideas,” says McCarthy. “We have had a cinema on a bus, in a horse box, a cycle cinema run on pedal power, a cinema in an army tent and a micro-cinema; the world’s smallest cinema.
“So this year we had a few brain-storming sessions and came up with a list of mad ideas and eventually reduced it to the ones we could actually make happen.”
A new one for this year is the Lido Cinema; a relaxing cinematic experience where one can “take a short break from the festival hustle and bustle, rest on one of the colourful beanbags scattered around the floor and enjoy a selection of animated shorts, projected up onto the ceiling”.
The festival also claims to have the world’s most isolated cinema. It’s a 10-minute ferry ride from Schull Harbour to Long Island; where short films will be showing on Saturday and Sunday.
It sounds like the arrival of a cinema in Schull might just spoil the whole fun, but the vision of the festival committee is to “promote, encourage, educate and develop the talents of young promising and established short film-makers”, according to McCarthy, who adds that their dream is to build a film centre in Schull; a creative centre with its own auditorium. A dream it may be, but so far, it looks like they’re on the right path.