Sun and the stars shine at Fastnet festival in Schull

Good films and a great atmosphere contributed to another success in Schull, writes Ellie O’Byrne

Sun and the stars shine at Fastnet festival in Schull

THE sun was out and so were the stars at the eighth Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival at the weekend in Schull, Co Cork.

Irish filmmakers and actors flock to Schull for the film festival in the town with no cinema, which makes canny use of a localised intranet to allow the entire programme to be watched from devices anywhere in the village; “Our Village is our Screen” is the festival slogan.

Schull’s scenic setting provides a glorious backdrop for a friendly and relaxed festival that’s as much about the craft of film-making as it is about the films themselves.

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“It’s a filmmaker’s festival really,” says Hilary McCarthy of the festival’s organising committee. All the film-makers come down to network and go to the workshops and have fun.”

“I absolutely love it here,” Jim Sheridan said. He was sitting on the wall outside the shop on Main St, laughing and joking with screenwriter Carmel Winters and Eilish O’Carroll.

O’Carroll, Brendan O’Carroll’s sister who also plays Winnie McGoogan on Mrs Brown’s Boys, lives in Skibbereen and makes a point of coming down to Schull if she’s not off shooting when the festival is on.

This year, a workshop by casting director Maureen Hughes and Pat Kiernan, the founder of Corcadorca, proved very popular with actors, who could shoot a short sequence on film and get feedback from Hughes and Kiernan.

“When we advertised it, it sold out within two hours,” Hilary McCarthy said. “I’d say we could have sold it out three times over.”

The festival emphasises education, with workshops covering technical aspects of film-making, a programme of films by local transition year students and also a programme from the students of UCC’s BA in Film and Media Studies.

The village hall was full for Lenny Abrahamson’s interview with Gerry Stembridge. Abrahamson, whose directorial credits include Adam and Paul, Garage and, most recently, Frank, starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal, was astute and funny, dishing out advice and anecdotes for an audience of locals and young film-makers.

US singer-songwriter Maria McKee’s work has been associated with movie soundtracks since her 1990 hit ‘Show me Heaven’ appeared in Days of Thunder, and she also recorded an original song for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

She was in Schull for the screening of The Ocean of Helena Lee, a low-budget coming-of-age movie she co-produced with her husband Sam Akin. “It’s a beautiful place for a festival. It’s just idyllic here,” McKee said.

Kevin De La Isla O’Neill was delighted with the response to the screening of his feature length film, The Hit Producer.

“It’s one of those hidden gems that’s slowly being discovered,” he said of the festival. O’Neill’s film won eight awards at La Jolla Indie Film Festival last year and picked up best first feature at Houston film festival in Texas two weeks ago.

He was particularly impressed by some of the international shorts on the programme.

“Just to see this type of creativity coming in is really good; I just don’t know how you could judge the competition side of it.It’s nice if you win something but here it’s not about that.”

Talk of the referendum dominated conversation and as Friday’s speculation gave way to Saturday night’s result, there were many who partied all the harder for it; pubs were packed to the brim.

Sunday saw the village hall packed out for the closing ceremony, where An Der Tür, a three-minute German film by Miriam Bliese, picked up best of festival, as well as awards for best drama and best director.

Best Irish short film went to John Kennedy and Ruairi O’Brien for their drama, Cutting Grass, which also won the award for best cinematography.

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