“What the festival always had going for it, I think, is its time of year. You’re on the brink of another long, cold, damp, miserable winter in Cork, and it really is a very sweet feeling to crawl into a nice warm cave of a picturehouse and let yourself be transported to other worlds. I remember somereally grey and grim weather around the time of the ‘98 or ‘99 festival and going inside to a blast of Iberian colour in the latest Almodóvar (probably All About My Mother, but whatever it was, it blew me away, and we can see now that that was probably his golden period).
“But of course the best memories are from the bars afterwards, in the Opera House or wherever, and the launching of another long and insalubrious night that might end up just about anywhere, not excluding the Bridewell station.”
“I got chatting to Jack Palance on a couple of nights when he was here. He could speak Russian because of his Ukrainian background even though he fought in the Second World War with the American forces. He was a tall, ugly man. If you were to compare him with somebody like James Mason, you had a total contrast. Palance was rough-hewn, tough looking, whereas Mason was suave and very European. Palance was the outdoorsman. You could see him in a gunfight.
“I stood on the dance floor beside him one night in the festival club. We were looking at two German starlets. He looked at the two of them and said, ‘Yeah, she’s pretty good; the other one, she’s voluptuous.’ I was feeling that indicated where his interests lay. And if his interest wasn’t piqued, certainly the local girls’ were. Before ever the phrase was invented, he was a babe magnet.”
“I have a recollection from 1978. There was a lady called Hilary Tindall. She was very popular at the time because she was appearing in a TV series called The Brothers. She came with her father-in-law who was a tall, imposing, very mature man. His name was John Loder. That was a screen name. He had been a movie actor over five decades. While my wife was assigned to look after Hilary Tindall during her period at the festival, I hung around with her father-in-law.
“I casually asked him in conversation had he been to Ireland before. ‘Oh, yes, I have,’ he said. I said: ‘Was it on business or pleasure?’ He said, ‘Well, you could kind of say it was on business. I came here with my father. I met your Mr Pearse.’ I was thinking I didn’t know any Pearse who was involved in the festival but he was talking about Patrick Pearse.
“His father was General Lowe who was the man responsible for suppressing the Easter Rising in Dublin. John Lowe, his son, had been commissioned into the 15th Hussars in 1915. He went to Gallipoli. He came back from Gallipoli in December 1915 and joined up with his father in the Curragh. Then, of course, the rising happened. General Lowe and his men were sent into Dublin to suppress it. His 18-year-old son went with him. If you see the photographs of Patrick Pearse surrendering to two rather tall men, the big lanky one is John Loder, the film actor who I met.”
“Lamb was made when I was about nine years old. I remember that it was shown at the Cork Film Festival in 1986. It was the first film festival I’d been to. I remember it going on in the Cork Opera House and being asked for an autograph, which was hilarious. I’d never been asked for one before. The funny thing is that I’m returning to the festival this year with a short called Children & Animals, which is a mock-doc where I come to a film school as myself, and it has a reference to Lamb in the film. To bring it there will be amazing.”
“My memories of the film festival while I was at UCC was getting to see films that you wouldn’t see otherwise, like Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table and Sweetie, and films from Terence Davies and Derek Jarman. The great thing that Cork has as a home to cinema though is the Opera House. There’s nothing like seeing a film in the company of people at the Opera House. Cork has great film audiences. Film seems to be part of its DNA. A full screening there is quite a special thing. The scale of it; it’s a very big space. It generates a great atmosphere. There’s a great sense of occasion about seeing a film in the Opera House.”
“There was a gang of us in college who were close friends, mainly from UCC and at least one girl from the Crawford. We were quite active in left-wing causes, campaigning on things like the abortion and divorce referendums at the time. Another thing that influenced us was the moving statues in ’85 at Ballinspittle. That was when the country lost the run of itself, drifting into farcical Father Ted territory.
“It was out of that mix in 1988 when we heard there was a protest against the screening of The Last Temptation of Christ. Something clicked in us. You could understand SPUC and the holy-rollers doing their thing, fair enough, but somehow with the film festival and culture, they were coming onto our patch. They were crossing into a cultural space, which they had no business in. The idea of a rosary outside the film festival, on the steps of the Opera House, struck us as particularly ridiculous.
“On the day, we threw together some tongue-in-cheek placards with slogans like ‘Jesus was nailed not screwed’. One of the girls dressed up as Holy Mary with a shawl and a headscarf. We styled ourselves as The Acolytes of Our Lady of Ballinspittle. Rather than attack them, which wouldn’t have been our style, we decided to join the protest. There were about 20 of them, maybe five of us.
“For a brief moment, they were delighted to see these young people coming in. We were marching up and down, chanting. We were demanding things like the revelation of the Third Secret of Fatima, respect for the moving statues and various causes of the day like Archbishop Marcinkus, who had been running the Vatican bank and had been on the run [for alleged money laundering]; The Vatican gave him refuge. We were chanting: ‘Free Archbishop Marcinkus!’. They ended up feeling very uncomfortable and packed up.”