Extra Ordinary talent at Galway Film Fleadh: A list of highlights

The annual showcase event for Irish cinema again offered some real gems, writes

Extra Ordinary talent at Galway Film Fleadh: A list of highlights

The annual showcase event for Irish cinema again offered some real gems, writes Esther McCarthy.

The Galway Film Fleadh, which selected upcoming Irish comedy Extra Ordinary as best Irish film at the weekend, is widely regarded as a major launchpad for domestic cinema.

A good showing at Galway can launch careers — recent films that have debuted at the Town Hall Theatre and gone on to enjoy international success include The Young Offenders and Michael Inside. The market festival also draws a strong international programme.

Here are some of the talking points from this year’s Fleadh:

Feelgood movie

Blinded by the Light is the feel-good movie of the summer. Gurinder Chadha’s Bruce Springsteen- inspired movie, presented by the filmmaker, had audiences on their feet and with good reason.

It’s an utter joy from the director of Bend it Like Beckham, a love letter to The Boss and a call for inclusion in a world gone mad.

Chadha’s film, written in the months following the Brexit referendum, tells of a Pakistani boy inspired by Bruce to pursue his career as a writer, much to the ire of his strict immigrant father.

Set in 1987, it all plays out to some of Bruce’s most-loved hits.

Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat in Animals.
Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat in Animals.

Female friendship

Animals is a comedy drama about the feistiest of female friendships. Having its European premiere at the Fleadh, Sophie’s Hyde’s movie is generating a great deal of noise in advance of its cinema release.

An Irish/British/Australian co-production shot on location in Dublin last year, it centres on close friends Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat), two friends who have spent recent years partying hard in the city. When one of them embarks on a serious relationship, their friendship is threatened.

It’s spiky, sexually charged and far less conventional than the female-driven movies we’re used to seeing.

DADDY dearest

Extra Ordinary heralds the arrival of some serious new talents in Irish cinema. Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, collectively known as music video and commercial creatives D.A.D.D.Y, have given us something truly fresh and unique with their debut feature.

The movie was awarded best Irish feature at this year’s Fleadh. Set in Ireland and milking our offbeat sense of humour, it tells the story of a reluctant psychic who gets signals from the spirit world via the likes of haunted wheelie bins and ghostly toasters.

Cobh comedian Maeve Higgins channels all the wilful strangeness with a delightfully deadpan performance. It’ll be released in cinemas here in August.

Will Forte and Maeve Higgins in Extra Ordinary.
Will Forte and Maeve Higgins in Extra Ordinary.

New talent

Plenty of new Irish talent emerged at the Fleadh. Young Irish actor Lola Petticrew won the festival’s Bingham Ray new talent award for her role in the critically well received A Bump Along the Way.

The movie, which also won Best Irish First Feature, stars Bronagh Gallagher as a fun- loving single mother who becomes pregnant at the age of 44 following a one-night stand.

This causes conflict with her straight-laced teenage daughter (Petticrew), who disapproves of her mother’s ways.

Filmed on location in Derry, the movie has already been picked up for distribution by top Irish film company Element Pictures and will be released in cinemas at the end of August.

Strong documentaries

It’s looking like a strong year for new Irish documentaries. The Fleadh had a busy programme of Irish documentary features this year, including Paul Duane’s Best Before Death, a portrait of the musician/artist Bill Drummond, and Ciaran Cassidy’s Jihad Jane, the extraordinary story of an American female terrorist cell with Waterford connections. Irish produced documentary A Dog Called Money, a collaboration between musician PJ Harvey and award-winning photographer Seamus Murphy, also screened in Galway.

In a competitive field, Breaking Out, the story of Cork singer and musician Fergus O’Farrell, scooped the best Irish documentary award. Michael McCormack’s film is drawing positive early word of mouth for its tale of O’Farrell, who suffered from muscular dystrophy but was determined to complete the album he had been working on for two decades.

Gender quota

Gender equality is high on the agenda. This year’s festival, which included 95 domestic and international feature films, consisted of 40% of features by female filmmakers.

They included Sophie Hyde’s Irish-set story of two hedonistic female friends, Animals; French actress Sandrine Dumas’ directorial debut, Sing Me Back Home, which opened the festival; and Mary McGuckian’s drama, A Girl From Mogadishu.

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