In a year that has seen major festivals fall like dominos, the launch of an old favourite is welcome news.
Despite stalwarts such as the St Patrick’s Festival and the Cork Jazz Festival delaying and cancelling their offerings for 2020, the IndieCork Festival will be returning next month, both in a new online capacity and physically in cinema theatres.
The festival will run from October 4 to 11 across Cork, with screenings taking place in the Gate Cinema in addition to online.
Festival co-directors Mick Hannigan and Úna Feely said they saw the impact of Covid-19 on festivals and events across the company but they were determined to bring IndieCork back this year.
“Once Covid hit we could see festivals across Europe being cancelled and cinemas shutting their doors but also our festival peers were refiguring their events to go online. We looked at what they were doing and remotely ‘attended’ quite a few festivals and we could see the possibilities. We watched webinars where people were explaining how they have put their festivals online at short notice, and that gave us heart,” Mick said.
“We did our research on various online platforms and found one company that has handled festivals we respect and our sponsors Blacknight - conveniently, a web hosting company - agreed to put up the money for the online element of the festival and as we speak we’re busy putting the online infrastructure in place. It’s all very exciting.
“We’re now in the fortunate position that we can have both physical screenings in the Gate and online screenings also. And the filmmakers are happy with that also.”
Úna said once the world came to terms with Covid-19, they began to reassess the 2020 festival.
“To be really honest, we had no idea for quite a while what could be possible. Like everyone, our concern was about the pandemic itself, how people would cope and what the future might hold,” she said.
“The festival plans didn’t matter in that perspective at that time. But as time went on, we began to see what might work. Throughout the Summer we continued viewing all the entered films and coming up with programme ideas.”
Mick said the festival’s aim is to bring great short films and features to audiences and they are glad it is possible to do so this year, albeit a little differently and with fewer networking opportunities.
“The capacity in the Gate is significantly reduced, yet at least filmmakers will be able to see their work on the big screen - presented as they intended. We’ll lose a certain amount of the festival buzz,” he said.
“There’ll be reduced opportunities for networking and socialising and that’s regrettable. One of the great attractions of festivals for filmmakers is being able to hang out with audience members and with fellow filmmakers and that’s not going to happen this year.
“We had so many young Irish filmmakers in Cork last year and it made the festival so rewarding for us. This year will be different obviously.”
Úna said the social distancing measures in the Gate will provide a safe experience for patrons of the festival while a great range of films and documentaries will be available online.
“There are fifty tickets only available for each show in a very large cinema that can hold three times that, meaning there’s a lot of individual space in the cinema itself,” she said.
“For our online festival, people will be able to see all our short films and many features and documentaries. This is a great option for anyone not ready to go out yet. It’s a very user-friendly site and great value too.
Mick said they are glad to be able to offer online options, particularly for regular patrons who can’t come to Cork this year, and said he believes it’s a feature that will stay in festivals long after coronavirus abates.
“We already know that certain loyal IndieCork patrons will not be attending the physical screenings but that they’re grateful for the opportunity to see the films online. The 2020 event - we’re calling it the 'Special Edition' - is an opportunity to experiment a little with how we conceive of a film festival.
“I think that online screenings are here to stay. As long as we can somehow offer a kind of festival atmosphere. We don’t want to be a streaming service. For us the cinema experience is paramount and for filmmakers to meet their audiences is central to the whole thing but online viewing does offer flexibility and it may enable us to broaden our reach and be a truly international festival - with audiences as well as films. We’ll see. Like with Covid itself everything is in flux, we’re learning new things every day and while concerned about cinemas we're positive about the future.”
Úna said she is excited about their online offerings this year for fans unable to visit the cinema.
“Our online partner in this venture is Blacknight Solutions, the Irish web hosting company, who have sponsored IndieCork for the past four years. Their support is really making the online festival possible, and it’s very exciting seeing that come together,” she said.
“We hope people will be pleasantly surprised. Of course, we also hope that people are ready to come out to the cinema, and catch a glimpse of each other and enjoy the big screen experience. The reaction has been great so far, with so many arts events on hold around the country, to have a fully-fledged festival happening has really cheered people up.”
The festival will open with a feature debut by award-winning director, Damian MacCarthy, a graduate of St John’s College. Caveat is a thriller set mainly in an isolated house on a remote island and much of the shooting took place around Co Cork.
“I’d made a number of short horror films that had done well on the festival circuit so was curious to see if I could make something that would hold an audience's attention for 90 minutes, but remain in the same vein as my short films; stories told with little to no dialogue, that relied more on suspense than violence and gore,” said Damian.
“A great reward for any horror filmmaker is the sound of nervous laughter from an audience watching their film. It’s something I had experienced many times at film festivals with my short films so wanted to see if I could get that response with a feature.”
The opening night film of IndieCork Festival takes place on Sunday, October 4 at 8.30pm in the Gate Cinema with the world premiere of Caveat by Damian McCarthy. Tickets are now on sale here.