A busy time for Cork film fests

THE director of Cork’s Underground Film Festival, Darren O’Mahony, says that while film-makers are delighted that there are three film festivals in Cork — not including the French Film Festival and the Fastnet Short Film Festival in Schull — it’s a lot of competition for limited funding sources.

He adds that audiences will eventually see the same films “coming round again and they’ll tire of that”. He hopes that people running festivals in Cork city would sit down together and timetable their events so that they don’t clash or take place too close to each other.

“Our festival is in August, Indie Cork is in October and the Cork Film Festival is in November. You have the Fastnet Short Film Festival earlier in the summer and the French Film Festival in the spring. A lot of other events clash. It would be good if a schedule was worked out.”

Nevertheless, the low-budget Underground Film Festival, now in its fifth year, is growing all the time. This year, it had 300 submissions, double that of last year. The festival will screen 122 films, including 18 films in the ‘Made in Cork’ category. Entries came in from 35 countries, including Colombia, Iran and Russia.

“Word of our festival is getting out. We have a good online presence and also, there are more films being made this year. There are definitely more Irish films this year. We’ll be showing the locally made film Dead Dogs, directed by Ian Ruby, which won a couple of awards at festivals recently. Our international programme includes a murder mystery, Nick, the first film to come out of the tiny principality of Andorra.”

For the first three years of the festival, only short films were shown. “Last year, we introduced classic movies and this year, for the first time, there will be two competitions, for Irish films and international films. We have a range of judges including film reviewers and two film makers from the US; Pierre Stefanos and Lisa Palencia.”

The Underground Film Festival doesn’t have a policy of insisting on screening premieres. “I think Cork is too small for that. It just causes issues. A few of our films will have been screened previously at other festivals but we’re showing a lot of new stuff as well,” O’Mahony says.

The festival, which takes place at Camden Palace Hotel and the Cork Vision Centre, is this year introducing the ‘Inspire Awards’. Taking place at the Clarion Hotel, the awards night will celebrate the careers of established Irish film-makers and actors. Receiving gongs will be Ifta-winning writer/director Terry McMahon (Patrick’s Day) and LA-based actor Victoria Smurfit (The Beach, Dracula, Once Upon a Time.)

“Everyone thinks of Jim Sheridan and the really big names but there are an awful lot of career actors and directors who have been around for just as long, working steadily. They have often reached a high level but for some reason, they’ve never been given the credit due to them.

Underground Film Festival, Aug 22-29. www.undergroundshortfilmfestival.com  .


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