The 2017 Sundance Film Festival has announced a number of films that will play in its competition sections, including those in the U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic and World Documentary categories. Of most note to Irish readers is the inclusion of Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s In Loco Parentis and Frankie Fenton’s It’s Not Yet Dark in the last of these 4 categories.
Commenting the new news James Hickey, Chief Executive Bord Scannan na hEireann/the Irish Film Board said
As the largest independent film festival in the US, the Sundance Film Festival provides an important and powerful platform for both Irish films It’s Not Yet Dark and In Loco Parentis to achieve global recognition. Ireland has had a very successful experience at the festival over the years with films such as ‘Brooklyn’, ‘The Guard’ and ‘Calvary’ all having had World Premieres here. The importance of being selected for major festivals such as Sundance cannot be underestimated in terms of ensuring wide international audiences for the films. Both films were chosen from thousands of international films and we are very proud of the teams behind each project.
In Loco Parentis tells the story of Headfort, the last remaining boarding school for primary age children in Ireland. Directed by Ní Chianáin with co-direction for David Rane and set on a sprawling estate in Kells, Co. Meath, the documentary melds two seemingly incongruent worlds as the ultra-modern teaching of Headfort’s brilliant staff is set against the 18th century backdrop of the school’s grand reception rooms, long corridors and secret doors. The idyllic surroundings provide a space where teachers become mentors and surrogate parents as they usher the young pupils through their last days of childhood. In Loco Parentis is produced by Soilsíu and financed by the Irish Film Board, the Broadcast Authority of Ireland, RTÉ, TVE, and Creative Europe.
Reacting to the Sundance Film Festival announcement, In Loco Parentis director, Neasa Ní Chianáín, described it as incredible news.
We are so delighted to be invited. When we got the call from the Sundance Film Festival programmers, we couldn’t believe it. They said that ‘the world needs a life-affirming film like this at the moment,’. Our audiences in Amsterdam laughed and cried through our film, and we are so looking forward to showing it to an American audience at the Sundance Film Festival next. It is a great opportunity to get our small film about these remarkable teachers in this amazing school out to a wider audience.
In Loco Parentis received its world premiere at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) this November, where it also became the first Irish film to be selected to compete in the coveted IDFA Competition for Feature-Length Documentary.
It’s Not Yet Dark is the story Simon Fitzmaurice, a talented Irish filmmaker who is living with motor neurone disease. He was diagnosed at the age of 34, after his short film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. His wife was expecting their third child and they were left shocked and reeling. Simon refused to give up and started to work on the script for a feature film, My Name is Emily. Now, five years later, the father of five children, he is completely physically incapacitated. The film is narrated by Colin Farrell, using extracts from Simon’s best-selling memoir. It sees the audience follow Simon as he embarks on the direction of his first feature film through the use of the last physical attribute he has control over – his eyes. It’s Not Yet Dark is produced by Kathryn Kennedy for Kennedy Films and Lesley McKimm of Newgrange Pictures, it was captured by Fenton and cinematographer Kate McCullough, with Dermot Diskin editing at Windmill Lane, and support from the Irish Film Board.
Speaking about the Sundance selection, director Frankie Fenton said:
It’s the highest honour to have our film invited to screen at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re all smiling with the news. It means so much to our small team to know that we are bringing Simon and Ruth’s inspirational story to Utah audiences.
For the 2017 festival, 113 feature-length films were selected, representing 31 countries and 36 first-time filmmakers, including 19 in competition. These films were selected from 13,782 submissions including 4,068 feature-length films and 8,985 short films. Of the feature film submissions, 2,005 were from the U.S. and 2,063 were international. Ninety-five feature films at the festival will be world premieres. In 2016, the Festival drew 46,600 attendees, generated $143.3 million in economic activity for the state of Utah, and supported 1,400 local jobs.
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19th to 29th in Park City, Utah.