Speaking to a packed crowd at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway on Tuesday evening, Director of Programming Gar O’ Brien revealed the full line-up for the 29th Galway Film Fleadh, comprised of over 80 features, including 16 World Premieres. The Fleadh also includes a robust short film line-up of almost 100 Irish shorts, as well as event screenings, panel discussions, masterclasses and more.
Between being both a UNESCO City of Film and the destined European Capital of Culture in 2020, we felt more pressure than ever to deliver a programme to satisfy the cineaste audiences in Galway but I think we’ve put together something for everyone across the six days.
Gar O’ Brien, Director of Programming – Galway Film Fleadh
O’ Brien is playing one of his personal favourites, Southland Tales, at this year’s festival and admonishes those of us who incorrectly critically maligned it the first time around. The underseen alt-history satire is playing, along with cult hit Donnie Darko, as writer/director Richard Kelly delivers a screenwriter’s masterclass. Also on hand will be funny-man and frequent Ben Wheatley collaborator, Michael Smiley (Free Fire, The Lobster), to deliver this year’s actors masterclass while director Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) will impart his experience from making his many acclaimed documentaries. Bar-Lev’s latest, Long Strange Trip, a four-hour-long epic on The Grateful Dead, will play as a special event in Monroe’s Live, complete with whiskey tasting and presumably other…accompaniments. Hubbard Casting and Spotlight will also be returning to the Fleadh following the huge success of their unique casting workshop and pop-up casting village which were showcased last year.
Of course the Fleadh is where it all kicks off annually for many new Irish features and the Irish industry doesn’t disappoint. Launching at this year’s Fleadh is Michael Inside, the third feature from director Frank Berry and second collaboration with his young discovery Dafhyd Flynn. The prison drama looks set to be a breakthrough performance for both the social-realist director and the young Mr. Flynn. On Fleadh breakthroughs, Gerard Barrett returns to the Fleadh with his latest feature Limbo, a homeless drama, made in between making his TV3 rural drama Smalltown and selling a corporate espionage series Honey to U.S. network F.X. In addition to the social commentary, the cracking crime caper A Bad Day for the Cut and the high-octane medieval thriller Pilgrimage will both make their Irish premieres after bowing earlier this year at Sundance and Tribeca respectively. These tasty morsels join previously announced quirky buddy movie The Drummer and the Keeper, prison escape movie Maze, and Irish-language period thriller Aithrí (Penance), all making their world premieres at the Fleadh’s feast of film.
There’s a focus on Polish cinema including Agnieszka Holland’s latest Spoor, an eco thriller in the style of a Polish Fargo, but world cinema titles abound with films from over 30 countries stuffed into the Fleadh’s six days. You can’t get much bigger than the Irish premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, starring Irish talents Cillian Murphy and Barry Keoghan, but of course there’s plenty of more arthouse fare, including Irish premieres of God’s Own Country, the feature debut from Yorkshire man Francis Lee, billed as a better, more British Brokeback Mountain and the Fleadh’s closer Return to Montauk, a romantic drama which marks the screenwriting debut of Irish author Colm Toibin and directed by Volker Schlöndorff.
For fans of great documentaries, the festival continues to impress with insightful and topical films like A Cambodian Spring, in which Irish director Chris Kelly exposes the international complicity in the corruption of the Cambodian government; Condemned to Remember, the follow-up film to the acclaimed 2014 doc Close to Evil, featuring Irish holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental embarking on another journey to confront human rights abuses; and In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, a portrait of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, with a post-screening dissection with key contributors including former Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn.