Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

A rock solid film & video festival

I would like to thank the numerous people who have sent inquiries asking how we fared during the 6.8 earthquake in Seattle last week. (Actually, the earthquake was a whole lot closer to Olympia, but since Olympia doesn’t have any television stations with helicopters, the earthquake was deemed to have happened in Seattle.) Anyway, we are fine, but I can’t describe the emotion I felt after all the violent shaking finally stopped and I walked around our place to see objects strewn all over the floor everywhere and every picture hanging crooked on the wall. It was certainly a relief to see that nothing had been disturbed.

Natural disasters in the Pacific Northwest always seem to occur on holidays (e.g. the Columbus Day Storm, the Presidents’ Day Storm), so I suppose this will be known as the Ash Wednesday Earthquake—not to be confused, of course, with the Ash Sunday Mount St. Helens eruption.

The reason for talking about this at all is really to reassure anyone who might have been planning to come to Seattle for the fourth annual Irish Reels Film & Video Festival, which runs from March 7 through March 10. I can affirm that the shaking has completely stopped and it is safe to come. Moreover, all those rowdy Fat Tuesday hooligans have gone home. And all those window-breaking WTO protestors are long gone. And those terrorists who were going to blow up the Space Needle for the millenium, I am almost 100 percent sure that they are in custody somewhere. So, yes, it is definitely safe to come to Seattle and enjoy some tranquil, worry-free film viewing. (Then get the heck out of town before something else happens!) Anyway, it would sure beat going to one of those fancy-shmancy European film festivals and coming back with foot and mouth disease. And the Seattle weather, as I write this, is improbably sunny and warm, unlike other parts of the States, such as the entire East Coast and even California.

Okay, so why am I shamelessly plugging this particular festival? Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I am an unpaid volunteer for Irish Reels and have had some small (actually, very small) part in its planning and execution. So I can assure you that it is well worth attending. You may not like everything you see, but you cannot find any of it uninteresting.

How did I become involved in this thing? Well, two of my friends, Caroline and Fidelma, are the founders and co-directors, and they can be very persuasive. Their avowed mission is to provide a more realistic cinematic vision of modern Ireland than most people in the world usually get.

When I am in Ireland, I am often asked if I have “Irish connections.” My standard answer these days is that I have no Irish ancestors but I do have one Irish descendent. Now, being a clueless Yank, I might not see anything wrong with my little munchkin getting a sense of her Irish heritage through watching such films as the John Wayne/Maureen O’Hara classic The Quiet Man or Walt Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People or the Jeff Bridges/Tommy Lee Jones mad IRA terrorist bomber thriller Blown Away. But Caroline and Fidelma have a different idea. They want to showcase films that give a sense of the real, modern-day Ireland. As they put it, “an Ireland struggling to adapt to modern challenges while remaining firmly rooted in its history” reflected by films which “offer warmth, humor, irreverence, deep emotion, tragedy, and quiet triumph, without relying on clichés and sensationalism.” And, if running an Irish film festival provides the odd opportunity to rub shoulders with hunks like Liam Neeson or Gabriel Byrne, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Liam and Gabe won’t be at the festival this year, but there will be other guests. Documentary filmmaker Fintan Connolly will be presenting his fictional exploration of Dublin’s dark side, Flick. And Northern Ireland’s Dudi Appleton will be offering his offbeat romantic comedy with the irresistible title, The Most Fertile Man in Ireland. And those two films are just the tip of the cinematic iceberg. Whether your bag is feature films, documentaries or short subjects, there is something for everybody.

Even if you can’t make it to Seattle for the festival, you can still feel a certain sense of gratitude that Caroline and Fidelma have worked so hard to make it a reality. If not for them, you would almost certainly have spent the past couple of minutes reading a lame column about earthquake movies.

-S.L., 8 March 2001

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