Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Raining movies

It was great weather for watching movies. Which is to say it wasn’t great weather.

One of the drawbacks of going to a film festival in July is that you might feel guilty spending long hours indoors instead of being out in the fine summer weather. That can especially be a problem in Ireland where fine weather is all too often in short supply—sometimes even in summer.

Well, that hasn’t been a problem this summer—at least lately. If the coats and jumpers were ever put away, they’ve been pulled back out again and the fireplace is getting nearly as much use as the rest of year. So there was no guilt last week about sitting indoors for the Galway Film Fleadh. The only issue was how to avoid getting drenched while walking (or running) to and from the Town Hall Theatre.

At least this year we didn’t have the problem of dashing between the IMC cinemas (formerly the Omniplex) and the Town Hall. The multiplex was not among the venues this year. I’m not sure exactly why that was, but as a result (or was it the cause?) the list of films shown this year was somewhat shorter. This does not really matter since there were still way more screenings than I could ever hope to attend, but the end result I suppose was that there were fewer choices. Notably, there were perhaps fewer American indy flicks and features from other countries around the world. The usual splendid choices of Irish films, documentaries and programs of short films seemed unaffected.

Frankly, I missed the IMC because, for me, the seats are more comfortable and the atmosphere was always a bit more relaxed than at the Town Hall, which is ground zero for all the buzz and activity. But, on the other hand, there were no mad dashes trying to run between venues during incredibly short gaps between the end of one screening and the beginning of another—and no getting drenched by rain in the process.

For various reasons, once again this year my attendance at the Fleadh was somewhat curtailed. While I have tended to refer to my brief visits at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival as “drive bys,” my participation at the Galway Film Fleadh this time around amounted to more of a walkabout. I attended only one film in the Town Hall’s main hall, the very well crafted 45 Years. That was followed by a screening in the famous Cinemobile of Unexpected. The Cinemobile is an experience that everyone should have at some point in his or her life. A project that was part of millennium festivities a decade and a half ago, it is a cinema on wheels designed to bring films to places too remote to have their own IMC or local movie house. It is much more comfortable than you would expect as is the quality of the viewing experience. Still, it is the only cinema I have been in that sways back and forth as people climb the steps to enter.

The two aforementioned movies were like a breath of fresh air and a reminder of why it is great to go to film festivals. Both are examples of good, honest filmmaking that gets lost in the hype and publicity of Hollywood. And, as it happens, both were showcases for strong female acting talent—the legendary Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and Cobie Smulders and Gail Bean in Unexpected.

This was my first time to see films in the Town Hall’s Studio, and I saw three documentaries there. The best of the lot was An Náisiún (The Nation 1923), which transported the viewer back to the Irish Civil War and explained it forthrightly in a way that seems difficult for a lot of people. The best way to describe the Town Hall Studio is intimate. It is a relatively small space, not unlike being in someone’s living room with a really large TV. Since you have to climb a few stairs to get to it, maybe someone’s loft would be a better comparison. You might not want to see a 1950s style Hollywood widescreen epic there, but it works perfectly fine for documentary fare.

As I’ve indicated, I didn’t see nearly as many movies as I would have liked. For example, I missed the triumphant screening of Song of the Sea, which was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award this past year. Ironically, it seems as though Ireland is the last place to get to see this Irish movie. I also would have liked to see the public Q&A with John C. Reilly on Sunday. But on the positive side, I got to have some very pleasurable company for a couple of the films. That would be my own lovely daughter, who has since abandoned me for three weeks of summertime education in Dublin.

This has definitely whetted my appetite for more film festival going. Maybe I can finally make it back to Cork in the autumn…?

-S.L., 13 July 2015

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