Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Short Films from the 2002 Irish Reels Film & Video Festival…

Catch Yourself On is a phrase that one might hear in Ireland. We hear it, to ironic effect, in this animated allegory about unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland, as represented by two fathers and two sons. (Seen 7 March 2002)

Coolockland must be the Irish for “Chinatown,” since that is one of the (very) many apparent sources of inspiration for this hard-boiled detective yarn. The denizens of this demimonde, strangely, include a host of icons of the literary, religious and pop variety. (Seen 7 March 2002)

If These Walls Could Speak, they wouldn’t have to. The people painting the walls do plenty of speaking on their own. This 35-minute documentary by German filmmaker Nancy du Pleissis on gable mural artists in Belfast is a rarity. It actually gives equal time to both loyalists and nationalists. Unfortunately for the loyalists, they are not nearly so good at spin as the nationalists. Still, the final sequence on the next generation of mural artists gives hope that two traditions might someday, somehow merge. (Seen 7 March 2002)

Cáca Milis is Irish for “sweet cake,” but there is nothing sweet about this little tale of two strangers who meet on a train. We have no idea exactly what is going to happen until the very end, and your reaction will probably say a lot about what kind of person you are. Two prominent Irish actors, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Bradley (About Adam), speak Irish. (Seen 10 February 2002)

Clare Sa Spiér (Clare in the Air) gives us another prominent Irish actor speaking Irish. After the total bastard of a husband and father he played in the grim Roddy Doyle drama Family, it’s nice to see Sean McGinley playing, if not an ideal husband, then at least one that can learn to change. This is a domestic comedy that will definitely leave a smile on your face. (Seen 10 February 2002)

Dillusc presents us with another high concept I never expected to see: Fungi the dolphin (an icon of Dingle, County Kerry) meets Our Lady of Knock. At least that’s the best way I can think of to describe this strange tale of pilgrims on a boat looking for healing. I’m not sure exactly what the film is trying to say, but it does have one or two nice moments. (Seen 9 February 2002)

Do Armed Robbers Have Love Affairs? features our friend Sean McGinley again, this time speaking English. There is something a bit haunting about this brief tale of a pair about to pull off a robbery. It reminds one a bit of the final scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. (Seen 9 February 2002)

Doing Really Well has a title that is most definitely ironic. Rupert Proctor delivers a four-minute monologue that has to be seen to be believed, evoking both humor and pathos in generous amounts. (Seen 3 February 2002)

Fifty Percent Grey puts the physical into metaphysical. This Academy Award-nominated bit of animation sums it all up with a three-minute musing on firearms, the afterlife and television. (Seen 3 February 2002)

Give Up Yer Aul Sins has entertaining animation, but the film is really about the soundtrack from the 1960s in which an actual Dublin school girl recounts the story of John the Baptist in her own unique way. This is one of two Irish animated short films nominated for an Academy Award this year. (Seen 21 January 2002)

Life in the Fast Lane is entertaining like a good episode of Friends, but with a definite Dublin twist. The filmmaker is Orla Walsh, who previously gave us the very funny Blessed Fruit. This film isn’t as clever as that one, but it’s still worth a look. The theme, again, is 30ish female experimentation and guilt. (Seen 9 February 2002)

Limbo is a film that is so clearly personal and heartfelt that we are uncomfortable watching it. Adding to the discomfort is the filmmaker’s attempt to draw some sort of equivalence between people who went missing during The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the Catholic Church’s old policies regarding babies who died without being baptized. (Seen 10 February 2002)

Naked in Cuba is a portrait of the painter Ramie Leahy. Director Kevin Hughes gives Leahy plenty of opportunity to expound on his motivations and techniques, which is of mild interest at best. If only he could have found a way to make that aspect of the film even half as interesting as the incidental footage of Cuba, with all its color and music and energy. (Seen 9 February 2002)

Tubberware sounds like something your neighbor tries to sell you at a party in her living room. And that’s actually sort of the idea. The name Tubberware is one of several successive anglicizations of the Irish for “well of the west,” a spot in the Gaeltacht that endures serial visitations from outsiders and tourists, each bringing more commercialization and cultural pollution. In all, a darkly cynical view of Ireland’s west. (Seen 20 February 2002)

Zulu 9 packs quite a whallop for a 12-minute film. Director Alan Gilsenan generates as much excitement and suspense as any Hollywood feature, but with a minimum of exposition. The ending is devastating and extremely topical these days in Ireland. All you need to know is: the audio book playing on the soundtrack is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and “Zulu 9” is a police emergency code. (Seen 3 February 2002)