Talking Movies

March 17, 2015

Any Other Business: Part X

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into a tenth portmanteau post on television of course!

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Hurlers on the Ditch Jersey Turnpike

GAA USA, a new four part series, begins on TG4 at 9.30pm tomorrow night. Dara Ó Cinnéide, former All-Ireland winning Kerry captain and award-winning broadcaster, investigates the extraordinary and largely unknown history of Gaelic games in the United States. Produced by Éamonn Ó Cualáin, and directed by Sean Ó Cualáin, the series sees Ó Cinnéide visit NYC’s Gaelic Park & Yankee Stadium, and Milwaukee’s Hurling Club, as well as attend the 2014 North American Championships in Boston. In conversation with Irish people who have made a home for themselves in America, he encounters an enduring love of Gaelic games, and resourcefulness and passion, that since the 1870s, kept the GAA the most important Irish cultural organisation in America, intimately linked to continuing Irish emigration.

 

Episode 1: Go Meiriceá Siar – West to America, (1840-1918)

Dara investigates the earliest reporting of Gaelic games in America and the devastating effect baseball had among the immigrant Irish of the eastern seaboard; discovering compelling evidence of ‘pay for play’ long before the amateur ethos was enforced. In 1888, the newly formed GAA organised an American tour of visitingIrish athletes. A huge surge in interest followed this ‘Irish Invasion Tour’ as record numbers of new clubs were founded in dozens of cities. As the self-help movement became militarised, huge support for Irish independence in America funded and armed the IRB and IRA. And yet, despite huge interest in Irish affairs and the evolution of strong competitions across the country, when America entered WWI thousands of Irish-Americans left to fight Germany, and the playing of Gaelic games virtually ceased.

 

Episode 2: Idir Dhá Shaol- Striving for an Identity, (1918-1945)

The GAA reflected a profound dilemma faced by Irish-Americans driven by the idea of Irish Independence while striving to carve out a new identity in America. The health of the GAA mirrored America’s mood during the Roaring 20s: hopeful, bold, brash, expansionist. In an illustration of the resurgent interest in Gaelic games, the Kerry team played in front of a crowd of 60,000 spectators at Yankee Stadium in 1931. But, even as American newsreels began to notice Gaelic games, reportage was very much coloured by stereotypes of the Catholic Irish prevalent at the time; which had been fostered aggressively by the Scots-Irish since the 1840s. Rare 1930s footage demonstrates such racist propaganda: hurling was a brutal ‘thug sport.’ In the early 1930s St Mary’s College in California introduced hurling to its students, only to disband the team under pressure from the local baseball league. The Great Depression and WWII crippled the American GAA. To stand any chance of revival an unprecedented sporting spectacle was required.

 

Episode 3: An Ré Órga – The Golden Age (1945 -1980s)

In 1947, the All-Ireland final was staged at the Polo Grounds in New York. This unlikely event gave the GAA in America a much needed shot in the arm. The Polo Grounds are long gone, but Dara locates the only remaining part of the historic arena, a small stairway that once overlooked the stadium. The 1947 All-Ireland final coincided with a reopening of the floodgates at Ellis Island, and the consequent dawn of a golden age of Gaelic games in America. Never-before-seen colour footage of matches from the Polo Grounds show crowds in excess of 25,000 cheering their teams, as well as visiting teams (including legendary Cork hurler Christy Ring).This success was matched by increasing political influence. But this couldn’t prevent strict new immigration laws in the mid-1960s.

 

Episode 4: An Chéad Ghlúin Eile – The Next Generation

After the 1960s, in response to tighter immigration laws and a reluctance among the children of Irish immigrants to get involved, American clubs looked to Ireland; importing players, paying them to play for entire summers. The wealthiest clubs got the best players and the most championship wins. In recent years it’s estimated American clubs raised in excess of $100,000 to win local championships. By the late 1990s, it was clear that change was needed. All across America, ordinary members of the GAA made a concerted effort to focus on youth development, spending money on the development and training of American-born children. This, he discovers, is where the real future of the GAA in America lies. And on the evidence he finds, that future looks bright.

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They call it award-winning Celtic Noir now

The feature film version of An Bronntanas is enjoying a strong run at international festivals, and recently received the Jury’s Special Award at the Boston Irish Film Festival. An Bronntanas started life as a TG4 series, noted hereabouts in a piece about Celtic Noir a few months back. A contemporary thriller set on the coast of Connemara, it found a lifeboat crew responding to a distress call on a stormy night only to discover a fishing boat with a dead passenger and a cargo of over a million Euros worth of drugs, tempting them to leave the body and sell the drugs… Directed by Tom Collins (Kings), with Cian de Buitléar as DoP, and produced by Ciarán Ó Cofaigh of ROSG (Cré na Cille) and Tom Collins, it starred Dara Devaney (Na Cloigne), Owen McDonnell (Single Handed), Michelle Beamish (Crisis Eile), Charlotte Bradley, Janusz Sheagall, and, in a previously hailed stroke of casting genius, the unexpected Gaeilgeoir John Finn (Cold Case). The TV show was re-edited into a feature film, which has recently screened in Barbados and Washington, and will soon be screening in Boston, Chicago, and Rome. Producer Ciarán Ó Cofaigh says:

“We were very proud of the success of the series when it was broadcast recently on TG4, but it’s apparent that the film version has its own legs.  The production of An Bronntanas was an enormous challenge and we believe we have achieved this production to a high international standard.  Winning this award in Boston and the film’s selection for many other festivals will further promote the film and the Irish language.” With Hinterland and An Bronntanas winning acclaim Celtic Noir is definitely an award-winning thing. We just need a dark thriller series from Brittany now to make things complete.

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“I do not believe that’s how psychos behave” (with apologies to Dr Seuss)

Complaining about The Blacklist’s many shortcomings, or even attempting to catalogue its pilfering from other shows and movies, is apparently a futile gesture. But I have to say something about its pilfering from Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. Peter Stormare’s introduction as super-villain Berlin at the end of season 1 was somewhat compromised by the fact that someone like Peter Stormare is not going to guest star and be anyone other than Berlin, try the script ever so hard to convince you otherwise with various feints. But the revelation of his identity; disguised by his appearance at a hospital with an amputated hand as a victim of Berlin, and the “lexical ambiguity” of the witnesses as to what happened between the prisoner and the guard as the plane crashed – “He cut off his hand”; screamed Hannibal Lecter cutting off his own hand at the end of Hannibal in order to escape from Clarice Starling’s handcuffs. But… while Hannibal’s actions were just about plausible (if not very likely) given his observance of etiquette towards Clarice (she could after all have an amputated hand reattached when the emergency services arrive), it just becomes farcical when Berlin cuts off his own hand instead of cutting off the guard’s hand and making a break into a crowded city from the downed plane. As always The Blacklist favours blindly following previous exemplars rather than think anything out for itself, but by following Hannibal’s lead here it seems to suggest that psychopaths are defined by masochism and an ability to endure self-mutilation for the sake of their freedom. Whereas you’d imagine psychopaths, on the whole, would skew more towards sadism and an ability to casually sacrifice other people’s body parts to ensure their freedom…

September 7, 2014

Sky Road TV & Film Festival

The inaugural Sky Road TV & Film Festival drew to a close today, following a weekend of screenings of Irish TV and film-making talent across features, shorts, documentaries and new media in both English and Irish languages, at The Station House Theatre in Clifden Co. Galway. Highlights on Sunday included a screening of The Field, with special guest Jim Sheridan, 25 years after it was first filmed in the locality and the world premiere of Tommy: To Tell You The Truth with comedian Tommy Tiernan in attendance.

Sky-Road

The festival brought unexpected stories to audiences throughout the three days, both entertaining and thought-provoking from a broad range of emerging and established filmmakers, all of whom were in the running for the Festival awards which were announced following the closing film.

“It’s been an exhilarating and exciting first festival” said Eamonn O Cualain, Festival Chairman. “The quality and quantity of submissions for our first programme enabled us to deliver what we hope has been a unique festival experience. The support and positive feedback has been overwhelming from both the film industry and our audiences. The local goodwill and enthusiasm has been particularly reassuring and encouraging.”

There were nine awards in association with industry organisations TG4, RTE, BAI and the Irish Film Board. The judging panel included a range of figures from the Irish film Industry including Jim Sheridan, Bob Quinn, Ross Whitaker, Martha O’Neill, Paddy Hayes, Jill Beardsworth, Barbara McCann, Loretta Ni Ghabhain and film journalists Daniel Anderson, Tara Brady, Gavin Burke, Donald Clarke, Brogen Hayes and Nicola Timmins.

The winners were:

Best Short Film in association with The Irish Film Board 

Winner: The Abandoning

A film about the memory of a house where the past and present are not separate places

Director: Vanessa Gildea. Producer: Se Merry Doyle

 

Best Short Film, First Time Director in association with The Irish Film Board 

Winner: The Swing

A coming of age story about two young brothers who find themselves in a perilous situation that kicks up memories of their past

Director: Damien Dunne. Producer: Nora Windeck

 

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Best Feature Film

Winner: A Nightingale Falling

Set in Ireland during The war of Independence, two sisters’ lives are changed forever as they care for a wounded soldier in their home.

Director: Garret Daly/Martina McGlynn. Producer: Martina McGlynn, Gerry Burke, Garret Daly, PJ Curtis

 

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Best Feature Documentary in association with TG4

Winner: John Sheahan – A Dubliner

A revealing and beautifully made portrait of a man who was an integral part of the national institution that is The Dubliners.

Director: Maurice Sweeney. Producer: Liam McGrath/Ceoladh Sheahan

 

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Best Short Documentary in association with RTE

Winner: Seamus Heaney – Iarscribhinn – Imeall

This special edition of Imeall celebrates the life and poetry of Seamus Heaney as we visit the farmlands of Bellaghy, Co. Derry that inspired so many of his poems.

Director: Paschal Cassidy. Producer: Maggie Breathnach

 

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Best Documentary Series in association with BAI

Winner: Ceolchuairt Iamaice

Belfast troubadour Gearoid Mac Lochlainn embarks on a reggae pilgrimage to Jamaica to see if the message of one love that crossed sectarian boundaries in his teenage years in Belfast is still alive in 
Jamaica.

Director: Paddy Hayes. Producer: Laura Ni­ Cheallaigh

 

Best 3 minute short, New Media, filmed on a mobile or smart device

Winner: Turnaround for Little Terns

A news report for RTE which was filmed on an iphone 5S. Wicklow farmer Michael Keegan is hoping to restore the tractor which helped his grandfather win the 1964 World Ploughing Championship.

Director: Philip Bromwell

 

Best 1 minute short, New Media, filmed on a mobile or smart device

Winner: iday

One minute video concentrating on energy and power

Director/producer: Ivor Carroll

 

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The Spirit of the Festival Award was presented in recognition of a film, television programme or event that encapsulates the spirit of the Sky Road TV & Film Festival each year.

Winner: It Came From Connemara!!

This feature documentary tells the unique story behind Roger Corman’s film factory in Connemara.

Director/Producer: Brian Reddin

 

TG4 Pitch an idea to make a 25 minute documentary worth €25,000

In a unique and exciting opportunity TG4 offered aspiring filmmakers a chance to pitch their ideas to make a 25 minute documentary worth €25,000. Fifteen original pitches were shortlisted from a total of sixty one entries to pitch to commissioning editors on stage at the Festival in either the Irish or English language. Participants travelled from Dublin, Meath, Clare, Cork, Galway and Connemara.

The winner was Barry Ryan, a native of Clifden with ‘Beyond Reach Of Our Pity’. His idea for a short documentary, about a young boy who died in Letterfrack’s industrial school, was inspired by a line of poetry from Paula Meehan.  He will receive an initial €1,000 to develop a detailed written treatment from the synopsis, under the guidance of an experienced TV director. If TG4 considers this treatment of an acceptable standard for production the budget awarded will be €24,000.

 

“The standard was excellent, very clear pitches were delivered with great passion and belief. The range of ideas was truly amazing from highly personal stories to historical concepts to contemporary social commentary, across a broad geographical spread. While we chose ‘Beyond Reach Of Our Pity’ as the pitch winner we will also request a number of participants to submit their ideas for the next TG4 commissioning round on October 6th. All in all a very stimulating and exciting session.”  Proinsias Ni Ghrainne, Commissioning Editor, TG4

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