The schedule of films for this year's Craic Festival of Irish music and movies is set, and it looks like another great opportunity to see a wide range of much-discussed Irish films. The festival will be held March 11 - 14 in Manhattan, and features new, established and experimental Irish films as well as music. Included in this year's Craic lineup is the Cannes Film Festival winner "Hunger" directed by Steve McQueen and starring Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender. The movie explores the hunger strikes which turned men like Bobby Sands into international icons. Also on the Craic bill are "5 Minutes from Heaven" starring Liam Neeson, "Hippie Hippie Shake" starring Cillian Murphy and "32A" starring Aidan Quinn. Perhaps the most provocative film on the bill will be a documentary about Gabriel Byrne, in which the famously private star opens up about many of his demons. The documentary was shown at the Galway Film Fleadh in the summer of 2007 and is now making the rounds on Irish TV and at festivals. Byrne reveals, for example, that he struggles with a serious drinking problem related to depression. No wonder Byrne earned raves as James Tyrone on Broadway in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten." The documentary also features Byrne's ex-wife Ellen Barkin caring for their children. "I don't miss drinking now at all," Byrne says. "But it did lead me to a place where, had I not pulled back, it would have led to an early grave. I was a periodic drinker. I could go off it for weeks at a time, but I could go to a hotel room and be there for three or four days with the curtains closed and the phone off the hook." The Craic Fest is not just about movies. The music series coincides with the South by Southwest Music Festival in Texas. Performers such as Paddy Casey, Gemma Hayes, Foy Vance, Fight Like Apes and Screaming Orphans will hit the stage at New York's Mercury Lounge before heading south. There will also be a free Kids Fleadh on Saturday afternoon March 14th.
USS Michael Murphy, named after Irish American Navy SEAL hero, heading toward Korea