The Craic Fest, the premier Irish film festival in New York, will unveil its second annual Irish Gay and Lesbian Film Festival on Friday, June 24 at the Irish Arts Center.
A one-night festival of exciting new films by Irish gay and lesbian filmmakers based in the New York City, and also featuring award winning short films from Ireland, the program will include a combination of keenly observed documentaries and live action comedy shorts.
“This year we’re excited to be associated with BeLonG To, Ireland’s national organization for LGBT young people,” Craic Fest director Terrence Mulligan tells the Irish Voice. “BeLonG To campaigns against anti-gay bullying and they promote gay rights for teens in Ireland. It seemed right to create an alliance with them because of their work and their own past experience with the Irish Arts Center. So it’s going to be a fun night and anything we can do to raise awareness we will.”
BeLonG To runs a national network of Irish youth groups to provide support to many thousands of young LGBT Irish people every year, especially to support them in rural areas where gay centers are thin on the ground.
Because they know the challenges that young gay Irish people face better than anyone, BeLonG To also consistently makes the most interesting new films about growing up gay in the country.
“Our job is to support LGBT people nationally, but a lot of our work is addressing national policy and attitudes toward them too,” chief executive of BeLonG To Michael Barron tells the Irish Voice.
“Part of what we do is make films about our experiences. In 2010 we produced a series actually called Growing Up Gay in Ireland and it was a huge success, being viewed by one in every eight people in the country.”
Among BeLonG To’s most prominent supporters are Presidents Mary McAleese and Michael D.
iggins, and Irish screen actor Colin Farrell, who paid his own moving and heartfelt tribute to the group last year when he recalled how he felt when he witnessed his gay brother Eamon being bullied at school. The memory of that has made Farrell an unwavering advocate for the group’s cause.
Says Barron, “We’re showing an edited version of Growing Up Gay to give a good overview of what’s going on for young LGBT people in Ireland. Documentary filmmakers followed 12 young Irish people over two years in a fly-on-the-wall portrait that is incredibly well made.”
At a time when the heads of Irish organizations like the AOH and the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee still make it their business each March to remind gay Irish people of how unacceptable they are, it’s terrific to see the Craic Fest and the Irish Arts Center honor the Irish tradition of showing welcome and respect to all Irish people.
“One of the short films we’re showing is our Stand Up – Don’t Stand for Homophobic Bullying ad that we made last year,” explains Barron.
“It was part of a campaign we ran last year but it became this international phenomenon viewed by a million people on YouTube, becoming the biggest film of its type last year, which is surprising coming from a little Irish youth group.”
Although Barron’s organization doesn’t stress filmmaking as its primary goal, there’s no question that they’ve become more and more versed in the art as the years have gone by.
“What we’re trying to do is reach young people with positive messages of what being gay is actually like in Ireland. We want to raise awareness and we want to fund raise for our work going forward,” Barron said.
“Because of the economic downturn we make trips here to keep the work going. We are asking Irish America to support our work to make Ireland a better place for LGBT young people. That’s the ultimate purpose of our being there.”
Mulligan remembers that it’s not all just earnest films for a good cause, and there’ll be plenty of fun to be had too.
“There’ll be a pre- and post-reception by Tullamore Dew whiskey. It’s a free event and we’ll certainly welcome a donation at the door if you want to make one. But come for a great night out,” Mulligan says.
Craic Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is a free event (with a suggested donation at the door). For further information contact Lucy at 646-549-1349 or Thecraicfest.com.