Craic is Back, Again!

Where else in New York can you catch an Irish movie premiere, a rock star gig, hang out with celebrities, load up on fine whiskey and attend an exclusive VIP dance party all for $15? The answer is at the Craic Fest, and with that tempting price, obviously the annual event is completely recession proof. For those who don’t know, during the 11 years of its existence, New York’s Craic Fest has become the most important Irish film and music festival on the New York map. Last year attendees included Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney and Damien Dempsey. On Friday, March 13 the Craic Fest hosts its gala reception at Cinema Village, 22 West 12th Street, with a special screening of 32 A, the sweetly funny Dublin-based coming of age film featuring Aidan Quinn and written and directed by his sister Marian. 32 A is set in the seventies, where a baby-faced 13-year-old girl visits her first club, smokes her first joint and makes out with her crush for the first time. But when she makes the common mistake of ditching her best friends for the local hot boy she has a few things to learn about life and love. Quinn plays the heroine’s father in a lovely, stoic Irishman performance that is as flawless and touching as the film itself. “I read the script and I was just knocked out by what a simple gem it was. I was delighted to help my sister out and be a part of it and it turned out great,” Quinn told the Irish Voice during an interview on Monday. “I liked the role of the stoic Irishman hiding behind the newspaper. It reminded me of my own father. When we asked him what he wanted for Christmas his answer was always the same – peace.” Quinn and his sister both grew up in the U.S. and Ireland, and they moved between the two countries with ease. “I lived in Dublin in the time the film is set, and I remember all the things that are in the film. We lived in Clonkeen Road in Blackrock,” Quinn recalls. “So we developed a short hand and we didn’t have to go into much detail about direction. Two of my nephews played my children in the film, so it was definitely a family affair. The scenes in the film were very similar to things that really went on around our table.” Quinn recently starred alongside Ciaran Hinds in The Eclipse, a forthcoming film adapted and directed by playwright Conor McPherson from a short story by playwright Billy Roche. “I got to play a real out and out narcissistic American a**hole, which was great,” says Quinn, laughing. “It’s a scenery-chewing role and I come to Ireland for a small town literary festival. I’m a very famous, pompous writer who’s trying to shag everything that moves. Full of my own intellectual brilliance and constantly complaining that nothing works right, you know?” Asked what it was like to work with Madonna in the eighties hit Desperately Seeking Susan, he is grace itself. “For decades that’s been one of the most asked questions I’ve faced in my career. But the ironic thing is that it never happened. All of my scenes in Desperately Seeking Susan are with Rosanna Arquette. So I’ll tell you what Madonna’s like when I work with her.” Other highlights of the 11th annual Craic Fest include the Thursday, March 12 U.S. premiere of director Steve McQueen’s wrenching, Cannes Film Fest award winning work Hunger, based on the all too short life of the Republican prisoner Bobby Sands (the screenplay is by celebrated Irish playwright Enda Walsh). Tickets for this show will probably sell out the moment they’re offered, since it’s possibly the most impressive film ever made about the Troubles. Saturday, March 14 starts off with a completely free screening of Summer of the Flying Saucer, a bewitching children’s fantasy adventure tale about a 15-year-old boy who falls for an alien girl in Co. Mayo in the summer of 1968 (don’t laugh, it happened a lot back then). There’ll be free goodie bags for every kid who attends so make sure to come early (and be, you know, an actual kid). Also on Saturday at 5 p.m. there will be a special screening of Irish actor Pat Shortt’s unforgettable midlands tragicomedy Garage. If you haven’t seen it yet (and most people still haven’t) you’ll need to know that Shortt, one part of Ireland’s insane culchie comedy duo D’Unbelieveables, is a revelation in the role of Josie, the lonely caretaker of a dilapidated petrol station in the middle of nowhere. The film has won ten awards worldwide at various film festivals, which includes Cannes in 2007. At 7 p.m. on Saturday evening the festival will screen Saviours, a remarkable documentary film co-directed by Liam Nolan and Ross Whitaker. This gritty inner city Dublin tale was three years in the making, and plays out like a cross between Hoop Dreams and Rocky. It’s an intimate, gripping drama that follows working class Dublin boxers on their hopeful path to a better life (both in and out of the ring), and it’s one of the most unvarnished and yet strangely buoyant documentaries about urban Irish life to have emerged in years. “Some of the boxers end up winning medals and start to makes names for themselves,” Craic Fest manager Clodagh Mulvey tells the Irish Voice. “But all the while the lads in this film are living in hardscrabble parts of Dublin that you never usually see in film. Not the Celtic Tiger city, the working class back streets, the projects one. “You see how the boxing club saves some lads from a life of crime. It’s a side of the capital city that we don’t often see, and it’s powerful for that reason.” The scheduled rock acts performing at New York’s live music pub the Mercury Lounge will start at 8 p.m. every night, and they read like a who’s who of modern Irish rock music, including Paddy Casey, Fight Like Apes, Foy Vance, Duke Special, Mighty Stef and Brendan O’Shea and Fairplay Collective. “If you throw a good party people come back year after year,” Craic Fest director Terence Mulligan tells the Irish Voice. “And this year is looking to be nothing short of spectacular.” Mulligan knows that film is one ingredient of the Craic Fest’s continuing success, but raucous punch-the-air music is the other. Says Mulvey, “Tullamore Dew is a sponsor so we’ll have free drinks at the after parties, with deejays playing, and all for $15. When you think of it you already pay $12.50 for regular movie ticket so that’s quite a deal! “It’s not a cheesy, green beer, shamrock and shillelagh’s gimmicky Irish festival, you know? It’s real solid quality pieces of Irish work. These are films that we’re proud to show. It gets very hammy in New York around St. Patrick’s Day, but we’re not going to be a part of that. We’re about showing who the Irish really are.” Reflecting on what kind of audience 32 A will appeal to most Quinn has a simple answer. “Everyone. It’s just a great story and it’s so nice to see one that’s female centered — there’s so few of them out there. I bet people will love it.” All Craic Fest screenings take place at Cinema Village, 22 West 12th Street, New York. The festival runs from March 12-14. For full details visit www.thecraicfest.com or telephone 646-549-1349.

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