Wee Craic Fest Takes Flight

THE eighth annual Wee Craic Festival, younger sibling of the prestigious Film Fleadh, is gearing up again for its showcase of the best of new Irish short films and music on September 20.

More than ever it can be said that this one-night-only offshoot of the Film Fleadh is developing its own unique identity and coming into its own as an unmissable Irish night out in New York City.

"I was blown away by the sheer talent on display at the Galway Film Festival in Ireland this summer, and I wanted to bring all of these amazing short films to a much wider U.S. audience here," Terence Mulligan, the festival's executive director, told the Irish Voice.

This year, as always, his selection of award winning Irish shorts encompasses an impressive range of genres, from animation to live action to jet black comedies that you'll almost feel guilty laughing at (almost).

Interestingly, the one idea that seems to unite almost all of these diverse Irish offerings is the strong awareness that history is often a snare waiting for an innocent foot to pass (and what could be a more Irish contention than that?).

Both Ding Dong Denny's O'Reilly's the History of Ireland and its more recent companion piece by the director Darragh O'Connell entitled Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty explore the way surrealism and madness keep interrupting even the most sedate narratives the moment the enter Irish airspace.

O'Connell also has a bard's knack for exaggeration and illuminating irony, and in both films he lets his increasingly unhinged narrators give full vent to their demons. The effect is hilarious and unforgettable and worth the price of the virtually free (the festival only asks that you pay what you can) admission in itself.

Also on view is the whimsical and hauntingly sad offering Danger High Voltage, a live action short that unfolds as a beautiful young woman glimpsed on a Dublin city street sparks idyllic memories of a lost weekend at Electric Picnic, a Irish summer rock concert. It's a simple idea and it's touchingly directed by Luke McManus, a new name to watch out for.

More freewheeling Irish insanity comes in the form of Plastesex, an animated feature in which two plasteciene characters find ever more outlandish and enthusiastic ways to love each other, many of them hilariously X rated. It's a playful and imaginative work from director Conor Finnegan, who clearly has a bright career ahead of him as a first class director and animator.

Director Genevieve Bailey's The Year I Got Younger, her quietly understated mini-documentary about an Irish fiddle player recuperating from his old and new found addictions, will also be showcased. This thrilling new work deservedly won the Best Short Documentary at the Galway Film Festival this year.

Another compelling new live action short comes in the form of director Matt Horan's tremendously assured feature Monolith, which is a timely warning about the dangers of groupthink, a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, or evaluating what they're seeing.

In Horan's short a man trapped in a totalitarian state is given a once in a lifetime chance at redemption, and out of fear he rejects it. It's a comment on all-pervasive fear itself can be, and Horan does well with this material.

The Wee Craic Festival always features the best in live Irish acoustic sets from musicians from all over the Celtic diaspora, and this year three particular perennial favorites are headlining - Mark Geary, Colin Smith of MRNORTH and Mundy.

"With the Irish love of film and music - not to mention a good time - it's going to be a great night for short film and music lovers," said Mulligan.

The Fleadh Foundation produces a Wee Craic annually, presenting Irish cinematic and musical culture to the New York City and tri-state region. The foundation's board members include Ed Burns, Liam Neeson and Denis Leary.

The Wee Craic runs on September 20 at the Powerhouse Arena, 37 Main Street in DUMBO. Contact Niki Patel at 646-549-1349 or the411@thecraicfest.com.

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