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Shay Griffin and Kenneth Fox as a gay couple about to get fleeced in 'The Arrival.'

Craic Gay & Lesbian Irish Film Festival doing groundbreaking work in New York

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Shay Griffin and Kenneth Fox as a gay couple about to get fleeced in 'The Arrival.'

There have been hundreds of award winning Irish films and plays about love and marriage.  But you can still count on one hand how many have featured a budding romance between two gay characters in the starring roles. 

It’s not because gay Irish people don’t exist. Every man, woman and child in Ireland can think of at least half a dozen people they know or suspect are gay. It’s just that for a host of reasons they’re often completely invisible. 

We don’t see them, or we don’t think we see them, at GAA matches, or at rugby or soccer internationals, or in the police (or even in New York St. Patrick’s Day marches) or in much of Irish civic life, frankly.

It’s a fact that a lot of Irish gay people have sought out that invisibility themselves, usually in pursuit of a quiet life free from insult and violence. After all, it’s one thing to be out and proud in Dublin, but in Belmullet on a Friday night? 

Breaking that invisibility takes courage, the kind of courage that even heterosexual tough guys would find hard to muster. That’s why the third annual Craic Gay and Lesbian Irish Film Festival, in partnership with the Irish Arts Center in New York, is doing groundbreaking work.

This Friday, June 21, the festival is collaborating with the long running GAZE Film Festival from Dublin to present a program of award winning Irish LGBT themed short films.

GAZE programmer David Mullane told the Irish Voice, “We selected five short films which represent the best of the most recent Irish LGBT shorts. 'Somebody’s People' by Bob Gallagher is a period film set in the early 20th century. A young girl is out shopping for her bridal dress and meets a shop girl. They have a flirtation which ends dramatically. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s fun!”

'The Civil Partnership Bill, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gay Marriage' directed by Dave MvAvoy is the next short on the bill. 

“There have been public debates in Ireland about civil partnerships that have actually moved on to marriage equality now,” says Mullane. “It’s really interesting to see how people organized themselves over this issue and moved it forward. It’s a powerful documentary, a snapshot of a society in transition.”

Next on the list is 'Oddity' by Owen McIntee. “It’s set in the west of Ireland. It explores what its like for straight people to live in a world where it’s the gays who call the shots for once. There’s comedy in it but it’s quite serious too. In this film straight people discover what it’s like to the be the odd ones out,” Mullane says.

The forth film is 'Eleven, Eleven' by Donna Kelly. Featuring a series of camera interviews with Irish people in their teens and early twenties, they talk in general terms about love and relationships without ever addressing their orientations (some are gay, some are bisexual, some are straight). When you see how clearly they all relate to each other it quickly stops mattering, which is part of the point.

The fifth film is 'The Arrival' by Christian Kotey. Having started life as a short play, it’s a comedy about a cash-strapped young woman named Louise who sets up a fake website offering her services as a surrogate mother to fleece desperate couples who can’t have their own.

Louise has no intention of going through with the planned pregnancy. Her real objective is to take the money and run. 'The Arrival' was a huge crowd pleaser in Dublin where it was nominated as the best recent LGBT short to compete internationally. 

“Film making in Ireland is difficult to begin with. It’s so hard to get funding, but LGBT Irish film making is completely underserved. So it’s terrific to be able to gather enough shorts for one program and present them in New York too. It’s so encouraging to see young film makers especially emerging now,” Mullane says.

This being a gay film festival, expect a bit of a party on the night. There’ll be an open bar included in the ticket price, courtesy of Tullamore Dew and Pabst Blue Ribbon, to get the craic going. (The night is also sponsored by Tourism Ireland and Con Edison).

“Life in Irish society for LGBT people has improved so much, so instead of having to show films that are quite depressing or addressing serious themes, there’s a lot more celebration now and the balance has shifted to more positive representations which is fantastic,” Mullane said.

On the night the Craic Gay and Lesbian Film Festival may also screen new works by Irish gay and lesbian filmmakers based in the New York City area to complement the award winning short films from Ireland. It’s always wise to expect amazing unannounced guests and surprise short films at their signature events. All we can say for certain is you’ll have a blast. 

The program of films will run from 7-8:30 p.m. For further information contact 646-549-1349. Advance tickets can be purchased at Ovationtix.com

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