This year marks the 18th successful year of the Craic Fest, the annual New York City based festival of the best new Irish films and music presented by Castle Brands and Stella Artois.
It's an annual showcase that screens (and plays) directly to the New York Irish American community so it feels like a gala premiere, a top tier music festival and a great night out all wrapped up in one, which is probably why it has endured.
This year’s opening night film, to be screened on March 3, will be the New York premiere of Irish boxing documentary Hardy about the local Irish female boxer Heather “The Heat” Hardy.
Hardy is a single mother and professional boxer who was one of the many Irish displaced by Hurricane Sandy. She uses fighting to provide a living for her and her daughter Annie, while simultaneously pushing the sport of women's boxing into the mainstream.
Even in 2016, not everyone in the promoting supports women in boxing (this is an understatement) but Hardy has shown she can attract major crowds and produce the wins, so her star is on the ascent and this film captures her toughness and sheer determination, as well as what's at stake.
Hardy and director Natasha Varma will both be in attendance for a Q&A session about the film. The ticket price for the screening is $20 and will include a pre-reception from 6-7:30 p.m. with complimentary Stella Artois, Boru Voka and Clontarf Irish Whiskey.
The Friday night gala screening on March 4 is the New York premiere of the Irish independent film You’re Ugly Too starring Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire). Gillen stars as Will, a man who is released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his young niece Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) after the death of her mother.
But things don't go to plan, or even close to plan, as they try to make a go of it in the sleepy Irish midlands as they attempt to be a family. Suffering a series of setbacks from the get go, things come to a head when Stacey is refused admission to the local school because of her recently developed narcolepsy.
Meanwhile, Will has struggles of his own, including getting too close to defying his prison-ordered curfew, and his halting attempts at being a father figure never quite go as planned.
This evocative character study has a terrific sense of place, capturing the loneliness of the Irish midlands, and the sometimes comic determination of a man whose own life has been far from perfect as he tries to set an example for his niece.
The closing night screening is the New York premiere of The Lobster starring Irish heartthrob Colin Farrell who plays sad-sack David, a man who has just been left by his wife. There's a wrinkle, of course. In this world it's very dangerous to be single, so he's taken away to an idyllic retreat where he has to find a “well matched” spouse or be transformed into a dog, or a horse, or in David’s case a lobster. Yes it's a very weird premise, and no, you will have no trouble believing it. Farrell turns in a hilarious and quietly affecting performance in this quirky but delightful new film.
There will be a Q&A session after The Lobster screening with talent behind the film and Farrell has been known to put in a personal appearance at the festival so you may want to spend time at the screenings and at the filmmaker lounge this year at Bow Tie Cinemas (West 23rd Street).
“We are delighted to have such a diverse lineup this year and our filmmaker lounge will be hopping,” says festival director Terence Mulligan.
The Craic Music Fest will step out the following weekend on March 12 at Mercury Lounge. A stellar lineup includes the return of the major Irish community draw the Rubberbandits, supported by The Mighty Stef, Hundred Hounds and a touch of the Blues will be offered by the Smithy Blues band. Doors at 8 p.m.
For more information on the Craic Fest or the Craic Music Fest call 917-373-6735. The full line-up can be seen at www.thecraicfest.com.