This week will see the welcome return of the Irish Screen America festival, an annual showcase of the best of new Irish and Irish American film talent currently working in both feature length and short films.
Bowing in front of capacity audiences in both Los Angeles and New York later this week, the festival is both a bi-coastal and bi-national affair that introduces emerging Irish talent to American audiences and to industry heavy hitters here.
To that end the festival will also shortly announce its new raft of 2017 Rising Star Award winners, alongside introducing the inaugural Jim Sheridan Award for Achievement in Irish Filmmaking (named after this year’s special guest and the director of its opening film, Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan) who will also be present.
This year's high profile festival opener is The Secret Scripture, the eagerly anticipated Sheridan adaptation of the award-winning novel by Sebastian Barry, starring Oscar winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara.
Sheridan will be in attendance at the opening night of the festival at both the New York and Los Angeles screenings, and he will take questions from festival organizers and the audience. It's a high profile event that is certain to sell out.
Other standout new Irish features having their New York and Los Angeles premieres at the festival include the brilliantly directed Song of Granite, based on the life story of the traditional sean nos singer Joe Heaney.
Director Pat Collins knows that talent has a context, and so he makes as much time for the culture and soaring landscape that produced the singer as he does on Heaney's storied career. Make every effort to catch this remarkable new film.
Bad Day for the Cut has been playfully described as the first and only farmer revenge thriller, which gives you some idea of the tone, but you can still expect to be surprised by this bracingly nasty and often quite inventive murder and revenge drama. When an ordinary decent man's life is upended he makes discoveries about himself and those closest to him that he never anticipated.
Meanwhile this week will be your first opportunity in the U.S. to catch Cardboard Gangsters, the much buzzed about highest-grossing Irish film of 2017, with director Mark O’Connor and star John Connors in attendance. A film about drug dealers from the gritty north Dublin suburb of Darndale, O'Connor hits every mark and pulls a genuinely towering performance from Connors, a new star on the rise.
Another do-not-miss new Irish film is Loving Lorna from directors Annika and Jessica Karlsson. The film focuses on the life of a young inner-city Dublin girl called Lorna who dreams of becoming a farrier (a craftsperson who trims horse shoes) even though it is generally considered a job for men.
Lorna hails from the hardscrabble Ballymun neighborhood where, believe it or not, horse owning is a widespread tradition that has been handed down for generations. The camera follows her as she gallops on horseback though mean streets, an arresting image of freedom and glory in an otherwise drab landscape. You will see why the filmmakers picked her and you'll root for her from the moment she first speaks.
In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America is the timely new feature documentary about Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, narrated by Liam Neeson, which tells the story of how one good man can alter the fate of millions. Hume's legacy is appraised by U.S. presidents, members of the House and Senate, but it's on Hume’s home streets in Derry where his life's work is best seen.
Irish Screen America's short film selection includes shorts made in Ireland, shorts made by Irish filmmakers in Los Angeles and shorts made by Irish filmmakers in New York. This year’s highlights will include Peel, directed by Annika Cassidy and starring Lauryn Canny; The Secret Market, directed by Martina McGlynn and Garret Daly and starring Victoria Smurfit; Native, directed by Linda Bhreathnach and starring Patrick Bergin; The Others, directed by Amanda Brennan and starring Olivia Tracey; and Whadd'ya Say? directed by Karl Harpur.
The festival was founded by Irish filmmaker and producer Niall McKay and will run from Thursday, September 21 until the 24th at the Aero Cinematheque in Los Angeles, and Friday, September 29 to Sunday, October 1 of October at NYU’s Cantor Film Center in New York.
For tickets and a full festival lineup visit www.irishscreenamerica.com.