This year the Craic Fest - the long-running New York-based festival of Irish film and music – is going online, the latest example of an Irish cultural organization saying pandemic, what pandemic?

“I just thought, if other Irish theaters and festivals can go online, then we have to put our own spin on it,” says festival director Terence Mulligan.

The theme this year will be the same as every other one, the best of new Irish cinema, but it's just going to be enjoyed at home Mulligan says. Running online from March 4 through 7, just $23 will get you 23 films, including introductions and talkbacks variously featuring actors, directors, and others.

“We have a really good cyber team in place and they've done other online festivals very successfully so we hired them," says Mulligan. "We knew the  theaters weren't going to be open so we planned and prepared to do an online festival and keep the show going on this year.”

The opening night film on Thursday, March 4 is Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day, directed by well-known Irish actor John Connors. “A lot of people know John from Love/Hate and Cardboard Gangsters and this show is more of a personal film for him, a look at the shared cancer battle between Irish influencer Jade McCann and her father Anthony.”

In March 2018, the then 24-year-old County Wicklow native Jade was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, just three weeks after her father Anthony was also been diagnosed. In the following months, McCann shared her and her father’s cancer journey with tens of thousands of fans across social media.

The following night on March 5, the Craic Fest will screen the New York premiere of Rose Plays Julie, starring Aidan Gillen (best known for Game of Thrones) and Irish screen star Orla Brady. 

A tense psychological thriller the film's central character Rose (Ann Skelly) is an Irish university student studying veterinary medicine and adoptee who feels like she doesn't know who she is.

But her search for her birth mother soon leads her into dangerous territory, as she soon finds out that the same mother doesn't want to meet her under any circumstances. Expect an edge of your seat thrill ride and three powerful central performances from the film's Irish stars.

On Saturday afternoon March 7, the festival continues with an afternoon showing of  Wildfire starring Nora Jane Noone and Nika McGuigan. The story of two sisters who grew up along the Irish border, the film follows them as they begin to unearth their mother’s hidden past even as it and other surfacing secrets threaten to overwhelm them.

Arracht, Ireland's official entry to the Oscars will screen at 5 pm on Saturday. The highly anticipated Irish language drama set in the first year of the Great Hunger, it's one of the most anticipated films of the new decade.

The closing film on March 7 will feature the New York premiere of A Bend in the River directed by Colin Broderick. Starring John Connors and John Duddy, the film is a semi-autobiographical story about the struggling writer Matt Donnelly (Duddy) who has returned from New York to the North for the first time in 25 years. 

Soon the ghosts of the past throng, including an abusive teacher, a dead mother, and a childhood best friend who sacrificed an easier life overseas to stay home and fight the Troubles. 

“This is Colin's second feature and it was shot entirely in County Tyrone,” says Mulligan. "The movie is an exploration of identity at a crucial time in Northern Irish politics when we are once again being forced to reconsider the notion of what it means to be Irish now.”

John Duddy plays an Irish writer making an emigrants return in A Bend in the River

John Duddy plays an Irish writer making an emigrants return in A Bend in the River

A small reception is planned at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central hotel on closing night with Duddy, Connors and Broderick, and Festival Director Mulligan in attendance. Meanwhile, the Kids Fleadh will also screen on Saturday afternoon with an eclectic lineup of shorts for all the family. The Craic Fest is in part supported through Northwell Health. 

For tickets to the Craic Fest screenings visit thecraicfest.com or call the festival office at 917-373-6735.

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