It’s right in the thick of festival season in Cork.
In recent years the number of fests, weekenders, all-dayers and other programmes has been increasing. The city’s changing demographics, interests and cultural leanings are not only reflected in the diversity of well-established programming, such as the Jazz, the Folk and the Film Festivals, but in the emergence of events run and maintained by a new generation.
Some are on a DIY basis, such as Quarter Block Party, The Monolith and Cuttin’ Heads Collective’s annual anniversary blowouts.
Drawing equally from new voices and programming experience, and creating a fiercely community-driven entity that platforms emerging film and music from around the world, IndieCork sits at the apex of the city’s cultural development over the past few years.
Managerial committee member Mick Hannigan has been at the festival’s coalface since its inception in 2012, and is gearing up for its biggest year yet, in terms of programming and public response.
“The response has been really heartening, and each year we feel the progress we’ve made, when that wave of enthusiasm and anticipation hits from both filmmakers and audiences.
“We have twelve programmes of Irish shorts, and that means a lot of filmmakers attending, seeing their work projected, and it makes for a really dynamic and intense week. The Gate Cinema, our partner venue, will be packed out for such screenings, it’s a unique meeting of the filmmaker and the audience, a great encounter. It’s also pretty special to open with a Northern Irish comedy, A Bump Along The Way, and to close with an Irish comedy, Dark Lies The Island. Sandwiched between these films is a unique offering of world cinema, and we’re really pleased with the final flavour of the festival programme. In many ways, it feels like it a coming-of-age festival.”
The aforementioned films’ presence on the billing is crucial to IndieCork’s push in the latter half of the year, leading off as they both do with major directors and actors, working with new talent and providing great premiere and/or first-run films to the festival’s largely independently-distributed programming. Hannigan outlines the importance of these marquee additions to the programme, and their greater implications throughout Irish and international film.
“We’re thrilled, to be honest. It’s significant for us that distribution companies like Element Pictures and Break Out Pictures see IndieCork as a launch-pad for theatrical releases. These gems sit nicely alongside the more resolutely indie Irish features, like The New Music, The Rollover or indeed, some of our new documentaries. They call attention to the festival, and allow people to discover the breadth and depth of the programme. That range is important, as is discovery and offering up something new. Corpus Christi has just become the Polish nomination for next year’s Oscars, while Sibyl was the closing film of Cannes this year. Lots to discover, from the inner and outer circles of the film industry!”
A really strong slate of documentaries on the 2019 programme takes in a radical political direction, including Advocate, an uncompromising look at the career of Lea Tsemel, a defender of the Palestinian people in the Middle-Eastern conflict, for one. What’s the importance of utilising the festival’s platform in the community to help platfrm these stories?
“Advocate the film, and advocacy in general, is a theme this year. The documentary program, overseen by James Mulvey, is incredibly strong, and in many cases we’ve given them prime slots to reflect this and encourage audiences to engage. Push is creating a lot of excitement around the world at the moment. It’s about the housing crises, and that’s something which affects many people. Losing Alaska is about the effects of climate change on a community, and is directed by an Irishman Tom Burke, who’ll be here to present the film. That topic is of enormous importance and relevance, as we witness climate change, and activism like Extinction Rebellion. These are vital issues and we’re proud that IndieCork is engaging through screenings and post-screening debates.”
In addition to the announced billing, there’s been lots of announcements for side-programmes, including special events from Visegrad Animation, and weekly poetry night Ó Bhéal, hosting its seventh annual poetry-film competition. As one might imagine, lots of effort and co-ordination goes into presenting these collaborations, but for IndieCork, community outreach and extending its platform go hand-in-hand. “One of the great things we’ve found is that collaboration is a natural way of working when you are constituted as a co-operative, which IndieCork is. We all get to indulge our interests to some level, but these threads spread out into wider communities, locally and internationally. That’s where the real gold is. We love working with individuals and groups in bringing their work to the festival. As an example of local collaboration, this year’s design work is by the Brazilian Cork-based artist Silvio Severino, who we just got to know, and really admire his unusual work. Similarly, Change the Beat! is a short documentary coming out of a music-themed art project with young asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. This project was researched in UCC and included working with talents like Shane O’Driscoll at the Glucksman Gallery, plus Stevie G, Andrea Williams, and Colm Walsh. Internationally then, we bring special programmes to Cork that we think will really be appreciated, surprise and delight festival goers.”
With all of this in mind, and with decades of experience in cultural curation and programming under both his and the team’s belt, Hannigan collects his thoughts on this year’s edition of the festival on a personal level, and how the mission statement of the festival can be seen throughout.
“This festival is special, with some amazing films on show. One of the great things about cinema is that it allows us to see the world through other people’s eyes, to experience their stories, so we hope the festival will enable people to see the world afresh and understand it a little better. There are films in the programme that will genuinely change minds, open eyes, and reaffirm your belief in humanity. Cinema can be inspiring and uplifting. The 2019 programme really communicates that. So we are basically really looking forward to seeing people at The Gate and at Dali, and all that comes with that.”
With the seven-year itch firmly scratched for the festival’s local supporters, as well as its core crew of programmers and volunteers, the focus from the week after next is firmly on the future, as the mission statement that drove IndieCork has reached the world, and is growing, developing, and becoming a byword for true independence of culture. “We’re steadily building the festival. This is a break-through year for us, certainly in the quality of the programme, but also in the general organisation; with workshops, panel discussions, new partnerships and an increased number of guests coming to Cork. We’ll continue to champion indie cinema, continue giving a platform to emerging filmmakers and musicians, continue to celebrate the art of cinema. That’s our mission, and it’s a labour of love. We are really conscious also of being a moving, changing and developing project, that is rooted in communities that encompass filmmakers, musicians, venue partners and everyone that supports and enables the festival.”
For more information, tickets, and a digital copy of the festival programme, go to indiecork.com.