Now in its 11th year Fastnet Film Festival continues to grow from strength to strength. The little festival that thought it could certainly does, and this year’s line-up is has truly reached for the stars. For a village without a traditional cinema, they sure do manage to pack in the films, and attract a host of stars from in front of and behind the camera.
With 300 short films to choose from, there will be no shortage of options for visitors who make the trip to Schull. There are 16 features films in the mix this year, with more than one having Cork connections.
Writer Roddy Doyle plays a big part in this year’s festival. As well as attending the screenings of three of his films he will also be presenting a workshop on scripting, and doing a reading from one of his books, Charlie Savage.
Hilary McCarthy, festival director and head of communications says the stars aligned to get Doyle to be part of the programme. “We have asked him a few years in a row and it just didn’t work out but this year he said yes and he is being so generous with his time. Everything we have asked of him he is doing and more.”
Doyle wrote the script for Rosie which follows a young family caught up in the housing crisis. The film will be screened followed by a Q&A with director Paddy Breathnach and star Moe Dunford, who will also be attending a screening of his latest film, The Dig.
Rosie, which sees our own Sarah Greene in the lead, has done massively well on the box office front and has won critical acclaim around the world. Greene will also be in attendance.
The film’s composer, Stephen Rennicks, will be talking with Paddy Breathnach about film composition with particular reference to Rosie.
Carmel Winters, fresh from the release of her latest film Float Like A Butterfly, will be on hand for a conversation with Paddy Breathnach. The Ballydehob filmmaker made her latest film in West Cork and the film will be shown as part of the festival programme, but the film has bigger connections to the festival. Many of the festival organisers were involved in the making of the film. The Fastnet film office became filming HQ for the Butterfly crew.
“I become the location manager and Helen Wells, on of our directors, worked in the production office. We were completely immersed in the film and we had so much fun working on it.” says McCarthy.
Carmel Winters is delighted that her film is coming home. “I can’t wait for Float Like A Butterfly to finally land at Fastnet. The powerhouse women behind the festival did Trojan work on the film, and the entire community around Schull will have a great time spotting the people and places they love on screen.”
Amongst the recognisable local faces in is Pauline Cotter, one of Fastnet’s directors. Several members of the cast and crew will be in attendance for the film’s screening and McCarthy is looking forward to the reunion. “Half of Schull will be there. It will be great to hear all of the stories that will be told. It was such a special film to be involved with.”
Three-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan will be at the festival for the first time. Two of her films, Hanna and Lady Bird, will be screened and she will be taking part in interview by festival chairperson John Kelleher.
Attracting such a big star to a relatively small festival is no mean feat, but for the festival organisers fate intervened as McCarthy tells us. “Over a year ago I was in Dublin when I got a message to say that Saoirse Ronan was in Schull. I rang Pauline Cotter, one of our organisers, and asked her to high tail it to where Saoirse was. She found her and her mum and had a great chat. Pauline invited her to the festival and we kept in touch over the last year. We got a call earlier this year to say she wanted to be part of the festival this year so obviously we danced a jig! We are delighted to have her be part of this.”
Workshops and masterclasses are a big feature of the Fastnet format covering everything from creating film content on your smartphone to composing your own film score. These will be led by prominent filmmaker and industry experts.
This year the festival World Cinema Programme has an Icelandic strand which McCarthy says they are really looking forward to audiences seeing. “We have always had a big international focus, but this year we thought it would be interesting to focus on one country. Iceland has a really strong film industry at the moment and it seemed like the right time to highlight it.”
Icelandic filmmakers Asgrimur Sverrisson and Gisli Snaer have helped to programme the strand and will be giving a talk on the Icelandic film industry. “We worked hard to bring the best of Icelandic cinema to Fastnet and we have three really strong features in the line-up” says McCarthy.
With no traditional cinema in the area, the people at Fastnet have been forced to use their imagination, to great effect. Several locations have been converted into cinema screens and this year is no exception. As well as their Long Island Cinema, reached only by boat, there will also be films screened in the Castle Point Gallery.
“Artist Keith Payne runs the gallery; it is a beautiful place. After one of the films, Trashed, audience members will take part in a beach clean. It’s just one of the lovely things we can do with this festival.
The Fastnet Film Festival runs from 22 to 26 May