The Gate Cinema screens will light up with the best Irish and international film as the IndieCork Festival returns for its ninth year. The festival, a mix of cinema screenings and online films, runs from September 19th to October 3rd, and it is set to wow film fans with its array of feature-length films and extensive shorts programme. Programmes include a special focus on Northern Irish films. US filmmaker Bill Morrison will attend a special screening of his new film The Village Detective: a song cycle.
The festival opens on a local note with Gateway, a psychological thriller made in Cork by Niall Owens. It is the second year in a row that the festival has started with a Cork film, says festival co-director, Mick Hannigan. Last year, Damien McCarthy's Cork-based Caveat was the opening night film, and Hannigan says that having a Cork film a second year in a row shows the county's wealth and of filmmaking talent.
"Niall has been involved with IndieCork since the very beginning. Before the first festival, we hosted a meeting where we invited Cork filmmakers to discuss how the festival could benefit them. Naill came with lots of good ideas, so he promptly joined the management committee, and he's been with us ever since. We are delighted to be able to host the world premiere of his first feature. It is heartening to see such talent in Cork."
Continuing with the Cork focus, there is also The Quay Co-op, a documentary directed by Eddie Noonan and Emma Bowell that tells the story of a well-known building on Sullivans Quay.
Once Upon a Time in Ireland, directed by Conor Slattery, is a Civil War story set on a beach in West Cork in 1922. Hannigan says it is a stylish film, set in black and white.
Hannigan says the ability to showcase local talent is essential. This year, the festival returns with a popular favourite, the Creative Cork strand, two programmes of short films shot in Cork.
"The festival is about supporting home-grown talent as well as filmmakers from across the country and the rest of the world. Every year our Creative Cork showings are always packed out. It's parents, friends, and supporters there to see their friend's work on the big screen. It is always a lovely atmosphere."
Hannigan also says that there were so many submissions from local filmmakers that it was impossible to fit them all in the programme.
"We had a wealth of local submissions, too many to programme in the Creative Cork strand. We decided to place some of the Cork submissions into the genre strands, like our animation and horror programmes. It is a great problem to have; we couldn't be happier to see the extent of the talent we have available to us in the county."
In 2017 Killian Pettit won an award at the festival for his short film, Anxiety High. He returns with Dark Green this year, a COVID-inspired horror short film that sees Corkonians emerge from lockdown with a thirst for beer.
Hannigan says filmmakers like Pettit show the importance of supporting local talent.
"We have many filmmakers who come back to us, each time their work changes and grows. It is heartening for us to see their journey and to be able to support them as they progress in their career."
The eagerly anticipated Arracht, written and directed by Tom Sullivan, gives local audiences an early opportunity to see a critically acclaimed, award-winning Irish language film set during the Famine. The film will open in cinemas later this year.
"Arracht is an important film. I can't wait for audiences to see it. Tom Sullivan has been a great supporter of IndieCork. Over the years, we've screened three of his short films, and last year Arracht was on the programme, but we had to end the in-cinema festival early due to COVID and go online only. We were three days into the festival when the restrictions came into effect, and cinemas shut down. It is so wonderful to have cinemas back open and get back to our home in the Gate Cinemas."
Last year, going online was a necessity that proved to be highly successful, and IndieCork has decided to continue with an online presence giving more access to audiences.
"Taking the festival online is very interesting because it has opened up a new audience and given audiences a wider range of options. For us, it allowed us to see how people consume films. I found it fascinating last year because you get all the data and the analytics immediately; you can see when people are signing up and what films they are watching."
"Giving audiences the option to watch from home allows them to fit films around their schedules. We've replicated what we did last year, and I think an online element is here to stay for all film festivals. People are more accepting of online screenings through their use of Netflix and streaming services. You can't replicate the cinema experience, and cinema is where we hope many people will watch the films, but online gives accessibility that wasn't there before."
As well as an extensive lineup of films, IndieCork has introduced the Creators Programme, a range of panel discussions designed to enhance the skills of young filmmakers.
"The main function of the festival is to give a platform to filmmakers. They can present their films in front of an audience and have a Q&A afterwards. After months of being in front of a computer editing, it is beneficial to filmmakers to hear what people think, but we decided we could offer more. Many participating filmmakers are younger or starting their careers. They often don't know how to promote their work. Filmmaking isn't just the craft of filmmaking; it's about promoting your film as well, being able to speak about your art. We are presenting a series of online panels from established artists who will share their tips and experiences."
IndieCork runs from September 19th to October 3rd. More information can be found at www.indiecork.com