Stars set to descend on Cork village for major film festival

A galaxy of actors, directors, and other film luminaries will converge on Schull as the Fastnet Film Festival makes a welcome return next week after Covid, says CARA O’DOHERTY
Stars set to descend on Cork village for major film festival

Ciarán Hinds will be at the Fastnet Film Festival in Schull with his new movie, The Man In The Hat, and attend a Q&A session

THE Fastnet Film Festival is emerging from the pandemic with an extensive programme of films, workshops, and other events.

Some of Ireland’s finest filmmaking talents, from emerging stars to industry icons, are set to appear at the festival, which takes place in Schull from May 25-29.

This is the festival’s 13th year, and as well as 300 short films and 13 feature films, the event will also highlight some of the best our small screen has to offer.

Conversations with Friends is on BBC and RTÉ now and features Cork actress Alison Oliver.
Conversations with Friends is on BBC and RTÉ now and features Cork actress Alison Oliver.

Conversations With Friends is the much talked-about new TV drama from Normal People author Sally Rooney, and its stars, Cork actor Alison Oliver and Joe Alwyn, will join director Megan K. Fox to discuss the show and give some behind-the-scenes insight.

Normal People, such a hit with lockdown audiences, will feature in the festival too, with its lead actor, Paul Mescal, in attendance. He will take part in a conversation with Lenny Abrahamson, director of both the Rooney dramas.

Fastnet’s head of Communications & Programming, Hilary McCarthy, says they look forward to welcoming new talent.

“It is great to have a much younger group of actors, directors, and producers. It brings a different profile to the festival and opens it up to people who might not have been aware of what we do.”

Fresh from his Oscar-nominated turn in Belfast, Ciarán Hinds will be at the festival with his new movie, The Man In The Hat. He will be joined by the film’s writer and director, Stephen Warbeck, for a post-film question and answer session moderated by West Cork director Carmel Winters.

“Ciarán has been in everything from Game Of Thrones to his more recent appearance in Kin, so we are very excited to have him here with Stephen, who is a legendary composer. It will be an interesting conversation,” says Hilary.

Stephen Rea.
Stephen Rea.

Another legend, Stephen Rea, will be on hand to give an acting masterclass. McCarthy says the festival committee had hoped to have him take part before, but navigating work commitments was difficult.

“To celebrate the fact we finally have Stephen in the programme, we are showing three of his films, V For Vendetta, Maudie, and Angel. His acting masterclass is hosted by director Aisling Walsh and an interview with Greg Dyke.”

Masterclasses and workshops have always been a big part of the festival programme, and McCarthy says they have become known for their dedication to celebrating not just film but the craft involved.

“The masterclasses are very much part of our USP. People like that we look at all sides of film, not just the finished product they see on screen. This year, we have quite a few masterclasses, including one presented by award-winning sound engineers, Brendan Rehill, and Steve Fanagan. We also have editor John Murphy who recently won an IFTA for An Cailín Ciúin.”

Ros and John Hubbard, two of the biggest casting directors in the business, will present a workshop on self-taping, as well as taking part in a conversation with fellow casting director Maureen Hughes.

Between them, they have discovered some of the biggest names in cinema, including our own Jonathon Rhys Meyers and Colin Farrell, and English actors Kate Winslet and Orlando Bloom.

Breaking Out by Michael McCormack concerns one of the most creative music forces to come from Cork, Fergus O’Farrell.
Breaking Out by Michael McCormack concerns one of the most creative music forces to come from Cork, Fergus O’Farrell.

Director Michael McCormack’s beautiful documentary, Breaking Out, will have a special screening. This award-winning feature celebrates the life of West Cork singer Fergus O’Farrell, who managed to have a remarkable career despite suffering from the debilitating condition muscular dystrophy.

O’Farrell sadly passed away before the documentary was complete, and his band, Interference, will play a gig honouring their late frontman. McCarthy says it is important for Fastnet to honour one of their own.

“Fergus was a big part of Schull, he has so many friends and admirers across West Cork, so it is only right that we show the film and that Interference play his phenomenal music. 

"Ferg’s sister, Lydia, has written a book, Overload: A Brother, a Wake, And A Secret, which in a way is a sequel to the film. She’s going to do a reading from it, which will be incredibly special for all of us.”

The festival will host an Irish language day on Cape Clear. Ferries will run from the pier at Schull to the island. The actor Peter Coonan, a fluent Irish speaker, will introduce a programme of Irish-language short films as well as his own feature, Doineann.

Have you ever wondered what a penguin smells like? To find out, visit an exhibition of work by Nicholas Romeri, an artist who travelled to Antarctica aboard HMS Protector as Artist-in-Residence for the Friends of The Scott Polar Research Institute.

“Nick produced several virtual reality films based on his time in Antarctica. He developed a perfume that smells like penguins, and he will chill the exhibition room so you really feel you are there. People will put on their headsets, and experience what it is like to be on the bow of the ship breaking through the ice. It is phenomenal.”

Closer to home, there are plenty of Irish shorts in the programme. Over 500 films were submitted and whittled down to 300 by the programmers. For one young Cork filmmaker, the chance to have his film shown at Fastnet is an exhilarating one. Michael Keane was 17 when he made Hoodwinkers, a short film set in Cork. Filmed in 2020 during lockdown, Keane says the film takes a humorous look at the Leaving Cert when a group of students abandon study and find themselves at the centre of a wild party.

“The creation of Hoodwinkers gave me immense insight into the amount of work that takes place behind the scenes of a short film,” Keane said. 

“I was fortunate to be permitted to shoot in my own school, St Francis College, Rochestown, and cast The Young Offenders actor Dominic McHale, a past pupil, as the teacher.”

Hoodwinkers has been nominated for awards and selected to play at numerous festivals, and Keane is now in competition for Fastnet’s Best Young Filmmaker Under 19 Award. McCarthy says that, as much as Fastnet is about highlighting established film industry members, it is also about encouraging new talent. “It is really wonderful to give young filmmakers an opportunity to show their work on a big screen.”

“Each year, we select and present these shorts, and it gives us inspiration for potential workshops the following year.

“We mix entertainment with serious issues, and host filmmakers young and old, but the most important thing is to concentrate on the craft. When we watch the shorts, we see what elements need a bit of focus, be it sound or editing, whatever it is, we try to focus on that the following year.”

This year also sees a focus on Scottish films, which gives insight into Lord David Putnam, festival patron and the acclaimed filmmaker’s decision to move to Skibbereen.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office presents a special film, Direct Division, based on interviews with children living in direct provision. McCarthy says it is important for the festival to make space for socially conscious films and this year Fastnet introduces a new human rights award for documentary film.

The Fastnet Film Festival takes place from May 25-29. More information at www.fastnetfilmfestival.com

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