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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Los Angeles Irish Film Festival

Thursday, the last day of September 2010, was a huge successful festive kick-off to the fourth LA Irish Film Festival at the new location for the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences (on Vine Street in Hollywood). 

The festival kicked off with two rare silent films, great finds from the archives, with an original musical composition by the extremely talented Eimear Noone.  From 1914 is a film about the story (one of the many stories) of Ireland's fight for independence using patriot Father Tom Murphy, who had a price on his head, and the famed Irish leader (depending upon who you talk to) Robert Emmet.  Included is news footage from the day that included a piece with the big man himself, Michael Collins.  the second silent film, with an original composition by Noone, was the very funny "William Rogers in Dublin," from the American Cowboy's trip to the city in 1927.  It was most likely Rogers who, unwittingly, set a precedent for teasing the Irish just for being Irish.

The festival was off to a successful start and officially began with the contemporary dramady (a word the Irish probably detest), "Pierre's Bounty."  Unfortunately, it won't get a wide release in the States but will be available on DVD.  It's funny, it's unpredictable, and it has the ever so good Jim Broadbent. 

Followed by cheer and regalia till sometime in the early hours of the first day of October, 'twas a good start to a weekend of talent and cheer.

I was back for the closing night (I prefer to bookend these kinds of things) at the Aero Theatre on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.  The documentary, "BallyBrando," about the making (or the monumental unmaking) of a film "Divine Rapture," that had begun filming in Ballycotton in 1995 starring Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Debra Winger, and John Hurt.  After 10 days of filming in the small Irish village, the movie came crashing down on everyone's hopes when the young producer, Barry Navidi, found out that he'd been "had," and the escrow account that contained all the production monies was a fraud.  some of the best interviews include the village locals who entertained and boarded the American interlopers, only too briefly.  Brando's cook said, that Brando told her that Ireland made him feel "more at home here than anywhere else in the world.  It's nice because this was all weeks after the disastrous suicide of his young daughter, Cheyenne.  Perhaps the documentary will do what the feature film could not do, put Ballycotton on the motion picture map.  If you ever had the opportunity to see this documentary, see it.

Followed by a brief Colin Devlin set on his acoustic and electric guitars.  Good stuff.

The festival closed with a screening of the 1990 film, "The Field," starring Richard Harris and, once again, John Hurt (can't really get enough of John Hurt).  "The Field," is a poignant, yet sad, tale of an Irishman and his field and an American interloper coming back "to find his roots," as the locals sneer.  This Ireland at its most heartbreaking, depressing, and it's what gives them a reason to drink.  Jim Sheridan, the film's director, was at the last minute unable to make the evening.  He was supposed to conduct a tribute to Richard Harris by way of interviewing Harris' three grown sons, Jared, Damian, and Jamie (and his grandson joined them on stage but I didn't catch the young boy's name).  Middle son Damian was a bit snarly and wouldn't take the bloody gum out of his mouth as he spoke.  All three work in the film industry, to varying degrees of success.  Their talk, moderated by Paul Quinn, was unfocused and did little to enlighten anyone but to the fact that as children these boys met a lot of famous people.  One of the brother's began with, "well, my step father is Rex Harrison," and that pretty much began the litany of names dropping.

A reception followed across the street from the Aero at EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY (a children's book and art store).  They kindly opened their doors for us as their first public opening.

The series was compiled by Lisa McLaughlin-Strassman (who also uncovered the two silent films that opened the weekend) and Juli C. Lasselle.  Gwen Deglise assisted. Rachele Rath, my new friend, organized the voluteers.

Any day is a good day to be Irish, but this was the best weekend to be Irish in Los Angeles.  Thank you to the Irish Film Board for keeping their doors open in these economically challenging times and for funding some of the best artists in the world.  I felt like I was in the middle of the Saudi Arabia of Northern Europe--there is an oil well of talent yet to be found.

Blessings to all!

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