‘Men at Lunch’ movie.
(photo credit: PR)
The Irish are known for the gift of the gab, lovely music (especially vocal music), poetry and literature in general, i.e. James Joyce. You might think they would be in the forefront of the movie scene, but in the past this hasn’t been true. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of quality films coming out of Ireland, and these films are being celebrated with Irish Film Week at the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa cinematheques, which runs from November 24 to 30.
There are actually a number of distinguished movie directors from Ireland, but many of them have left their homeland to work in England or Hollywood. Belfast-born Kenneth Branagh is arguably his country’s most celebrated film director, but he made his name onstage with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England, then directed Shakespeare movies with mainstream stars, and finally made blockbusters. Neil Jordan made a splash in Hollywood with Interview with the Vampire but has mostly stayed close to home, making such Irish art-house hits as The Crying Game and Ondine. Britishborn Ken Loach has often turned to Irish history for inspiration and has made movies in Ireland, most recently Jimmy’s Hall, which is currently playing in Israel.
The opening-night festival film at the Jerusalem Cinematheque is Mister John, directed and written by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor. The critically acclaimed film tells the story of Gerry (Aiden Gillen), a man who discovers his wife’s infidelities just as his brother in Singapore dies. Gerry heads off to Singapore to wrap up his brother’s affairs, but then finds himself taking on his brother’s identity, as he stays to run his brother’s bar.
Think about Northern Ireland in the 1970s, and the first words that come to mind will probably be “conflict” and “bombings.” But the movie Good Vibrations, set in Belfast during the Troubles, is anything but grim.
Based on a true story, it’s about Terri Holley (Richard Dormer), a rock music enthusiast who opened a record shop in a Belfast neighborhood ravaged by bombings. Although he had little business experience or savvy, he turned his store into a mecca for the developing punk rock scene and began producing and recording local bands, many of whom went on to fame. Dormer recently appeared in Game of Thrones.
Fionnula Flanagan, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed actresses, plays a matriarch in the light comedy Life’s a Breeze, directed by Lance Daly. The movie tells the story of Flanagan’s character, an elderly woman who cares for a household of unemployed slackers. The story gets going when her son decides to rid the house of clutter and throws away a mattress that contained her life savings. The family takes off on a road trip to get it back.
Gerard Hurley directs and stars in The Pier, a drama set in County Cork about a son who returns to Ireland from New York after he learns that his father (Karl Johnson) is dying. The two have been estranged for years, and the son learns that his father is trying to hide something. Lilli Taylor also stars as a visiting New Yorker who befriends the son, but the real star of the movie is the gorgeous scenery.
Men at Lunch, a documentary by Sean O Cualain, tells the story behind the iconic photo of construction workers eating atop a construction site while building 30 Rockefeller Center during the Great Depression.
One of the most reproduced and valuable photographs in the world, it inspired Cualain to look at the history of the construction project and the experiences of the workers, some of whom he was able to identify and many of whom were immigrants.
Ballymun Lullaby, directed by Frank Berry, is another documentary. This one looks at a group of students from a public-housing project who, under the guidance of an inspiring teacher, write and record their own music. Those who love Irish music will be particularly interested in this moving tale of selfexpression through song.