hmv.com talks to Galway Film Fleadh director Miriam Allen
The Galway Film Fleadh (that's pronounced 'Flaa' for the non-Irish amongst us) turned 26 years old last weekend, and we caught up with festival director Miriam Allen to find out more about Ireland's premier film event...
Can you tell us bit about the Galway Film Fleadh’s history?
“Well, the event is 26 years old now and it started because at the time there were only two cinemas in Galway that would have had four screens between them, and the type of films shown were really all Hollywood blockbusters. So the festival was started really just because we wanted to see the kind of cinema that wasn’t available to view anywhere else at the time.”
Is it all home grown films being shown at the festival?
“No, not at all. I mean our reputation certainly is for showcasing the best in Irish cinema – and that’s across all genres from documentaries, animation and short films to full-length features – but that only makes up around fifty percent of the programme. The rest is world cinema and independent films.
“The other aspect of the Fleadh is the Film Fair, which is basically the umbrella term given to all the industry events that take place. So there’s the Marketplace, for example, where there are one-to-one meetings with producers on projects in development where filmmakers can discuss the ideas with decision makers, such as film financiers, distributors etc. There are about 600 of these scheduled meetings over the course of two days.
“On top of that there is a pitching competition and a series of master-classes for screenwriting, acting, production, as well as loads of debates, all of which are open to the public.”
There’s also an awards scheme isn’t there?
“Yes there is. The highest accolade is the Galway Hooker Award – that’s a type of boat by the way, in case anyone thinks it refers to something else! It’s traditional to the west of Ireland. So the awards are an Academy-qualifying scheme of awards for short films, including animation and drama.”
How many films typically feature?
“There are about 100 features each year, then probably the same amount again for shorts.”
Can anyone enter to have their film screened? How does the selection process work?
“Yes, absolutely, anyone can enter their film for consideration. There is a selection committee, so after the submission deadline each film will be reviewed and voted through.”
What have been the highlights this year?
“Well, I would certainly say Glassland - Gerard Butler’s second film with Jack Raynor and Will Poulter - was an amazing screening. Patrick’s Day by Terry McMahon was another highlight, along with Noble by Stephen Bradley, with Deirdre O’Kane in the lead role who was just fantastic.”
Do you have any personal favourites?
“I have to say that Gold directed by Niall Heery is an absolutely gorgeous little film, and a really good laugh. A lot of the subject matter can be quite heavy in some of the films, so it was a very welcome dose of light relief and it’s brilliantly acted.”
Did you have any special guests this year?
“Brenda Fricker was our guest of honour this year actually, and Brown Bag Films were our Irish Tribute. They started around 20 years ago with a film they entered called Give Up Yer Aul Sins and were our first Oscar-nominated film since we’ve been Academy credited, and they’ve been a real success story. They were just two young lads at the beginning and now they’re the largest animation company in Ireland and employ over 500 people. They’re just incredible.
“We had three films screened at the Fleadh this year that began at the pitching competition in previous years and have now gone all the way through production to being a finished feature, so that’s really great to see as well."