The past year has been a good one for Irish film. Standouts Brooklyn and Room were still the talk of Tinseltown as award season came to an end, and now that the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has begun, a large Irish contingent is currently at the Croisette, with a number of Irish films screening and selling at the Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film. As well as the inevitable red carpet glamour, the film industry’s biggest market also takes place during the festival. This means that the length of the famous Croisette is packed full of expensive apartments and hotel rooms which become temporary bases to international film distributors, sales agents and financiers who know that these 10 days may be the most critical of the year.
We may not have any films in competition this year, but that doesn’t mean the hard-working industry figures (around 120 of them) aren’t there making things happen. Louise Ryan, Marketing and Communications Manager of the Irish Film Board, told IMAGE.ie that there has always been a significant Irish presence at the festival; it’s a highlight on the film calendar, and its platform means there is great potential to get Irish projects off the ground, collect funding or the big one, distribution rights that mean both small and large scale movies will get seen by a worldwide audience. All the films at the 2016 event will be backed by the Irish Film Board’s Irish Pavillion. “We’ve been at Cannes for 17 years and each year it gives us a chance to highlight and promote the wealth of talent that exists in Ireland,” she said.
Irish film has a solid history at Cannes, starting with Some Mothers Son winning the Un Certain Regard accolade in 1996. In more recent times, funding for Brooklyn was sourced at the festival prior to its eventual global success and last year, The Lobster gained early recognition by winning the Jury Prize. Also, in 2006, The Wind That Shakes The Barley won the coveted Palme d’Or.
Seven Irish films will screen at the Marché for prospective buyers this year, including Johnny O’Reilly’s Russian-language Moscow Never Sleeps, a multi-threaded-narrative set on Moscow City Day, which follows the lives of a troubled businessman, a Soviet film star, and a singer searching for her true self; Billy O’Brien’s dark drama I Am Not A Serial Killer (which has acquired film distribution rights in North and Latin America), follows a 15-year-old who is a diagnosed sociopath, and who is plagued by constant homicidal urges; Pieter-Jan De Pue’s arresting documentary The Land of the Enlightened, which combines a child’s fantasy of the future with footage of the Afghan country; Simon Dixon’s Tiger Raid, which sees two mercenaries journey across the desert while undertaking a kidnapping in Iraq; Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, an adaptation of the Jane Austen novella Lady Susan, that describes the schemes of the main character, the widowed Lady Susan, as she seeks a new husband for herself and one for her daughter, and Rebecca Daly’s drama Mammal, the compelling story of a woman who has lost her son and develops an unorthodox relationship with a homeless youth.
There will be a large number Irish production and co-productions also looking for distribution rights as well as 23 Irish short films that will play at the Cannes Short Film Corner.
While Ryan admits that the setting is certainly glamorous, weeks of preparation and planning go into the schedules of everyone involved in the festival whether they are buying, selling or financing films, so it’s an exciting, occasionally stressful and often exhausting time for our Irish attendees.
Will big-screen gems be unearthed after the ten-day festival is done and dusted? We’ll have to wait and see. What’s certain is that we have only just begun to gain our momentum, so it’s an exciting time for the Irish film industry.