As 2011 turns into 2012 we can reflect on a good year for Irish cinema. Films such as The Guard, Sensation, Parked and One Hundred Mornings were either commercial or critical successes, sometimes both. With finances being tougher than ever in Ireland we could be forgiven for thinking that film could be one of the first casualties of this. Amazingly this may not be the case. Here is a list of reasons why 2012 may well prove to be one of the best years for Irish film both at home and abroad.
- The Economic Downturn
Yes that’s right, this is a plus. Why? Well, we were never going to be a blockbuster kind of nation. The scale is just too big. With the literary tradition that this country has our cinema should always be about the personal connections. The relationship between people and themes is what we are. Our cinema lost sight of this in the 1990s during The Celtic bleedin’ Tiger and the one massive Hollywood Irish blockbuster we had in Michael Collins. It was decent but compromised, done much better by RTE in The Treaty. At those dizzy heights, with films like Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan being filmed here, we dared to dream. But it could never last and that could only be a good thing for our filmmakers. We have already had a film, Conor Horgan’s One Hundred Mornings which has indirectly dealt with the societal financial meltdown that left us with austerity. There will be more and for that we should be thankful.
- Michael Fassbender
Few who saw Michael Fassbender in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds would have guessed that this German born actor was Irish. Fassbender’s mother is Irish and he grew up in Kerry. With an upper class English accent and fluent German he seemed very far away from the stereotypical Irish actor. Indeed not many would have thought it was the same man that played Bobby Sands in Steve Mc Queens astonishing Hunger such was the transformation. But Irish he is, and with talk of an Oscar nomination for Shame (Steve Mc Queen’s follow up) growing, we have a seriously good actor on our hands here. Hollywood has also taken notice with Fassbender taking the lead role in the new X-Men film earlier this year. The future is bright for Fassbender with a proposed third collaboration with Mc Queen on the way.
- The Factory
This city has been crying out for a large creative space for filmmakers to work out ideas for scripts, try out actors, test footage etc. and it may well have finally found it with The Factory. A large warehouse on Barrow Street represents what the future of Irish film may well be. An initiative between filmmakers Kirsten Sheridan and John Carney to find a space for creative output, it now encompasses a collaborative space for all filmmakers to try and create smaller budget films with a distinct Irish feel. There are various studios, editing and screening rooms so that films can be taken from the start of the process to post production. There are two films in post production at the moment, John Carney’s Irish ghost story The Rafters and Kirsten Sheridan’s thriller Dollhouse which will screen at the Berlin Film Festival. These are exciting times for The Factory group.
- Charlie Casanova
Terry Mc Mahon’s new film is one which may well divide audiences. A great reception at the Galway Film Fleadh last year where Mc Mahon took away the first feature prize does not mean that this film won’t garner controversy along the way. The trailer looks, quite frankly, astounding: terrifying, funny and beautifully shot with what may be a career making performance from Emmett Scanlon in the lead role. This film may not be for everyone which is what may set it apart. A film that divides audiences is no bad thing. Great films like Fight Club and The Tree of Life all have their detractors. Films that explore the darkness of the human soul are always to be welcomed especially in a country where to have that exploration this close up is a rarity indeed.
- A new generation of filmmakers
For years Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan have carried the hopes of a nation when it comes to Irish films competing on the world stage. As they (seemingly) become a little less important to Irish cinema (though they still may have another great film in them) a new generation of filmmakers have been a long time coming. But there seems to be a new energy in Ireland. As well as the directors mentioned above there are directors such as Conor Horgan, brothers Martin and John Michael Mc Donagh, Tom Hall and Juanita Wilson who are coming to the fore. The subject matters of their films are now exploring Irish themes in a far more direct way. Fast disappearing are the naval gazing films of the ‘troubles’. Juanita Wilson’s As If I Am Not There will represent Ireland in the best foreign film category at this year’s Oscars after previously being nominated for her short The Door. There is also Mark O’Connor (Between the Canals) and Carmel Winters (Snap). If the promise of these filmmakers is realised in the next few years we could see some of the best Irish films ever made.
These last few years have been an interesting time for Irish documentaries. In the last two years we have had documentaries coming to the fore: Ken Wardrop’s His & Hers, Maya Derrington’s Pyjama Girls, Sé Merry Doyle’s Dreaming the Quiet Man and Risteard Ó Domhnaill’s The Pipe which have all being critically acclaimed. Crucially most have been shown on the big screen with His & Hers being the most successful film ever at the Lighthouse cinema. Add to this the recent big screen outing for Frank Berry’s Ballymun Lullaby and it is obvious that this is an area in Irish film that we may well see a lot more from.
- The Return Part I (The Lighthouse Cinema)
There is nothing definitive as of yet but there seems to be two bids in to run the Lighthouse cinema site. We can only hope that this comes to a successful end as the Lighthouse cinema is one of the shining lights in Irish and independent cinema in Ireland. It has been sorely missed on the north side of the city and would be a welcome addition again to the Smithfield area. It would be great to have it again alongside the other great independent cinema in Dublin, the IFI. Fingers crossed in 2012.
- At Swim, Two Birds
This film may not see the light of day until 2013 but it warrants inclusion on the basis of the ambition and scale on show. To be directed by Brendan Gleeson, it is to have a who’s who of Irish talent on screen. Gabriel Byrne, Cillian Murphy, Michael Fassbender and Colin Farrell have all signed on. With a cast like this, hopes are indeed high. For Gleeson this is a long time passion project and one that has taken years to put the finances into place. The novel by Flann O’Brien is considered a classic and with funding secured, this film has the potential to be a modern classic.
- The Return Part II (Lenny Abrahamson)
One of Ireland’s most talented directors will make his return in 2012 with his new film What Richard Did. A modern day story about a young sports star whose life is changed after an act of violence, this film promises to be one of the highlights of 2012. It is hard not to expect too much from Abrahamson when two of his previous features, Adam and Paul and Garage, are considered to be great Irish films (I will be hoping to review all three in a director’s spotlight when What Richard Did reaches the cinema this year). Suffice to say this is one to mark down in your diary.
- Decrease to Capital Funding to the Irish Film Board
Ok, this is not exactly good news for anyone who has an interest in Irish film. Initially the author thought that funding to the IFB had risen by 4 per cent to €2.54m over the 2011 figure. This has now been kindly clarified by the IFB: the 4 per cent rise is in admin funding only. Capital funding has been reduced by over €3 million from the 2011 figure. This is perhaps expected in worsening economic times. This is not great news of course for filmmakers looking for funding for their respective projects. But with the success of The Guard in 2011 and two Irish films being accepted into Sundance this year (Grabbers and Shadow Dancer) the IFB is working hard at maintaining high standards for the coming year. Time will tell how much this reduction will effect the Irish film industry, but working harder to achieve more with less has become the standard in Ireland these last few years.
Unfortunately this means that the list ends on a slightly down note. But my optimism for Irish film in 2012 is undiminished. For me, beginning the year with two Irish films in a major festival is a great beginning to a very interesting year for Irish film. I would like to hear other people’s thoughts on this as I believe it is important to debate the good and the bad in this area. Of course, like anything to do with film, luck will be needed to help makes these various projects a success. For all the optimism for 2012 there is also the chance that the ones listed above will not be quite as good or successful as we hope they would be. But I am equally sure there will be something that I have not mentioned here which could come out and be a success. Let me know what you think that will be below.