Although it pains me to say it, it has not been a particularly vintage year for Irish film. There were none released that were particularly bad per se, more that there was precious little to get excited about. That being said, for the second year in a row 2 Irish films will make it into my top 20 films of the year (one in my top 5). So positivity is necessary here. The ones that were good were really good. Instead of doing a list, I am going to do what I did last year and give out arbitrary and imaginary awards to those who deserved them. It is more fun to come up with silly names quite frankly. So without further ado…
The make me laugh and cry award (aka best Irish film of 2013) - Good Vibrations
This is a film that blindsided me this year. It tells the story of Terri Hooley, record shop owner, music producer, dreamer and bad husband who brought punk to Belfast in the 1970s and 80s. This film is an absolute joy to behold, emotional without being cloying, harsh without being brutal. There are tears and laughs in equal measure but crucially they are earned with a terrific tone and a great screenplay. Richard Dormer is terrific in the main role. The scene when he hears a certain record for the first time is just beautiful to behold. This is an absolute triumph and it is easily the best Irish film of 2013.
The ‘What’s Up Doc?’ award – Broken Song
The best Irish documentary this year was the wonderful Broken Song directed by Claire Dix. It tells the story of a group of young lads who rap. They are predominantly from the Finglas/Ballymun area of Dublin. Git and Costello have a father/son relationship which they both seem to draw on for lyrical inspiration. They also try to mentor some of the younger kids of the area. The songs themselves are lyrically brilliant, the content reflecting lives lived and dreams that slipped away. Into this comes singer/songwriter Willa Lee, who has a voice most singers would kill for. But he is also a troublemaker and a little bit too lazy. Dix delves lightly into their pasts but without reducing the film to working class misery porn which can happen in films such as this. At its heart, Broken Song is a simple story well told. And it is all the better for it.
The ‘overnight sensation’ award - Paul Duane
If you do not know who he is now he will be more familiar to you in 2014. Duane has had a superb year with Barbaric Genius released on DVD, a superb documentary (Natan) on the way, and a TV show about to air on RTE and BBC 4 (Amber). If that is not enough Variety only went and named him on their highly prestigious 10 Directors to watch in 2014 list. He is an all round good egg and very entertaining on Twitter (@MrPaulDuane). Mark my words this time next year he could be announced as the director of Transformers 5. We can only hope he can resist the lure of Hollywood and keep making the quality Irish films he has been making.
The ‘this kid’s got something’ first film award - Gerard Barrett Pilgrim Hill
Pilgrim Hill was released to talk of an instant classic and of a serious talent to behold. The talk of a masterpiece doesn’t help either the filmmaker or Irish film in general. Pilgrim Hill is not a masterpiece but it is a good enough film to suggest the birth of a major Irish filmmaker. The story of Jimmy Walsh and his life on his farm is lean, beautifully shot and very confident. It has a feeling of authenticity rarely seen. You get the feeling that Barrett and lead actor Joe Mullins know this terrain very well. They have carved out a memorable and low key film with a great central character at the heart of it. I cannot wait for Barrett’s next film to come along.
The 1st Annual ‘just release the f*cking film will ya’ award – Tin Can Man
This is an easy winner. It is Tin Can Man by Ivan Kavanagh. It will be the same winner every year until this film gets a cinema release. Seriously people you have no idea how good this film is. Hassle your local TD. It needs to be seen.
A couple of honourable mentions. Citadel by Ciaran Foy was a very interesting film that fell away into genre conventions a little too much. But there is more than enough to suggest that he will make something excellent in the future.
It has not been on general release yet but the excellent documentary Where I Am by Pamela Drynan is a terrific and humbling story of what happened to American writer Robert Drake. It did screen in the IFI over the summer so I do not know if is getting a general release. It has been an excellent year for Irish documentaries as evidenced by the above choices and I have still to see The Summit! I will do so soon.
So that is it for 2013. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for an article on Irish cinema in 2014 which I will publish over the next couple of weeks.