After ten days of exploding cinema, Ireland’s premier film festival wrapped a programme packed with cutting-edge films last week. My first but short-length attendance to the festival was a wonderful discovery of, what felt like, one of the most inclusive events in the city of Cork.
In its 63rd edition this year, Cork Film Festival showcased award-winning works alongside significant auteurs in a rebellious style. Following the screening of a wonderfully preserved print from the BFI, director Pat Murphy was present to discuss her 1981 debut film Maeve – a work that for those of you who have seen it already, will recognise its relevance to today’s #MeToo movement and the uncertainty of Brexit’s landscape. Maeve looks into the history of republicanism and what was going on in North Ireland from a little girl’s perspective becoming an independent woman and fighting for freedom of expression.
Filmed on the Antrim Coast and Co Down, Maeve is one of the most significant works in the oppositional documentary genre. Wonderfully shot mostly in natural light, or no light at all in some night scenes, it is also a work packed with symbolic elements, almost like a Greek tragedy in which women are no longer spectators, they’re fighters as much as men are.
Darya Zhuk’s debut Crystal Swan, winner of the Youth Jury Award, follows tireless Madonna-style punk girl Evelina (Alina Nasibullina), a DJ and recent graduate who wants to escape her native Belarus for Chicago, the birthplace of house music. Director Zhuk explained at a post-screening Q&A, it’s a personal film and it’s about youth in a post-communist country of no free healthcare, confined to the district police and traditional values. Shot in the glorious colour palette of cinematographer Carolina Costa and drifting through some impressive post-Soviet locations, Crystal Swan is weird, funny and rich, much like the rich energy of the 90s and it Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The brilliance of another debut, Carmen & Lola by Arantxa Echevarria, was a thrilling adventure into the world of Madrid’s gypsy community and its inward-looking grown-ups. But leading the story are two teenage girls, non-professional cast Rosy Rodriguez and Zaira Morales, who excellently question their desires with arresting affection. It would be a perfect double bill with Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent Roma, a film based on Mexico City’s Roma community, and of course Emir Kusturica’s magical 1988 film Time of the Gypsies about the Romani community in Eastern Europe. But Carmen & Lola has a few more exciting surprises and it’s a romantic, at times very funny film, filled with graffiti poignancy on the walls of Madrid.
Another highlight from the festival this year, was the programme of short films presented throughout. Although three days seemed too short for me to explore the full diversity of the programme, luckily I managed to attend a few short films, three of which are really worth mentioning here.
Miwako Van Weyenberg’s Summer Rain is a superb film that looks into a fragment in the life of a young boy born of Belgian-Japanese couple. Van Weyenberg’s film studies the boy’s difficult relationship with his grandfather and it’s a warm portrait of family bonding and love. Elsewhere Aoife Desmond’s RetroReflection (2017), which screened as part of the Technology, Nature and the Essay Film Form programme, is a wonderfully crafted work shot on 18mm film that becomes a laboratory of its own through its meditative look into science, art, nature and architecture. Also in the same programme Edward Lawrenson’s Uppland travels to Liberia with Irish architect Killian Doherty to look into a cruel 1960s story of promised geological fortune. It is gently narrated while observing the now forgotten community of the once thriving Lamco’s iron ore mining base in the town of Yekepa. Lawrenson’s film uses archive images and newly shot footage to illustrate the contrast of wealth between then and now alongside close-ups of those unfortunate people who now have to bear the consequences of a lost promise.
The 63rd Cork Film Festival run from 9-18 November 2018