So Austria’s Michael Haneke walked away with a second Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Featival.
But attention in this part of the world is now switching to the 12th Belfast Film Festival.
And what a programme the festival organisers have put on.
Here’s my pick of some of the highlights of the festival which runs from May 31 to June 10:
The eagerly awaited biopic of Terri Hooley hits the big screen with a world premiere on the opening night of the festival on May 31 in the Movie House on the Dublin Road and a screening nearby in the Ulster Hall.
Richard Dormer stars as the record shop owner turned godfather of the Belfast punk scene with an impressive cast that includes Liam Cunningham, Jodie Whittaker, Dylan Moran and Adrian Dunbar.
Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn are directing a script by Colin Carberry and Belfast novelist Glenn Patterson. All four plus producer Chris Martin will take part in a workshop in Queen’s Film Theatre on June 3 about how they were able to get their vision onto the big screen. Catch Hooley at the Black Box on June 6 as he reminisces about his favourite movies in the ‘Desert Island Flicks’ strand.
Stephen Rea in Conversation
Oscar nominated stage and screen actor Stephen Rea has been one of Ireland’s greatest film exports and will be deservedly honoured during the Belfast Film Festival with an Award for Outstanding Contribution to Cinema.
In a career spanning six decades, he has worked with some of the biggest names in acting and filmmaking including Sam Shepard, Mike Leigh, Robert Altman, Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson and Brad Pitt – comfortably skipping between acclaimed films to lauded plays and gripping television drama. Recently, he turned in a chilling BAFTA nominated performance as Gatehouse in the BBC’s thriller, ‘The Shadow Line’ as well as working alongside Shepard on the Bolivian-set Western, ‘Blackthorn’.
But it is his collaborations with Neil Jordan which stand out from their early work on ‘Angel’ and ‘The Company of Wolves’ to large budget movies like ‘Interview with A Vampire’, ‘Michael Collins’, ‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘The Butcher Boy’.
On June 1, he will be in conversation with the BBC’s Marie Louise Muir in the Queen’s Film Theatre, followed by a screening of James McTeigue’s cult adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’ and a June 2 screening of his Oscar nominated performance in Jordan’s ‘The Crying Game’ at the same venue. He also features in Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s ‘Stella Days’ which will be screened during the festival.
Former ITN Ireland Correspondent Tom Bradby’s psychological thriller about a young female IRA member turned spy during the Troubles receives its Northern Ireland premiere at The Movie House on the Dublin Road on June 6.
Andrea Riseborough, last seen as Wallis Simpson in Madonna’s ‘WE’, stars as Colette in James Marsh’s big screen adaptation of Bradby’s novel, while Clive Owen plays the British intelligence handler.
Aiden Gillen, Gillian Anderson, Domhnall Gleason, Brid Brennan and Martin McCann also feature in a movie which drew decent reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.
Film and the Law
Court Number One in Belfast High Court will provide the perfect setting for festivalgoers considering the merits of the courtroom drama with a series of screenings and talks about four legal movies.
The ‘Film and the Law’ strand begins with a screening of Sidney Lumet’s ‘The Verdict’ featuring one of Paul Newman’s finest performances as an alcoholic Boston laywer taking on the Catholic Church in a medical malpractice suit. The film boasts a strong supporting cast that includes James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Jack Warden.
Robert Mulligan’s 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ about a lawyer defending a black man on a rape charge in the highly charged racial atmosphere of the Deep South during the Depression will be shown on June 6. Gregory Peck stars as Atticus Finch in a role which landed him an Academy Award and Robert Duvall appears as Boo Radley. Mary Murphy’s 2010 documentary ‘Hey Boo’ about the enduring popularity of Lee’s novel will also be screened at the QFT on June 9.
There will be a chance to catch one of Charles Laughton’s finest performances as barrister, Sir Wilfrid Roberts in Billy Wilder’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ on June 7, based on a story by Agatha Christie and featuring performances from Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power.
On June 8, Broadcaster William Crawley will make the case for Stanley Kramer’s post War courtroom drama ‘Judgment At Nuremburg’, with screenings of key scenes from the movie starring Spencer Tracey, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell and which features a blistering supporting performance from Montgomery Clift.
Talented West Belfast actor Martin McCann has a key role in Irish director Kieron J Walsh’s ambitious drama about four twentysomethings whose lives intersect in Derry on New Year’s Eve.
The plot centres on McCann’s determination to get to the bottom of the disappearance of his brother who has fallen foul of a local gangster and his chance encounter on a bridge with Nichola Burley’s character Greta as she contemplates throwing herself into the Foyle.
Charlene McKenna, Ciaran McMenamin, Richard Dormer and Lalor Roddy also feature in a movie scripted by Walsh and Steve Brookes.
Made on a paltry budget on a digital camera, guerrilla filmmaker Michael McNulty’s second feature, which is being screened at the QFT on June 7, is being billed on You Tube as a Belfast-set romantic comedy with no kissing or jokes (see link -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cIFvkAoIs4).
Set during the “Big Freeze” which almost brought Northern Ireland to a standstill two winters ago, Eileen Branagh plays Bronagh who wants to find a man to settle down with before she turns 30.
Written and directed by McNulty, it is a follow-up to his ambitious zero budget twist on the Orpheus legend, ‘Empire’, which was also set in Belfast, and screened at the festival two years ago.
An Evening With James Ellis
One of Belfast’s best character actors, James Ellis will be a hugely popular recipient of the Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award at an event in the Europa Hotel on June 9.
Broadcaster Gerry Anderson will interview Ellis, looking back on his career on stage and screen, including his acclaimed performance in Sam Thompson’s controversial play about shipyard sectarianism, ‘Over the Bridge’ to his popular role as PC Bert Lynch in the BBC police series ‘Z Cars’ right through to appearances in other television classics like ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Boys from the Black Stuff’ and movies like ‘Priest’ and the Alan Bleasdale black comedy, ‘No Surrender’.
Ellis recently returned to our screens during the BBC’s retrospective of Graham Reid’s trilogy of ‘Billy Plays’ featuring Kenneth Branagh, Brid Brennan and Colum Convey in which he played working class hard man, Norman Martin.
Academy Award winners Brenda Fricker and Olympia Dukakis star as an elderly lesbian couple, Dot and Stella in Thom Fitzgerald’s unusual road movie.
Fighting against the ravages of old age, they flee a nursing home for Nova Scotia, where they hope to be legally married after a 30 year relationship.
Fitzgerald’s feature was warmly received when it was screened at the Dublin Film Festival earlier this year, with the Irish Times’ Film Correspondent Donald Clarke praising its “winning blend of anger and foul mouthed whimsy”.
The annual Mayles Brothers Documentary Competition continues to bring to local audiences some of the most challenging documentaries from around the world.
Among the films to look out for are Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim’s ‘Half Revolution’ at the QFT on June 1 about the experiences of friends and family in Cairo as the revolution against Hosni Mubarak unfolded and American Annie Eastman’s ‘Bay of All Saints’ at the Belfast Film Festival Beanbag Cinema on June 3 in Donegall Street about three single mothers in a Brazilian shanty town. Yung Chang’s Canadian and Chinese co-production ‘China Heavyweight’ about the training of Olympic boxers in south-west China will be shown at the QFT on June 4, while there will no doubt be a lot of interest in Alessandra Celesia McIlduff’’s ‘The Bookseller of Belfast’ which will be screened at the same venue on June 7.
Outside of competition, there will be a chance to catch a number of local and international documentaries. Margo Harkin’s ‘The Far Side of Revenge’ about dramatist Teya Sepinuck’s efforts to recreate onstage with a group of women their own harrowing stories from the Troubles will be screened at the QFT on June 4, while Laurence McKeown’s ‘Life As An Interface’ on the Skegoneill and Glandore areas of north Belfast will be shown at the same venue on June 10. Festivalgoers might like to catch at the MAC on June 3 Alex Rotaru’s ‘Shakespeare High’ about a South Californian programme which empowers young people from disadvantaged communities through theatre while the Polish-Romanian animated documentary ‘Crulic’ which will be screened at the Movie House on June 7, also looks very attractive.
Martin Sheen stars in Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s film as a progressive Catholic priest, Fr Daniel Barry, in de Valera’s Ireland, who runs a cinema in a small Co Tipperary town during the 1950s.
However he has to battle against Tom Hickey’s Bishop who is obsessed with building a modern church and conservative forces in the town opposed to the movies, represented by Stephen Rea’s character, Brendan.
Amy Huberman, Gail Fitzpatrick, Ruth McCabe and Alan Curran feature in O’Sullivan’s movie which recently enjoyed a theatrical release in the Irish Republic and will be shown at the QFT on June 6.
New Cinema strand
The Festival is once again offering Belfast audiences a chance to see acclaimed new independent cinema from across the world.
This year’s line-up includes the Belgian road movie ‘Come As You Are’ at the QFT on June 2 about three young disabled men on a quest to lose their virginity in Spain and Kathleen Turner as a devout Catholic mum in the dysfunctional family comedy ‘The Perfect Family’ at the same venue on June 5.
There are also screenings at the QFT of a Norwegian comedy about the Winter Olympics sport of curling, ‘King Curling’ on June 3, a gritty Parisienne crime drama ‘Polisse’ on June 6, the Danish movie ‘A Royal Affair’ about a young physician who gets involved with Queen Caroline Mathilde in 1768 and US indie filmmaker Todd Solondz’s latest drama, ‘Dark Horse’ starring Christopher Walken, Selma Blair and Mia Farrow.
The Belfast Film Festival Beanbag Cinema will also host screenings of the coming-of-age drama ‘The Wise Kids’ set in a Baptist Church in South Carolina and the microbudget independent Toronto teen drama ‘Amy George’.
Short Film Competition
Queen’s Film Theatre is the place to talent spot on June 10, with the best Irish short films.
Established Irish director Shimmy Marcus brings ‘Rhinos’ to the competition about two strangers who spend the day together. The remaining entries are Michael Lavelle’s ‘Cluck’ where feathers are ruffled over a new arrival, Alex Fegan’s ‘The Court Astronomer’ in which the eponymous hero predicts a 17th Century Prince’s death, Lisa Castagner’s coming of age drama ‘Elaine’, Richard Crawford’s ‘Jogged’ in which a runner stumbles upon a driver slumped over the steering wheel of a car whose engine is running and Thomas Hefferon’s ‘The Heist’ in which three enthusiastic robbers plan a robbery.
Whole Lotta Sole
Director Terry George follows up his Oscar winning short film, ‘The Shore’ with a comedy feature film which will close the Festival with a gala screening in the Waterfront Hall on June 10.
In-demand actor Martin McCann stars as Jimbo Reagan whose botched robbery at a fish market results in a hostage situation. Brendan Fraser plays a shop manager turned hostage, David O’Hara is a gangster and Colm Meaney an irascible Detective Inspector.
The movie has already garnered positive reviews at the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York and marks a shift in tone from the filmmaker whose previous features ‘Some Mother’s Son’, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and ‘Reservation Road’ were well crafted and heavy dramas.
Fans of Terry George can also attend a masterclass in The Black Box on June 8, reflecting on his experiences as an acclaimed screenwriter, director and television series creator.