The centerpiece for this year's three-day Irish Film Festival was a double bill of Irish horror. And no, I don't mean education at the hands of the nuns.
According to Niall McKay, the festival's director (whose joke I just borrowed), "there's not a fiddle to be found [in] this year's batch of films, many of which moved away from telling exclusively Irish stories [ ] towards more universal themes." That's right! Zombies and genetically-mutated cow embryos are more universal alright!
The program notes for Boy Eats Girl qualified that the movie was "a bit of fun and not an Art Movie." After studying my Bresson and Bazin all week, charting melodramatic influences of Emilio Fernández on Arturo Ripstein, toking Spike Lee's latest feel good joint, and reviewing as many entries in this year's International Asian American Film Festival as humanly possible, I decided my brain needed a break. Stephen Bradley's Boy Eats Girl did the trick! Temporarily banned in Ireland because censors feared a suicide scene early in the movie would provoke a rash of adolescent suicides, the film was eventually released to distribution when the director won his appeal, but, by then Sean of the Dead had somewhat stolen the thunder from Bradley's "romantic zombiedy." It's still good fun, more a comedy than horror, but with enough jumps here and there to respect the genre. There is one incredible over-the-top zombie massacre scene with actress Samantha Mumba negotiating a tractor that had folks in the Roxie audience howling and applauding while zombie parts flew right and left. Funny how scenes like that can make you feel all fuzzy, warm and safe afterwards. Or at least all in one piece.
Bradley, and actresses Samantha Mumba and Deirdre O'Kane, were present for a sweet Q&A afterwards while the festival treated patrons to glasses of Magners Irish cider. Asked how casting was accomplished, Deirdre O'Kane admitted she had slept with the director to get the role (she's Bradley's wife).
Most of the audience emptied out of the Roxie to join the visiting director and cast next door for drinks at Dalva; but, I stuck around for Isolation, which was sticky, gooey, icky and kept reminding me of the psychological underpinnings of Mysterious Skin. Watch where you stick your fists, boys and girls!
Aquarello at Strictly Film School has a fair assessment of filmmaker Billy O'Brien's debut feature but is correct in summizing that "the film inevitably suffers from a derivative plot that lends itself to a certain degree of predictability and formulaic resolution."
The Irish Film Festival continues at the Roxie through tomorrow. Conor Howard of the Irish Arts Foundation promises, however, that receipt of a grant from Culture Ireland to help the Irish Arts Foundation sustain its efforts to provide a cultural bridge between the Bay Area and Ireland will insure screening previews and premieres of contemporary Irish films at diverse venues throughout the year. It will be interesting to watch this festival grow in the years to come.