Through Irish eyes: many cinema treats at Irish Film Festival

 The Lodgers - a horror story set in 1920s Ireland is part of this year's Irish Film Festival.

The Lodgers - a horror story set in 1920s Ireland is part of this year's Irish Film Festival.

FOUR films that shine a spotlight on the Troubles will be screened in Sydney and Melbourne this month as part of the Irish Film Festival.

The diverse festival programme also includes a Pat Shortt comedy, a documentary about returning emigrants and a Gothic horror. Festival director Enda Murray said it was a pretty strong line-up with the best of contemporary Irish cinema.

“I’m delighted with the festival programme this year,” he said. “The Northern Ireland focus seemed appropriate as this year marks the 20th anniversar y of the Good Friday Agreement and there were a number of great new films about the north of Ireland.”

Dr Murray said one of the festival highlights is No Stone Unturned by Oscar-winning American filmmaker Alex Gibney.

The documentary examines the murder in 1994 of six Catholics in a pub in Loughinisland, Co Down. The men were shot while they watched Ireland play Italy in the World Cup. No charges have ever been laid.

“It’s a remarkable film … a film that will change things,” Dr Murray said. The film’s producer, Trevor Birney, will attend the screenings in Sydney and Melbourne.

Dr Murray said there has also been incredible interest in the opening night film, Maze, about the 1983 mass breakout from the Maze prison, which was also known as Long Kesh. It stars Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, (Nidge) of Love/Hate fame.

A documentary about the former SDLP leader John Hume and a quirky fictional film based on the relationship between the DUP’s Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness complete the Northern Ireland focus.

One film that is certain to resonate with expats is Coming Home, a documentary that follows five Irish emigrants around the world who decide to move back to Ireland, including a woman from Sydney.

 The Maze will be screening on opening night at the festival. Based on the true story of the 1983 mass break-out of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland. 

The Maze will be screening on opening night at the festival. Based on the true story of the 1983 mass break-out of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland. 

For fans of comedy Dr Murray recommends the Pat Shortt film, The Flag. Shortt’s character discovers his grandfather had raised the Tricolour above the GPO in 1916 but it is now in the officers’ mess in a British Army barracks in London. He embarks on a mission to retrieve it.

“He’s a very funny guy. He can give a look and it will just reduce you to tears,” Dr Murray said. Also on the programme is the Irish entry in the Foreign Language category of the Oscars, Song of Granite, about the life of Connemara sean-nós singer Joe Heaney. And for fans of the supernatural, there’s The Lodgers, a chilling Gothic horror set in an Anglo-Irish home in the 1920s.

In a festival first, this year’s programme also includes a short film competition for young filmmakers from Ireland and Australia. “We are really happy to start cultivating an Irish-Australian platform for creative young people,” Dr Murray said. The Irish Film Festival is showing in Penrith and Sydney from 18-22 April and in Melbourne from 26-28 April.

For the full programme and tickets go irishfilmfestival.com.au