In an effort to educate audiences and help them develop an appreciation for Irish-made movies, the Manhattan-based non-profit is planning an ongoing retrospective to showcase both beloved Irish favorites, as well as some lesser-known gems.
“A lot of Americans, what they consider ‘Irish films’ would be things such as ‘The Quiet Man.’ With this, I really wanted to give the essence of Irish film for many different reasons: for the technical aspect, for what’s going on there at the moment, and for the history there, as well,” said Orla Clancy, the event’s coordinator.
“With the line-up that we have, we are trying to give a broad overlook of the Irish film industry.”
Scheduled to open the series on Sept. 13 will be a screening of “Mise Eire” (“I am Ireland,”) an acclaimed 1959 documentary about the 1916 Easter Rising. Directed by George Morrison and produced by Gael-Linn, this is the first full-length, Irish-language film and contains rarely seen footage from the time period.
On Sept. 27, the center will show the Oscar-winning, blood-splattered, 2005 short film, “Six Shooter,” directed by playwright Martin McDonagh and featuring performances by David Wilmot and Domhnall Gleeson, the stars of McDonagh’s wickedly funny play, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” Topping off the evening will be a screening of “I Went Down,” the 1997 action/comedy about bungling Dublin gangsters written by “Shining City” scribe, Conor McPherson, and helmed by “Blow Dry” director, Paddy Breathnach. A fine double-bill, both films are set in contemporary Ireland and boast Brendan Gleeson in starring roles.
Those who don’t get their fill of the esteemed character actor that night should mark Nov. 4 on their calendars because that’s when the Center will present a screening of Gleeson’s black-and-white film, “The General.” Written and directed by “Excalibur” filmmaker, John Boorman, and based on Paul Williams’ book, this 1998 drama charts the rise and fall of daring, real-life thief, Martin Cahill. American actor Jon Voight plays the police inspector dogging Cahill’s every move, while celebrated filmmaker and former Irish Arts Center artistic director, Jim Sheridan, gives a brief cameo performance.
The next movie in the series, John Ford’s classic 1935 film adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel, “The Informer,” will be screened on Nov. 11. Set in 1922, during the Irish Civil War, the film stars Victor McLaglen as a hard-drinking rebel who rats out a friend to collect a reward, then must deal with the consequences. Ford, McLaglen, composer Max Steiner and screenwriter Dudley Nichols all took home Oscars for their work on the film.
Brian Friel will be the focus of the center’s programming on Nov. 22. Slated to screen that evening are “Brian Friel,” Sinead O’Brian’s 2000 documentary about the contemporary playwright from Northern Ireland. Also playing that evening will be the 1998 film adaptation of Friel’s Tony Award-winning, memory play, “Dancing at Lughnasa.” Like the stage drama, the film is about an unmarried woman, who with the help of her four spinster sisters, raises a young son in rural Ireland during the 1930s. The movie boasts a star-studded cast that includes Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Rhys Ifans, Sophie Thompson and Catherine McCormack.
Heading towards the end of the year will be the Dec. 6 presentation of “Pavee Lackeen,” British photographer Perry Ogden’s unsentimental portrait of a spirited, 10-year-old girl and her large, poor family who are part of Ireland’s nomadic Traveller culture. The lead roles in this cinema verite-style film, which marks Ogden’s directorial debut, are performed by non-actors.
The final film on the schedule, thus far, is “In America,” filmmaker Jim Sheridan’s bittersweet, semi-autobiographical tale of a young husband and father who brings his wife and two daughters to the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in the 1980s, in hopes of a better life. Co-starring Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, Djimon Hounsou and adorable, real-life sisters Emma and Sarah Bolger, the film was directed by Sheridan from a screenplay he penned with his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten. The trio earned an Oscar nomination for their efforts.
Although the line-up only lists dates through December, Clancy says the Arts Center will continue to screen films through the year and plans to eventually organize lectures and panel discussions to complement them.
Films will be presented at the Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st St. in Manhattan, with two screenings at Fordham University, Lincoln Center. For more information, please visit The Irish Art Center’s Web site at www.irishartscenter.org. Tickets can be purchased from Smarttix on its Web site at www.smarttix.com or by calling 212-868-4444.