25 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016 underway underscoring the strength of Irish documentaries
09 Jun 2016 : Seán Brosnan
Sheffield Doc/Fest
Underscoring what has been a remarkable year so far for Irish documentaries, a massive four Irish films are currently screening at the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest (including two for the Grand Jury Prize), as well as one short film while two other films are screening at the Annual Meetmarket.

Irish documentaries ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’ and ‘The Land of the Enlightened’ were both selected in competition for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize while 'Mattress Men' and 'Crash and Burn'are also screening (with ‘Crash and Burn’ making its’ world premiere. Short film 'The Grey Area' is also screening and has been nominated for the Student Documentary Award while Simon Fitzmaurice centred doc ‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ and ‘Bullock Rock’ being unveiled at the Annual MeetMarket.

‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’, directed by Brendan J Byrne, is a cinematic portrait of the Irish Republican's 66-day hunger strike. At seventeen, Bobby Sands was interested in girls, soccer and music. Ten years later he led a prison protest against the conditions in Northern Ireland's infamous H-Blocks that grabbed the attention of the whole world. On his death on May 5th 1981, parliaments across the world stopped for a minute's silence in his memory. ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’ is the story of his hunger strike in what became the epicentre of one of the most tense and defining moments of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Produced by Trevor Birney and Brendan J Byrne for Fine Point Films / Cyprus Avenue Films, the film was funded by the Irish Film Board, Northern Ireland Screen, BBC NI, BBC Storyville, SVT and DR and will be released in Irish cinemas this summer by Wildcard Distribution.

Directed by Pieter-Jan De Pue, ‘The Land of the Enlightened’ was co-produced by Morgan Bushe for Fastnet Films. In the shadow of Bagram Airfield - the bastion of U.S. military might in Afghanistan - exists a wartime economy that is run and controlled entirely by children. Nomadic Kuchi youngsters dig out anti-personnel mines and sell them to the child workers of the lapis lazuli mines. They in turn blast the precious blue stones free from their ancient resting place, to be smuggled by child soldiers, who control their passage to China and Tajikistan. There, the stones are bartered for arms and opium, the very lifeblood of the Taliban in their war against the U.S. occupation. The film scooped the World Cinema Cinematography Award for a Documentary at Sundance in January.

'Mattress Men' is directed by Colm Quinn, produced by Ciaran Deeney and David Clarke and is the first feature length film from Dublin based independent production companies El Zorrero Films and Faction Films. Mattress Men tells the story of a struggling mattress businessman, sixty-something Michael Flynn who teams up with aspiring film maker Paul Kelly to reinvent himself as the eccentric online persona ‘Mattress Mick’. Through Paul’s zany videos and creative use of social media Mattress Mick quickly becomes an unlikely local celebrity. However as the business and Mick’s profile begins to grow, their friendship comes under increasing pressure. The film is due for release in Irish cinemas in Autumn 2016.

Check out our interview with ‘Mattress Men’ and ‘Crash and Burn’ editor John Murphy here.

Also on the Sheffield slate is the world premiere of Dot Television’s 'Crash and Burn', written and directed by Seán Ó Cualáin ('Men at Lunch'). This film charts the rise and fall of Drogheda’s Tommy Byrne who for a fleeting moment in the early 80’s, was the world’s greatest driver.

Check out our interview with ‘Crash and Burn’ director Seán Ó Cualáin here.

Short film 'Grey Area', which received a jury special mention at last year's Galway Film Fleadh, tells the story of Eamonn Grey, an embalmer from Tipperary. As he speaks about his trade it's clear that preparing the dead is easy when compared to preparing the families for their loss. The film is directed by Jon Barton and produced by Louise O’Gallagher.

Also at Sheffield, Kennedy Films and Newgrange Pictures feature ‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ will be unveiled at Sheffield’s annual MeetMarket. ‘It's Not Yet Dark’, produced by Kathryn Kennedy and Lesley McKimm with Frankie Fenton directing, tells the ground breaking story of Simon Fitzmaurice, a talented young Irish film maker with ALS (MND), as he embarks on directing his first feature film (‘My Name is Emily’) through the use of his eyes and eye gaze technology. Another selected project this year for the MeetMarket is 'Bullock Rock' (Directed by Joel Conroy and produced by Besom Productions and Inis Films).

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