19 September 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Five Irish Films Announced To Feature At The 25th Hot Docs Film Festival
22 Mar 2018 : Nathan Griffin
Five Irish titles will feature among the selected films at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Based in Toronto, the festival boasts a fantastic line-up as it celebrates its 25th year, having become the largest documentary film festival, conference and marketplace in North America.

This year’s travelling Irish contingent includes four feature documentaries: Katrina Costello’s IFTA nominated ‘The Silver Branch’; Fergal Ward’s ‘The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid’; Trevor Birney and Brendan Byrne’s Netflix original documentary ‘Mercury 13; and Maurice Sweeney’s ‘I, Dolours’. While Hannah Quinn’s short documentary ‘Smithy & Dickie’ will also be screening at the festival.


The Silver Branch (Katrina Costello)

Co-presented by Toronto Irish Film Festival, ‘The Silver Branch’ will make its World Premiere at the 25th Hot Docs Film Festival as part of the ‘International Spectrum’ programme. The film was nominated for the George Morrison Feature Documentary Award at the 2018 IFTA Film & Drama Awards.

Patrick McCormack is an Irish farmer/poet. As a descendant of the generations of farmers who have lived off the wild landscape of the Burren in County Clare, his life is deeply intertwined with the land. He lives his life moving between tradition and spirit and between body and soul. In this cinematically beautiful, uplifting and emotional celebration of people, place and the natural world, director Katrina Costello spent five years capturing this corner of the world and the fateful turn of events that threatened its future. Patrick and his rural community are drawn into a divisive battle with the government, which wants to increase tourism to the area, thus destroying the fragile landscape. Silver Branch is a bittersweet end-of-era evocation and a story of hope, centered around one man’s journey to keep his relationship to the natural world intact and to make a difference in the world.


The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid (Fergal Ward)

Following on from its International debut at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam in November, and picking up the ‘Best Irish Film’ award at the Dublin Critics’ Circle awards earlier this month, ‘The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid will make its North American debut at Hot Docs in April. Fergal Ward’s documentary will feature as part of ‘The Good Fight’ programme at Hot Docs.

The documentary follows Thomas Reid, a 55-year-old Irish farmer, who leads a solitary life living and working on the land passed to him through generations of his family. He lives on the fringes, with threadbare clothes and weathered hands, barely getting by. Looming as his neighbour is the world’s largest American manufacturer of computer microchips, which requires more land to expand. Reid finds himself embroiled in a fight to save what is his as the state applies pressure to evict him. In a world mired in governments putting corporate interests before their own citizenry and where the voices of corporate power, the state and the judiciary speak as one entity, he may be fighting a losing battle. Utilizing the immersive power of cinema, this beautifully told film shows the battle between principle and power.


Mercury 13 (Heather Walsh)

The new Netflix Original documentary, which is directed by Heather Walsh & David Singleton, was produced by Trevor Birney and Brendan Byrne’s Fine Point Films (‘Elián’, ‘No Stone Unturned’). The film will feature as part of the ‘Special Presentations’ programme at the festival.

Mercury 13 is a remarkable story of the women who were tested for spaceflight in 1961 before their dreams were dashed in being the first to make the trip beyond Earth. NASA’s "man in space" program, dubbed "Project Mercury" began in 1958. The men chosen—all military test pilots—became known as The Mercury 7. But away from the glare of the media, behind firmly closed doors, female pilots were also screened. Thirteen of them passed and, in some cases, performed better than the men. They were called the Mercury 13 and had the "right stuff" but were, unfortunately, the wrong gender. Underneath the obsession of the space race that gripped America, the women were aviation pioneers who emerged thirsty for a new frontier, but whose time would have to wait. The film tells the definitive story of thirteen truly remarkable women who reached for the stars but were ahead of their time.


I, Dolours (Maurice Sweeney)

‘I, Dolours’ boasts a strong Irish crew having been written & directed by Maurice Sweeney, along with co writer Ed Moloney, who produced the film with Nuala Cunningham and Paul Myler. The film was edited by Mick Mahon and cinematography was done by Kate McCullough. The documentary will feature as part of the ‘International Spectrum’ programme at this year’s festival.

Dolours Price, the infamous IRA radical convicted of bombing England's Old Bailey in 1973, granted a series of revealing interviews in 2010 on the strict condition of their posthumous release. The interviews, brought to life through vividly cinematic reenactments, uncover the birth of her fierce commitment to Irish Republicanism. Price revisits the bombing and the 200-day hunger strike that followed, and discusses her role in the disappearances of some suspected Republican informants. With 2018 marking the 20th anniversary since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and 50 years since the start of the Troubles, filmmaker Maurice Sweeney presents an eye-opening portrait of a once passionate, now disillusioned nationalist whose clarity of purpose both inspired allegiance and promised terror for so many.


Smithy & Dickie (Short)(Hannah Quinn)

Directed & Produced by Hannah Quinn, ‘Smithy & Dickie’ will feature as part of the ‘Shorts’ programme at this year’s festival.

Until quite recently, memories, relationships and precious moments were tangibly captured in photos, letters and notes. The beginning of Smithy and Dickie's courtship is forever memorialized in a series of sweet missives they wrote each other in the 1940s. Hannah Quinn celebrates the past and ponders the future of our collective memories as the way we communicate is rapidly re-shaped by new technologies.


The Hot Docs Film Festival takes place in Toronto, Canada from April 26th – May 6th.

For more information on the festival

Lectuer Colin Pauser-Cowman discusses the Springboard+ Postgraduate Diploma in Series Production
Dónall Ó Héalaí on Acting
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