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Sundance Round-Up: Irish Horror 'The Hole In The Ground' Earns Rave Reviews
28 Jan 2019 : Nathan Griffin
Seana Kerslake in 'The Hole in the Ground'.
IFTN takes a look at the Irish production and co-productions currently screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Projects that have been selected to feature at the festival include: Lee Cronin’s new Irish feature ‘The Hole in the Ground starring Irish actress Seána Kerslake; three international co-productions, Sophie Hyde’s ‘Animals’, Sacha Polak’s ‘Dirty God’ and Anne Sewitskey's ‘Sonja: The White Swan’; and two Irish documentaries, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s ‘GAZA’ and Kim Longinotto’s ‘Shooting the Mafia’.

The Hole in the Ground

Lee Cronin’s debut feature film has enjoyed some fantastic reviews following the films world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Digital Spy has tipped the Irish horror to follow in the footsteps of ‘Herreditary’, ‘The Witch’ and ‘The Babadook’, which all went on to become “some of the most talked-about horrors of the year’ following their premieres at Sundance in previous years.

IFTA nominated actress Seana Kerslake has also picked up praise with BirthMoviesDeath making the claim that “Sarah deserves a spot among the great heroines of horror, and I sincerely hope she moves enough people to get it." This comes from a review that confidently backs Cronin’s film saying "for all its smallness, I anticipate a lot of great conversations about the film.”

Variety’s Guy Lodge said: "Putting the agonized single mom at its center through a veritable spin cycle of familiar horror dilemmas and distractions — a haunted child, a creaking house, a ghostly neighbor, even a mysterious, beckoning sinkhole — and seeing how she comes out of the wash. Thanks to the resourceful Seána Kerslake in the lead, she fares rather well, and so does Cronin: The Irishman’s trim, jumpy debut feature rewrites no genre rules, but abounds in bristly calling-card atmospherics."

Collider’s Perri Nemiroff said: "The Hole in the Ground takes a simple, curious, highly cinematic premise and never over-explains or bombards you with flashy set pieces but rather, sustains its 90-minute runtime by creating two well developed, engaging characters, letting you live with them, and then all slowly slip into the darkness and paranoia together."

Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home.

The Hole in the Ground is directed by Lee Cronin and stars Seána Kerslake (‘A Date for Mad Mary’) with the title produced by John Keville and Conor Barry for Savage Productions.

Animals

A fierce and unapologetic celebration of female friendship, Animals is an intimate, funny and bittersweet examination of the challenges of turning talent into action, and being a modern woman, with faults, longings and competing desires.

Variety has released a first look trailer ahead of the film’s Sundance Film Festival debut this Monday, January 28th.

‘Animals’ is an Irish/Australian/UK co-production, directed by Sophie Hyde, with Cormac Fox producing for Ireland’s Vico Films alongside Sarah Brocklehurst, Rebecca Summerton and Sophie Hyde. The film stars Holliday Grainger (‘My Cousin Rachel’) and Alia Shawkat (‘Arrested Development’).

GAZA

Directed and produced by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell for Real Films and Brendan Byrne for Fine Point Films alongside Paul Cadieux, ‘GAZA’ will make its Sundance Film Festival debut on Tuesday, January 29th in the Park Avenue Theatre.

Bazaar recently named the feature documentary among the 16 most anticipated films at Sundance this year.

This documentary brings together an eloquent, resilient, funny and courageous group of souls, on whose lives the world lens is often trained, without ever capturing their true essence; their struggle, survival, resilience and sense of family, which goes to the very heart of humanity and human nature. The film unfolds a portrait of the ordinary people of Gaza who attempt to lead meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial conflict. Free of the cliché of news reportage, GAZA reveals a complex land of intrigue and highlight the beauty of the human condition and the warmth and humour that lies bubbling beneath the surface of this truly remarkable place.

Dirty God

Dirty God is a powerful film about motherhood, courage and self-acceptance. Jade is a young mother recovering from an acid attack that has left her with severe facial burns. Her face has been reconstructed, but her beauty is gone. Distanced from her daughter, Jade finds solace in the hidden world of online liaisons where she uncovers the passion and connection she's craved. But when her life is turned upside down once more, those around can do little to halt her descent. As her family life and friendships start to crumble, Jade takes drastic action, finally finding the path back to her daughter and herself.

The film is an Irish/Dutch/UK/Belgian co-production, with Conor Barry and John Keville on board as Irish producers for Savage Productions, alongside Viking Film (NL), Emu Films (UK) and A Private View (BE).

Shooting the Mafia

In sharp contrast to the all-pervasive romanticised and glamorised media image of the Sicilian Mafia, Kim Longinotto's feature documentary ‘Shooting the Mafia’, unflinchingly explores the stark reality of life, and death, under the oppressive yoke of the Corleonesi Mafia. Photographer Letizia Battaglia stood up to the Mafia and it is through her lens that we enter this world of ritualised slaughter, omertà, semi-religious oppression and feudal control. The scale of the mafia’s brutality and power is revealed through a combination of rare archive footage, newsreel and personal photographs and memories. The power of Letizia's photography and the bravery and dedication of people like her helped to finally bring to an end the brutal reign of a bunch of small town thugs who's reign of fear reached as far as the Italian presidency.

The documentary is directed by Kim Longinotto and produced by Niamh Fagan for Lunar Pictures.

Sonja: The White Swan

The inventor of modern ice skating, Sonja Henie was always surrounded by her family, never alone, and with an appetite for money, men, parties and alcohol. After eleven World Championships and three Olympic gold medals as a figure skater, she set out to conquer Hollywood. Her first film in 1937 breaks the box office by selling the most tickets in the world that year. She becomes one of the best paid actresses in Hollywood. But after thirteen movies and two unhappy marriages both the audience and her loved ones start to leave her. And Sonja can’t stand to be alone.

Sonja lived a remarkable life on the ice, in Hollywood, and in her private life. But what does the star do when the spotlight is turned off?

The film is an Irish/Norwegian/Swedish/Danish co-production, with Tristan Orpen Lynch and Aoife O'Sullivan on board as Irish producers for Subotica.

Sundance Film Festival began on Thursday, January 24th and runs until Sunday, February 3rd at Park City in Utah, USA.




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