23 March 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
Galway Film Fleadh announces Solstice; a digital Christmas programme reflecting on the first wave of Irish Film
15 Dec 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Galway Film Fleadh
The Galway Film Fleadh has revealed a digital programme celebrating the pioneers of the Irish film and television industry with a selection of films on offer from Irish filmmakers including Bob Quinn, Margo Harkin, and Lelia Doolan.

The holiday season, in particular, is a time when we find comfort in the art of light – in films. And as always, the Film Fleadh wants to bring audiences together; to share in the wonder, and the light, and the connection of cinema.

The events of 2020 have altered the trajectory of our film industry, and as it forges ahead into the future, the Fleadh is reflecting on the road we’ve travelled. Solstice is a selection of films that chart a journey from the Irish “first wave”, right up to the millennium and the cusp of the modern-day Irish film landscape.  

Some of the films presented are celebrated as pioneering Irish works, for breaking new ground, or for cracking the international market. Others were made between “waves”, between film boards, between the pages of Irish film history. They are all deserving of re-acquaintance with an audience. Something the Film Fleadh is proud to be able to make available to audiences worldwide this holiday season.  

The selected films for Solstice are:

  • Poitín (1978) directed by Bob Quinn 
  • Anne Devlin (1984) directed by Pat Murphy  
  • Atlantean (1984) directed by Bob Quinn 
  • Reefer and the Model (1988) directed by Joe Comerford 
  • Hush-a-Bye-Baby (1990) directed by Margo Harkin 
  • Korea (1995) directed by Cathal Black  
  • The Fifth Province (1997) directed by Frank Stapleton 
  • The Gamble (1998) directed by Paddy O’ Connor 
  • Country (2000) directed by Kevin Liddy 
  • Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey (2011) directed by Lelia Doolan 

As noted by the Fleadh, this programme is not a comprehensive history of early Irish cinema, but rather a curated selection of highlights, informed by the availability of formats and screening rights.  

Audiences can enjoy the first feature film in the Irish language, Poitín (1978) from director Bob Quinn, as well as his disruptive docuseries Atlantean (1984), which challenges preconceived ideas of “Irishness” and Celtic identity. Pat Murphy’s early Irish feminist masterwork Anne Devlin (1984) will screen from a recently digitally restored copy. Joe Comerford’s Reefer and the Model (1988) was the very first film to screen at – and helped give rise to – the Galway Film Fleadh. Margo Harkin’s 1990 debut Hush-a-Bye Baby, inspired by the 1983 addition of the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, is ripe for revisiting in the wake of the amendment’s repeal in 2018.  

Korea (1995), was the international breakout film from first-wave director Cathal Black (and the acting debut of a young Andrew Scott). The Fifth Province (1997), The Gamble (1998), and Country (2000) represent some of the last, and finest films to be made from Irish film’s cottage industry roots before the infrastructure was in place to support the widespread distribution of Irish indie cinema. It is the Fleadh’s fervent hope that digital accessibility can afford them a new and appreciative audience, online.  

Finally, though it wasn’t released until 2011, Lelia Doolan who was there in the beginning as a producer on Reefer and the Model and a co-founder of the Galway Film Fleadh, presents her directorial debut, which was nine years in the making, Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey. 

“When we held our first online festival in July, we felt the disappointment of our international followers who weren’t able to watch all the films because of the necessary geo-locking restrictions. So we reached into the past and put together a program that Irish film fans everywhere can enjoy,” said Fleadh programmer Will Fitzgerald. “With Irish Screen America and Irish Film London coming onboard as our US and UK partners respectively, to help us reach the widest possible audience amongst the global Irish community.”

Irish Screen America supports and guides Irish media-makers by showcasing their work and fostering partnerships in the two largest cities for the entertainment industry in the United States – New York and Los Angeles. ISA holds screenings, industry panels, discussions, and masterclasses throughout the year. 

Irish Film London champions Irish film, TV, and animation across the UK, running a year-round programme of screenings, industry and community workshops, the annual Irish Film London Awards, the St Brigid’s Day Film Festival each February, the St Patrick's Film Festival each March and the annual Irish Film Festival London each November. 

“One thing we’ll all do over Christmas, is sit down to watch a film. We wanted to make sure audiences had films with intelligence, as well as emotion, on offer. I’m personally looking forward to catching up on some old favourites,” said Fleadh CEO, Miriam Allen. 

All films will be available to rent worldwide on GalwayFilmFleadh.com or the Galway Film Fleadh App from December 15th, 2020 to January 21st, 2021.

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