2024 is the 75th Anniversary of Ireland becoming a Republic; film making in Ireland has continued to blossom and we'll see much evidence of that this season. The series that our film programmers have assembled is an exciting fresh look at recent Irish filmmaking.
In 1992, the Cultural Committee of the St. Patrick's Society of Montréal received a proposal from film-buff Anthony Kirby that Montréal needed an Irish film series. The committee agreed to fund the wildly hysterical plans of Lynn Doyle, Patrick Vallely and several other miscreants, to form and run a film society devoted to showing Irish Films.
The name Ciné Gael Montréal was proposed and scheduling and film selection started, with outside assistance coming from Fr. Marc Gervais SJ, Peter Rist, Ben Queenan and most importantly, the film archives and screening facilities at Concordia University. Early in 1993, we screened our first film.
On our 20th anniversary, when we asked our members to tell us the film from our past seasons that we should show again, it was that first film.
Read more about our history, written by Dana Hearne on our 10th and our 15th anniversary, as well as John Griffin's article from the Gazette, written on our 20th anniversary in January 2012. This is our film schedule flyer for 1993, front and back.
:: Guest Speaker:
Máirtín is from Navan, County Meath, in Ireland. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Translation and Editing from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and a PhD from Trinity College, Dublin. As well as serving as editor for the Irish literary journal Comhar and the peer-reviewed academic annual Comhar Taighde, he has held positions in the National University of Ireland, Galway; University College, Dublin; and the University of Toronto. He was appointed Assistant Professor of the Irish Language and its Cultures in 2020.
Máirtín is interested in modern literature in its widest sense. He has published academic essays on violence and humour in fiction, ethical criticism, community theatre and children's literature, among other things; his work has appeared in periodicals such New Hibernia Review and The American Journal of Irish Studies, and in edited volumes such as The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Irish Theatre and Performance and Úrscéalta na Gaeilge [The Novels of the Irish Language].
His first monograph, Titley (2019), examines the work of the foremost
contemporary writer of the Irish language and was shortlisted for the Oireachtas
Book of the Year award.
Currently, Máirtín is working on a research project on the ethics and the internationality of translation in minority languages, with a focus on Irish.
He welcomes prospective graduate and post-doctoral students who share any of his interests, in particular those interested in Irish-language material.
Máirtín is also a creative writer, with poetry and short stories published
in literary journals Comhar, The Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland Review and Gorse.
A number of his poems feature in the anthology Calling Cards (Gallery Press, 2019),
with translations by Paul Muldoon.
Recently, a bilingual edition of his poem 'Cumhdach' [Shrine] was published as a limited edition letterpress chapbook by Kelly Library in the University of Toronto.
He is currently working on an Irish-language detective novel.
94 min - Dir and Screenwriter: Colm Bairéad with: Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett, Michael Patric, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh
"A genuine work of art by a genuinely empathetic artist, and one of the single most moving,
heartfelt, and heartbreaking movies from any country in the last decade.
That only sounds like hyperbole until you see it."
- Rolling Stone
"It's been a while since I have been touched by such a beautiful
coming-of-age film. Catherine Clinch delivers an unforgettable and tender performance.
Stephen Rennick's dreamy score with lush melodies provides an ethereal atmosphere. A must-see."
- Fort Worth Report
"As in Keegan's novels, every word, every crystalline scene counts in The Quiet Girl.
Each must be heard and seen with precision. When that cookie is set on the table in an insert shot,
it is not just a cookie. It is a stealth symbol. It is everything."
- KDHX (St. Louis)
[Martha K. Baker]
"A stirring testament to what's possible on a modest scale with a few well-chosen words.
Set in 1981 rural Ireland, The Quiet Girl comes from Claire Keegan's short story "Foster,"
and it preserves much of the rhythm and concision of a good short story."
- Associated Press
Colm Bairéad's Irish-language drama wafts in on unprecedented waves of early acclaim.
In February 2022 An Cailín Ciúin became the first feature
in the native tongue to play at the Berlin Film Festival. It won the Dublin Film Critics' Circle award
for best Irish film and the audience award at the Dublin International Film Festival.
Two months ago it surged past Belfast, a multiple Oscar nominee, to take seven prizes
at the Irish Film and Television Academy awards.
There is little danger that weight of expectation will crush this delicately beautiful gossamer construction. Adapted from Claire Keegan's novella Foster, the film borrows the syntax of the ghost story as it works us through universal anxieties about looming adolescence. The action is unsettling throughout. There is a pervasive sense of unspoken menace lurking just outside the frame (or somewhere in the near past or future). But it is also a celebration of uncomplicated human kindness.
Clinch's excellent performance reinforces those inclinations towards the supernatural. Wearing an old-fashioned dress, her hair down below her shoulders, she could easily have stepped from the pages of a Victorian children's story. Playing a largely passive observer, the quiet girl of the title, Clinch is well up to the challenge of communicating her unease through curtailed gesture and nervy pause. Why are there trains on the bedroom wallpaper? Where have these used children's clothes come from? Answers are hard to come by when, as a child in 1981, you are so often just outside the conversation.
Kate McCullough, among the best Irish cinematographers of her generation, risks jarringly dramatic contrasts between light and shade in her academy-ratio images (it is time for a treatise on why that narrow frame is so in fashion again). A near-sepulchral visit to a night-time beach is properly odd in way that might impress even Michael Powell.
The core revelation, when it comes in near matter-of-fact fashion, does not take us towards anything otherworldly, but Bairéad continues to approach reality from an oblique angle. Stephen Rennicks's beautiful score builds as Eibhlín counts out her brushing of Cáit's hair, as if in mystic ritual. Bennett and Crowley, both cautious and unhurried, convey the sense of decent people unable to fully honour their own open natures. Neither can say what the other needs to hear.
The temptation to revel in period detail is thankfully resisted, but the brief glimpse of Bunny Carr in RTÉ quiz show Quicksilver provides enough televisual madeleine to satisfy any passing Proustian. Maybe you still get orange cheese and beetroot for lunch, but that too feels like a relic from another age. Nudging the story into the past helps pull the social barriers up a little higher. It also invites the interpretation that we are looking at a memoir composed decades hence. Opened up to kinder ways of living, an older Cáit will surely play through variations on these memories on a daily basis. An Cailín Ciúin thus becomes a recreation of a perturbing interlude that also, in its unusual way, became something of an idyll. Balancing such contradictions is part of growing up.
An unqualified success. - Irish Times [Donald Clarke]
NOMINATIONS: Academy Award for Best International Feature Film; American Society of Cinematographers Awards - Spotlight Award; British Academy Film Awards - Best Adapted Screenplay (Colm Bairéad) and Best Film Not in the English Language; WINNER: Berlin International Film Festival - The Grand Prix of the International Jury in Generation Kplus and Special Mention from Children’s Jury; Dublin International Film Festival - Best Irish Film and Audience Award; Aer Lingus Discovery Award (Colm Bairéad)
...and many other wins and nominations
94 min - Writer and Director: Ciaran Creagh with: Zara Devlin, Ian Beattie, Eileen Walsh, Senna O'Hara, Darragh Gilhooly, Conor Hamill
"With his previous feature films, Ciaran Creagh has shown himself to be an author
with a sensitive social nerve. He continues in this direction also in the third film
which is based on what happened to 15-year-old Ann Lovett in 1984.
In 2018, an abortion referendum was held in Ireland and Ann's story again rose to the foreground."
Gallery I PÖFF [Mihkel Möölman]
"Featuring powerful performances from Devlin and Walsh, Ann is a chilling recreation of a time when social and sexual mores were less enlightened and a culture of shame and secrecy prevailed." IFI [Sunniva O'Flynn]
"As modernising people, we, as a nation, are continually trying to face our past, force through it, and hopefully arrive with a greater understanding of our times gone by." Dirctor: [Ciaran Creagh]
On the morning of 31 January 1984 Ann Lovett put a pair of scissors in her school bag
and left her home in Granard, a small town in County Longford, Ireland.
It was cold and wet. The 15-year-old was in her uniform but did not go to school. She went to the deserted grotto of St Mary's church, lay down on gravel, removed her underwear and gave birth in the rain.
Lovett cut the umbilical cord and wrapped the baby boy, who was dead, in her coat. Lovett's own life slowly bled out of her. By the time she was discovered and taken to hospital it was too late.
Four decades later, the shocking case continues to haunt Ireland - and colour attitudes to abortion. A new film has put Lovett's story on cinema screens at the same time as an official report has recommended a loosening of abortion rules.
The film Ann, directed by Ciaran Creagh, has revived interest in Lovett's case and its role in Ireland's transformation from conservative Catholicism to secular liberalism.
"It was hugely influential," said Mary Favier, a GP and co-founder of the advocacy group Global Doctors for Choice. "It was the first time we thought 'We have to do something differently.' You couldn't say it galvanised the movement but it clarified the need for a movement."
Individual stories such as Lovett's fuelled the campaign to lift a near-total constitutional ban on abortion, said Favier. "There was no way people could not be moved by it - how young she was, how isolated."
Ireland voted overwhelmingly in a 2018 referendum to lift the ban, paving abortion services in 2019. Last month, a government-commissioned review of the legislation and services, conducted by a barrister, Marie O'Shea, recommended relaxing some rules, including a three-day wait between requesting an abortion and accessing one.
The government has not taken a decision, and anti-abortion activists oppose any relaxation, but the fact Ireland is considering further liberalisation is a dramatic contrast to the US, where several states have made abortion prohibited or inaccessible.
One reason Lovett's death had such impact in Ireland was that it came only five months after a referendum had enshrined an abortion ban in the constitution. The tragedy humanised the dilemma faced by girls and women who were pregnant and not married, a social taboo.
Lovett had concealed her pregnancy - relatives, neighbours and teachers all later said they were unaware - and carried the baby to full term. - The Guardian [Rory Carroll]
:: Guest Speaker:
As a screenwriter and director I work in both fiction and documentary film. All of the short fiction that I have directed has won national and international awards. I was honoured by the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild and was nominated for two IFTAs. My first feature documentary Broken Song premiered at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in 2013 where it won the Audience Award and the Michael Dwyer Discovery Award for directing. Sunlight is my first narrative feature and I can't wait for everyone to see it. I am currently working with Amanda Coogan and Mind the Gap Films on an exciting new documentary about playwright Teresa Deevy.
My latest news is that my debut feature film SUNLIGHT
has won Best Feature Film at the Austin International Film Festival!
We are all so delighted. Thank you Austin.
I have a new documentary called Deaf Not Dumb which was on RTE1 on Thursday 23rd November. A documentary I directed called TRIBUTE: THE TERESA DEEVY STORY is still on the RTE player I'm happy to say. I had the pleasure to work with performance artist Amanda Coogan on this documentary. Amanda sets out to create a work based on ballet written by forgotten Deaf playwright Teresa Deevy, which has never been performed before.
We have always believed that our Evening of Short Films is a great introduction
to Ireland's burgeoning crop of filmmakers. Looking at the Claire Dix films we've shown,
it's apparent in what high esteem we've held her from the start:
2010 - Free Chips Forever; 2012 - Downpour; 2014 - Alia; 2015 - Broken Song
91 min - Dir: Claire Dix with: Barry Ward, Liam Carney, Maureen Beattie, Ericka Roe, Lydia McGuinness, Gus McDonagh, Mark O'Halloran, Sean Stafford
"Whilst this film may become a conversation starter surrounding assisted dying,
Sunlight works in its own regard as a film that is enjoyable
and heartwarming and does not operate merely as a vehicle for provoking contentious matters."
- Film Ireland Magazine
"Sunlight is...a heartfelt tale of life, love and friendship."
- The Upcoming
Ireland's Claire Dix looks at assisted dying through the lens of this darkly comic fiction feature
written by Joyride's Ailbhe Keogan in a classic narrative structure.
It is former documentary maker Dix's debut fiction feature
and she sets the bar high, straddling some abrupt tonal shifts as a carer and former drug addict
played by Barry Ward struggles to accept the fact that his terminally-ill mentor
wants to exit life at a time of his own choosing.
Made with Blinder Films (which will release in the UK/Ireland) under the auspices of Ireland's female-driven POV scheme, Sunlight is set in Dublin over the course of one day and is effectively a three-hander, with Ward's Leon trying to persuade Iver (Liam Carney) to reconsider as Maria (Maureen Beattie), on hand to assist, looks on. All three have their back stories and differing perspectives as Iver 'The Viking' wheels around the city's Dolphins Barn area prior to his 'exit'.
Natural sunlight - or the perfect feeling of 'sunlight on your face' - is in limited supply in this lower-budget feature, but Narayan van Maele's camera does all it can to capture that sentiment. His lenswork (he also shot I Am Not Your Mother) is one of the film's more potent elements, framing Leon and his struggles. These should be of more appeal to local audiences who will better appreciate the combination of Dix's daring and the film's decidedly quirky humour after Sunlight's premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival, followed by Glasgow.
Even though it clocks in at a trim 90 minutes, Dix and Keogan take a lot on board here. Aspiring musician Leon, captured initially on his keyboard for which he seems to have limited talent, is a recovering heroin addict (three years clean) who is devoted to the man who helped him, Iver 'The Viking'. We also see Leon practicing with home-made wheelchair ramps for his housing block - which come in handy later - and running the gamut of drug dealers on the estate before heading to Iver's house on his day off.
As personified by Ward, Leon is a man-child who has seen better days. His boyish, puppy-like qualities are a little confusing for an older man - it's never quite clear whether he's an uncomplicated person or someone with a mental illness. Ward gives him a bad hair-dye and a pudding-bowl haircut, some missing teeth and a poignant air. Iver, meanwhile, is a gruff man in decline, known about town for his Viking re-enactments - a sparsely-nourished part of the plot which drops in and out at a whim, involving horses, breastplates, and a pivotal boat called Gudrun. And Maria, played crisply and sympathetically by Beattie, has her own story, assuaging her guilt by trying to help Iver through his last hours.
With so many references made to Leon's drug-filled past, it's inevitable that the third act will hang in some way on the choices he makes now under emotional pressure. Keogan's narrative structure is classic, too, as Iver deals with his own regrets. It's the small flourishes that distinguish Sunlight, chief of which are Leon's quirks. Eternally grateful, if not obsessed, by Iver, he's a naif with a carer's licence. 'You forgave me my sins, and I just did your bins,' he croons. In this film's broad strokes, some emotional truths about assisted dying also see the light of day. - Screen Daily [Fionnuala Halligan]
100 min - Writer & Dir: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy; Produced by David Collins with directors with Ann Skelly, Orla Brady, Aidan Gillen, Annabell Rickerby, Catherine Walker, Joanne Crawford
"Writer-directors Joe Lawlor and Christine Malloy have crafted a slow-burning thriller that is a triumph of mood-setting, aesthetics and a trio of terrific performances." - iStuff.co.nz [James Croot]
"An arthouse character portrait segues into a moody revenge thriller in this stylish Irish tale about confronting the crimes of the past." - Times (UK) [Kevin Maher]
"A study of identity, its construction, demolition and reconstruction,
Rose Plays Julie zeroes in on perfect casting
with the pairing of Ann Skelly and Orla Brady in the central roles."
- RTÉ (Ireland)
"Rose Plays Julie is impactful and unsettling, heightened by slippery performances and enigmatic visual construction." - Empire Magazine [Kambole Campbell]
Over the past few decades, Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, beginning in theatrical spaces
and moving on to cinema, have developed a unique school of elliptical, allusive storytelling
that hides as much as it reveals. Desperate Optimists - as they were named on first emergence -
are at it again with this frozen quasi-thriller concerning a young woman seeking to flesh out
an alternative identity that was tidied away at her birth.
Themes from the film-makers' 2008 feature Helen resurface. Some sinister flavours from Mister John, their second film, prickle at the back of the tongue. The clean wide-screen shots - still occasionally a little too reminiscent of gallery-based art - continue to play out in disciplined arrangements. But Rose Plays Julie also advances into some new territory. This is a more fibrous, chewier piece of work.
It is also, at times, a little too fond of allusions, allegory and subtext. Early on, we establish that the protagonist, played with supernatural introspection by Ann Skelly, is a student at a Dublin veterinary college. The words "Euthanasia and the Healthy Animal", which appear as part of the course, could act as a secondary title for the current project and for any number of high-end art films. (How has Peter Greenaway not happened upon it before now?) Writing one of the three main characters as an actor presses home the theme of impersonation already explicit in the title. Having another work as an archaeologist reminds us that the story has much to do with uncovering old secrets. Just a little too many fussy parentheses nestle around the core narrative.
There is, nonetheless, a strong story there. Rose (Skelly) is eager to track down the mother who gave her up for adoption after placing the name "Julie" on the baby's birth certificate. Might it be possible to reconnect with the person "Julie" would have become? That does sort-of happen, but not in a way that offers any healing....
The standout turn comes from Brady. Whereas everyone else is purposefully stiff and mannered, she comes closest to delivering something like a naturalistic performance.
The ironies abound. Seen acting in a police thriller and in an 18th-century drama, Ellen is, of course, the one among the three most conspicuously wedded to pretence. It is how she spends her days. Yet, when the costumes come off, she is closest to an honest version of herself.
Occasionally frustrating, but worth getting frustrated about. - The Irish Times [Donald Clarke]
Annual Short Film Evening :: Programmers:
Ciaran Hopkins and Susie Wileman are both Concordians, long time Ciné Gael members, and big fans of the evening of short films. They now find themselves with the joint task of curating the programme. Despite this, they’re married to each other and hope to stay that way. (This is as big a job as programming the remainder of our season. ...and for these two, we'll see if it's akin to hanging wallpaper together!)
Nothing To Declare (2021)
(Documentary, 29 mins) Dir: Garret Daly
The charming story of two Irish boys aged 10 and 13 on a stowaway adventure of a lifetime from Dublin to New York in the summer of 1985.
The Forty Foot (2021)
(Animation, 3 mins) Dir: Patrick O'Callaghan
An exploration of The Forty Foot, an iconic sea swimming area on the Dublin coast.
Wednesday's Child (2022) (Drama, 10 mins) Dir: Laura O'Shea Marie faces her first day working in Child Protection. Despite her optimism, a house call quickly brings her down to reality.
Sucking Diesel (2022)
(Drama, 11 mins) Dir: Sam McGrath
After a bungled robbery, a petrol station owner must decide whether to protect her idiot employee or turn him over to the most dangerous man in Ballybeg.
For The Birds (2022)
(Documentary, 9 mins) Dir: Ciaran O'Connor
Esther, who regularly feeds dozens of pigeons outside her small house, tells us about parenthood, sin, and past secrets.
(Animation, 4 mins) Dir: Aisling Conroy
A woman questions her lifestyle choices when the travails of urban living are one day jolted into juxtaposition with a simpler way of life.
An Irish Goodbye (2022)
(Drama, 23 mins) Dir: Tom Berkeley and Ross White
with: Seamus O'Hara, James Martin, Paddy Jenkins, Michelle Fairley
In rural Northern Ireland, a pair of estranged brothers reunite following their mother's untimely death. ...watch trailer
Oscar nomination interview ...watch interview
BAFTA Film Awards ...watch awards
106 min - Dir: Margo Harkin (documentary) with Marie Arbuckle, Joanne Neary, Michael O'Flaherty, Catriona Crowe, Noelle Brown
"Margo Harkin's breathtaking documentary Stolen exposes the suffering,
pain and trauma inflicted upon the victims of Ireland's mother and baby homes and makes for harrowing viewing -
but it's a must-see.
… Stolen is a beautifully shot, beautifully scored film which most importantly gives a very real and important voice to survivors who are still looking and fighting the state and church for answers. The documentary is a must watch for anyone and everyone on this island and it reminds us there are still thousands and thousands of people who are still living with the damage caused by these institutions today." - belfastmedia.com [Joe McCann]
Featuring interviews with journalists, historians, politicians and campaigners
the film provides an understanding of how the mother and baby home system operated,
the bigger societal issues including the heavy influence of the Catholic Church
that allowed these events to happen and the continuing impact on so many people's lives today.
Margo Harkin said, "The people in this film are all warriors. They have fought for justice most of their lives and their stories are only the tip of the iceberg. I hope people will listen to them with open hearts."
A founding member of Derry Film & Video and known for her drama Hush-a-Bye Baby and the documentary Bloody Sunday: A Derry Diary, Harkin hopes that Stolen will add to the growing public awareness of the reality of life in mother and baby institutions, the ongoing impact of family separation and people's struggles over decades to get access to their records. - Screen Ireland (UK) [director Margo Harkin]
"Stolen is not an easy watch but it is an essential one. It feels like a definitive declaration of the events using the best qualities of the cinematic medium." - Sunday Independent (Ireland) [Hilary A White]
"...the emotional centre of the film remains, as it should be, with the survivors of institutional barbarism.(br> ...Marie Arbuckle, a charismatic Derry woman with the brownest of voices, owns the screen as she talks us through the loss of her son to the system and of their eventual reuniting. Every second of Michael O'Flaherty's story is wrenching - flung into cruel foster care as tiny boy - but the small detail of him weeping when, then happily in the army, he got his first paycheck sticks in the brain." - Irish Times [Donald Clarke]
There is a numbing sameness about the many documentaries out there about historical trauma,
whether they are telling stories of casualties of war, survivors of abuse, or the descendants of either.
Exercises in oral and visual history, these films follow strong narrative conventions,
perhaps modelled on criminal trials: opening arguments, methodical presentation of evidence,
climaxing with quavering testimony from victims.
To be frank, Margo Harkin's documentary reviewing the horrors of Ireland's mother-and-baby institutions - essentially state- and church-run factories churning out children for adoption, shame and misery - doesn't swerve far from the template outlined above. But to extend the legal metaphor, she assembles the arguments with the skill of a high-court prosecutor. With forensic precision, it starts with the wider view of how a patriarchal theological obsession with controlling women's bodies, along with the political context, allowed "industrial" schools, Magdalene laundries and mother-and-baby homes to flourish. Run often by nuns who lived in comfort upstairs while the "girls" - unmarried mothers sent away to give birth in secrecy - lived in squalor in the basement, these so-called homes have only recently had their horrors revealed. The opening story is, of course, the 796 infants and children who died at Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Galway, and were buried in pits discovered only when the land was being repurposed for development.
The focus, and the horror, spreads from there, as Harkin expands by interviewing journalists, politicians, legal scholars and historians, but also poets such as Jessica Traynor, who read pieces about the pain of such places in the ruins that remain. We hear from sons and daughters who lived with mothers that survived these homes and are still searching for siblings who remain unaccounted for, and of course many survivors themselves.
While the latter's stories are as chilling and nauseating as it gets, it's notable how few tears or raised voices there are. Instead, these women - and it's mostly women we meet - tell their stories with clenched, clear voices, still seething with rage but rehearsed down into ritual. The big emoting goes on in composer Deirdre Gribbin's string-heavy score that's powerfully melancholy but just astringent enough to keep things in check. Altogether, this is a nearly immaculate, exemplary piece of documentary film-making. - The Guardian [Leslie Felperin]
96 min - Dir: Declan Recks with: Kelly Gough, Lorcan Cranitch, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Kate Finegan, Rachel Feeney, Cillian O'Gairbhi
"Shot in a beautiful setting, Tarrac is a moving and heartwarming tale of grief,
family, and community when challenges arise.
With a moving story that explores the characters' respective backgrounds, Tarrac is a film that depicts the daily life of normal people who want to make an impact on their community. It also gives us an insight into the tough world of Naomhóg women racing in Ireland, as well as showing its audience the beautiful scenery of the Irish coast. Despite knowing where the film was going from the first act, the characters are so fascinating that the movie still grabbed my attention until the very end, also thanks to its excellent pacing in the last act." - loud and clear reviews [Clotilde Chinnici]
"The combination of female solidarity for these 'sisters of the sea' and a sharp focus on festering family injuries... see this feelgood feature sail over the waves of predictability for a sweet landing on solid home ground." - Screen Daily [Fionnuala Halligan]
"The film's plot feels well worn, but some fine acting, and the beautiful backdrop of the Kerry coastline make Tarrac a worthwhile watch." - Irish Independent [Paul Whitington]
"...the film is directed with a steady hand by Declan Recks, who sensibly sets as much action in the pub as the rowing boat.". - The Guardian [Cath Clarke]
Tarrac is set in Ireland on the coastline of Kerry,
as Aoife (Kelly Gough) comes back to her small town to visit and care for her dad,
Bear (Lorcan Cranitch), after he suffers from a heart attack. The two struggle to bond
and even have a proper talk at first, as Aoife has been away for so long,
living in Dublin as a management consultant whose life is nothing but work.
But this is about to change as she starts training with the local women's rowing team,
made up of Jude (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh), a mother of three, Aisling (Kate Finegan),
a failed actress who works at the local pub, and Naomi (Rachel Feeney),
a young talented woman who dreams of the Olympics.
Tarrac is at its best when it focuses on the relationships between the characters, particularly that of Aoife and her father. When I started watching the film, I desperately wanted to see more of their relationship: while it is established in one of the very first scenes of the movie, it is only thoroughly explored in the final act as the two finally learn how to talk to each other. During the film, someone tells Aoife that she is the image of her late mother, which is just one of the many ways in which she keeps being reminded of her from the moment she came back to her childhood home.
Tarrac is also a beautiful portrayal of friendship, especially as it shows the bond developing between the four women that make up the crew. Despite the dialogue feeling forced at the beginning, each of the four women is thoroughly explored during the film. We learn more about each of their backstories and struggles as their bond in the movie develops further in the movie. As the film stars, we see them moving on from strangers who practice together as they become a beautiful depiction of sisterhood and community in the crew training after training and race after race.
The film also portrays racing well as it manages to keep our attention throughout, even for those of us in the audience who may not be as familiar with the sport as the characters in the film are. At first, Tarrac may feel a little slow but its training montages and final race scene both allow the film to increase its pace and keep the tension going until the very last frame. I found it impressive how the film makes us understand the stakes of the rowing competition as the commentator runs us through the key elements of the race.
Tarrac is a beautifully shot film that portrays both the charm and the reality of a small coastal town in Ireland with its stunning scenery, which the movie shows from the very beginning with its opening scene. It also portrays the competitiveness of a sport many people have probably not heard about before. It is a moving story of an underdog team that the audience cannot help but root for; as we get to know the characters in the film, we start caring for them and want to see them accomplish all their dreams and succeed.
90 min - Dir: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Declan McGrath; Producer: David Rane; Writer: Etienne Essery with: Kevin McArevey, Jan-Marie Reel
"Young Plato is a fascinating, sometimes funny and often touching film. It's easy to see why the directors were drawn to McArevey and his school." - Washington Post [Michael O'Sullivan]
"A wonderful documentary that makes you wonder why philosophy isn't taught
at every school.
This isn't a Hollywood version of a true story, it's the real deal. Truly inspiring." - Fort Worth Report [Joe Friar]
"Powerful, engaging, inspirational and important ... The headmaster, hell-bent on growing thinkers instead of fighters, serves up the philosophy of ancient Greeks. Great conversation starter." - Hollywood Report Card [Ross Anthony]
"Belfast headteacher inspires playground philosophers. This engaging documentary follows a primary school head who uses classical thinkers to teach new ways of defusing violence" - The Guardian [Peter Bradshaw]
"Young Plato is a completely engrossing film.
The boys' school featured is in an area which has suffered more than its fair share of violent conflict.
The film focuses on the challenges of running such an inner-city boys' school.
The school has a framework for teaching the boys how to avoid conflict,
and how to de-escalate situations which may lead to conflict. The methods used would seem
to be applicable in any school. A very human and insightful film."
This documentary about school life brought back happy memories of Nicolas Philibert's classic
Etre et Avoir from a generation ago, about a gentle teacher
in rural France helping his infants understand the meaning of life. Kevin McArevey is
the dynamic headteacher of Holy Cross Boys' primary school in north Belfast,
in a community once scarred by the Troubles.
Mr McArevey loves Elvis, martial arts - and classical philosophy. For his nine-and 10-year-olds, he has introduced lessons with maxims from the great thinkers of Ancient Greece as talking points, and he is using these lessons as a way of learning new modes of thinking, strategies to defuse violence and head off confrontation, and it culminates with his bold plan to put up a big new mural on the streets: not the traditional icons of sectarianism, but Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. It hardly needs to be said that McArevey believes Belfast's men of violence learned their mindset in the school playground (maybe some learned it in his own school playground) so he wants to plant something new.
This is an open and good-natured film, with some great setpiece scenes with poignant closeups on kids' faces as they ponder why they are so angry and what can be done about it (although I have to admit I found myself thinking about the classic classroom scene from the TV comedy Derry Girls about what Catholics and Protestants have in common). In some ways, this is a film about the "Dr Jekyll" side of the school: the rational disavowal of violence and genuine demonstrations of penitence that follow the "Mr Hyde" flashes of violence that inevitably happen off camera, and so the effect is sometimes, perhaps not entirely intentionally, one of dysfunction. But the school is no more dysfunctional than any other institution and a lot more intelligent and self-questioning than many. A very engaging film. - The Guardian [Peter Bradshaw]