IndieCork 2016

(Originally published October 23 2016)

So I went to IndieCork 2016 last week! Due to working on other articles, I wasn’t able to get around to doing my usual festival thing of reviewing what I considered to be the most interesting movie I saw that week, and instead decided to make a master post giving a (hopefully) brief overview of every screening I was at.

In total, I went to 17 screenings: 2 shorts reels and 15 features. Let’s not waste time, I will first go over the shorts I saw and then go into the features.

As they are shorts, let’s see if I can keep my opinions on them to one or two lines so this blog doesn’t run on for an eternity. Starting with:

Buster, Charlie and Pierre

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A collection of shorts from Pierre Étaix, an Academy-Award winning French comedian, mixed with movies from his idols Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Verrrrry quickly now:

Feeling Good (Pierre 1): Funny setting, used really well for some creative jokes. Drags a bit, but well-constructed and clever. 7

The Cure (Charlie): Chaplin can play drunk well! Probably the weakest of the shorts as some of the gags drag on too long, but it’s fine. It’s classic Chaplin, and the payoff for the well is great. 7

Rupture (Pierre 2): Loved the limited use of space here. It gets a lot of really funny bits out of one room and a really simple premise: writing a note. Very well thought out physical comedy. 8

One Week (Buster): My favourite of the lot. Buster Keaton is the master of really elaborate stunt comedy, and it’s put to great effect here. Consistently makes you howl and a great ending. I love how involved the wife character gets in the fun as well. 9

Happy Anniversary (Pierre 3): The one that won Étaix an Oscar, and you can see why. Combining the strengths of the last two (simple premise & creative situations), it’s a madcap ride with a pretty relatable story. Love the ‘subplot’ with the guy getting a shave. 8

Creative Cork 2

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A range of shorts by talented Cork filmmakers. This isn’t daunting at all, as I know these people and they are likely to read what I say! Oh bhuel:

This is Not a Mugging: A bit of awkward framing, but it’s charming and funny enough to keep you engaged. Very well paced too-every story beat hits its mark. 7

Bailer-The Binding: More like ‘The Blinding’, AMIRITE FELLAS?!?!?!!?!! …they abuse flashing imagery in this. If that works for you cool, it’s just something that completely took me out of it. It’s a music video, so it’s well timed and some cool imagery, just couldn’t get into it. 5

Cold: An unsettling, intense and evocative insight into a pretty disturbing topic. Very creepy and great built up. The female lead was a little off, but besides that worth checking out. 7

Escape: Tries to be progressive and make a statement about the LGBT experience, ends up being clumsy and a tad uncomfortable. Decent acting, but the subject matter left me cold, even if it’s well intentioned. 4

On the Surface: Well written and understated story about grief and the struggles a lot one can leave, just a bit of hokey acting and a weirdly understated ending let it down. The flashbacks were probably some of the best scenes in the short. 5

Last Call: Poignant, well-acted, well shot, relevant and funny to boot. Great little short with decent pacing and an excellent central performance by Pascal Scott. The ending will leave a big grin on your face. 8

Reach: Beautifully performed two-man (well, man and woman) piece about lost time and regret. It’s a tad predictable and it ends on kind of an awkward beat, but it’s excellently written and the two actors absolutely sell the emotion. 8

Telephone Operator at Dusk: I’m going to be honest, I have no fucking clue what was going on in this one. This stuff ain’t for me, man. Sorry! It’s got nice graphics, I guess? 3

Dead Air: Puntastic, quirky, great concept offset by some excellently done dark humour and even a bit of maddening horror in this horror-comedy. Probably has some of the most quotable moments in any of the shorts, and a really good handling of tone on a premise that could have gone south really easily. 9

I also saw some shorts that performed in other nights. Here are my thoughts:

Blue Shawl: Achingly beautiful and sensitive story about the importance of acceptance and relying on who you love. The lack of dialogue really focuses on the harshness of the story, and it has one of the sweetest endings of any film I’ve seen in the fest. Track this one down. 9

Surfacing: Great song, cool premise for a music vid, and pretty unnerving in parts (particularly the final line). It has a nice theme to it as well, and the video is well made enough whether you agree with what the director may be saying or not. Although the girl at the end kind of comes out of nowhere, at the same time there isn’t mean to be a lot of internal logic in the vid. Eh. 6

Date Night: The winner of the Cork Shorts, and absolutely deserves the prize. Hands down the best short screened. It’s emotional and really cleverly shot, led by a stunning central performance and a shocking turn with some intensely well done build up and I dare not ruin the rest. Just see it. 9

Terminal: Winner of the Irish shorts. A sweet and relevant two-women show dealing with a controversial topic, but one in needing of conversing. It’s understated and tender, and the two leads have an excellent rapport. I even love how the people in the background kind of frame them, trapping them in a world they cannot understand. 8

And now onto the features! 15 features, let’s hope this doesn’t go on forever.

Shoebox Memories

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The first of 8 Irish features I saw (there were 9 playing-I missed the freaking opening of all films because it sold out), and it wears its low budget on its sleeve, for good and for ill. Some awkward editing and weird continuity errors doesn’t negate how sweet and genuine the story is. It’s a low budget movie about a down-on-his-luck Dublin musician who finds love intercut with music he has recorded himself. I’m going to refrain from using the ‘O’ word because this flick does find an identity of its own.

In all honesty, the cast are what save it; the opening made me click with the lead immediately and there is a great payoff to the flashbacks later on. It probably would have been stronger with a bit more cash, also there are some really irritating contrivances and some first-timer mistakes here and there, but I get the sense that it did what it wanted to do, and I’ll always admire a film that achieves that. Very genuine independent filmmaking-worth a watch. 6

Tanna

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This is easily the best movie I saw in the festival. Shot 0n the island of the film’s namesake, it focuses on the indigenous tribes that have not been “civilised”. Not only do these people act in it, not only have they never acted before, but they have likely never even seen a camera before this production. The fact that they can act at all is one thing, but the cast give such beautifully naturalistic and authentic performances you almost forget this.

Outside of that, it’s a beautiful Romeo and Juliet-esque story of forbidden love based on true events. Teaching about the importance of marrying progression with paying tribute to your roots, this simple story has a lot of layers as the elders learn as much as the children do. The island has such beautiful scenery and the cameras take every advantage of this. And the way it is shot is subtly brilliant-there are a lot of shots they could have manipulated the surroundings to get, but they make everyone feel as if you’re an observer of this classic tale of love.

Great story, great characters, great setting, a unique insight into a culture untouched by modernity, with some potent messages and a really enjoyable watch. It is Australia’s entry for Best Foreign Film in the Oscars, and it will be a damn shame if it doesn’t get picked (Note: Oscar nominated, baby!!!). Absolutely track this one down. 9

The Host

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This is a rather short but probing documentary about a personal story linking the director’s past to British Patroleum’s (BP) history in Iran. It plays out in an investigatory fashion and some of the discoveries made are rather uncomfortable and maddening. I know my own buttons were pressed from the opening giving an overview of how the company operated in the country! It’s told in a rather creative and lively style too, using old photos and documents to bring the past to life. I admire them going the extra mile to keep the audiences’ interest.

If I have any criticism, it’s just that I would have put the director’s own story with her parents before the stuff with BP. It just feels like the more pertinent and interesting information for a general audience. Not that it isn’t interesting, and it’s obviously the heart of the story this filmmaker wanted to tell because of her familial link, that’s just my own views. Despite that, this is a fascinating and emotional piece bringing a lot of humanity to a pretty shady story. Prepare to be moved by a woman discovering a new side of her family as well as very, very angry at everything that surrounds it. 7

NOTE: Not to be confused with that other movie called The Host, which will make you very, very angry for very, very different reasons.

Strange Heaven

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This movie is stupid, and boring, and contrived, and ugly, and has a bunch of characters I don’t give a shit about and a plot I barely remember outside of a really silly boat scene and wanting to slap the parents for how stupid they are. Now, I’m not exactly expecting parents who have had their kids taken away by the state due to accusations of abuse to exactly act rationally in that situation, but the way the characters act is SO stupid and nonsensical I found them hard to relate to. I just spent a lot of the film wondering if I was missing something!

There is some interesting stuff brought up about the fact that the family are Polish living in Sweden, but outside of that this story could have been done so much better feeling less like everything happened because it needed to for the plot to make sense. When an episode of The Simpsons did this in a more emotional way, you have done something wrong! 4

In Between Silence: Where We Really Exist

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I really liked this. No, seriously. It has great production values, every conversation outside of the first one (probably because it was recorded on the fly) sounds clear, they all have interesting stories to tell and the amount of talent they have in this is impressive. I just cannot call this a movie. And this isn’t me being hyperbolic or snobby; it’s a sound project that uses the space of the cinema to get across an idea of naturalistic storytelling in a modern world (creating that sense that you’re being ‘told’ these tales in a darkened night, if you get me). It’s clever, it’s well executed, and I’d definitely say you should check this out, but it’s just stories with the occasional images bookending each part (and some of them move). It’s definitely different, and I do think they get across what they were trying adequately, so it’s definitely worth hearing some good aul stories.

Beyond the Woods

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One of the two Cork features that played at IndieCork, and it was enjoyable. Some decent atmosphere offset by a great cast of really talented homegrown performers. Unfortunately, the intrigue and fear they were building up for two thirds of the movie has a really underwhelming pay-off. What feels like more of a character focused psychological horror becomes something a tad more generic. Character arcs that have been built up the entire runtime are dropped, there are some odd filming choices and plot holes, and it’s just really not that scary.

I mean, it has its strengths. Outside of how overly expositional it can be, the dialogue and character interactions feel very natural, and I do like the easygoing pace at the start even if it can drag a little. There was certainly a lot of effort and talent put into this movie, but sadly it just misses the mark for me. 6

Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny

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Richard Linklater is a really fascinating filmmaker to me. I think I respect his work more than like it. He’s someone who can slip into auteur indie darling with his own distinctive tone and voice, and yet go bang into mainstream success without breaking a sweat. He’s got such an interesting philosophical world view and a zest to make movies based on concepts you joked about that he continues to challenge and surprise.

What I’m saying is that this film is a REALLY generic look at his life and career, and offers no great insight that you cannot get on your own. Not worth watching, sorry. 5

Storage

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The second of the Cork movies screened, and definitely an interesting one. This film is literally set inside a man’s introspection, as he goes through the failings in his life wondering if he should hold onto these burdens. This is a beautifully shot debut, with some impressive angles and images taken from Cork (particularly the stuff shot on the beach). It’s a great premise with quietly thoughtful execution, and has one of the best scores I have ever heard in an independent movie. Seriously, it absolutely elevates the movie.

While it’s a bit too reminiscent of films from the likes of Terence Malick or Darren Aronofsky, its style and tonal consistency show that these are filmmakers that have the talent and passion to make some great work in their future. An impressive debut. 7

Twice Shy

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This is a beautiful and intimate look into the very emotionally difficult decision of travelling to get a termination in Ireland. Rather than hammer that point in home, they downplay it to tell a story about the ordinary lives of this couple and how they came to this situation. The cast are just so goddamn likeable that it’s impossible not to get involved in their story. Props to the two leads, who manage to feel very young but defined by their circumstances. Another standout is Ardal O’Hanlon, who gives a fantastically subtle and respectful portrayal of a man suffering from depression. He’s a really underrated actor and should be in more things.

I only have a few minor quibbles. The cinematography can feel a bit flat, though there are some great shots near the end of the film. Also the song choices can be kind of grating-only the final song fits the movie. But this is a poignant and very human look at a controversial topic. I implore you check this one out. 8

Mattress Men

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The story of online sensation ‘Mattress Mick’, a man who turned himself into an online personality to save his failing business. The focus is not on him, however, it’s on his friend Paul Kelly, who helped Mick develop this persona and runs his social media. We focus on Paul as he struggles to try to get a full contract as Mattress Mick continues to grow with a music video coming out.

This is a funny and very human story about friendship, making ends meet and adapting to the current social climate. You really grow fond of Paul as he struggles to make ends meet and get off the dole, while helping his boss and friend find fame. Outside of that, it has a lot of insights into how these kinds of social marketing trends function, and the amount of creativity and energy put into what is essentially a promotional campaign is insightful. A very well made documentary. 8

Lift

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A simple setting (locked room story, but in a lift), but executed well and has a really fun premise attached to it. The characters get trapped in the lift after a man hastily attacks a security guard and the guard stops the lift to prevent him from escaping before passing out. It starts out intense and claustrophobic, but this melts away slightly as the characters begin to relate to one another and their would-be captor softens to them and we begin to understand more of his motivation.

Not much to say here, to be honest. It’s just a well-executed flick with a likeable cast and some fine acting. It’s funny, dramatic, heartfelt and utilises its budget extremely well. A fun locked-in film. 7

South

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It’s weird that there are two movies set in Dublin about down-on-their luck musicians traumatised by their father’s death and suffering from stage fright whose lives are turned around by meeting a special woman. Though one starts off in Galway, so I guess that makes the difference.

I jest, because these movies are very different, and also this is a story I’ve seen about a thousand times before. Kid with a passion and talent beaten down by life and he runs across this girl and I WONDER WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN OH MY GOD!!!!! Nothing is really added to this concept, and it’s actually kind of hilarious how cruel everyone is to this kid in the first act outside of his dad. The world is filled with mean-spirited ballbags, though this changes later on as the supporting characters feel more human. I don’t think everyone should be nice and cheery, but Jesus.

Outside of that, it hits every beat you expect it to hit from the first 10-15 minutes in, the lead is a fine actor even though his character is flat, I do like the acting in the climax, but mostly it’s just a forgettable romp with very little to make it stand out. Flat and disappointing. 5

Faith & Fidelity

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Holy shit, this was a chore to sit through (incidentally it was the longest film at the fest I saw at 2 hours). Outside of how terrible the production looked (I’m okay with the homecam-style to a degree, and that degree is seeing the cameramen and boom mics in several shots), this is a movie designed entirely to waste your time. It ignores what little plot it has to have these people wax philosophically about everything and anything-these conversations tend to be poorly framed and awful. I hate using the word ‘pretentious’, but the lead talks about things that don’t fucking matter in the slightest and is an absolute fool up his own arse. The four-person cast are full of unlikeable, uninteresting twits and I sat there wishing for it to be over.

I believe in the philosophy that you can make anything work, at any given budget, provided you have smart direction and well done execution. This one has neither. Easily the worst film I sat through in the festival. 3

Whatever Happened to Gelitin?

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Gelitin are an Austrian avant garde art group comprised of four friends who are well known for doing absolutely insane installations (to go into would not only ruin the experience of this film, I just cannot do them justice with words). From the opening credits, it sets the tone. Exploring these guys is hilarious and kind of uplifting-they really just do what they want, fuck any typical conventions. They are legitimately some of the most unique people in the art world, and it’s offset with a mystery of their disappearing.

What I like about the film is that it’s set up in a way that it would be a fascinating view into Gelitin and their effect on the art world without necessarily having to find them in the end. It’s great to see the controversies they get into, how they interact with other people and how strangely liberating they are. It’s even shot in a way to reflect that: unconventional, creative, experimental and just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks (including colours). This was one of the strangest and most wondrous experiences I’ve had watching a documentary knowing absolutely nothing about the subject matter. Now that I do, I want to know more. A real treat for fans and newbies alike. Just…not for the sensitive. Trust me. There are more dicks in this film than at a San Diego yacht party. 8

While We Live

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The closing film for our fest, focusing on a mother’s snap decision to leave her adult son in Sweden and move back to her birthplace in Gambia. I really enjoyed the characters and the story had an even and pretty engaging pace. The lead actress, Josette Bushell-Mingo, gives a fantastic and really nuanced performance; you really feel she has a wealth of story to tell. My complaints mostly have to deal with a lack of focus. I don’t think the lead’s relationship to her son gets nearly enough development as it should, and certain subplots just get dropped. One just seems to be there to give a parallel between the lead and her son’s grandmother, but it’s given so much attention that it’s weird how they drop it.

I also really don’t think the cinematography is up to scratch, especially with blending the dream sequences into the movie’s narrative. They happen infrequently, and it’s funny every single time. Still, it’s a richly emotional movie and has a pretty great ending scene. Despite its flaws, I recommend it. 6

That’s all, folks! Consistently strong festival, IndieCork improves every year. Can’t wait for 2017.

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