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IndieCork 2019

So I was at IndieCork 2019! I’ll get to the features shortly, but because I went to a surprising amount of short screenings, I thought I’d give a few highlights from the ton of great ones I saw. I won’t be reviewing any of them, that would make this much longer than it ever needs to be, but I’ll credit the director/s next to their films, and hopefully you can source them out or keep an eye out for other screenings around the place

Cork:

illegal (Elaine Lucy)
Speak to Me (Jack Desmond)
Intro to Anthro (L. Murphy, O. Treacy, O. Roche)
Happiness (Nathan Erasmus)
Mug (Eoghan Moloney)
Long Overdue (Emmet O’Brien)
Sunflower Crush (Allison O’Flynn)
Non Such Nun (Stephen Bean)

Irish:

Independent Susan (Ken Wardrop)
The Last Miner (Luke Brabazon)
Birdman (Simon O’Neill)
Walks of Life (Mark Corcoran)
39 Years (Jamie Goldrick)
Becoming Cherrie (Nick Larkin)
When to Fold ‘Em (Pete Harris)
Boardwalk (Finian Robbins)
Pure Gold (Rik Gordon)
The Trap (Helen Flanagan)
Violet (Madeline Graham, Christopher Whiteside)

World:

Swatted (Ismael Joffroy Chandoutis)
My Little Goat (Tomoki Misalo)
Anja and Serjoscha (Ivette Locker)
Uncle Thomas, Accounting for the Days (Regina Pessoa)
Them (Robin Lochmann)
Doppelganger (Michaela Taschek)
Where Do We Go? (Siegfried A. Fruchauf)
Sheep, Wolf and a Cup of Tea (Marion Lacourt)
Ride (Paul Bush)
Grandad was a Romantic (Maryam Mohajer)

Now, with them out of the way, onto the features! starting with:

The Rollover

I enjoyed the pace and momentum of this a lot. I don’t mean length so much as the way it went further and further down a demented rabbit hole, with its highly motivated protagonist driving a lot of the action in a compelling way. There are parts that really show a sense of tension and intrigue, unfortunately this is slightly let down by its budget showing in key moments. I don’t think it should be written off for that, but it did take me out of the moment for certain scenes. It also plays with the real and hyper-real in parts, and it makes it feel off-kilter. Still, it really invests you in our lead finding his brother with some decent performances and a great, moody look into rave culture, I certainly enjoyed it. 6/10

Hungary 2018

This was depressing and certainly enraging. It looks at the Hungarian election of that year, and following the main opposition party as its leader tries desperately to secure a victory against the increasingly right-leaning and propogandist lead party. It’s seriously nuts just how much anti-Islam and hard right sentiments are baked into this furthering autocratic state is! It really displays the true failures of democracy failing and gives an insight into how such hateful and distrusting rhetoric can sink into everyday parlance and the difficulties in dispelling that and focusing back in on how issues such as healthcare fall to the wayside when you allow these governments to do whatever they want in the interest of nationalism. Probably not the most balanced of political documentaries if that’s important to you, but it’s a huge microcosm of the dangerous prominence of right-leaning attitudes across Europe. 7/10

A Bump Along the Way

A Northern Irish woman in her 40s becomes pregnant after a one-night stand to the annoyance of her teenage daughter. This is a great, topical little comedy that’s an absolute crowd pleaser. Bronagh Gallagher steals every scene she’s in, both hilarious and totally relatable. It manages to be charming and fun despite the heavy subject matter it can tackle. I feel the subplot with the daughter is a bit over the top and she’s a bit too mean-spirited for me to connect with, even with the reasons given for her attitude (the actress does great, though). Still, between this and Derry Girls, it’s great to get so many female-focused comedies from the North, and this one has wits and heart to burn. It’s on general release as of the time of the this writing, so go check it out. 7/10

A Regular Woman

This movie tells the tale of a real life rather famous case in Germany where a young mother was murdered by her brother in an honour killing. It’s told as if the woman is reliving her life posthumously with an emphasis on her biggest crime being she wanted to live her life like every other person. The insight into the mechanations of extremism are well handled and it manages that tough balance of humanising her toxic family without making them entirely sympathetic. It has a clever and slowly revealing structure, you don’t even hear the characters talk until around the 15/20 minute mark, and while some of the real life footage is awkwardly handled as is other facets to the murder case, it really depicts her humanity and the weight of the horrific crime that was  bestowed upon her by a family who just would not accept her humanity. 8/10

Push

This documentary looks at the housing crisis framed through UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Leilani Farha. A lot of this is baby’s first guide to the housing market bubble, but it’s really well presented and breaks down complicated machinations in ways that any layperson can really grasp it. It starts losing me when the lead starts talking about her own initiative and the film pivots towards more about bringing awareness to that-I have no problem with them raising solutions, but this feels more like we’re watching an extended promo instead of a fully immersive doc. With that said, it’s well constructed and researched, definitely one to check out if you want to understand why homelessness is such a terrifying issue right now. 6/10

Letters to Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey is a filmmaker who worked with Andy Warhol, working on features like Flesh of Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula. This tells five different stories through people writing to the man who were affiliated with him in the past in various ways. This one is great, a real ode to the outsider with quick, snappy little vignettes that are gorgeously shot. They’re a great look into passion, loneliness, loss and unconventional ways of finding fulfilment, and the sense of style and quick flow makes for plenty of rewatch value. One of the highlights of the Fest. 9/10

The Day I Lost My Shadow

This was diquieting to watch given the events happening in Syria presently, but this takes place closer to the start of the war and focuses on a mother and her quest to get gas that leads to pretty dire consequences. There’s a sense of authenticity in the cinematography that really immerses you into the cast’s struggle, and all of them look tired and broken. The metaphor which the movie gets its title from is a bit too on the nose for me, and I feel it can drag its feet a lot in places, but it’s a daring and achingly real portrait of a devastating conflict that rages on to this day. A look at the cost of war, both domestically and spiritually. 8/10

Losing Alaska

This documentary looks at a small community of a town in Alaska called Newtak. They will be the first to lose their homes due to climate change, and have been struggling to relocate since the mid-90s. It’s shocking how these people have been largely overlooked or abandoned, and it really gets into the loss of heritage and culture connected to this massive devastation. It also looks at the more political aspects, particularly via their local council. It’s got a great, guerilla-style shoot which helps with the intimacy and familiar feel, and really displays the complex machinations of just one town being badly hit by the melting icecaps. A brilliantly study of a community in strife, and a sobering reality of the future that lies ahead of us. 9/10

Becoming Animal

This more contemplative-style documentary looks at our relationship with nature and where it can go moving on into our future. There’s definitely an interesting meeting of ideas here, but ecological and philosophical, and there are some great shots of wildlife and where nature meets modernity. However, it would probably have worked better in a shorter format. Scenes have a tendency to drag, and it became difficult to focus on the filmmakers’ intent after a certain point. Well-intentioned and interesting, but not an easy watch for me. 5/10

Where Would You Like the Bullet?

This documentary looks at the life and work of Irish writer Aidan Higgins, who the director worked closely with on the project prior to his death in 2015. I don’t know how accessible this will be if you don’t have a working knowledge of Higgins’ work, such as myself. It’s quite flat and seems a bit too intellectualised in parts, not really sure what kind of tonal balance it’s aiming for in its presentation. He’s certainly a fascinating figure and his work speaks for itself, but I didn’t gel with it and found it mostly rote. 5/10

Corpus Christi

This was my favourite film in the festival. A fascinating study of a young man who finds God whilst serving time as a juvenile offender, only to end up impersonating a priest in a small town after his attempts to be frocked are quashed, and he begins helping them cope with a local tragedy. This is such a great premise, and it tackles it with a degree of realism and weight, while never afraid to be humourous. I never really knew what direction the story was about to take, every character was fascinatingly layered, and the tone was appropriately moody without ever giving away to maudlin farce. It’s an intelligently told story that never talks down to its audience and may be one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Hope it gets that Oscar attention it’s campaigning for. 9/10

Pahokee

We follow the lives of a handful of teenagers in Pahokee, Florida, as they are about to graduate. There’s a great rawness to this: it honestly feels unmanipulative, and like the filmmakers had no idea what was going to happen when they started following their subjects. It really finds the sheen in a rundown, forgotten part of America, and seeing how this community interacts with itself and larger social trends. It may not be the most exciting sort of day-in-the-life style doc, but it’s a great and personal insight into parts of American culture and society most people would just move passed quickly. 7/10

Advocate

This is a look into the life of Lea Tsemel, an Israeli legal defender who prioritises Palestinian political prisoners. I don’t know if it was a great idea for them to focus on just the one or two cases they do, but it helps ground the film and gives us a fascinating portrait of a controversial figure in Israeli law. Tsemel is quite the character, bullheaded and self-righteous to a fault, but ultimately believes in her work even if it doesn’t always bring her the most happiness. While the doc is mostly on her side, I never get the sense I’m being led to side with her, nor that it’s trying to act like she’s perfect, but it’s a cool little piece, even if certain elements could have been better edited around for me. 6/10

Flatland

This movie sucked and I didn’t like it. I may have had more context if I knew about the sociopolitical history of South Africa, but I don’t know if that’d help the presentation being unmotivated and the characters being really stupid. Scenes just kind of happen in a meandering way, important details happen offscreen or are thrown in randomly to put a wrench in the proceedings. It feels like they’re going for some big, profound statement, but we just end up with strange motivations and a climax we get half-measures for. unsatisfying and irritating to sit through, 3/10

Lift

This Cork documentary looks at the life of Karen Barry, a grandmother who found a new calling in life by taking up competitive powerlifting at the age of 47. It’s a great message, and they really depict the affable and determined Karen and how her life and perspective just completely shifted alongside her family and friends’ reactions to it, as well as the new support network she found. It’s a very TV-movie kind of piece, something you’d sit down and relax to in the evening time, but it’s a delightful little story about finding your life’s calling when you least expect it, and the feats she has gone through in a short amount of time are admirable. One to check out. 6/10

The New Music

A quiet, well-off man moves into a schlubby Dublin flat with three friends who have formed a punk band. As the film goes on, he becomes more acquainted to them, slowly gives away his adeptness to the piano and ends up joining their band. This is one of those films where I think the sum of its parts is better than the whole. It’s got a really powerful and respectfully told message about finding a new lease on life after facing life-altering news, the leads are all solidly acted and they have a great rapport. I found the story to be a little sluggish and haphazardly told. They kind of all become friends a bit too quickly considering how snobby he first comes across, but then at the midpoint of the movie we spend an excruciating amount of time in the protagonist’s former life. There’s some on-the-nose portrayals of elitist snobs and the acting can be kind of weak from them. But overall it holds a lot of heart and laughs, and I left the screening feeling uplifted and fuzzy. It has its flaws, but overall it’s a worthwhile watch. 7/10

Sibyl

A therapist pursues her long abandoned passions for writing by developing an unhealthy obsession with one of her clients and transcribing their sessions into a novel. Again, a lot of good here not entirely held up by a cohesive whole. The cast are really well developed and interesting (the director is hilarious!), it’s got a really tense and uncomfortable tone that really helps sell the mental break our lead is going through. It even manages to be really funny in disarming moments. Sadly, it tends to take on way too much as we get an overload of information both on the lead’s life and everyone around her. There are also flashbacks to her past that, while important to the plot, are awkwardly interjected and not that well edited into the story. The inevitable breaking point with everything going on also feels a tad rushed, we get to that place too fast. Overall, however, there’s an interesting tale being told here and it’s supremely well-acted and shot. Check it out if you’re into really slow burning psychological character studies. 7/10

Splitting the Sop

A nice little film about the history and culture around road bowling in Ireland. And it’s surprisingly expansive and really well developed, they have international competitions and the like. As someone who had never really heard anything about this sport, it was a treat to behold. I liked the camaraderie and good sportsmanship on display in the scenes depicting the games-as it’s a niche and insular sport there’s no real ego to it, and it’s lovely to see people get on even when competing. It’s another one that’s more TV-movie esque, way moreso than the other film this one was made to be on RTÉ, but I found the subject matter intriguing and the information parsed out in a clear and engaging manner. It’s a bit repetitive in places, but if you know nothing about road bowling I’d recommend. 6/10

Forman Vs Forman

This movie takes a look at celebrated director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, Man on the Moon, to name a few). In particular his relationship to his country Czechoslovakia’s communist government and his efforts to overcome their suppressive tendencies. It’s a really great showcase of a fascinating man, how his career evolved and how it felt like every film was a triumph to him, proof that he was beating the system he grew up under. He’s a really fascinating guy, and the essayist approach made the new and archived footage blend so seamlessly together. I was never taken out of place when we cut to older shots. I love movies about moviemaking, and it’s a great character study to one of the most celebrated yet unsung filmmakers of his time. 9/10

Dark Lies the Island

This dark comedy takes a look at the Mannion family, who own various businesses in a small rural Irish town with a lake famous for suicides. This is a bizarre piece and has some strange tonal issues. It’s trying to emulate the Coen Brothers, or even the McDonagh Brothers, but missing the intricate attention to detail of the former and observant cynicism of the latter. The characters have decent well-known Irish talent behind them, but the plot feels rudderless and it’s hard to fall back on what it’s actually all leading up to. I found it more amusing in its self-serious moments than with its intentional humour, and it’s a bizarre hodgepodge of trying too much while trying to be a darkly comical slice-of-life outing. Strange one to close on. 4/10

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