8th Annual Toronto Irish Film Festival runs from March 2nd to 4th.
Feb 28, 2018- Permalink
If you’re in Toronto and looking to really get into the movie swing of things this Oscar weekend, then check out the 8th Annual Toronto Irish Film Festival. It’s being held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from Friday, March 2nd to Sunday, March 4th.
The fest’s opening gala will be A Date for Mad Mary, which won Best Film at the 2017 Irish Film & Television Awards. Directed by Darren Thornton and starring Seána Kerslake, Carolyn Bracken and Charleigh Bailey, it’s a heartfelt dramedy about a woman recently released from prison seeking a date for her best friend Charlene’s wedding.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars, Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner will return to Toronto as part of the festival’s Saturday screenings. The Irish/Canadian co-production tells the story of an Afghan girl who finds strength in the love of her family and the power of storytelling. The film, which was executive produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin and Angelina Jolie, stars Saara Chuadry as the voice of Parvana.
Saturday afternoon will also feature the Irish Short Film Showcase, which will see the Canadian premieres of Aoife Doyle’s Departure, Lynne Davison’s The Climb, Sinéad O’Loughlin’s Homecoming, Mia Mullarkey’s Throwline, Selina Cartmell’s The Date, and Vanessa Perdriau’s The Widow’s Last.
Stephen Burke’s feature, Maze, will have its Canadian premiere on Saturday night. Starring Peaky Blinder’s Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, the film is based on the 1983 prison escape by 38 IRA prisoners from Northern Ireland’s infamous Maze prison. Burke has said the film is not just a prison escape action film, but also look at the lives and complex relationships of people on both sides of The Troubles.
On Sunday afternoon, Game of Thrones fans can see Art Parkinson in Colin McIvor’s Zoo. Based on true events, the film, which also stars Penelope Wilton and Toby Jones, tells the story of a 12-year-old boy and his friends as they struggle to save a baby elephant during air raids on Belfast in World War II. After German bombing hits Belfast hard, the city government decided to slaughter 38 animals to prevent them running amok in the city if the zoo should get hit. The veterinarian’s son takes it upon himself to save the young pachyderm. It’s a great tale for families and played last fall at the Chicago Film Festival.
Sunday afternoon will also see the premiere of the Daniel Gordon documentary George Best: All By Himself. As a kid, I remember hearing about Best as my dad played the British football pools. A Belfast boy, Best was a football phenom and achieved his biggest fame playing for the legendary Manchester United. He was a sports hero but a flawed one, as he was ultimately felled by a staggering addiction to alcohol. Hearing about Best as a boy, but not really knowing much about him, I was glad to have a chance to screen Gordon’s doc before the festival. The director uses a lot of audio recorded by Best himself, so in a way the famed footballer narrates his own story, with former teammates and friends filling in the other details of his storied career. As things begin to unravel, former girlfriend Jackie Glass and Best’s two ex-wives, Angie and Alex, fill in the details of his decline. This isn’t a whitewash and like so many of these stories there doesn’t seem to be a turning point but rather a decline from talent and skill driven one drink and bender at a time.
Finally, the festival will close on Sunday night with another documentary, In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, which is being co-presented by the Irish Embassy of Canada. Directed by Maurice Fitzpatrick and narrated by Liam Neeson, the doc uses footage from The Troubles alongside interviews with Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Bono and Tony Blair as they discuss the long-serving Derry politician John Hume and his pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Toronto may have 250,000 residents of Irish descent, but we’re also blessed with a diverse community that’s open to learning about their neighbours and in the case of this festival, checking out each other’s film industries. The Irish film industry has grown from about 1,000 directly employed craftspeople to about 6,000 in just the past seven years or so. The Toronto Irish Film Festival celebrates that film community and has been selling out screenings since 2010, thanks to the hard work of TIRFF founders Michael Barry and John Galway and their team. You’ll be doing yourself a favour checking this festival out. More information and tickets can be found at www.toirishfilmfest.com.