The 8th directed by Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle, and Aideen Kane
The 8th directed by Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle, and Aideen Kane

The 2020 edition of the Galway Film Fleadh in Galway, Ireland, will take place entirely online showcasing some forty new features and ten new short film programs, bursting with moving, funny, provocative and powerful storytelling from both emerging and established filmmakers.

Taking place from July 7th to 12th, the Fleadh will present as its Opening Night film, The 8th, a documentary telling how Ireland overturned one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, and in doing so enabled the emergence of a more liberal Irish society. From directors Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy and Maeve Boyle, the 8th focuses on some key pro-choice campaigners as they battled for the hearts and minds of the Irish people in the run-up to the 2018 referendum.

The new Irish cinema section is packed with first features, including Philip Doherty’s black comedy Redemption of a Rogue, set in the austere beauty of west Cavan, about a prodigal son (Aaron Monaghan) who seeks salvation before saying goodbye to the world. The highly anticipated The Winter Lake, directed by Phil Sheerin from a script by David Turpin (The Lodgers) is set around a macabre discovery and dark family secrets in the west of Ireland; and Dave Minogue’s Poster Boys, a semi-autobiographical comedy, following the adventures of a dysfunctional adult who agrees to mind his 10-year-old nephew for a week.

Also making its World Premiere is actor/director Eoin Macken’s new feature Here Are the Young Men, adapted from the book by Rob Doyle. A frenetic tale that unfolds over one hot, hedonistic Dublin summer and features a talented multi-national cast including Dean-Charles Chapman (1917), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Sing Street, One of Us Is Lying) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, New Mutants).

Irish speaking cineastes will be pleased to see Tom Sullivan’s debut, Arracht, a period drama set on the eve of The Great Famine, in the line-up. As well as a new documentary feature on island life from Loïc Jourdain (A Turning Tide in the Life of Man), this time focusing on the residents of Tory Island in Donegal, the schism between Tory, Dublin, and Europe, and the last days of its King, Patsy Dan Rodgers.

Other documentaries include the world-wide travels and unique cultural exploration of renowned American folklorist Henry Glassie, chronicled in Henry Glassie: Fieldwork by director (and former Fleadh programmer) Pat Collins. Tomorrow is Saturday, explores the cultural legacy of artist Seán Hillen, as he deals with the practicalities of living with Asperger’s syndrome. From Northern Ireland, Trevor Birney’s The Dakota Entrapment Tapes and Grace Sweeney’s The Sheriff both focus on the topical issue of American law enforcement.

In Irish co-productions, Lina Luzyte’s directorial debut is a coming-of-age drama about a Lithuanian teenager living in Dublin called The Castle. While among this year’s International offerings is the Irish premiere of Nathalie Biancheri’s striking dramatic debut Nocturnal, starring Cosmo Jarvis (Calm with Horses) and Lauren Coe (Call the Midwife). The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is an atmospheric horror set in a secluded and devout community in Canada, where a mother and daughter are suspected of witchcraft. My Darling Vivian documents the untold story of Johnny Cash’s first wife Vivian Liberto. Softie is a Kenyan documentary portrait of famed photojournalist and activist Boniface ‘Softie’ Mwangi. And Searching for Mr. Rugoff traces the legacy of art-house movie mogul Don Rugoff, as directed by his former employer: film producer and Professor at Colombia University’s film program, Ira Deutchman.

There’s also a trio of new films from Japan: island-set drama After the Sunset, the documentary Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa and the latest anime from director Makoto Shinkai, Weathering With You.

A new competitive strand called Peripheral Visions will be presented with Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture. Co-curated by festival programmers from twelve different countries (and French-speaking Canada!) as a showcase of European ‘cinema from the periphery,’ each film will be introduced by its nominating festival. Highlights include Sympathy for the Devil, the biopic of nineties’ French war correspondent Paul Marchand, as selected by the Cinemania festival in Québec. River Tales, a Nicaraguan documentary selected by Luxembourg City Film Festival. And the raw, existentialist drama Kala Azar, put forward by the Athens International Film Festival. This new competition offers a prize fund of €3,000, and winning entries will be toured across film societies in Galway City and County, later in the year.

The Film Fleadh recently announced the addition of its Best Short Documentary Award to its already existing Oscar® qualifying categories in Best Short Film (Live Action) and Best Short Animation. The 2020 programme features ten short film programmes, showcasing 73 new Irish and international shorts in all, including 35 World Premieres. This year’s jury includes actors Michael Smiley, Fionnula Flanagan, Keith Carradine, Ruth Negga, Liam Cunningham, TG4 Commissioning Editor Laura Ní Cheallaigh, director Allison Anders and screenwriter Kirsten Smith.

There is a varied programme of festival offerings for younger audiences, including the European Film Academy nominated drama, My Extraordinary Summer With Tess; the US high-school documentary Pahokee, which follows three students in a small Florida town through their final year of high school; and a programme of short films curated especially for teen audiences, focusing on themes of identity and belonging, and relationships in the digital age.

Despite the remote viewing and lack of mass-gatherings, the festival will continue to provide plenty of avenues for all those who want to ‘talk shop.’ Q+A’s will be live-streamed, with audience questions taken from social media. Panel discussions will be hosted as webinars. And live-streamed In Conversation events with celebrated filmmaking talents will all feature, with the full roster set to be revealed between now, and the festival’s Opening Night on Tuesday, July 7th.

Galway Film Fleadh Programme Director Will Fitzgerald said, “I hope everyone is as pleasantly surprised as I was at the breadth and diversity, and opportunities for discovery, we managed to pack into this digital programme. I’m grateful to all of the filmmakers who have taken this leap with us, and who are on this journey with us now. We’re bringing the Fleadh to the masses, for a change. I’m looking forward to making each of their films part of a national conversation from July 7th to 12th.”

Films have been scheduled in the traditional fashion, with new films ‘premiering’ at designated times during each day of the festival. All selected films will be available to rent from the Film Fleadh’s website, and can be viewed across multiple devices. Viewers can watch the Fleadh films on their television via video-casting or through an HDMI connection to their portable device. Tickets will be incentively priced from as low as €5. But there will only be a limited number available for each film. Says Fitzgerald, “This will be the most accessible the Film Fleadh has ever been before. But crucially, there are only as any tickets available as there are seats in the Town Hall Theatre. So for audience members who are reading this – book early, and book often!”

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