The Irish Film Festival Boston returns to the Somerville Theatre for its 20th annual celebration of Irish film in Massachusetts. This year’s festival, running over four days from March 19 to 22, will showcase a selection of the new talents, voices, and perspectives that have emerged from the Irish film industry in recent years.
The festival has attracted talented filmmakers and a diverse audience to Somerville each year over its twenty-year history. Headed up by Dawn Morrissey and Siobhan Fanning and known for its programming, parties, and post-screening Q&As, the festival introduces patrons to all facets of Irish cinema with a focus on films that challenge traditional conceptions of Irish culture.
Listed as “One of the Top 20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” in Moviemaker magazine, the Irish Film Festival announces the award winners prior to the festival so filmmakers, writers, and cast members can attend their screenings in the U.S. To date, the Irish Film Festival has screened nearly 600 films and hosted over 100 filmmakers, making it the largest festival of its kind in North America. The festival has also received an official citation for its work in promoting the arts from the Mayor of Somerville.
More than 28 feature films, shorts, and documentaries will be screened over the festival weekend, introducing audiences to a global, progressive outlook on contemporary Irish identity though a variety of genres from comedy to hard-hitting documentaries.
Thursday, March 19
The festivals’ Breakthrough Feature, A Bump Along the Way, kicks off the festival. Presented by Invest Northern Ireland, the female-led, feel-good comedy is set in Derry, Northern Ireland. It’s about a middle-aged woman whose unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand forces her to finally take control of her life and become the role model her teenage daughter craves. This will be the New England premiere of the film and main protagonist, Bronagh Gallagher (Pulp Fiction, The Commitments, Sherlock Holmes), will host a post-screening Q&A alongside the writer of the film, Tess McGowan.
Also on opening night, the festival’s Most Inspiring Short awardee The Bird and The Whale tells the inspirational story of a young whale struggling to find his voice with a caged songbird as they struggle to survive lost at sea. Both the director, Carol Freeman, and composer, Chris McLoughlin, will be in attendance for a Q&A.
Friday, March 20
The Last Right, Director’s Choice Feature, a comedy with links to Quincy, tells the story of a man bringing the body of someone he barely knows for burial with his family. His good intentions are motivated by trying to patch up the relationship between him and his brother. However, during their journey from West Cork to Rathlin Island, both romance and family secrets arise to complicate the trip. The director, Aoife Crehan, will host a Q&A after the screening.
This year’s Directors Choice short film will also play on Friday evening. Audiences will have the opportunity to see a story about love, death and crap anniversary gifts in the short film, Ruby. The director of the film, Michael Creagh, will be present for a Q&A session.
Saturday, March 21
The inspiring story of World Champion boxer Katie Taylor in this year’s Global Vision Documentary, Katie, will be screened on Saturday evening. For the first time, Katie Taylor, the world’s greatest female boxer, allows unique access to her life. Unbeatable for 10 years, credited with raising the profile of women’s boxing and bringing the sport into the Olympics, Katie suddenly begins a losing streak in 2016 due to a conflict within her family. Katie is a riveting and highly emotional documentary that cuts to the core of Katie’s downfall and tells the story of her great attempt to rise from the ashes and rebuild her life. Following the screening, the director and producer will host a Q&A.
The program continues on Saturday evening with the hilarious feature film, Extra Ordinary, starring Maeve Higgins and Will Forte. Rose (Higgins), a sweet and lonely driving instructor, is forced to use her supernatural talents to save the daughter of Martin from a washed-up rockstar (Forte) who is using her in a Satanic pact to reignite his fame.
Sunday, March 22
The final day of the festival opens with a program of short documentaries that plays prior to the screening of When Women Won, this year’s Special Jury prize recipient. Compelling and insightful, this documentary tells the emotional inside story of the Together for Yes campaign to repeal the 8th amendment on abortion and change Irish society forever. Director Anna Rogers will be in attendance for a Q&A.
The closing film of the weekend, Cumar – A Galway Rhapsody, serves as a love letter to Galway from the artistic community that shaped the city.
“We are honored to continue the tradition of bringing the best of Irish film to New England audiences for our big anniversary year,” said Dawn Morrissey, executive director of the Irish Film Festival. “It makes our team and partners proud to continue our mission of supporting films written and directed by women.”
In honor of the 20th anniversary, the festival will also join forces with Invest Northern Ireland, as they sponsor the opening night of the fun-filled weekend. “We are delighted to be supporting the film festival this year,” said Peta Conn, head of American territory, Invest Northern Ireland. “The movie industry has developed greatly in the region, and we are very proud of the talent both in front of and behind the camera. We are particularly pleased to see a film made in Northern Ireland using local cast and crew is this year’s Best Feature!”
For the full list of films and schedule of the 20th Annual Irish Film Festival, and to purchase tickets which range from $15 to $17, visit irishfilmfestival.com. The All Access Pass is $95 and guarantees access to all screenings and receptions.