The 2012 edition of the Corona Cork Film Festival—Ireland’s oldest such cultural event—is already well underway, having launched last Sunday. There’s still plenty to come though, and for the last three days of the festival I’ll be rushing back and forth across the city catching as many screenings as possible and reporting back here on the highs and lows. Perhaps fittingly, it’s a festival with a strong focus on Irish cinema, plentiful home-grown films featured among a programme strong in international cinema.
Oonagh Kearney’s Wonder House begins proceedings today, a stylistically fluid documentary examining the way childhood experiences shape our lives. Mixing stop-motion animation with live action footage, all to the tune of expert opinions, it’s a fascinating sounding concept that should make for a fine start to the festival’s antepenultimate outing. Hail follows, an Australian crime drama based on the life of Danny Jones and featuring the man himself as… well, the man himself. It screened at the Venice Film Festival and took home a top award in Melbourne. Then to The Good Man, one of the most promising Irish titles in the programme. Drawing together the disparate strands of an Irish banker and a South African teen, its previous festival screenings have garnered nothing but good word. The day concludes with Laurence Anyways, the third feature from Québécois wunderkind Xavier Dolan. Dolan made his name with the marvellous I Killed My Mother; his sophomore effort Heartbeats was, if a little indulgent, a worthy successor: could Laurence elevate his name to the upper echelons of contemporary world cinema?
A documentary again to begin Saturday’s films in the form of Get the Picture, here having its world premiere. It concerns the life and work of former New York Times and Life Picture Editor John G. Morris, now 95 and brimming with memories. Thereafter to Bestiaire, a “filmic picture book” from Denis Coté, exploring voyeurism through the eyes of animals and subjective vision. It sounds, in truth, exceptionally odd: how promising. Dark drama thereafter from Pilgrim Hill, the story of a middle-aged man left to tend his faltering family farm in the heart of rural Ireland. It looks to be a harsh assessment of the state of the nation, brooding in the vein of the finest contemporary native films. It screened at this year’s London Film Festival, if we’re lucky it could be another great addition to a strong year for Irish film. The night comes to a close with Cannes Grand Prix winner Reality, the latest from Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone. The comic drama makes use of Big Brother as a central plot device, an interesting touch that seems to position it as an incisive media commentary.
Jeremy Irons is set to welcome us to the festival’s final day. Not literally, alas: he narrates Another Way Home, a documentary retelling the troubled plight of a Cork-based family whose daughter’s mental illness led to a long battle with the stigma of psychiatric illness. If it’s at all as affecting as the story it tells, this should be a certain highlight of the weekend. One of my most anticipated of the programme comes next: The Fifth Season. The third part of Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s thematic trilogy that began with the extraordinary visual awe of Khadak and continued with Altiplano (which I’ve regrettably not seen) sees the cycle of nature broken and the effects that has on a small Belgian community. The directorial duo’s prior work signals this as one not to be missed. Miguel Gomes’ Tabu will mark the end of the festival for me: the few who’ve seen it seem unanimously to signal it as one of 2012’s greatest films. Its strange magic realism won it both the audience and FIPRESCI awards at the Berlin Film Festival: could it earn such favour here in Cork?
Stay tuned over the weekend for my daily dispatches and choice reviews.