By Kim Lyle
How many Irish films can you name? The truth is, the average American might have trouble coming up with more than a few outside of the cult classic The Boondock Saints.
The Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival is trying to change this. They aim to create a space where Irish cinema can gain more of the recognition it deserves. This past Sunday they teamed up with the Manship Theatre for a screening of the Academy-Award Nominated “Song of the Sea.” The movie was just a taste of what they are planning for the future. This July they will host their seventh annual film festival since their inception in 2008.
“We’ve grown every year and we are always trying to add new events and performances to the calendar,” said Aaron Bayham, the organization’s co-chairman. “It’s a film festival, but we also want to showcase Irish culture and heritage in Baton Rouge. The films are a good way to do that. But, we also have performances, dancers, musicians, and even art that goes into the festival.”
There is a special quality in Irish films, one not easily fabricated by large Hollywood blockbuster style movies.
“Irish films are much more about the heart, they really honestly are,” said Laura McDavitt, co-chairwoman of the organization. “The Irish are known for being great storytellers. Some of the best writers in the world have come from Ireland.”
Bayham elaborated on some of the unique attributes specific to Irish film. “There is a lot of dark humor. While the Irish are generally carefree and fun people, they’ve had a very violent and tumultuous history. So, some of that comes through in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily see in mainstream American filmmaking,” he said.
In addition to storytelling skills, the ingenious Irish were first to shoot while on location. “An Irish film company based out of New York came up with it,” informed McDavitt. “That’s why their movies were so popular because for five cents, the movie-going public could visit those exotic lands that they had only read about. Location shooting would not be what it is had it not been for the Irish.”
In the era of Google and the Internet, finding and watching movies is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse. So, another goal of the festival is to help viewers know how to navigate through the top Irish films when they leave the theater.
“A lot of times you can access them on Netflix, there are a lot of great Irish films there. But, it’s hard to know what to look for unless you’re really keeping your finger on the pulse of Irish film,” said Bayham.
One film that may have been overlooked if not for the previous year’s festival was the solemn, yet poignant drama “Calvary” starring Brian Gleeson. The film proved to Baton Rouge moviegoers that Irish filmmakers have a point of view unlike any others working in the business today.