Cork International Film Festival has a rich and impressive history. Founded in 1956, it is Ireland’s oldest and largest film festival. Its reach has extended far beyond that of the city, and as of 2020, it is the only Irish film festival to have three awards with Oscar accreditation. In any other year, the festival would normally take place across the city, with screenings in the Gate Cinema, the Everyman Palace Theatre and Triskel Arts Centre. Each location brings its own energy and ambience. A cinema, a converted church and a theatre; the way the medium of film can flourish and reach in these different spaces is a testament not only to its strength but also to the creative vision of the organisers of the festival.
In recent weeks however, as the case numbers of those with COVID-19 went up and alarm bells started ringing once more, it became clear that hosting the festival within the previously normal parameters would be impossible. The movement of Cork to Level 3 restrictions on October 6th and subsequently to Level 5 two weeks later only further cemented the decision to pivot the entire festival online. But ‘pivot’ is such a graceful word. I don’t think it fully grasps the hard, difficult work that has gone into moving an entire festival online when, for the most part, a film festival is somewhat characterised by the temporality of it, the way in which we congregate in front of a screen far bigger than ourselves and take in a story that has the potential to change the trajectory of our thoughts and feelings.
But one benefit of being online is just who the film festival can reach, and when. Now, people can access the films from their own homes, wherever they live. Moreover, each film will be available to watch for 30 hours after their first screening, making it easier to watch each film at a time that suits you. These films can take on a new life, as something to distract from what we are currently facing. What’s more, film has a brilliant beauty in that it can communicate its message regardless of how it is being viewed. There is such a universality to the emotions conveyed within a film that the meaning is never totally lost.
Looking through the programme for the festival, I want to book the whole week off just so I can watch every single minute. I have, with great difficulty, picked out just a few that stand out to me as must-watch features of the festival.
Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story
You may not have heard of Beverly Glenn-Copeland. His recording career has spanned 50 years and his 1986 album Keyboard Fantasies, has been regarded as a New Age classic with his refreshing use of synths tenderly bringing together minimalism and emotion. The film is part tour documentary and part biopic, examining the life of a Black transgender elder whose musical legacy has only grown stronger and stronger.
Hacked Circuit (aemi Shorts: Signals and Circuits)
A two-part event that starts with a screening of 2014’s Hacked Circuit, which delivers an intimate portrait of a Foley artist working on a scene from Sofia Coppola’s The Conversation. A Foley artist is someone who creates sound effects generally added in post-production to enhance the audio quality of a scene. Following this is a programme curated by aemi titled Signals and Circuits, featuring work relating to travel, surveillance, communication and technology by artists Jenny Brady, Jussi Eerola, Laura Fitzgerald, John Smith, Deborah Stratman and Yoga For The Eyes.
One of the brilliant Irish shorts being screened as part of the festival, Loving Ava is an intense and heartachingly endearing depiction of female friendship, intense and almost claustrophobic in its dynamic.
The Bright Side
One of four Irish films that will have its world premiere at the festival, The Bright Side tells the story of Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux), a stand-up comedian who, having given up on life, is morbidly relieved to be diagnosed with cancer. However, over the course of the movie she slowly sheds her cynicism as she befriends four other women on the chemo ward. The Bright Side is Ruth Meehan’s directorial debut and I’m excited to see the character of Kate explore illness, friendship, love and death with a dark sense of humour.
Now more than ever, it can mean so much to take the time to seek out new perspectives and seek solace in film. It is also so important to support a festival that has given so much back to the city in terms of creating a community where cinema enthusiasts can congregate and learn. So, if you can, get yourself a ticket for one of the films being screened. Maybe one I’ve recommended here, maybe one that you have never ever heard of before. Surrender to that unknown and appreciate what unfolds in front of you on screen.
The 65th annual Cork International Film Festival takes place from November 8-15. For more information, download the CIFF2020 app or go to https://corkfilmfest.org//