While it didn’t get the national publicity it deserved, the first Clonmel Film Festival, or its proper title – International Film Festival Ireland (an IFFI mouthful), it was a major event that attracted films and film-makers from over thirty countries.
Entry to all screenings was free in about eight venues, including hotels, pubs, clubs and a church. So, while initially interest was slow on the 6th September, by the closing Saturday 12th September, there was a definite buzz but still many people on the streets of Clonmel didn’t seem to know much about it. That is always a problem for organisers.
Clonmel businesses and civic bodies got behind it but sadly arts and tourism failed to even give a token grant. But Festival Director, Will Nugent, did amazing work to put on over 200 films, some full length and others as short as 3 minutes.
Knocklofty House Hotel, was the centre of the festival and it had a quaint, but lavish setting in rural seclusion and film makers loved its location. I liked the town Pubflix Trail, where most evenings you could see a great cross-section of world cinema from up and coming directors. I actually met some people at Przystan (an ethnic pub) who went to see a favourite film in other venues. And if you didn’t like a particular programme, you could go elsewhere. It did bring a new level of business to struggling pubs.
Films began at 10 in the morning at Knocklofty and went on until late afternoon. Sometimes the programme list was altered but I found that if you asked about a specific film, they would do their best to screen it.
Daniel Etheridge from Alabama, was delighted with the positive response to his noir detective story, A Darker Shade Of Grey. I loved the surreal sense of Citizen Versus Kane, a French 18 minute film by Shawn Severi, about a snotty director whose leading actor dies before shooting ends and he is persuaded to film and pretend the actor is alive.
What was nice was the way directors/makers introduced their work and took questions afterwards about costs, technical matters, etc. Ryan Hauser, an American who made The Willing Suspension Of Disbelief, brought his leading lady with him complete with her Aran Jumper. His film was about using organised crime to finance his film about organised crime.
A Puerto Rican movie (98 mins) created a great buzz about revolution. Canned Machetero, its director Vagabond Beaumont has great potential. It had a punchy punky soundtrack with songs like Pedro’s Got A Pipe Bomb, and Politricksters.
My favourite Irish entry was The Confidence Trick (13) by Hewson Maxwell who competed at the Waterford Film Festival in 2008.