Border-themed film festival in Dromahair this weekend

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 3rd November, 2010 5:00pm

Border-themed film festival in Dromahair this weekend

Victoria Smurfit and Matt Keeslar in Run Of The Country.

Mick Lally’s finest screen performance, a big shot property speculator for whom more than his loans won’t perform, a woman with two natural fathers for one child, early breakout performances from Anthony Brophy and Victoria Smurfit, and the legendary Jimmy O’Dea filming on the border in 1938. These are just some of the highlights to be experienced at this year’s 6th Adaptation Film Festival, hosted at Cinema North West’s 100-seater mobile cinema in Dromahair, County Leitrim from November 5-7 and presented in association with the Irish Film Institute.

The organisers recognise that the “Irish border has been a source of much conflict since it was established in 1926, but it has also provided rich material for some of the best writing, much of which has made it to the screen”.

Therefore this year’s Adaptation, the only festival of cinema and literature in Ireland or Britain, will feature border writers whose work has made it to the screen.

There will be a particular focus on the Monaghan writer Eugene McCabe who this year celebrated his 80th birthday. It was fitting that as part of the launch McCabe’s daughter, Ruth read an excerpt from her father’s modern classic, Death and Nightingales.

An accomplished actress, Ruth McCabe has herself featured in numerous films and TV dramas including The Snapper, My Left Foot, Breakfast on Pluto and Silent Witness. It was no surprise then that she silenced the audience with her lively performance at the launch of Adaptation.

Eugene McCabe will himself attend the film festival in Dromahair to introduce some of his work’s screenings, as will Redhills writer, Shane Connaughton, and Dromahair based filmmaker Johnny Gogan.

Films being featured at the unique festival include adaptations of Shane Connaughton’s Run of the Country (1995), Pat McCabe’s Butcher Boy (1997), Sam Hanna Bell’s December Bride (1991) and Johnny Gogan’s Mapmaker (2001).

The films

The Eugene McCabe focus will feature some of his prolific work for TV in the 1970s and 80s at the heart of which is his Victims Trilogy of tv plays (1976) for RTE, made in the heat of the Troubles in South Fermanagh. His Leitrim-set King Of The Castle tells the story of Scober McAdam, a man who has greedily acquired a former “Big House” but who must conceal his impotence by devising a plot to impregnate his young wife.

Roma (1979) from Eugene McCabe features what is arguably Mick Lally’s finest screen performance. The actor, who passed away so prematurely this summer, often had his screen talents limited to his Glenroe performances.

Former greats Donal McCann and Ray McAnally are also to be found in December Bride, directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan (director of Into The Storm which last year secured an Emmy for actor Brendan Gleeson in the  role of Winston Churchill).

Current star Ciarán Hinds also appears in this tale set in County Down in the early 1900s about a farm servant (Saskia Reeves) who has a relationship with two brothers and refuses to tell the world which of them is the father of her child. Thaddeus O’Sullivan is also represented by his In The Border Country (1991), another adaptation from Greek tragedy featuring Seán Bean, Juliette Stevenson and an early performance from Brendan Gleeson. Both O’Sullivan’s films were designed by Sligo artist and film-maker Frank Conway.

Shane Connaughton’s Run of The Country gives just a sample of the Cavan writer’s work in this tragic-comic tale of romance and political conflict in a border community and features early break-out performances from Anthony Brophy (most recently seen in The Tudors) and Victoria Smurfit.

Johnny Gogan’s Mapmaker (2001), his Leitrim and Sligo shot thriller set against the backdrop of Peace Process tensions in a Fermanagh border community, also gets a dusting off. The film features Susan Lynch and Brian F. O’Byrne who starred in the recent US Network drama Flash Forward.

Finally, from deep in the archives comes a comic gem. Irish music-hall star Jimmy O’Dea appears in Blarney - Ireland’s Borderline (1938) — a comedy set in the North Louth/South Armagh area about a medicine salesman who accidentally takes a briefcase with stolen jewels. At the Border Inn Billy falls in love with the barmaid Annie Burke. However, there is competition from the local RUC Man who claims that “love defies all borders”.

There are further predictions that “this border will disappear one day with a (friendly) shake of Irish hands”.

• All screenings will take place in Cinema North West’s 100 seater cinemobile on Main Street, Dromahair. Individual screening and weekend tickets are available. Bookings: info@cinemanorthwest.com or 086-6049365.

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