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Irish Ambassador welcomes the audience at last year's festival. Photo by Jeffrey Meyer Photography/provided by Irish Film Festival.

Fourth annual Irish Film Festival brings the best of Ireland to Ottawa—03.23.18 to 03.25.18

By Taymaz Valley on March 15, 2018



The fourth annual Irish Film Festival Ottawa is on its way with some promising performances and a number of outstanding films from this year’s Irish film directors, actors, screenwriters and animation houses.

2018 saw the Irish film industry take off in an unprecedented way internationally, gaining many accolades and praise from critics, producers, festivals and moviegoers. Even though the Irish film industry is relatively new, the depth and sophistication with which it has been developing and progressing just goes to highlight the importance of culture and the arts within the Irish society and public mindset.

The Irish Film Festival Ottawa will be running from March 23–25 at the Arts Court Theatre, a three day extravaganza with music performances and social activities that suit everyone and all members of the family. The meat of the program however are the films, some of which have already been on the international festival circuit, being nominated and winning hearts and minds all around.

The noteworthy films scheduled this year, amongst others, include Kissing Candice, Cardboard Gangsters, The Breadwinner and The Maze. The cinema buffs would have perked up ears at the mention of some of these titles since they unarguably resulted from the tireless efforts of some of the most talented individuals in the film industry today.

Kissing Candice is the directorial debut and first feature length work by the multitalented rising female star director Aoife McArdle. You might have seen her extraordinary music videos for artists like Simian Mobile Disco, Jon Hopkins, Bryan Ferry and U2. You would have certainly seen her socially conscious commercials for Audi and Toyota, which was aired during the Super Bowl LII this year.

Kissing Candice can be described as an important Freudian commentary on the social circumstances of a poverty stricken small town, and how Candice, played by Ann Skelly, deals with her surrounding and her seizures while contemplating love. Aoife McArdle has been phenomenal at dealing with realism, however in this film she delves deep into surrealism to deal with our dreams and the impacts of unconscious in our day-to-day lives. From wish fulfillment, to epiphanies and anxieties, dreams play a significant role in this film. Candice’s Incubus drives her in search of love, and she transfers her affection towards a young man who is the personification of teenage rebellion in her life, played by the beguiling Ryan Lincoln. The crimson camera filters and the smoky backdrop make convincing scenery for this mesmerizing scenario, and the Aoife McArdle skills flood through with enticing success.

The perils of youth and poverty continue in theme with the astonishingly frank film Cardboard Gangsters, directed by Mark O’Connor and co-written by the brilliant John Connors who also plays the protagonist Jay Connolly in the film. The events take places in Darndale, which is a deprived and struggling neighbourhood of Dublin, however as always is the case, with poverty comes people rich in spirit, culture, music and aspiration. Certain family and societal deteriorations have meant that the youth are growing up lacking the right role models in life, and so they become partial to self-expression through criminality. Money, clothes and cars become the symbols of life achievements, and if it means that they have to rebel against the only authority figures around, i.e. the police, then that is on par with the latent search for individualism.

Seeking independence manifests itself in the gang of friends being drawn to drug dealing, and Jay finds himself on the forefront of the drama going against his late father’s old comrade and his narcotics business. Mark O’Connor has hinted to the father-son relationships that are the ground of this story. John Connors lost his own father to suicide when he was young and as he was being presented with the prestigious Leading Actor prize at the Irish Film and Television Awards this year, he used his platform to highlight the mental health issues that are plaguing people from the Irish travelers community.

The Breadwinner, at first glance, portrays a light-hearted take on the struggles of a young girl from Afghanistan, however on closer inspection, a complicated and inventive story appears that is told with cultural empathy and gender equity at its core. Adopted from the best selling book series by the Member of the Order of Canada, activist and dare I say feminist, Deborah Ellis, it tells the story of Parvana, and her struggles to manoeuvre through traditional Afghani society during Taliban’s oppressive reign. Parvana, which means butterfly in Farsi, transforms herself from a child to a powerful girl when she realizes that she needs to take care of her mother, sister and little brother after her father is imprisoned for insulting a member of the Taliban.

The film, by Nora Twomey, takes some creative licence and moves away from the original stories by Deborah Ellis in some parts. For example, religion plays a more significant role in Parvana’s life in the film, however even though this is a move away from Ellis’s mostly secular approach, it is a practical way of introducing diversity and the need for tolerance. The Breadwinner was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2018 Oscars, and that is a testament to Nora Twomey success in teaching children about different points of view, and the adults about acceptance and understanding. The fortitude and resilience of girls and women at times of turbulence are not to be undermined and this film highlights the need for a global women’s movement and girls’ empowerment.

The fourth annual Irish Film Festival Ottawa will take place from March 23–25 at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Avenue). For tickets and the schedule please visit Irish Film Festival Ottawa or the Arts Court Theatre website.