Cork director Niall Owens and Mick Hannigan are delighted to see IndieCork return to the big screen this year. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

IndieCork set to be ‘a festival of discovery’

You can fork out thousands for an 80 inch flatscreen TV; you can even bolt a HD projector to your ceiling if you want, but you still won’t come close to the real thing.

It’s for that reason, and many more, that the organisers of IndieCork International Film Festival are especially excited to be back in the Gate Cinema this year.

The festival was three days into its hybrid programme last year when restrictions were suddenly changed and cinemas were shut with immediate effect.

This year, with cinemas now open again, albeit with reduced capacity, Festival Co-Director Mick Hannigan says filmmakers will benefit hugely from the real time feedback only a live audience can give.

“It's a very big deal for us. That's the payback for us. We view a couple of thousand films each year and you're in contact with the filmmaker and then you get, not only to present their film, but you also get to meet them and to introduce them to a live audience and that's a very important thing for the filmmaker,” says Mick.

“They get to see their film on the big screen, which they otherwise wouldn't because they're working in front of computer screens. They get to say a few words about their film, put it in context, they get the feedback from the audience through applause or Q&A afterwards, they get to meet the festival organisers. That's all hugely beneficial to a filmmaker's career.”

Now in its ninth year, the festival is continuing to expand and was just this week confirmed as a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominating festival.

“We are improving our offer to filmmakers so that IndieCork can indeed be a really good experience for them, not just showing their films, but to give them a deeper insight into how to promote their films, meeting other filmmakers, networking with each other.

“Because IndieCork has been plugging away now for eight years, I think we have got a certain reputation of championing emerging filmmakers. IndieCork is becoming a little bit of a festival of discovery as it were, and we're very proud of that,” says Mick.

Interestingly, IndieCork is Ireland’s only arts festival in shared ownership, meaning that members own the festival and have a say in its development.

Mick explains: “We deliberately set up as a co-operative because we wanted that structure, we wanted it to be a members-owned festival.

“The standard structure seems to be to put a board in place and then you get state funding or whatever. We don't do that. Our model is quite different. We don't get Arts Council funding, we don't want a board of people coming in from the outside.

“Ours is a management committee made up of the members, so it's more egalitarian; the people who are on the management committee are enthusiastic about film. It suits us. This isn't to denigrate other models, this is just the one that we like.”

With next year marking a decade of the festival’s existence, are there are any special plans in place to celebrate the impressive milestone?

“It's as much a surprise to us as to anybody else that we're bearing down on our tenth anniversary. Time passes quickly,” he says.

“Sometimes anniversary festivals can be overly ambitious and distract from the bread and butter aspects. But I think we will be taking a retrospective look at the preceding nine festivals, and maybe revisiting some of the more striking films that we've screened over the years.”

This year’s festival will feature considerably more Irish short films than previous years as well as an expanded Creatives Programme which includes workshops and panel discussions with filmmakers.

“All of that is evidence of a really lively local filmmaking scene. I think that's very heartening going forward, that there is a very solid filmmaking base now in Cork,” says Mick.

New Irish talent is top of the list of this year’s festival, which opened on Sunday with psychological thriller ‘Gateway’, the debut feature from Cork writer/director Niall Owens.

The festival also welcomes renowned US filmmaker Bill Morrison who will present his new feature ‘The Village Detective: a song cycle’. Morrison is a highly regarded and acclaimed filmmaker with many international awards for his unique work.

Another international focus is Baloji, an artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo via Belgium.

The music side of the festival has expanded also, embracing an imaginative handling of the continuing Covid restrictions, with live-streamed performances and improvisation from sound artists and an album launch by Cork-based group The Quiet Club.

Limerick music programmer Tony Langlois commented: “While we are not at full return to live music, we expect this curious mix of music, sound and improvisation to whet people’s appetite for the spirit of IndieCork’s approach to performance and sound.”

The festival is now underway and will run up until this coming Sunday at the Gate cinema and until 3 October online.