Shamrocks? Clovers? Leprechauns riding magical marshmallows across a rainbow? You’d be out of luck looking for these at the 13th Annual Irish Film Festival, Boston, where depictions of the Emerald Isle instead included a champion boxer, a soccer-crazed altar boy, and a drug-transporting lamb. The festival, held at the Somerville Theatre and Brattle Theatre last weekend, featured a medley of shorts, feature-length films, and documentaries.
Boston Irish Film Festival Productions, a nonprofit organization, has been working since 1999 to showcase Irish cinema in the Boston area. This festival is the largest of its kind outside of Ireland, and the organization means to provide a gateway for Irish films into American cinemas. Guests at the festival were invited to attend the screenings, chat with filmmakers and actors, and, of course, attend after-party pub outings in the local area. “I like to tell people in Boston that after they go to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, [they should] come here to see a real bit of Ireland,” festival co-director Dawn Morrissey says. The Roving Reporter visited the festival to do just that.
John McIlduff, director of “Behold the Lamb”
RR: Your film includes a dead dog, drug trafficking, and a disabled child. It has been said to have a fetish for misery—any thoughts on that?
JM: Honestly, I don’t think it’s that dark of a film. I mean, yes, it does have its darker parts, but there’s also that element of hope that you’re left with in the end. If you thought this was dark, you should have seen my first drafts…. I sort of gave it the Disney ending here [laughs]. But in many ways I consider this more of a Norse film. Now, those guys are dark. No sun there. I think it does something to their brains.
RR: Norse, huh? So what, then, makes the film Irish?
JM: The things that make this film Irish are very non-explicit. For me, it was textural, as far as color quality, the textures. I wanted to make something very much like Northern Ireland, where I come from. We’re very cold people—we’re very closed. I don’t know whether it was the problems or the conflicts we had there, but I wanted to have a film that talked about that.... I mean, I lived through all of that. That’s where I think it’s Irish—on that deep fundamental level, as opposed to it being something you can pinpoint.
RR: In your movie there’s a pretty large role played by a drug-smuggling lamb. Will I find one if I visit Ireland?
JM: I hope not, because I actually patented that [laughs].
Aoife Duffin, actress in “Behold the Lamb”
RR: Your character is pretty dark. How was it fitting into that role?
AD: It worked, really, just right from the beginning…. [My character,] Liz, she doesn’t do very much. She’s quite closed, doesn’t give you that much…. Irish films are like that sometimes—a little slow, something you really have to think about…. The humor, it’s a little dark, yes, but also refreshing here in Boston—you know? The humor here seems to be on the same level as that as Ireland. Like when I tossed the lamb over that wall, everyone responded pretty well here, but in France it was more like [gasps], “Oh no!”
RR: So, just how Irish are you?
AD: How American are you? Of course, I’m 100 percent. We got top hats, the leprechauns, and a little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow by our home. The leprechaun suits, too. I got one of those. Make sure you get one if you come visit.
RR: How could I not?