Thursday, 9 July 2009

Fleadh09: Way Out West

BEANS (Danny Mac Eachmharcaigh) - I could criticise this one for some static presentation and stagey acting, but it's probably not fair for me to say too much given that the whole thing was presented in subtitle-free Irish, of which I speak nothing. Credit should therefore be due since I managed to follow the film and enjoy it all the same, despite not knowing anything that was said. A universal story I guess.

WHO, ME? (David Moran) - This short documentary follows three Galway students and their relationship with alcohol. I can't tell you how much I was uplifted by the attitude of the young lady who refuses to drink (I can relate) but overall it's a damning portrait of the part that alcohol plays in the lives of young people (of course, not the only culprits), perhaps best summed up by the other young lady's statement that she can't relax or enjoy herself properly when she goes out without drinking - which she says is not a problem.

FOLLOW (Finian O'Gorman) - This emotional drama is a bit rough around the edges but presents an intriguing concept with a satisfyingly clever ending.

EIGHTEEN LINE POEM (Mike Lernihan) - This is, as it suggests, a filmic poem which combines some madcap humour with some depressing material to present some contrasting impressions of Irish drug use.

SWING (Stephen Kelly) is a short revolving around a troubled young couple who suffer a serious set back in their relationship. There's a bit of a deficit in the chemistry department, but the film delivers a delightful, laugh-out-loud punchline.

APARTMENT B (Various) is a humourous little short that suggests maybe you shouldn't treat television programmes quite so seriously - it can be harmful to health.

ACQUIESCENCE (Stephen Rigley) is another portrait of troubled relationships which to be honest didn't really do much for me, but did boast some of the best acting out of this bunch of shorts.

FACELIFT (Valerie Joyce) is another one I didn't get but I loved the look of the film, which I'm assuming was achieved by shooting on Super8 or something of that ilk.

FOND FAREWELL (Tony Walsh) is a fantastic little piece about a group of men in a pub mourning the loss of a friend.

MATCHED (Eamon Quinlan) is a hilarious film about two strangers who meet via a dating agency and have a memorable first date, though it appears it was memorable in entirely different ways for each of them. Both leads are terrific and they, and the film itself, show a fine talent for comedy.

THE WIND THAT WAKES MCFARLEY (Stephen Kilroy) is a funny little film about rural Ireland versus modern technology, but with a serious ecological message.

LOSING MEMORIES (Orlagh Heverin) is a touching piece on our relationship with the elderly and their problems, which makes a nice companion piece to one or two other shorts that have addressed similar issues lately (such as the award-winning IRENE).

DEIRDRE'S PASSIONS (Ger Considine) is a documentary investigating the 5-year relationship between the titular old woman and the famous Patrick Kavanagh. It's engrossing stuff and as nice as the short is, once can't help but wonder if there isn't a full feature in here somewhere.

FINE TUNING (Various) is a brief but interesting insight into a Galway man who earns his crust hand-crafting musical instruments, some of which have been bought by some rather famous customers.

THE SLOW DANCE (Paul Murphy) is another example of a documentary that gives you a look into something you probably knew nothing about. Meditative walking? Nope, I've never heard of it either and while I won't be giving it a go anytime soon it's certainly an interesting concept.

SANCTUARY (Lorraine O'Hanlon) is a touching look at the work of an Irish animal sanctuary which unfortunately isn't full of happy news. Hopefully a wider audience awaits this one as it's the sort of thing that really needs to be seen to drum up support for a worthy cause. And I say that as someone who certainly isn't an animal lover.

RHYMING COUPLET (Des Kilbane) is another documentary, this one looking at an American woman who came to Ireland and fell in love with it (I know the feeling) and decided to stay, where she found love and poetry. A rare documentary voyage into feelgood territory.

BATHTIME BLUES (Ciaran Ryan) is a look at some long-abandoned Irish baths using an atmospheric approach reminiscent of SEAVIEW. It's a nice film but might have benefited had I not already seen another couple of Irish shorts on similar subjects.

CANAL (Pete Higgins) examines the titular waterway through Galway in a stylish and slickly made love letter to Eglinton Canal.

WAITING FOR MARCH (David Kennedy) investigates the temporarily legal highs from BZP pills. The director's delivery is a little dry and he seems too keen to form conclusions from very little evidence, but credit is due for investigating an issue which hasn't had the profile it probably should. It's a shame that it seems that banning the substance will do no good, but that said I pretty much agree with the filmmaker's sentiments even if there isn't a totally convincing argument on screen.

THE LETTER (On a Rock Productions) is a decent enough little short about a man dealing with an emotional problem but its reliance on the song playing throughout rather than the character in the film makes it feel more like a music video.

THE PLAYER (Piotr Smigasiewicz) sees a young man cross an elderly man and suffer a humiliating comeuppance. The colour seemed a bit drab when shot up on the big screen but otherwise it was very nicely shot.

MALFUNCTION (Ronan O Conghaile) is a delightful little short about a man, a woman and a toaster. After the emotional turmoil suffered by many characters in this programme, this is an enjoyable little antidote.

LOST AND FOUND (Barry Richardson) overcomes the limits of an almost-entirely child cast by combining humour with a fascinating concept that is simulataneously very dark and a bit silly. It's like one of those highlights in television's LEAGUE OF GENTLEMAN where you know something's very funny but at the same time a little terrifying. The last scene is terrific.


  1. Very glad to see an unbiased view on the Way Out West shorts.

    You seem to look past the sometimes glaringly obvious mistakes and hiccups and report honestly on the real messages construed in the films.

    Very enjoyable review

  2. You're welcome, thanks for reading and taking the time to post.

    I do try to take a more realistic approach with these kinds of shorts programmes as I think that since the majority of them are made by students who are still in the early days of learning their craft, or by people with zero budgets, it would be churlish to pick apart the superficial shortcomings.