The Easter Rising of 1916 may be the Irish equivalent of America’s Battle of Lexington. It marks the effective beginning of the road to independence. To celebrate and commemorate the centennial of the Rising, the Irish Film Board curated “After ’16”, a collection of short films that look at those events with various styles and perspectives. The collection showed at NBFF as part of the festival’s ongoing connection with Irish film. The shorts give a nice introduction to the events. The first two shown were both memoirs. A Terrible Hullabaloo features the memories of a 90 year old who took part in the Rising as a child. As we hear his voice over, we see the actions in puppetry. A Father’s Letter shares the memories of a 102 year old Jesuit priest whose father was one of the leaders of the Rising. He recalls visiting his father in prison just before his execution and the letter his father sent to his family. My Life for Ireland is an entertaining story of a young man trying to get to Dublin to take part, but ends up taking over a small town post office instead. Styled like a 1940s film it has a great sense of comedy about the situation. Granite and Chalk is a documentary about two spies for the British who might well have short-circuited the Rising if they had been successful. Goodbye Darling is the most poignant and artistic of the films. As her husband is leading a group of volunteers in the Rising, a pregnant wife is in her well-appointed home playing the piano. It really is very effective. Baring Arms shows various Irish people getting tattoos to remember the Rising and its leaders. The Cherishing reminds us of the children who were killed in the Rising. As two boys go off to loot the candy store there is tragedy that will mark their families. Mr. Yeats and the Beastly Coins tells of the creation in 1926 of Ireland’s first set of coins. The committee chaired by poet W. B. Yeats worked to give Ireland a distinctive set of coins, but it was a convoluted road to make it happen.
There was a good crowd for the showing of the documentary South Bureau Homicide that focuses on the homicide detectives in one of Los Angeles’s most violent neighborhoods. It shows their desire to work with the community and forge bonds. Not only the detectives, but some of the neighborhood community leaders tell their stories on screen. Many reflect a religious foundation for what they do.
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba tells the story of a young writer who connects with the author Ernest Hemingway during the late 1950s when Hemingway is living in Cuba. Although the relationship starts out as hero worship, a true friendship develops, even though Hemingway is in the midst of a suicidal depression. This is the first Hollywood film shot in Cuba since the revolution. The film opens in theaters Friday.
The Innocents (Agnus Dei) is set in the aftermath of World War II. A female French doctor in Poland finds a convent with several pregnant nuns—the result of abuse by both German and Russian soldiers. The nuns do not wish to be discovered by the authorities. They are reticent to have any outside help and believe their vows of chastity must still be observed even in giving birth. Questions of faith and loss of faith—and of the lies that are told and crimes that continue to be committed in the name of doing good–all come into play.
For romcom fans the festival has Alex and Eve, an Australian film about a Greek Orthodox math teacher who meets a Lebanese Muslim lawyer. As they fall in love, their families are both trying to fix them up with spouses from their own communities. The conflicts really arise out of cultural issues. The religious aspects are treated fairly superficially. It follows the typical sweep of a romantic comedy, and tries to see just how close they can come to missing each other before they claim their happiness.