IndieCork: Declaration of Indiependence

IndieCork film and music festival has become an important cornerstone of the city’s cultural community. Before this year’s instalment, from the 9th to the 16th of this month, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with festival co-ordinator Mick Hannigan.

Mick Hannigan is a man in a good place. With the IndieCork film festival he co-chairs now in its fourth year, and having recently regained control of his former cinema, the Kino, now a theatre, things have come together after a period of upheaval that resulted in the creation of the fest.

“The genesis of IndieCork was the parting of the ways four years ago of my long-time colleague Úna Feely and I from our then employers, Cork Film Festival. There was much talk of CFF becoming a ‘red-carpet festival’ and we were concerned at the loss of focus on young and emerging filmmakers, particularly those working in short film. We had, after all, spent many years building the festival up to be the premier festival for shorts in Ireland. While we had no doubt about our ability to attract great shorts from Ireland and abroad, we did wonder if there was a sufficiently lively Irish indie scene. We needn’t have worried. Wonderful Irish features land on our laps each year, made without Irish Film Board or Section 481 funding, but showing great talent and inventiveness.”

The new festival placed heavy emphasis on short film as a staple of the programme. As mentioned, short film was Mick & Úna’s speciality, and it represents the pioneering spirit of the season.

“The short film is the R & D arm of the film industry. It’s in shorts where new styles and techniques of story telling are tried out, for the most part by imaginative young filmmakers. We love shorts as an art form in their own right but as the place where new filmmaking talent can be identified. Identifying young talent and following their subsequent film careers was always the payback for us. I remember, for example, Harry Potter director David Yates as a diffident 21-year-old in Cork with his wonderful short When I Was a Girl, or John Moore with Jack’s Bicycle or Lenny Abrahamson’s 3 Joes. There are other many examples I could cite. And of course we have two programmes of Cork-produced shorts. It great to be able to present these in a proper cinema setting to large appreciate audiences. And if a festival can’t support the creative people on its own doorstep, what’s the point?”

The crew struck up a working partnership with Rising Sons and have added web hosting firm Blacknight to the lineup of sponsors this year – how are these groups to work with, what do they add in terms of the running of the fest?

“Frankly, the festival would not have happened on the scale it is without the support and endorsement of Benny McCabe of Rising Sons – he approached us when we were planning IndieCork, saying he liked the idea of an independent festival, it fitted with his perspectives on independent breweries. It’s a good fit. Blacknight Solutions’ support has been really timely. When we wanted to expand to a second venue they were there lending support and advice for the Blacknight Festival Centre. And again it’s a good fit as Blacknight already work with Irish film production companies.”

Last year saw an expanded IndieCork Music programme, which is now a full-fledged week of music replete with an annual award. Mick is succinct about why it works. “I guess it’s the whole indie thing – indie film, indie music. The SXSW festival in Austin, Texas is huge of course but it’s a good model for mixing film and music. Anyways we love both, so why not!”

At time of writing, the brochure was just launching, and Mick is ebullient about the offering this year, highlighting some personal favourites of this year’s lineup. “We love our opening film. It’s sold out now but it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy that audiences will really enjoy. There are two Cork-produced features – horror flick Beyond The Woods and visually astonishing Storage. It’s great to be able to give them their World Premieres. The Film Feast is always a special occasion – food and film. What’s not to like!”

The Cork City Council Arts Office has also extended its support this year, a notable gesture after the parting of ways from the Film Festival. It’s an elephant in the room that’s not long waiting to be addressed. “It’s heartening to receive the support of the Arts Office. It doesn’t mean that we are in ‘financially sustainable’ territory – we’re still 100% volunteer-led. Festivals and arts events thrive if they are supported from a number of sources. We’re glad the City Council sees the value of the festival to Cork and to the Cork film community. I think over the past four years we’ve shown that there’s a space, perhaps a need, for an Irish festival of indie film. We’re glad it’s in Cork.”

On further discussion of the film community in Cork, Mick is glowing. Just off the back of recent successes, he’s optimistic about its future.“Well Peter Footte is way up there. What he has done with The Young Offenders is simply amazing, fulfilling the promise of his earlier shorts, which we screened in Cork. I think people are gonna be impressed by producer/actress Sinead O’Riordan’s work on Dead Along The Way. One project worth looking out for is the screen adaptation of Lisa McInerney’s wonderful Cork novel, The Glorious Heresies.”

The one question that always emerges and your writer imagines vexes festival folk nevertheless emerges: what to do when all is done and dusted for another year? “I’m heading to Liverpool straight away! To present Irish shorts at the Liverpool Irish Festival. What a great city. I love it and the people.”

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