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FILM From Cuba to Clare Island

Living

Áine Ryan

THE communist Caribbean archipelago of Cuba may well be worlds apart from the islands of Clew Bay, but its cultures will merge – at least, artistically – for the third annual Clare Island Film Festival this weekend, September 18 to 20.  
Forging links with other island film festivals is one significant strand of this dinky gathering, which was launched in 2013 with a celebration of the work of Connemara-based filmmaker, Bob Quinn, who has a long association with Clare Island.  
Festival chairwoman, Cora Keating, explains that earlier this year she was invited to attend ‘a truly unique festival in Cuba’.
“Festival de Las Cavernas, takes place in a 90 million year old cave system in the sleepy fishing village of Gibara, on the North coast of Cuba. This is the same village that hosts the better known Cine Pobre film festival, which was set up by the late Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás
Keating, who attended with her islander partner, Rory McCabe, was very impressed by ‘the resourcefulness of the Cuban organisers’.
“The programme consisted of contemporary Cuban shorts and documentaries, which I have brought a selection of home to Clare Island. We will screen one of the winning shorts in our focus on Cuba section this year,” she explains.
One of the films, ‘I Am Cuba’, is a visually stunning and technically accomplished film for its time, says Keating.
She explains: “This study of Cuba, partially written by renowned poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, captures the island just before it made the transition to a post-revolutionary society. Particularly relevant as Cuba is in another much anticipated phase of transition right now. Completed in 1964, during the headiest days of the romance between the Soviet Union and Cuba, this Russian-Cuban co-production is a feverish mix of Eastern European soulfulness and Latin sensuality fused into an unwieldy but visually stunning burst of propaganda.”
The 2015 programme also develops the focus on short films, while the busy programme also includes some features.
“Among the highlights will be a screening of the hauntingly beautiful ‘The Abandoning’, an experimental documentary that explores what is left behind in a building or a home when the people who inhabited the place have long since abandoned it. This film project is inspired by Paddy Jordan’s pinhole photography and the ghostly quality that he creates in his work,” Cora Keating says.  
She observes that ‘The Sound of a Country’ by Myles O’Reilly is ‘a beautifully captivating short film encapsulating the spirit of a musical journey through India, by the renowned Irish traditional fiddle and guitar duo Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill’.
The programme also includes an exhibition entitled, ‘The Famine in Mayo – A Portrait from Documentary Sources’. Curated by Raphaelle McCabe of Clare Island Heritage Centre, it will be on show in the Community Centre over the weekend.  
The festival is interested in nurturing younger minds too. “Last year we ran a filmmaking workshop for children. This workshop was designed for the island community in conjunction with the local primary school. It was hugely successful with most of the school kids on the island taking part,” Keating explains.
“This year we will run a ‘Writing for the Screen’ workshop for young adults, which will be facilitated by the award-winning writer and novelist Caroline Healy. This workshop will run later in the year. Like Bob Quinn coming here to make ground breaking films in the past we hope that through our festival and collaborations that we can play a small part in inspiring the next generation of island filmmakers.”
Keating sees a bright future for the festival, particularly with the help of ‘like minded’ others. “We see the festival evolving organically and are delighted with our progress to date,” she says. “With the lack of funding and continuous cuts to supports for the Arts in this country, we feel the future for smaller organisations and events is through collaboration and mutual support. We are open to working and collaborating with like-minded people and organisations,”
With  the festival opening coinciding with Culture Night, Friday, September 18, there will naturally be lots of the renowned island ceol agus craic throughout the weekend.

All Clare Island Film Festival events are free. For more details, visit www.clareislandfilmfestival.com or the Facebook page, ClareIslandFilmFestival.