Toronto Irish Film Festival shines spotlight on two Irelands

Festival chair John Galway tells Playback Daily about programming for an Irish audience longing for nostalgia and a window on Ireland's current economic ruin.
DreamingTheQuietManSeMerryDoyleMaureenOHara

John Galway is caught between two Irelands as he rolls out a second edition of the Toronto Irish Film Festival this weekend at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

There’s the Ireland that proud Canadians of Irish descent know from their parents, and which they look back on with fond nostalgia.

Then there’s the modern-day Ireland that’s gone bust, sending its best and brightest to Canada in search of work and new lives.

TIFF chair Galway and festival executive director Michael Barry were programming for both audiences as the Toronto festival opens Friday night with Sé Merry Doyle’s Dreaming the Quiet Man, a documentary about Hollywood director John Ford’s quest to make the iconic Irish movie 60 years ago.

And the festival closes Saturday night with Darragh Byrne’s Parked, a heart-warming comedy that stars Colm Meaney and portrays a down-and-out Irishman living out of his car.

“People have different tastes, but we really wanted to help and support younger Irish filmmakers, and connect with the recent arrivals,” Galway tells Playback Daily about this year’s programming choices.

Doyle’s Dreaming the Quiet Man, which includes a rare interview with Maureen O’Hara (pictured), who worked on the John Ford film, is a first feature for the Irish director.

And Galway and Barry included an Emerging Filmmakers Spotlight, which booked Diaspora, a film by Barbara Deignan and Cian McDevitt about a new wave of Irish making Toronto their new homes.

Galway explains documentary makers are quicker to reflect the harsh times Ireland is enduring today, and discuss economic issues that have risen to the fore in Irish life, compared to makers of dramatic features, who take longer to develop, produce and get their films to market.

Other festival highlights include Sensation, by director Tom Hall, which stars Domhnall Gleeson as a young man who, flush with cash after his father’s death, starts a local escort agency with a local woman played by Luanne Gordon.

The second annual Toronto Irish Film Festival is set to run from March 9 to 10 at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

Photo: Dreaming the Quiet Man director Sé Merry Doyle with Maureen O’Hara / Loopline Film