#Festival: OFFline Film Festival 2017 goes down a treat in Birr

The newest short film from Oscar winner Ben Cleary was named the Best Irish Short at the finale of the 2017 OFFline Film Festival at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre last Sunday 15 October.

As Wave took the Irish accolade, the Audience Award and Best International Short went to About The Birds And The Bees. Deadbeat by UK based filmmaker Alistair Cummings was named the winner in the 57 Hour Filmmaking Challenge with the judges commenting: ‘A good idea, well planned and well executed, with strong performances. Technically strong and stylishly shot particularly within the time-frame.’

OFFline Pocket Filmmaking
Local children are guided throw a special ‘Pocket Filmmaking’ workshop by filmmaker Terence White at this year’s OFFline Film Festival, which ran from 11-15 October across Birr, Co. Offaly.

This year, there were plenty of full houses including the Irish premiere of the most recent Film Offaly Award recipient Kubrick By Candlelight. The film’s director David O’Reilly was also in attendance for the week. He also curated a special exhibition of his location scouting work at The Chestnut and also conducted a lively talk on the subject at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre.

Mr O’Reilly said: “There was a tremendous reception for the film on the Friday night and the feedback about my location scouting workshop from the various schools that attended was really positive. I hope my talk about the films I have worked on and the process of making films inspired a few students to think about entering the film industry and lessen the feeling that it is an impossible career to pursue. Having Darragh O’Toole, Amy Hughes, Mike Nolan, Mark Griffin and Alan Curran along for the screening and the Q&A was a testament to their commitment to the film but also the draw of OFFline and Birr to actors, filmmakers and audiences.”

OFFline 57 Hour Challenge Winners
The team behind this year’s winner short in the 57 Hour Filmmaking Challenge, Dead Beat.

Call of the Forest also played to a packed house at the theatre on the closing night. Irish singer and Oscar winner Glen Hansard was also in the audience for the documentary which follows acclaimed botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger as she tries to save our global forests. Winner of the Chelsea Flower Mary Reynolds also took part in the Q & A afterwards. As part of their involvement in the festival, they along with The Woodland League of Ireland, also presented a ‘Forest In A Box’ to students at the local Gaelscoil Na Laochra last Friday.

Audiences also had high praise for the screening of 13,000,000,000 Light Years From Birr, the brand new RTÉ documentary on the I-LOFAR project in Birr Castle. Presenter Jonathan McCrea and Professor Peter Gallagher, who leads the project, also attended the screening. It will also be broadcast on RTÉ One this Thursday 19 October, 10.15pm.

Glen Hansard attends OFFline
Irish singer and Oscar winner Glen Hansard attending the screening of Call of the Forest at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre last Saturday. Pictured with Festival Director Gary Hoctor, the film’s director Jeff McKay, star of the film Diana Beresford-Kroeger and winner of the Chelsea Flower Show Mary Reynolds. Photograph by Stephanie Simmons.

The specially curated Fright Night at the Leap Castle also had audiences talking with the event selling out a number of weeks in advance of the festival. 60 people were lucky enough to get their hands on tickets and take in a number of horror shorts chosen by the Fantastic Films crew at one of Ireland’s most haunted locations on Friday 13th last.

I’m always surprised by how much the Festival grows each year – both in terms of the numbers attending the screenings but also in terms of the diversity of tastes of the public. Over the past 8 years we’ve managed to connect with our audiences who continue to be entertained, informed but also challenged by the screenings that we host. This connection is bolstered year on year as more diverse films bring new audiences to the Midlands. 
Gary Hoctor, Festival Director