Six decades of shocking the nation
Thankfully, Cork’s film doyenne shows no signs of growing old gracefully
This weekend, the Cork Film Festival offers us its 60th edition. That can’t be right. That dates it to 1956, when priests still flung themselves angrily before any screen that dared to project uncovered ankles. The Telluride Film Festival only began in 1974. Toronto arrived two years after that. Can Cork really predate all those jamborees?
It can. The event first emerged as part of a now largely forgotten initiative called An Tóstal. A forerunner of the much-derided The Gathering, that earlier bash – aimed at drawing tourists to the still shiny new Republic – also bequeathed the Tidy Towns Awards and the Dublin Theatre Festival. Cork survived and, in the UK and Ireland, is second only to Edinburgh in antiquity.
It hardly needs to be said that, in the censorious atmosphere that prevailed until the end of the last century, Cork had its battles with the authorities. As late as 1967, the event was dragged into a furore – the details of which are too complex to list here – concerning the screening of Peter Lennon’s durable state-of-the-nation documentary
Rocky Road to Dublin. What would those aged cultural commissars make of the news that Todd Haynes’s Carol, a tale of lesbian romance in 1950s New York, is to receive a gala screening at this year’s festival?
The festival circuit has changed also. In 1956, a circuit of prominent events – Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastian – emerged at which prominent releases would premiere throughout the year. In recent times, the rules have changed. You first show your prestige picture at Cannes in May or you wait for the beginning of “award season” in September.
As it happens, this suits Cork very nicely. Positioned conveniently between that starting gun and the Oscars, the festival can now comfortably accommodate prestige Irish premieres such as Terrence Davies’s Sunset Song, a tale of rural Scotland starring Agyness Deyn ( above), and Danny Boyle’s terrific Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender as the Apple co-founder.
Those tent-poles then support less flashy screenings such as that of Sean Baker’s excellent
Tangerine, a tale of LA’s transsexual culture shot on iPhone, and Jerzy Skolimowski’s Irish-Polish co-production 11 Minutes. Things have worked out well for the old lady on the Lee.
The Cork Film Festival runs from November 6th until November 15th.