Fermanagh Film Society: our trip to the Access Cinema programming meeting

10th December 2019 3 Minute Read

On Saturday November 9th, Fermanagh Film Society members attended the Access Cinema programming meeting, which took place in Cork city to run in parallel with the Cork Film Festival.

Programming meetings are invaluable, if not essential, when deciding our films for the season ahead. Film Hub NI provided us with a bursary to attend the meeting. Over a period of almost 3 hours we worked our way through 30 plus “arthouse” films from Ireland, Britain and all across the world. One of the Access staff members will have seen each film on our list. Thus, instead of relying solely on reviews found online or in newspapers, we get first hand accounts from the Access staff. Additionally, with many years of dealing with us film clubs, they have a good idea what films might work well for us. Any attendees who have also seen a particular film are encouraged to add their input.

Travelling to these meetings are committee members from community cinemas/film clubs right throughout the country. Thus it offers a perfect opportunity for constructive networking and exchange of ideas with others in similar roles to ourselves. We talk about what types of film are popular with our members and discuss ideas on how to grow our audiences, particularly younger people and minority groups. This could include various “add-ons” to encourage attendance or choosing films to target certain sections of the community. For instance, we have ordered “Corpus Christi” which is topping the box office in Poland and “The Peanut Butter Falcon”, a warm feel good film with Down Syndrome actor, Zack Gottsagen in a starring role. We plan to contact our local Down Syndrome support group before showing the latter film.

In addition to the meeting, we attended some of the films on offer at the film festival. Some of these films could end up being shown by us at a later stage and for us folk from the rural outpost of Fermanagh, what an opportunity to see these types of films, that will never end up at our local omniplex. Such pleasure in the amazing choices on offer….how difficult to decide what to see….and how many could we squeeze into a day??

We watched films from Germany, USA, Mexico, Australia, Slovakia and Peru. One of these was a documentary from Mexico called “Midnight Family”. We learned that Mexico City has fewer than 45 public ambulances to serve a population of 9 million. Hence there are many private ambulances and the documentary follows one of these, run by the Ochoa family. At times it feels more action thriller than documentary as we watch high speed chases through neon-lit streets as competing private ambulances race each other to reach accident scenes. However this is a sobering tale of life in Mexico City with all the poverty, corruption and a health system in disarray.

The most “mainstream” film that we watched was “The Report”. It tells the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) who leads the investigation into the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques (that is “torture” to you and me) following the 9/11 attacks. It is a remarkable true story and Driver is brilliant as the committed and driven Jones, who pursues the investigation for over 5 years at a huge personal cost. It is in the vein of films like “All The President’s Men” and well worth watching.

Then there was “The Nightingale”, Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to “The Babadook”. Paul Whittington on RTE radio 2 started his review with the words “Holy Mother of God” and this might give you some indication that this is not a film for the faint-hearted. An intense, violent, disturbing, hard-to-watch but thought-provoking and very powerful film. It is a dark revenge tale set in colonial Australia in 1825 and it follows Clare, a young Irish convict, as she tracks a British officer through the Tasmanian bush, intent on retribution for the awful crimes that he and his men committed against her and her family. It has remarkable performances from Irish-Italian actor, Aisling Franciosi (Katie Benedetto in “The Fall”), who plays Clare and newcomer Baykali Ganambarr as her aboriginal tracker Billy. There is shocking and graphically depicted violence but not gratuitous as it accurately reflects colonial Australia in the time. Tasmanian aboriginal elder, Jim Everett advised on the film set and he said “You rarely see the truth told even in documentaries about what happened in Tasmania, that there was a definite attempt at genocide. I felt as a fiction it reflected real history, and so I should give it my support.” In fact, Kent said, when it came to colonial violence against aboriginals in Tasmania, the film actually held back. If we showed what really happened, no audience could bear it. On a more positive note, the Tasmanian wilderness looks very beautiful, especially on a huge screen. An amazing film but we just thought it too challenging and difficult to have on our programme.