New (temporary) look Film Hub Fortnightly

30th March 2020 5 Minute Read

Usually we bring you a host of brilliant cinema events through this blog but while we can't all join together to watch films in the same way for while, we are going to let you know about some interesting things to explore online.

It is a difficult time for many, including for film in the North with postponements and cancellations behind and uncertainty ahead. Yet there are still chances to support Northern Irish film through this difficult time, even as it becomes an exclusively indoor pursuit (for a short period!).

In light of the postponement of its 2020 edition, the Belfast Film Festival will be presenting the festival’s short film competition, to be viewed for free on their website. Named the BFF Sofa Shorts Day and presented with the help of the Queen’s Film Theatre, it will feature a selection of ‘the island’s best new fictional short films’ from an ‘incredible line-up of emerging talent’. Split into two sections, the ‘official section’ and ‘In competition’ with the films in the latter category in contention for a £500 prize, to be awarded by a judging panel. 7 official selection and 14 competition films will be available to stream from 10am to midnight on the 4th, with the winning competition film then available for a further two hours between midday and 2pm on the 5th. More details about the individual films and their makers can be found at

Now would be the perfect time to explore this island’s moving image heritage, starting with Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive. Freely accessible at, the DFA is a gateway into a wide range of Northern Irish history and culture. This includes clips and programmes from UTV, NVTV, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the  Irish Language Broadcast Fund’s respective archives.

It is also home to complete or near complete works of a long lineage of Northern Irish filmmakers both idiosyncratic and independent. This includes Roy and Noel Spence, two brothers from Comber, County Down whose shared passion B movies led to a run homespun science fiction and supernatural themed shorts as well as documentaries on native Ulster craft and other folk practices. Derry filmmaker Terence McDonald  also worked in both fiction and non-fiction with his portraits of his native city sitting alongside films that cover a wide range of genres. On the other hand, a figure like James Houston  worked exclusively in documentary. Offering intimate insight of his hometown of Strabane as it existed in the 1940s and 50s.

These are only a few examples and you can also find other themed collections, compiling footage about Belfast’s shipyards, The Second World War, rural life and the Civil Rights Movement.

Funded by the Irish Film Institute, The IFI Player, also free, serves the same purpose but for the Republic of Ireland. It draws together collections that document such subjects as The War of Independence, the beginnings of the free State, vintage television advertisements and newsreels and the archives of Bord Fáilte and the Department of Foreign Affairs. IFI player also has own collection of amateur filmmakers. Like Father Jack Delaney , whose passion for film gave us invaluable insight into 1930s inner city Dublin or Cork’s Horgan Brothers (George, James & Thomas), shoemakers turned magic lantern show peddlers whose silent era film work includes some of the earliest examples of Irish animation. Desmond Egan  is another unique figure, who between juggling the duties of a wine merchant and a maker of government information films, documented his family life and the surrounding countryside, and the aforementioned Roy Spence , whose films, along with his brother Noel’s, are also available to stream through the DFA.

Another organization worth supporting is the Experimental Film Society. Based in Dublin but home to a wide selection of experimental cinema from across the island of Ireland. Some examples, that you can rent or buy digitally, include founder Rouzbeh Rashidi’s Phantom Islands (2018)  a documentary and fiction hybrid which sets a melodrama against a series of beautiful vistas. You can also watch Cork filmmaker Maximilian Le Cain’s experimental sci-fi Whale Skull (2020)  and the collected perception distorting shorts of filmmaker Atoosa Pour Hooseini. You can search the complete catalogue here.

By Ruairí McCann


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