The 8th Toronto Irish Film Festival (TIRFF) runs from March 2nd to the 4th. The festival opens with “Best Film” winner (A DATE WITH MAD MARY – capsule reviewed below) at the 2017 Irish Film & Television Awards with a gala presentation. Venue is the TIFF Bell Lightbox, with highlights of a wide range of films from award-winning features, documentaries and family-friendly animated films. The weekend is jam packed with Irish cinematic treasures, including North American and Canadian premieres, short film and documentary showcases and very special guests.
The Opening Night Gala on Friday, March 2nd features the Toronto premiere of A Date for Mad Mary by director Darren Thornton. Starring Bingham Ray New Talent Award winner Seána Kerslake (Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope), Carolyn Bracken and Charleigh Bailey, A Date for Mad Mary is a heartfelt dramedy about a woman recently released from prison seeking a date for her best friend Charlene’s wedding. When Charlene refuses Mary a “plus one” on the grounds that she probably couldn’t find a date, Mary becomes determined to prove her wrong. But her attempts at dating are a disaster and she winds up feeling more alone… until she meets Jess, a lesbian wedding photographer, and everything changes.
“This year, showcased films directly address the pertinent issues of today’s world, including same-sex relationships, mental health and delicate political negotiation. Framed within the unique Irish perspective, Ireland is shown here to be a nation rich in the art of compelling storytelling”, states Michael Barry, Co-founder & Director of Marketing and Communications.
The full program is outlined below with 3 of the films capsule reviewed:
TIRFF 2018 Film Program
Opening Night Gala Presentation
A DATE FOR MAD MARY (Toronto Premiere)
Friday, March 2nd | 7:00 pm
Director: Darren Thornton
Run time: 72 mins
Winner of the Best Film at the 2017 Irish Film and Television Awards, A Date for Mad Mary is a heartfelt dramedy about a woman recently released from prison seeking a date for her best friend Charlene’s wedding. When Charlene refuses Mary a plus one on the grounds that she probably couldn’t find a date, Mary becomes determined to prove her wrong. But her attempts at dating are a disaster and she winds up feeling more alone… until she meets Jess, a lesbian wedding photographer, and everything changes.
A DATE FOR MAD MARY (Ireland 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Darren Thornton
A DATE FOR MAD MARY plays like Australia’s MURIEL’S WEDDING, a comedy about an outsider and a wedding to be attended. Mary has just been released from prison (the reason never mentioned in the film) just in time to attend her best friend, Charlene’s wedding as the maid of honour. But Mary does not have a date. Based on the play “6 dates for Mary”, Mary attempts to get a date using various means including dating sites. She almost lands one but the ‘camp’ hopeful storms out at the last moment. She finally winds up having feelings for a lesbian photographer which results in chaos when she decides to bring her as her wedding date. Mad Mary is the perfect film about the underdog who finally makes good. The film is funny, dramatic and totally winning and believable. Like Stephen Frears’ classic THE SNAPPER the film shows the spirit of the Irish lasses.
THE BREADWINNER (Toronto Encore Presentation)
Saturday, March 3rd | 2:00 pm
Director: Nora Twomey
Run time: 94 mins
Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2018 Oscars, The Breadwinner features the beautiful animated work by Kilkenny’s Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea). This wonderful Ireland/Canada co-production tells the extraordinary story of an 11-year-old Afghan girl who finds strength in the love of her family and the power of storytelling. Co-presented by the Ontario Media Development Centre.
THE BREADWINNER (USA 2017) ***1/2
Directed by Nora Twomey
THE BREADWINNER is animated feature created from an innovative mix of 2-D animation with acrylic and digitally painted environments, as well as digital paper cut–out segments. It is Nora Twomey’s first solo directorial debut after making two other animated features SONG OF THE SEA (2014) and THE STORY OF KELLS (2009). The story is a current one centred on woman’s rights in a male dominated country. Based on Deborah Ellis’ award-winning novel, the story centres on an 11-year-old Afghan girl Parvana, born into an ever-changing world of conflict and oppression in Kabul, who finds strength in the love of her family and the power of storytelling. Kabul is Taliban controlled and Parvana sees her father suddenly whisked to prison for no reason. Her family – mother, older sister and baby brother are unable to fend for themselves. Parvana dresses up as a boy in order to go around town to buy food and to work as the family breadwinner. As in most animation, magic plays a big part in the film’s enchantment. In THE BREADWINNER, the magic comes from the story she tells her little brother. The story involves a village that had the village’s seeds for the next year stolen by the jaguars of the evil Elephant King. The animation is beautifully done as the film’s story is one that matters that needs be told.
TIRFF 2018 Short Film Showcase
Saturday, March 3rd | 5:00 pm
Run time: 82 mins
In keeping with tradition, the Irish Short Film Showcase features the work of Ireland’s up-and-coming directors. Showcasing a mix of documentary, drama and animated short films, this year’s showcase highlights the powerful visions of Irish female directors with six exceptional short films.
DEPARTURE | Directed by Aoife Doyle | 10 mins | Canadian Premiere
THE CLIMB | Directed by Lynne Davison | 10 mins | Canadian Premiere
HOMECOMING | Directed by Sinéad O’Loughlin | 14 mins | Canadian Premiere
THROWLINE | Directed by Mia Mullarkey | 14 mins | Canadian Premiere
THE DATE | Directed by Selina Cartmell | 16 mins | Canadian Premiere
THE WIDOW’S LAST | Directed by Vanessa Perdriau | 28 mins | Canadian Premiere
MAZE (Canadian Premiere)
Saturday, March 3rd | 8:00 pm
Director: Stephen Burke
Run time: 92 mins
Inspired by the true events of the historic 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from the infamous Maze prison in Northern Ireland. With an excellent lead performance by “Peaky Blinders” star, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, this powerful drama captures the quiet tension behind what would become the biggest prison escape in Europe since World War II.
ZOO (Canadian Premiere)
Sunday, March 4th | 1:30 pm
Director: Colin McIver
Run time: 97 mins
Based on a true story, this heartwarming drama follows the story of 12-year-old Tom and his misfit friends as they fight to save Buster the baby elephant during the air raids on Belfast during World War II. With “Game of Thrones” star, Art Parkinson. Co-presented with TIFF Kids International Film Festival.
GEORGE BEST: ALL BY HIMSELF (Theatrical Premiere)
Sunday, March 4th | 4:00 pm
Director: Daniel Gordon
Run time: 92 mins
He was the Beatles of soccer – a handsome, charismatic lad from Belfast, Northern Ireland who worked wonders with the ball and thrilled Great Britain. But George Best was also the lead in a Shakespearean tragedy fueled by drink and excess. With never-before-seen footage and interviews, this captivating documentary traces the life of a true Belfast hero.
GEORGE BEST: ALL BY HIMSELF (Ireland 2017) ***1/2
Directed by Daniel Gordon
The film opens with a woman driving her sick baby in her car during pouring rain. She passes a hunched man soaking wet crossing the road. She pities him before realizing that the man is George Best, her husband, drunk as a skunk. The film documents the rise and fall of one of Great Britain’s greatest footballers. Arriving as a kid to Manchester for an audition, this Belfast lad proved to be the world’s best footballer. But this handsome lad’s drinking to excess led to his downfall. At his best, George let Manchester United to win the European cup. At his worst, he got suspended two months for slinging mud at a referee. Director Gordon has assembled an impressive cast of interviewees that include his best friend, the Manchester United Manager Matt Busby, his mum and past girlfriends whose words paint a true picture of the man in detail. Lots of archive football footage adds to the excitement of the game and the glory of the man. Very, very entertaining even though on might not be interested in the sport, as this is a very human story.
Closing Night Film
IN THE NAME OF PEACE: JOHN HUME IN AMERICA (Canadian Premiere)
Sunday March 4th | 7:00 pm
Director: Maurice Fitzpatrick
Run time: 90 mins
Narrated by Liam Neeson, In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America is a compelling feature documentary about one of the most historic times in Irish politics. Dramatic, archival footage from The Troubles is paired with insightful interviews by Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Bono and Tony Blair, to capture the brave moment when Derry politician, John Hume, united both sides of the political landscape to carve out a lasting Peace for the people of Northern Ireland. Co-presented by the Irish Embassy of Canada.