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Newport Beach Film Festival Expands Its Irish Cinema Program

Variety logo Variety 4/20/2017 Nick Clement
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This year, the Newport Beach Film Festival will again hold its Irish Spotlight and, thanks to last year’s successful program and the continuing support of Culture Ireland, 2017’s slate has been greatly expanded, with 10 features and 14 shorts on the schedule — with several filmmakers set to attend.

Over the past decade, nearly 60 Irish films have screened at the festival for more than 500,000 guests, making it a signature attraction that places a special emphasis on Irish cinema, cuisine and culture. “Through its Irish Spotlight event, NBFF not only provides a salient platform for these films to gain further international traction, but also affords California audiences an opportunity to view some of that country’s most promising and emerging talents alongside works by internationally renowned and prolific Irish filmmakers such as Jim Sheridan and Juanita Wilson,” says Irish Film Board CEO James Hickey.

Films at the showcase include “A Date for Mad Mary,” which won for Irish Feature Film and the Bingham Ray New Talent Award at Ireland’s 2016 Galway Film Festival. Directed by Darren Thornton, it follows a woman who has just returned home from prison and needs a date to attend her best friend’s wedding. IFTA Rising Star Award nominee Seana Kerslake stars. Hickey called it “one of our biggest success stories.”

Sheridan’s newest film, “The Secret Scripture,” is based on Sebastian Barry’s intense novel and stars Vanessa Redgrave as a resident at St. Malachai’s Mental Hospital. Hickey notes Sheridan’s “signature sense of storytelling juxtaposed with his natural depth of feeling for Irish social history.” Eric Bana, Rooney Mara and Jack Reynor star.

“Tomato Red,” which Hickey calls “a powerful comment on the reality of the expectations that shape our lives,” is a gritty drama from acclaimed Irish director Juanita Wilson and based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel. Jake Weary stars as a drifter who teams up with a brother and sister for some hellraising, but must contend with the circumstances of their small-town existence.

Other notable premieres include “Aerial Ireland,” “Cardboard Gangsters” and “Between Land and Sea.”

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