Mick Hannigan Interview about Film Fest

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    [b:795ec]IFTN speaks to Mick Hannigan, Director of the Corona Cork Film Festival, which kicks off its 2007 programme this Sunday 14 October. Hannigan discusses his 20 year history with the Cork event, outlining the festival’s selection process and highlighting the unmissable attractions at the this year’s festival.[/b:795ec]

    [b:795ec]IFTN: How long have you been director of the Cork Film Festival?[/b:795ec]

    Mick Hannigan: I’ve been director since 1986.

    [b:795ec]How has the festival changed since that time?[/b:795ec]

    Our entries increase every year, this year we received over 3,400 DVD’s to view and consider! The festival has broadened in scope as well; we’re now doing drive-in movies; we’re addressing digital filmmaking; so in terms of its scope and ambition the festival has grown tremendously.

    [b:795ec]What were your ambitions for the festival when you became director and have you managed to implement these plans so far?[/b:795ec]

    Well at the time when I got involved the then staff had resigned and the festival was in a rocky footing both financially and in terms of its critical status. We have succeeded in getting back on a good financial and organisational level, and also restoring the critical face of the festival. Also, at that time the festival was run in a voluntary capacity by a committee, and myself and my then colleague Theo Dorgan were the first full-time staff that the festival ever had. We were able to open an office and have a year round operation, which hadn’t been the case up until then. So I suppose at that stage the festival just became more professionalized.

    [b:795ec]You receive hundreds of short film submissions for the festival each year, what is the process for selection?
    Well we have our entry form online, our festival address and regulations and a lot of databases, so people are aware of the festival and unlike many festivals we don’t charge and entry fee, so its free entry. There’s a panel of people viewing the entries, I tend to view everything Irish and we have another team of people looking at all of the international shorts, so there’s a team of people looking at each of the entries. On the viewing panel there would be five people for shorts, three for documentaries, three for features – another staff member looks after experimental film and another looks after the Outlook programme for lesbian and gay audiences.

    [b:795ec]Is there anything you personally say is an unmissable highlight this year?
    Certainly the opening night film, ‘No Country For Old Men’, is a magnificent film, one of the best opening films the festival has ever had. I saw it in Cannes and found it inexplicable that the film didn’t win any of the major awards there when it certainly deserved to – wonderful script, great acting and directing, Roger Deakins’ photography and Carter Burwell’s score were all excellent, so I think audiences will be very pleased with that.

    ‘My Grandmother’ is a film originating from Georgia in Eastern Europe and dating back to 1927 so it’s a real curiosity, not many people would have had an opportunity to view it. Beth Custer is a San Francisco based musician who was commissioned to do a new score for that film, so she’s coming with seven musicians. We’ve seen the film and we’ve heard the score and we think it will be a very thrilling night. We are also showing a series of films in a hotel room at Jury’s hotel during the week, called ‘John’s Smith Hotel Diaries’.

    [b:795ec]The festival is now in its 52 nd year. Do you try to make the festival slightly different each year to keep it fresh or do you stick to a tried and tested formula?
    We don’t try and vary the festival year to year in the sense that we don’t have themes or anything, but the festival is in itself very varied, very eclectic. There is a major short film programme and it’s in the area of short films that we have an international reputation; I think we’re showing some 35 programmes of short films over the eight days.

    There’s an enlarged documentary programme, and we screen more documentaries than any other festival in Ireland; there are features, and the world cinema programme; we’ve drive-in movies and A Wall is a Screen, which is a type of cinematic exploration of Cork City where films are projected on to building walls and the people leading that show will bring people from location to location. There’s digital filmmaking, an environmental film strand, and an Irish showcase, so all in all it’s a great mix and I think that serves two functions – it reflects what’s happening in Cinema today and also reflects the different taste and interests of our audience.

    [b:795ec]What do you enjoy most about your role as festival director?
    It’s definitely discovering new talent. And discovering new films, new ways of making films, new themes and new approaches to filmmaking. You can imagine in viewing so many hundreds of films on DVD it can become tedious, because you’re watching unsuccessful films as well as competent ones, but then to come across something fresh and original and new, a new talent, a new way of telling stories – that’s very exciting. That’s the payback from my point of view- the opportunity to discover new talent.

    [b:795ec]What do you think makes a good short film?
    Imagination. Frequently short filmmakers don’t have huge resources in terms of budget; and because they’re young filmmakers, they don’t have a huge amount of experience in filmmaking. So paradoxically what comes to the fore, despite these limitations, is talent and imagination and that to me is what makes a film sparkle. Imagination and the awareness that this person is doing something fresh that we haven’t seen before.

    [b:795ec]You’re owner of the Kino Cinema, you’ve been on the Film Board, you’re in the European Film Academy, how did you develop such a keen interest in film, was it an interest from an early age?
    When I was in college in Cork I was a member of the Film Society, and that was a great learning opportunity where I saw great cinema, great European cinema. Every Wednesday night I was there at the screenings, and that was an education in itself. It sparked in me an interest in film and the realisation that films could be more than mere entertainment. That they could, at their best, bare comparison with any art form.

    [b:795ec]What are your future plans for the festival?
    The festival will certainly continue to grow, but it will be an organic growth. We won’t expand the festival hugely in any one year, but what tends to happen is that it grows naturally from year to year: we attract new audiences, we add new sections to the festival. I hope what will remain consistent is the quality of the films being screened and the fact that our audience is there to appreciate and enjoy them. And one other aspect which will remain the same is the short film programme, we are committed to the short film as an art form and want to keep that as a big focus at the festival.

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