20th Kerry International Film Festival


George Fleeton


ON a first visit to the Kerry Film Festival (15th edition, curated by Roisín McGuigan in 2014) we memorably met an antlered stag and his biche, late at night on the way back to Parknasilla; they were on a bend in the middle of the road between Ladies View and Moll’s Gap, the red deer habitat in Killarney National Park and rut season at that time of year: a close shave.

ON a second visit (18th edition, curated by Maeve McGrath in 2017) I and a chance companion were crossing the street in Killorglin and just missed being annihilated by a car flying in low from the Glenbeigh direction: she was on her phone, other hand in the air, gesticulating; it took me less than a split second to review my life.  

ON a third visit (the recent, re-branded 20th edition, curated by Eibh Collins whom I understand had only two or three months to get her Festival ready) as I turned left in Farranfore for Killarney, a huge shadow momentarily but silently blocked out the weak autumn sunlight - a Ryanair jet gliding in on a west-east flight path over Dingle Bay: are there no limits to Michael O’Leary’s ubiquity?

INDEED, given three such disparate and inauspicious welcomes to Kerry, should I contemplate not returning next year?

KIFF 2019

THE Kerry International Film Festival this year did give me pause for thought too, but I will admit I missed a lot of the programme.

I was left wondering for example how is it possible to tabulate the cost-effectiveness of, or to annotate positive outcomes from, a Business Networking Event held in the Plaza Hotel (October 18).  

AND I failed to see the purpose of any element of three talk-shops listed for Industry Day (October 19).

THE metrics of the Festival Awards (October 19) disappointed too, although  a Bob Dylan look-alike DJ called Will Softly, simply lining up his tracks for the ensuing disco as the start of the  Awards drifted towards 10pm,  was an unexpected highlight.

THERE was no montage of nominations in the eight categories; no sense of anticipation as awards were blandly and sometimes inaudibly announced; no comment on the winners’ qualities; no indication of the value of the awards, no sense of celebrating hard work and no reference to the Maureen O’Hara Award – all this in a Main Street bar/night club called Social 15.

IF my notes are correct, among the winners were Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating,  Emma Smith’s Starry Night, Shaun O Connor’s A White Horse, Elaine Kennedy’s The Space Between Us, Alan Leonard’s Heyday - The Mic Christopher Story, Floor Adams’ Mind My Mind and Malcolm Willis’ Kilimanjaro Mama.

AND I’m sure they can all be checked out some time at www.kerryfilmfestival.com

MISFORTUNATELY the hard copy of Festival programme was peppered with typos and even offered dates for events that didn’t relate to the current Gregorian calendar; I believe however a re-print was undertaken to correct that.

THE opening night film, The Peanut Butter Falcon (October 17), was one of those ‘festival’ films that may never surface again, anywhere, and it won’t be missed.

I was sorry not to see Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi and Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia, but a programme of international shorts which I did see (October 18) in an empty cinema was completely without merit.


HOWEVER St Mary’s Church of Ireland on Kenmare Place was the venue for some 20th anniversary screenings, where The Sixth Sense and The Matrix hopefully reached out and touched a new generation of fans.

THE undoubted Festival highlight (October 19) was Louise Quill’s filmed odyssey to Tanzania where she is known in her Tír na nÓg orphanage there as Kilimanjaro Mama.

A native of Tralee, and a teacher in Killorglin, her story perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Kerry on film.

FINALLY I offer two suggestions to re-imagine KIFF in 2020 and beyond: move the event to the bank holiday weekend (October 23-6 next);   and – as I suggested in my colour piece two years ago ¹ - invite the Celtic Media Festival to Kerry in 2021 (it’s in Quimper next year; and has been to Kerry just once in 40 years – Tralee 1998).


HAPPILY the Great Southern Hotel has had its original and historical moniker rightly re-instated.

THE impressively restored Killarney House and Gardens are on the very edge of the National Park and impossibly close to the town centre.

TOM Cooper, grandson of the film-maker, maintains the business – Cinema Killarney - which has been in the family since the 1930s; when I went to interview his grandfather, by arrangement, in June 1982, I missed him by three weeks, not knowing he had died in May.

THE Lir Café, opposite Cinema Killarney, still serves the best ham and double cheese toastie on brown; Danny Mann’s on New Street boasts an excellent Atlantic seafood chowder and, for something completely different, there’s Emilie’s, 35 km away in Glenbeigh - vaut le voyage as they say chez Michelin.

AND, yes, Michael Healy-Rae TD does wear his Peaky Blinders flat cap indoors.