Friday, September 14, 2012

IFI20: Reeling in the Years

"It’s kind of terrifying to think that the IFI is 20 years old" - actor Hugh O'Conor recalls his first memories of the IFC/IFI. 

I remember being at the opening of the Irish Film Centre, as it was known then, some 20 years ago, and standing in the main reception area, looking up with as much awe as a semi-permanently grumpy 16-year-old could muster (I was also a tiny bit smaller then). I was so impressed at its construction - the Victorian buildings joined together by the exposed roof (or was there even a roof then?), the Victorian door that hangs, forever embedded in the first floor wall (its other side adding a gloriously surreal touch to Screen 1). It quickly became one of my favourite places in Dublin; celluloid seemed to breath through the place.

The opening of the Irish Film Centre, 23rd September 1992 

As well as the two cinema screens, the Irish Film Archive was also opened, and I was lucky enough to recently get a tour of that magical area that stretches beneath the feet of the mostly unsuspecting cinema-goers. Stepping into the chilly, temperature-controlled vaults, and seeing all the carefully labelled film prints - so crowded together now that most will soon be moved to the new Archive in Maynooth - was a powerful experience; imagining a series of hard drives and memory cards in their place doesn’t quite have the same effect. 

IFI Irish Film Archive

The addition of a third cinema screen has only added to the IFI’s thriving resources, and with the happy appointments of Ross Keane (taking over as Director from the indefatigable Sarah Glennie), and the multi-talented Shauna Lyons, as well as the amazing work of Patrick and all the other passionate members of the team, it’s good to know that it is in incredibly effective hands.

Looking at their listings for today, I see Orson Welles’ digitally-restored F for Fake is screening. It’s one of his slyest, most purely enjoyable films, and one he edited much of on a portable editing machine he used to bring as part of his luggage everywhere he went (he’d enjoy computers, I think; a MacBook armed with Final Cut Pro fits much better in a carry-on). It’s a film that effortlessly demonstrates his overwhelming love of cinema. It’s playing in the right place.

Hugh O'Conor

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