Friday, September 28, 2012

IFI20: A Celebration of Audiences

The IFI’s home in Temple Bar is all about the people who come here to engage with our extensive programme, so when we started to plan our anniversary celebrations, we very quickly decided that we wanted the focus to be on our audiences. We wanted to celebrate the experiences that our audiences have had here over the last 20 years by reliving some of the big moments whilst also looking to the future.

For those who have strong memories of films that they’ll always associate with the IFI, we presented a season of 20 Landmark Films which featured big IFI titles including Natural Born Killers, Vertigo (on 70mm) and Mulholland Dr. Our Open Weekend threw our doors open for two days of free screenings and events for old and new audiences. We had queues from 7am which stretched up Eustace Street and down as far as the Olympia Theatre on Dame Street! We had a 1992 Day, a series of blogs throughout the month written by guest contributors, a pub quiz, DJs, a pop-up museum, tours of the IFI Irish Film Archive, Irish shorts from every year of the last 20, afternoon talks, discussions, archive and family screenings, and the unveiling of newly commissioned pieces of artworks. To close the proceedings, we were delighted to screen the European premiere of What Richard Did, the latest film by leading Irish director, Lenny Abrahamson.

IFI Open Weekend 2012

As we come to the end of a fantastic month, I think we managed to achieve what we set out to do. We greeted new audiences and welcomed back many faces who hadn’t been for some time alongside our faithful regulars. There was an amazing energy in the building throughout the month as audiences really engaged with all of the celebratory events and it generated a sense of enthusiasm for what the IFI has achieved over the last 20 years and excitement about what lies in store for its next chapter. 

Paul Lynch, Sinéad Cusack and Jeremy Irons  - Waterland

There are so many people to thank for the blood, sweat and tears that have been put into the IFI, both over the last 20 years and indeed back to our origins in 1943. There have been successive dedicated Boards, Councils, Directors and staff who have all helped shape our story and, as we look back, each and every person involved should take a bow as I think we have achieved the original vision of becoming a thriving, accessible, relevant and vital institution which now has a central role to play in Ireland’s cultural landscape.

The Archive’s Oscar and Emmy statuettes on a permanent display 

So as we close the page on the chapter of the last 20 years, we now look forward to an exciting new phase in the organisation’s story. The IFI is at an exciting point; as we look to the future, we are about to announce the findings of a major IFI Education research report, Film Focus, which could help to define the role of film in the curriculum and shape media literacy strategy. Next year we will open a brand new second home for the IFI Irish Film Archive with additional vaults at NUI Maynooth so we have the capacity to continue to ensure the preservation of Ireland’s moving image heritage. And we have exciting exhibition programmes, both in Ireland and abroad (with a focus on celebrating the EU Presidency with Irish film programmes across Europe in the first six months of 2013) which we hope will continue to engage and enthral a variety of audiences.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

Ross Keane

IFI20: Remembering the IFI

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary, I have been asked to post a few comments about my experience as a film-viewer and customer at the IFI.

To start at the beginning, my almost life-long enthusiasm for the art of film was kindled by a viewing of Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin in Roscommon – one channel TV land, the late 1960s. Arriving in Dublin in 1973, I made valiant efforts to view as many films as possible. Good work over the years was achieved by various people in many film societies, to mention three venues of note: Earlsfort Terrace, John Player Theatre SCR and The Academy Pearse Street. Praise should also be bestowed on the establishment of The Dublin Film Festival in 1985, remembering the late Michael Dwyer. It was the establishment of the Irish Film Centre in 1992 that was the most significant event in my film viewing life.

Since then, I would have attended an average of 150 films per year. Given my regular attendance, the Eustace Street venue has become a ‘home from home’. The now monthly programme is eagerly anticipated , as I plan my month’s leisure activities to fit in with the priority viewing time to be spent at the IFI.

The relationship with the Box Office staff has been a heart-warming experience, dealing with people who are pleasant and agreeable. On this occasion I should remember all the past staff that were very helpful to me over the years: Veronica, Ben, John, Matt, Mark, Aisling, Paul, Stewart, Mathieu, Eadáoin, Rita, Hanne, Sammy, Antonella, Paola, and Colin. I should also include the current staff lead by Liam, Darragh, the two Sarahs, Shadaan, Ronan, Greg, Megan, Anthony and Katie – thanks again all.

To isolate some highlights over the period may be somewhat unfair but these birthdays generally give way to reverie.

First: three films I never expected to see on the Big Screen: Sego Parajanov’s Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors; Ariane Mnouchkine’s Moliére; and Ritwik Ghatak’s The Cloud-Capped Star.
Second: three seasons which were brilliant: Jean Renoir, Ingmar Bergman and Howard Hawks.
Third: three silent films that gave me a new appreciation of the pioneers: Victor Sjostrom’s The Outlaw and His Wife; Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin Symphony of a Great City, and Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Mother.
Fourth: a great weekend ‘follow-up’ that was Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (931 minutes);
Fifth: a documentary that springs to mind Nicolas Philibert’s Etre et avoir;
Sixth: a Q&A with Harold Pinter;
Finally: three highlights from 2012 that keep me attending the screenings: the Carl Theodor Dreyer season, Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse and Jean Vigo’s L’Atlante.

Carl T. Dreyer

Remembering all who make it possible for us to enjoy the films, a special mention goes to the programme directors, especially Pete, and not forgetting the projectionists.
Also calling to mind the old bookshop and the great work done by Mary and Dylan in particular – so many books, so little time.

It’s been a great twenty years – here’s to the next twenty!

Séamus Farrell

Thursday, September 27, 2012

IFI20: We’ll take Manhattan

When I became Director of the IFI in 2008 I moved from being a regular visitor to its then two cinemas, to being involved in all of the IFI’s extensive activities – the cinemas, IFI Education, IFI Irish Film Archive, IFI National and IFI International. One of the great pleasures of my time as Director was discovering and working with the Archive – one of Ireland’s richest and most important cultural resources. Comprising over 27,000 rolls of film, the IFI Irish Film Archive tells Ireland’s social, cultural and political histories through a diverse and fascinating collection of feature films, newsreels, documentaries, home movies, travelogues and advertisements. Fragments of film that may not resonate for their filmic qualities present visceral and vivid portraits of Irish life, often revealing hidden truths and forgotten details and presenting a complex and often unexpected representation of Irish culture.

The full potential of this material to tell Ireland’s story to audiences nationally and internationally became fully evident to me in 2011 when the IFI had the opportunity to contribute to Culture Ireland’s year long programme of Irish arts in the US – Imagine Ireland. Throughout the year the IFI brought films from the Archive to the Lincoln Centre and MOMA in New York and the National Gallery in Washington.  Highlights included a standing ovation for The Seasons at the Lincoln Centre – a beautiful silent film made by a doctor in 1930’s Mayo, presented in New York with a specially commissioned traditional music score; two extraordinary screenings of Hunger and In the Name of the Father at MOMA each followed by irreverent and searingly honest discussions between Gabriel Byrne, Enda Walsh and Jim Sheridan (which to the confusion of the New York audience included Jim Sheridan’s impressions of the Queen and Enda Kenny);  and a rapturous reception to Guests of the Nation, a 1930’s Irish silent film restored by the IFI and presented with a new commissioned score by Niall Byrne at a gala screening to an audience of over 800 New Yorkers in the beautiful Alice Tully Hall.

Guests of The Nation Gala Reception

This last event will always sum up for me my overriding memory of working at the IFI – working with the incredible staff and Board, whose commitment and enthusiasm drives the IFI forward and makes great things happen. Presenting a gala screening of an unknown Irish film with in one of New York’s most prestigious venues; co-ordinating the RTE Concert Orchestra to travel over to perform the score with only one-day’s  rehearsal in New York was a daunting task which certainly had its challenging moments! It’s success was entirely the result of the energy, stamina and good humour of my colleagues who came to New York with me  – Ross Keane, Kaz O’Connell, Sunniva O’Flynn, and Eve-Anne Cullinan Chair of the IFI Board – and the great back-up provided by all of those that worked on the project back at base. It was a privilege to be part of the IFI for a couple of years and I know that with that team behind it the IFI can only go from strength to strength. Roll on the next 20 years!

Sarah Glennie
Director of Irish Museum of Modern Art
Former IFI Director (2008 - 2012)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

IFI20: Dancing, eating and drinking at the IFI Café Bar

I started working at the IFI Café Bar shortly after it opened. After a little while I left but was asked to come back in shortly afterwards as Manager and I’ve been here ever since. When I started the place was struggling to get established so we had to concentrate on getting people through the door. We made some changes to the décor to make it a little warmer and more welcoming and concentrated on getting the food up to scratch. We also did a lot of late night trade with performance nights, jazz bands, all sorts of nights as there weren’t the same number of clubs and pubs all around us as there are now. The 1994 World Cup in USA didn’t do us any harm either – we got the matches up on big screens and we were suddenly packed with Jackie’s Army.

Of course back then the IFI Café Bar was a much smaller affair with only about 10 staff on our books, now we have nearly 40, which shows how much our trade has expanded. We’ve been a successful because we’ve always tried to be a welcoming oasis of calm in the middle of Temple Bar whether or not you’re seeing a film. And we didn’t lose the run of ourselves either- even during the Celtic Tiger years when some people had money to burn we focused on providing a really good value option in the City Centre with main courses priced around €10 in today’s terms - so there’s a huge amount of loyalty to the place.

IFI Open Day BBQ 

I love to travel myself, I get over to France a couple of times a year and that’s where I get my love of food and wine from; I’ve been wine tasting all over the world. Temple Bar is now an international destination and it is great to see people coming from all over so I try to match the same hospitality I see when I go away here at the IFI.  

Bert Donlon
IFI Café Bar Manager

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Monday, September 24, 2012

IFI20: Falling in love ... at the IFI

It was a busy Wednesday early evening in July 2008, and the IFI cafe was hopping, and we both found ourselves awkwardly sharing a table beside the stairs. Not much was said until Joan asked me to hold her seat while she went out to get her cinema ticket and have a cigarette, at which point I asked if I could join her. The café was full by this point and we both realized that in order to have our table reserved we needed to order some food first. We both ordered falafels, an easy decision for both of us, and off we went to the open area, bonded by the delight at this achievement as the place was humming, and keeping a seat seemed impossible. 

By closing time we'd sampled the falafels, and moved to one of the tables outside for a pint. We had abandoned any ideas of seeing a film, and realized there were so many parallels and things we had in common. For us, all roads led to the IFI, and we both wanted to meet up again. It was two weeks later that we eventually got to see a film together. It was a French film but neither of us can remember the name! For the last few years we have made a point of having some food in the IFI Café Bar and going to look at a film on our anniversary. We got married last year and this year we skipped the film again and brought our six month old son with us instead! Happy days.

Tim and Joan

Special guest bloggers share their memories and thoughts about the IFI over past 20 years - please check out our blog page, Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.
The IFI is very grateful to them for their recollections.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sitting and standing at the IFI

I've been sitting in the IFI for a long time. I was there when it opened in Temple Bar, sitting at screenings, festivals, and conferences as a student; sitting and looking up at stellar faces in the worlds of film and film education from Dennis Hopper to Frederic Jameson; sitting in the bar, even when there was dancing there, talking with my classmates after sitting upstairs in what is now Cinema 3, where we took some of our MA classes as part of a partnership with UCD. Then I spent a lot of time sitting in the archive and the library while I conducted my PhD research. I sat leafing through old magazines and the miscellaneous paper records charting the scattered history of Irish documentary film. I sat reading rare books on Irish film, and less rare magazines that I couldn't afford to buy. I sat at a Steenbeck in the bowels of the building, with Liam and Sunniva looking over my shoulder while I made handwritten notes on films sometimes no one else had seen. I sat in the viewing room too, heaps of Beta and VHS tapes coming in waves from the collection, together with support and advice, hints and directions that helped to shape my onward journey as a student. Somewhere along the way I started standing up. 

Dr. Harvey O'Brien & IFI Director Ross Keane (Photo by Alina Radko)

I found myself standing in front of the crowds as well as sitting among them, saying things about my research, talking about movies in general, giving classes in the meeting room on documentary, animation, film noir... anything, really; speaking to kids on the education programme about the joys of writing film reviews, fronting the Keeping it Real conference with Ruth Barton, both of us wearing long leather jackets at the opening panel. It wasn't planned, I swear. 
Then I was standing at my book launches, making speeches about the slow disappearance of good will in academia while thanking those at the IFI that had shown more than a little of it during the years I was sitting in that library and that archive. 

IFI Irish Film Archive

Eventually, it was a no-brainer that I would try to repay a little of what I felt I owed the IFI by serving on the Board. When I put my name forward my undergraduate mentor and teacher Stephanie McBride, then about to retire from active duty herself, greeted the news by saying to me "I hear you're standing." 

I'm still to be found sitting though. I'm sitting on the Board now, having stood for it after all, and I sit on the sub-committee on education and archive. I'm also frequently found there during the Summer semester, when my students have a saying "If it's Thursday, it must be Harvey", and you'll find me conducting a series of research consultations a couple of feet from where I did it all myself. 

To me the IFI has always been a place for learning, sitting or standing, and it's great to be part of it during the 20th celebrations. It's been quite a journey. I may need to lie down.

Harvey O’Brien 

Film Studies Lecturer at University College Dublin and author of The Real Ireland: The Evolution of Ireland in Documentary Film and co-editor of Keeping it Real: Irish Film and Television

A Night To Remember – a most stressful time at the IFI

Friday December 10th 1993 – excitement was running high in the offices of the Irish Film Institute on the eve of the re-premiere of the War of Independence drama Irish Destiny.

The adventure had  begun years earlier when, prompted by the discovery of two enormous, original posters for Irish Destiny under the lino of a house in Ringsend, we began a search for the film of which little had been heard, since its release in 1926. A print was eventually found and restored in the Library of Congress in Washington.  A score was commissioned from Micheál Ó Súilleabháin who composed a score. The only job left was to turn the NCH into a cinema for the night.

Micheál Ó Súilleabháin

A 35mm mobile projector and a big giant screen were en route from London.  Too heavy to fly, we had booked a man and his 2 tonnes of equipment on the B+I car ferry. We awaited their arrival.
Hours passed and word filtered through that the man and his truck were stuck – on the boat in the middle of the Irish Sea.  It wasn’t  actually a national emergency, so a call to David Andrew’s people in the Department of Defence asking for a loan of their rescue helicopter, was fruitless.

Saturday dawned with the truck still on board. There was no option but to call Westair Private Jets from whom we hired a helicopter to fly over and winch the bloody truck off the boat.  And then a pit-stop at an RAF Airbase in Valley in Wales where the irony of the RAF facilitating the screening of a republican drama was not lost on us. In Dublin a high-speed dash from the airport through the city with Garda out-riders and a super-quick set up with mere moments to spare before the rehearsal-free curtain up. Proinnsías Ó Duinn’s baton was raised; the projector whirred to life; the title sequence unspooled;  and the opening notes of Micheál’s score filled the hall.  But then - the baton dropped. The music stopped.  Proinnsías walkie-talkied “Stop the film ! – There is an Overture to be played!”.  Much laughter from the audience – with, according to the Evening Press, “President Robinson, a patron of the IFI, particularly amused”.

A frantic rewinding of the 35mm reels. Baton up. Overture played.  And then Irish Destiny burst forth  in all its splendour.  And all were thrilled– from President to pauper.  And IFI staff collapsed with relief and thought, never again.  

Sunniva O'Flynn
IFI Curator

As part of the 2012 Culture Night and IFI20: Celebrating 20 Years in Temple Bar, we present a special 20th-anniversary screening of Far and Away on Friday, October 21st (20.00). Tickets are FREE and available only in person in Meeting House Square on the night of the screening.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The IFI is just half my age

I can still remember the excitement and expectations amongst my friends and I. Being 20 years old in the early 1990s was rather a good thing to be, especially if you were a fan of cinema. The dreaded "18 certificate" no longer mattered to you - you could go and see what you wanted!  I eventually managed to get to the IFI on the day after its official opening that September and got my membership card. The card over the years had varied in colour - green, red, blue and now a very grown-up and sophisticated black!

It became the meeting place, particularly on the Thursday before Easter, for reasons which have been lost in the mists of time. We'd park up in the restaurant, order chips and drinks for everyone and discuss life and what film we'd just seen. To this day, the little blue neon circle outside is a welcome sight on a winter night in Temple Bar. There was even a time, when things were getting pretty unbearable in one job I was in, that the restaurant was my place of refuge each lunchtime for two months. And, silly as it sounds, I still get a thrill walking down the glass floor corridor into the heart of the building.

Having the IFI in Dublin brought Europe and then the world to my eyes and broadened my horizons. The first film I saw was Without You I'm Nothing, a film of Sandra Bernhardt's one woman show of the same name. I can barely remember it now but my abiding recollection is of Sylvester's "You make me feel mighty real" being used in one scene and no-one seemed to mind that I sang along with it. I would have loved to have got up out of my seat and had a dance around.  I saw the best of American 90s indie films like Slacker and Dazed and Confused, sexy Spanish films like Jamón Jamón and The Fencing Master (best watched eating a little tub of Haagen Daz ice cream), amazing German films like Head On and even some downright weird films like Man Bites Dog and Benny's Video.

I even got to see classics that I never thought I'd see on the big screen like Dr. Strangelove, The Third Man and Night of the Hunter and a real bit of history with Metropolis, but the one that sticks with me the most is 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould. Such an amazing beautiful film. Even though I have it on video, I'd love to see it on the big screen again. 

I've not been to the cinema in a while. My life situation has changed and it just hasn't been possible, but I hope that will change soon. And, maybe, I will finally get to dance around in that cinema.

Colette Carroll

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

IFI20 Artists’ Commission

Throughout our 20 years in Temple Bar the IFI has reached out to the wider artistic community, not just to filmmakers, forging links within theatre, dance and visual arts, and providing a location for cross disciplinary discussion. From our first artist commission Rachel Joynt’s film reel sculpture ‘Shutter’ in 1993, the IFI has served as both a subject and a facilitator of art; Colin Crotty, Sarah Pierce and Laurence Kavanagh are among the artists who have channelled our activities and collections into varied and thought-provoking art works over the years, giving us their own unique interpretations of different facets of the Irish Film Institute.

To bring this artistic engagement full circle and to celebrate our 20 years as a vital part of Dublin’s cultural landscape, we commissioned work by two local artists, Colm Mac Athlaoich and Killian Dunne from the Black Church Studio in Temple Bar. We asked them to give us their creative response to the IFI’s last 2 decades of activity and gave them unlimited access to the collections of the IFI Irish Film Archive; the result was a series of perceptive, witty and beautifully executed illustrations that are now on permanent display in the IFI Café Bar.

Kasandra O’Connell 
Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive

Killian Dunne, Visual Artist from the Black Church Studio, describes his inspiration behind the commissioned work:

Silent Film

For this poster I drew on imagery from The O'Kalem Collection which is stored in the IFI archive. The Silent film medium has a comical clichéd identity regarding stripped back plots: Guy wants the girl, has to fight the rival/bully and overcome oppression/adversary. The poster had to reflect these themes and had to be kept visually simple. 

IFI Family Festival

For this poster I felt it was important that the kids were in charge and that they were being creative with film and storytelling. Making their own costumes and props reminiscent of Be Kind Rewind. Initially the idea was going to be kids playing Batman characters but King Kong and Godzilla offered a lot more fun and action.

IFI Stranger Than Fiction

The IFI Stranger than Fiction Documentary Festival covers a very broad range of documentaries so I knew I should draw from the festivals title rather than the endless documentary subject matter. At first I thought about the many bizarre origins of every day social, religious and political practices but things got cliché or visually over complex. In the end I went for a film crew made up of some of my favourite fiction characters filming a documentary about the real world. Big foot, an alien and a retro robot are interviewing me outside the IFI.


This poster always had to be approached from an abstract/outside the box angle or out and out comical. At first I went abstract experimenting with IFI archive stills not related to horror, The Children of Lir which I found very scary as a child as well as old photographs of Semeno "Kamo" Ter-Petrossian, an early psychotic college of Stalin. Eventually the comical element of the Horrorthon got the better of me and I started to draw various posters of the Hammer horror monsters hanging around the IFI misbehaving or behaving a little too well like in the final poster.

Illustrations, commissioned by the IFI as part of IFI20: Celebrating 20 Years in Temple Bar, are on permanent display in the IFI Café Bar. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

From aspiration to reality

From Nesbitt’s, via Shay Beano’s to Sides, the Dublin of the 1980s was lean yet lively. On a greyish morning in 1986, the then chairman of the Irish Film Institute’s council, Kevin Rockett asked me to join him and director David Kavanagh to view a building on Eustace Street.

It was the Quakers’ Meeting House and it was an intriguing space – teeming with history and possibility. Just a few days later, on a Friday evening, 21 March 1986, we were hosting a reception in that same Meeting House to announce the IFI’s plans to establish a national centre for film.

All were excited, determined yet tentative because the highly ambitious plan involved serious money, ongoing financial support and subsidy and a lot of nerve.

I’d joined the IFI that year as Education Officer at a time of potential, ferment and action. The institute then resided at Harcourt Street - a fine building in itself but much too limited and limiting for its expanding activities. My in-service courses for art teachers and the screenings in the small viewing room at the top of the Harcourt Street building always prompted hopes for better space and screening facilities, and the photocopied notes and handouts anticipated more formal publishing initiatives.

The vision for a national centre for film culture were forged then by, among others, Luke Gibbons, Kevin Rockett, Donald Taylor Black and Niamh O’Sullivan - the only female member of the Council in those days - and their tenacity, insight and ambition informed all our undertakings and projects.

Following the move to Eustace Street, via a short sojourn in North Frederick Street, the building was no longer merely a building but a concept in the making.

The current third cinema was my office - well, a corner of it - which I shared with the Director. As well as benefit gigs and parties, the, as yet, unrenovated small cinema hosted a video programme by curator Chris Dercon with James Coleman, and a seminar on the 1987 “video nasties” Bill with Luke Gibbons, Kevin Rockett and Tom Cooney (ICCL) and myself. It was a taste of how the IFI was beginning to shape its future, informing and intervening in debates about film, media and visual culture.

Convinced of the value and significance of the film centre yet wary of the financial rigging, plans were hatched, brochures and publications proofed, funding applications written and rewritten - in an optimistic, visionary yet uncertain sense.

When I walk into the centre these days, the ghosts of those heady possibilities hover happily now that the centre is no longer an aspiration but a vital, growing and dynamic reality.

Stephanie McBride 
Education Officer at the IFI (1986-1987) and a member of the board of directors until 2009

IFI20 celebrations include the launch of the Film Focus report, commissioned by the Irish Film Board/Bord Scannáin na hÉireann in 2009 and undertaken by IFI Education with the support of the Arts Council. Film Focus report will be launched on September 26th to an invited audience of educators, industry professionals and key stakeholders.

Friday, September 14, 2012

IFI20: You can never leave...

I began my 13 year stint in the IFI as Education Officer, delivering school screenings, evening courses as well as presenting monthly screening First Cut and the older people's film club, Wild Strawberries.  From then, I started working with programmer extraordinaire Peter Walsh on festivals and special programmes, many of which still exist today including CineFrance (now the French Film Festival), Stranger than Fiction Documentary Festival, as well as celebrations of Beckett on Film, Andy Warhol Season and Agnes Varda Season and of course the annual Open Day.

Thaddeus O Sullivan, Grainne Humpreys and Stephen Rea

Alongside thousands of Dubliners, I have seen so many classic films including Franju's Eyes Without A Face, Bergman's final Saraband, Haneke's Caché, the great 2001: A Space Odyssey glorious on 70mm and John Lasseter introducing Toy Story.  Not to mention all the people I've met through the years - I've babysat Jane Birkin's bag whilst she talked Je T'aime Moi Non Plus and Gainsbourg,  gone shoe shopping with Anna Karina, had tea with Maureen O'Hara, sushi with Angela Lansbury, and way too much wine with the late Jack Cardiff - I introduced my parents to Jeanne Moreau or was it the other way round?

So many fascinating conversations - Harold Pinter on his favourite actors, Anthony Minghella on his favourite actresses, Steve James on stories worth telling and the many, many Irish filmmakers whose work we showcased. I've moved on from the IFI but I still cherish the impromptu conversations and post-screening reactions of IFI filmgoers, led for so many years by the great John Devitt.  It's hard to describe the connection the IFI has with its audience - maybe the Eagles say it best - you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave..

Gráinne Humphreys
Festival Director at the Dublin International Film Festival

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

IFI20: Irish Film Archive

It is hard now to imagine the primitive origins of the wonderful resource that is the Irish Film Archive and its important collection of Irish audio-visual material. The unlikely hero who first archived Irish-themed cinema material was none other than Irish film censor James Montgomery, who, in the 1930s, began collecting prints of Irish interest newsreels after they had completed their cinema run.

IFI Irish Film Archive & Library building

These and other films found their way to the National Library of Ireland where the pioneer archivist George Morrison catalogued the collection in the 1950s as part of the research which led to his hugely important actuality feature films Mise Eire (1959) and Saoirse? (1961).

By then, Irish filmmaker and critic Liam O’Leary was working at the British Film Institute archive where he began to collect Irish-themed films, and, in the absence of a proper Irish film archive, upon his return to Dublin in the 1960s channeled Irish films to the BFI for safe keeping, while the newly-established Telefis Éireann became custodian of the National Library films and other Irish-themed material.

In the meantime, as a by-product of its activities as a distributor of educational films, the National Film Institute of Ireland, which had been established in the mid-1940s, and had been the producer of many government-sponsored films, contained in its catalogue of over 4,000 films as many as 500 Irish productions, which were first listed separately in 1982 in an unpublished ‘Irish Film Catalogue’. This collection would form the bedrock of what would grow within thirty years to the current collection of 20,000 cans of films.

Recognising that without a properly equipped film archive, the group of activists who were members of the Irish Film Institute board in the 1980s put the establishment of the archive at the centre of the re-development of the Eustace Street premises. As that project was being realized, the Irish film collection was moved from one location to another (from Harcourt St to North Frederick St to Dame St) before finding its permanent home in the newly-equipped Irish Film Archive in 1992.  As a result, researchers no longer have to travel to foreign film archives to view Irish film material.

What is the challenge for the future? It is to reverse the experience of Irish film researchers of the past: to find a way, as other film archives are doing, to make the Irish film collection available online for the whole world to view, without anyone having to come to Ireland to view it!

Kevin Rockett

Irish film historian Kevin Rockett was Chairman of the Irish Film Institute, 1984–91, and is now a Professor in Film Studies, Trinity College Dublin.

We are throwing open the doors of the IFI Irish Film Archive and will be running tours throughout the month for all to enjoy. Ever seen an Emmy or an Oscar? If not, this is your chance to see one up close!

The Pop Up Museum will be open all day on Thursday, Sept 13th & Friday, Sept 14th in the Tiernan MacBride Library at the IFI; no tickets required.

The Archive Tours will start at set times (11.00 and 15.30) on Thursday, September 13th and Friday, 14th. They are on a first come first served basis, no need to book. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

IFI20: Back to School

When I returned to Ireland in 1997 after seven years of wandering - as part of the returned generation, reprieved of 'exile' - I anxiously took myself around Dublin to see what had changed. Would I fit in? Where would my haunts be? 

I remember wandering through Temple Bar and marveling at its cosmopolitan air and walking down the tunnel of the IFC (as it then was) and running into an old school friend who took up exactly where we had left off - as if I hadn't been away a wet day. I was thrilled to be home and the IFC has been associated with that idea - home - ever since. I thought, ‘This is where I want to be.’ 

I got lucky; a year later there was an ad for an Education Officer that suited me down to the ground. I applied and got it. Delighted. I was to be in charge of the school's programme and as I got going I got lucky again. One evening, the last in the building, I answered the phone. It was someone from the French Embassy. We got talking. I told her about my job and she asked if I'd like to go to Paris to find out how they do it there? Mais Oui! I went and all kinds of interesting conversations and visits were arranged – to schools, Les cinémas Art et Essai, the CNC. I brought home three ideas: a broader range of films for schools to come and see; training for teachers about film and the creation of study guides. All this went down well and we got busy and we grew from there. 

I got lucky a third time when I met Clare working in the Marketing Department and we later married. Our daughter had her Holy Communion reception on the balcony of the IFC because our house was too small. A home from home. (Thanks Bert!). I moved on, reluctantly, after four wonderful years but in a sense I’ve never left. It’s still the first place I go to when I get off any bus to Dublin. I’ve spend many memorable days and nights within its walls at films, interviews, conferences, launches and I intend to for many years to come.

Tony Tracy
Course Director: BA with Film Studies
Huston School of Film and Digital Media
NUI Galway

IFI20: IFI Irish Film Archive Pop-Up Museum & Tours

Have you ever sat in the IFI beer garden and wondered what goes on behind that magical locked door emblazoned with the words IFI Irish Film Archive? Well wonder no more. To celebrate our 20 years in Temple Bar we are throwing open the doors of the IFI Irish Film Archive to let you come in a see what we do!  

IFI Irish Film Archive

For two days only the Tiernan MacBride Library is being transformed into a Pop up Museum, full of interesting exhibits from our collections, chosen by our staff. Items from our Document collection were picked by our Librarian Rebecca Grant and  include a letter from Steven Spielberg to Jim Sheridan, designs for Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire; including sketches of other actors who were considered for the lead roles, which were finally played by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise (you’ll have to come in to see who they are!) and documents from the Horgan Picture Palace in Youghal which opened in 1917. You can also see a beautiful projector from that cinema which is on display in the Library.  

For those of you with technical leanings, Collections Officer Gavin Martin has selected an array of wonderful machines from the Archive’s equipment collection for you to enjoy, these include a Paillard-Bolex Model G 916 Projector, a Zeiss Ikon Movielux  Standard 8mm Projector and a Crown 8 E3 8mm Cine Camera.

The Pop up Museum will be open from 11.00 to 17.00 on Thur and Fri (September 13th - 14th), drop in and speak to our two curators about the items they picked and the collections they were selected from.

We will also be running daily tours of the Archive, to give you an opportunity to see how we go about looking after the 26,000 cans of film we care for on behalf of the nation.  Our team of archivists will be on hand to show you  our climate controlled vaults, the processes involved in cataloguing and preserving film and to explain a little bit about why our work is so important. Tours will be on a first come first served basis, all you need to do is turn up at the IFI reception area at either 11.00, or 15.30 on Thursday the 13th or Friday the 14th.

We’re looking forward to meeting you!

Kasandra O'Connell
Head of IFI Irish Film Archive

The Pop Up Museum will be open all day on Thursday, Sept 13th & Friday, Sept 14th in the Tiernan MacBride Library at the IFI; no tickets required.

The Archive Tours will start at set times (11.00 and 15.30) on Thursday, September 13th and Friday, 14th. They are on a first come first served basis, no need to book. 

This event is part of IFI20: Celebrating 20 Years in Temple Bar.

Friday, September 7, 2012

In soft darkness

There is a seat in IFI Screen 2 that I like to call my own. Nobody else knows this. If you see me standing politely in the queue, things are not what they seem. In my head, I am strategizing how I am going to beat you to this chair. The doors will open and you will see me taking the stairs in quick strides. I will accelerate as I go into that room with its unique ox-bow seating. And I will pounce upon that chair as cinemagoers stand about in indecision. I have never fought anyone to sit there. But let it be known — if you get to my seat before me — I may fight you for it. 

IFI Cinema 2

No matter where I have sat in the IFI over the years, I always remember not just the film but the seat. The point of view it offers in that dark, its relation to the walls of the room, the person sitting beside me — all of these things build into the film. 

I remember where I was seated in Screen 2 for a press screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. And I can recall, too, where I was seated in Screen 1 when I watched it again — underneath that magical door by the ceiling — and wept all the way through it like a sinner. I was plumped about three rows behind a decade earlier when I saw a black-and-white indie called Pi by some chap called Darren Aronofsky, and came out of that dark with a religious conversion. 

IFI Cinema 1

With shame I recall the seat in Screen 2 I fell asleep in during Wong Kar Wai’s 2046. Naturally, I was seated in my MY seat during Ingmar Bergman’s epic Fanny and Alexander, though this didn’t help, when, 10 minutes into the 188-minute film, I realized I needed to pee. I sat the film out like a penitent on a bus journey. 

In the new Screen 3, with its seats slunk low, I recall with clarity the seat where I watched Béla Tarr’s impossibly slow, 146-minute long The Turin Horse with a raging hangover. The person beside me can remember where they were seated, too, as they spent the entire film asleep. 

And what about that seat, centre-middle-left in Screen 1, where I watched Martin Scorsese’s 246-minute history of Italian cinema, My Voyage to Italy. I can recall in exquisite detail the dolt who was seated beside me explaining OUT LOUD the entire film to his foreign girlfriend. He was shushed several times. Finally I tapped him on the arm and asked him to be quiet. He exclaimed: “there’s no need to be so rude”. If that guy ever tries to sit in my seat, he’s really going to get it. 

Paul Lynch
Writer and film critic

Celebrating 20 years at our premises on Eustace Street in Temple Bar, join us for a host of special events, screenings, previews, tours (many of them free!) and the IFI Open Weekend in September - see full IFI20 Schedule online or follow our updates on Twitter via #IFI20

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

IFI20: From IFC to IFI

I remember there was a public pay phone outside my office. I'd listen out for how people referred to their location. Gradually they started to refer to the IFI rather than the IFC. This is how I knew the rebranding from IFC/FII to IFI had finally worked.

The Irish Film Institute (IFI) A.D. 2012

When I became Director of the IFI I thought its multiple identities of IFC, FII and Irish Film Archive diluted its potential. Specifically, the splintered identity didn't help is claim to being a national arts institute rather than an arts centre in Dublin's Temple Bar. Having just moved-up from Munster, I was particularly conscious of the need to put meat into this claim to a 'national' status. 

Irish Film Centre

So, first there was the matter of the various names. In business it's called brand management but really it's all about identity, not just logos. Having a coherent and consistent identity obviously matters in an environment where you compete for the attention of your audience.

The re-branding of the now IFI was a relatively minor event for us. We were more focused on building a capital refurbishment budget, making a claim on national status and building an international role. Yet, as I recall it, the internal debate was lively enough. The re-branding coincided with some funding cuts. Some colleagues were also very attached to the IFC. I was told that the name IFI would never catch on. In fact, the issue of being confused with Irish Fertilizer Industries was offered as one of the main reasons it would not work. Much like the trepidation that Carmaker Datsun or the makers of the Marathon bar must have once felt, the risks were looming large for some. 

IFC and IFI Programme Covers

In fact, the rebranding exercise was a sort proxy debate born-out of the way in which the establishment of the IFC as a subsidiary of the Film Institute of Ireland had been realised a decade earlier. No doubt the end justified the means but there was a legacy born of it. 

Anyhow, my old colleague Glenn Hogarty delivered an excellent new logo for the newly established IFI. I think it cost about €500. I can now appreciate quite how cost effective this was! 

Today the IFI looks better than ever. The refurbished complex is superb, it has a great location and a loyal and professional team behind it. So congratulations to everyone involved and here's to another 20 years success.

Mark Mulqueen
Former IFI Director (2001 - 2007)

Celebrating 20 years at our premises on Eustace Street in Temple Bar, join us for a host of special events, screenings, previews, tours (many of them free!) and the IFI Open Weekend in September - see full IFI20 Schedule online or follow our updates on Twitter via #IFI20