The thing about the Irish is that they’ve struggled so much as a people, that things that might strike some of us as hardships are shrugged off, much like the seemingly endless stream of rain that drenches this aptly dubbed and enchanting sister city of Seattle. Like the Jews, the Irish have endured oppression for thousands of years and like the Jews they have developed a specific way of looking at it. Whereas complaining to the Jewish grandmother “My soup is cold, Grandma!” might get you a “Do you think they had soup in the camps? Eat your soup, you ungrateful pisher!” The Irishman looks at you if you’re a complete weenie and points out that at least you’re not starving.
Sweet Jesus, I love guinness!
That said, it’s all relative and as I was completing my 2nd full day in the same clothes, I was beginning to get a little cranky. Not only that, but the city is in the 4th month of a water crisis. Seems their water supply has been contaminated with cryptosporidium. All I have to say is, no one from the festival told me not to drink the water, so it’s a good thing two locals mentioned it before I filled up my empty water bottle from the tap before bed, as I am wont to. Thankfully, my luggage arrived on my second day here and I am now basically in fine form and clean clothes, having my 2nd post-lunch Guinness.
Not only that, but the weather is (mostly) holding out. UPDATE: It’s fecking pouring.
Opening Night: A Tearjerker Crowd-Pleaser
Opening night of the Galway Film Fleadh was one of those rare surprises that one gets on the film festival circuit, Cristiano Bortone’s Red Like the Sky (Rosso come il cielo). Based on the true story of Italian sound editor Mirco Mencacci, the film follows 10 year-old Mirco after he is blinded by an accident and is forced by Italian law to attend a special institute for the blind, in which the students are “prepared” for a life of blindness by learning menial tasks like weaving or industrial tasks like operating a blast furnace. Any thoughts of a grander life, such as a doctor, lawyer or artist are considered harmful flights of fancy and are put down by the religious order in charge of the institution.
It quickly becomes clear, however, that Mirco is not only a willful and bright young man, but he is also extremely talented and adapts quickly to a life without sight. Questioning virtually every rule of the school as well as the nuns and priests who run the institution, Mirco quickly becomes a truant in the best sense of the word. He recognizes that the potential of every student in the place is being stifled by the director, himself a man who lost his sight as an adult and is clearly bitter as a result. Learning to use his ears as eyes, Mirco teaches the other students to embrace their remaining senses and to believe that their lives as vibrant and creative members of society did not end when they lost their sight.
Writer/director Bortone and additional screenwriters Paolo Sassanelli and Monica Zapelli have crafted a sweet and thoroughly enjoyable story, lacking in most of the cloying elements that so often pepper these kinds of films and those that are present, work. The crowd was extremely appreciative, giving the director a standing ovation with not a dry eye in the house. Needless to say, when two of the teen actors from the film, one of them blind in real life, walked out on stage, the roar just grew. Oddly, the film wasn’t well-received in Italy and hasn’t been picked up for US release, although it seems a natural. It’s a fantastic film for families and seriously deserves a look from distributors.
After the film it was time for a bit of the craic at the opening night party. much food was eaten (including a pig named David Bowie, so named because he had two different colored eyes) and Betty Boop even showed up. Great fun it was and so the 19th Galway Film Fleadh kicked off with a fine film and some great craic!
Coming soon: More great films, The Dude makes the scene and loads more craic!