Celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day have evolved into something of a green-hued Mardi Gras-style bacchanal, riddled with all manner of cartoonish ethnic clichés. Creepy leprechauns, pots of gold, four-leaf clovers and green beer have become the familiar cultural signifiers of March 17 and the festivities that surround it. For those in search of a more genuine Irish cultural experience, however, there are some welcome alternatives. Consider, for example, a visit to the Beverly neighborhood on the south side to check out the Chicago Irish Film Festival. Here’s a guide to the Beverly Arts Center’s annual six-day ode to Irish cinema happening March 4-9.

12th Annual Chicago Irish Film Festival
The Beverly Arts Center of Chicago
2407 West 111th Street
Chicago, IL
(773) 445-3838

Festival pass: $65 ($50 for BAC members), includes all screenings, opening an d closing night receptions
All showings $10 ($8 for BAC members) unless otherwise indicated

Friday, March 4

7:00 p.m.
Opening Night Gala featuring the Midwest premiere of The Runway, with special guests director Ia Power and producer Macdara Kelleher
$30 ($25 for BAC members)

The Runway (2010) is based on the true story of a South American pilot who crashed his plane in rural Ireland in 1983. A local 9-year-old forms a bond with the pilot, whom he mistakes for a Spanish astronaut, while the locals come together against all odds to build a runway to get the pilot home. Two short films, Lament (2010) and Pentecost (2010), will also be presented.

Saturday, March 5

4:00 p.m.
Chicago premiere of 32A (2007), an award-winning coming-of-age story of young romance and the bonds of friendship set in 1979 Dublin starring Aidan Quinn, Ailish McCarthy and Orla Brady. Also screening: Tog Mise Leat (2010) and The Pool (2010).

6:00 p.m.
The Referee (2010) is a documentary about Sweden’s top soccer referee, Martin Hansson, and his fateful quest to make it to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Also screening is the documentary Blind Man Walking (2010), an uplifting story of one man’s attempt to become the first blind man to race to the South Pole. The short film Last Call (2010) will follow.

8:00 p.m.
U.S. premiere screening of In Sunshine or In Shadow with special guests director Andrew Gallimore and producer Morgan Bushe. Whiskey tasting hosted by Jameson Distillery, with live music and a cash bar.

Another film based on a true story, In Sunshine or In Shadow (2010) presents the dramatic historical connotations behind the legendary world featherweight title match between Barry McGuigan and Eusebio Pedroza in 1985. Two short films, Happy Birthday Timmy (2010) and Meaning of Lifeguard (2010), will also be screened.

Sunday, March 6

2:00 p.m.
Jacqueline (1956) tells the story of a working class Protestant family in Belfast, and the title character’s attempts to help her family persevere through difficult conditions. Also featured will be the short film Cairdeas (Friendship) (2010) and the award-winning documentary Bye Bye Now (2009), about the fate of the nearly extinct Irish phone box.

4:00 p.m.
U.S. premiere of Neither Fish Nor Fowl (2010), with special guest filmmaker Fiona Murphy. The film presents an intriguing picture of the absurdity of five siblings born into Ireland’s then-vanishing ruling class, the Anglo Irish, in the 1930s. Also showing are the short films Even Gods (2010) and Passing (2010).

Monday, March 7

7:30 p.m.
The Midwest premiere of Between the Canals (2010), about three small time criminals from Dublin’s North Inner City and their individual quests for identity. Also screening: In the Open (2010).

Tuesday, March 8

7:30 p.m.
Book Smugglers (2010) follows an Irish Poet, Gearoid Mac Lochlainn, and a Lithuanian stage director, Albertas Vidziunas, as they retrace the steps of the 19th century Lithuanian Book Smugglers, who resisted Russification in order to save their language. Director Jeremiah Cullinane will attend the screening. Also showing: Tacsai Dubh (Black Taxi) (2010) about “Europe’s most unlikely tourist attraction,” the iconic Belfast Black Taxi, and The Story of 99 (2010), about Ireland’s traditional summer ice cream cone.

Wednesday, March 9

7:30 p.m.
Closing Night Gala: Shorts Night
$20 ($15 for BAC members)

Eleven shorts will be screened on closing night: Joe Drummer; Noreen; Cold Turkey; Guns, Bees and Tadpoles; Separation Agency; Ticket To Ride; Bleeding Love; Getting Air; Blue Rinse; Mister Heaney: A Wee Portrait; and Shoe. Tickets to the closing reception include a post film reception with complimentary appetizers and beverage.

Greg Wahl is a Chicagoan, a freelancer, a grad student, and a seeker of all things awesome & interesting throughout the city and beyond.

Comments (2)
  1. Kathy Figel says:

    This is the best entertainment dollar you can spend in Chicago, year after year.

  2. Kathy Figel says:

    I agree! Great films and great fun.

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