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This year's IFI Stranger Than Fiction is packed with more reality than ever

 

Space Tourists, Tigers, Wind Horses, Winnebagos, Dublin's Pyjama Girls and the Dalai Lama; this year's IFI Stranger Than Fiction documentary film festival is packed with more reality than ever

15th-18th April 2010

With twenty-two of the finest documentaries, including 19 premieres, this year's expanded IFI Stranger Than Fiction festival promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Launching the programme today Niall Macpherson, Festival Programmer said, We're delighted to present a programme of films that illustrates the incredible diversity and quality of Irish and international non-fiction filmmaking. These are films that will have you, by turns, shocked, excited, angered and entertained. The truth hurts but, as I hope IFI Stranger Than Fiction demonstrates, it can do plenty more besides.'

The festival kicks off with the world premiere of Pyjama Girls; putting new Irish documentary-making front and centre. Maya Derrington's debut directorial feature doesn't disappoint with a film that sensitively captures the ups and downs of working-class teenage life behind the enigmatic and subversive statement of wearing pyjamas in public. 

The uncertain triumph of the future seems to be one of the preoccupations of this year's vibrant international documentary programme: Space Tourists follows a Russian would-be cosmonaut achieving her dreams of becoming the first female space tourist at the cost of a mere $20 million, while Videocracy looks at the future of political power and the media through the lens of Berlusconi's Italy.

The future also hangs like a shadow over a group of films in which geopolitical uncertainty is explicitly and implicitly tackled: South of the Border shows Oliver Stone aiming to expose U.S media distortions of the politics of Central and South America; The Sun Behind The Clouds examines the tensions between a new generation of Tibetan radicals and the moderate line of their leader, the Dalai Lama; Last Train Home is a visually stunning and heart-wrenching story of a migrant Chinese family attempting to be reunited; while Secrets of the Tribe takes a eye-opening and controversial look at the vicious in-fighting in the anthropological community and the ramifications of their involvement in the lives of the primitive Yanomami tribe in Brazil.

Personal histories have long inspired documentary makers to pick up a camera and none could be more moving and bewildering than Chico David Colvard's story of his family trying to come to terms with a history of shocking sexual abuse in Family Affair. Meanwhile Nicolas Entel's Sins of my Father gives a fascinating account of the life of Pablo Escobar, Colombia's most notorious and vicious drug lord, as seen through the eyes of his only son.

Musical and cultural highlights of the festival include the iconic and uniquely talented band Stephen Merritt and the Magnetic Fields in Strange Powers, the story of Warhol's transsexual muse Candy Darling, the story of the subcultural explosion in run-down New York City in the late 1970s narrated by Debbie Harry in Downtown Calling, and Frederick Wiseman's beautifully judged exploration of the Paris Opera Ballet in La danse.

Humour and comedy also play their role in this year's festival. Winnebago Man takes a humorous look at new media and the accidental and unwanted nature of modern YouTube celebrity; African-American comedian Chris Rock brings us on a raucous journey of beauty salons and hairstyling battles as he investigates the answer to his daughter's question of "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?"; the life of a true comedy genius is celebrated in American: The Bill Hicks Story; and the festival closes with the most unlikely of national institutions - New Zealand's yodelling, lesbian comedy duo The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls.

IFI Stranger Than Fiction Irish programme demonstrates the strength and stature of the medium in Ireland with stories from home and abroad. Two Irish documentaries tell the story of well-known faces: singer Gilbert O'Sullivan who left Ireland to find international success, and renowned animator Jimmy Murakami who makes a moving journey back to the site of his wartime internment at Tule Lake, California. Two other Irish documentaries Broken Tail and Horses take the personal histories of animals, tigers and Irish racehorses respectively, as the subject of intense and viscerally beautiful studies. The final new Irish documentary, A Prayer for the Wind Horse follows the incredibly harsh annual journey of a Himalayan family across the mountain passes to escape winter.

Outside Looking In, this year's contribution from the IFI Irish Film Archive examines the fascinating views of Ireland from outsider filmmakers who often recorded things thought unimportant or inappropriate by domestic filmmakers. Irland und Seine Kinder/Children of Eire (Germany, 1961) is a poetic vision of Ireland from the German Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll but, with its prescient but sometimes harsh criticism of Irish childcare, it caused huge controversy when it was broadcast in Ireland in 1965. Screening alongside it is the first screening in many years of Irland/Ireland (Germany 1959) which shows a fisherman and his son bringing a new lobster boat from Dublin across the canals of Ireland to the Connemara Gaeltacht - participants in a Gael Linn sponsored attempt to stem the tide of emigration. Archive Programme 2 shows The Irish or The Memory of a People (France/Norway, 1972); a treasure trove of original footage of the Irish traditional music revival featuring low-key intimate performances from icons such as Christy Moore and Planxty, Willy Clancy, The Dubliners, Mrs O'Tuama and very rare interview footage of Sean O'Riada taken shortly before his untimely death in 1971.

The IFI's Stranger Than Fiction Festival goes from strength to strength every year due to a loyal and committed audience who know that the festival is often the only chance to see the participating films in Ireland. This year will be no exception so be wise and book early at www.ifi.ie/stf or on 01 679 3477.

 

Stranger Than Fiction Listings Schedule

 

Thursday 15th April   

18.30        Opening Film: Pyjama Girls + Q&A

 

Friday 16th April          

12.00        The Sun Behind the Clouds

12.15        Space Tourists

13.45  Sins of my Father

14.15  Videocracy

15.30        Last Train Home

17.00        Gilbert O'Sullivan - Out On His Own + Q&A

18.10        Jimmy Murakami: Non Alien +Q&A

18.45        Downtown Calling +Q&A

 20.30        American: The Bill Hicks Story + Q&A

 

Saturday 17th April      

12.00        Archive Programme 1

12.30        Pyjama Girls

14.15                 Good Hair

14.30         Broken Tail + Q&A

16.00    Family Affair + Q&A

16.30         Winnebago Man

18.30         Beautiful Darling + Q&A

20.30  Strange Powers + Q&A

 

Sunday 18th April        

12.15      Short Film Programme 

12.15      Archive Programme 2

13.30  Secrets of the Tribe

14.15  A Prayer for the Wind Horse

 15.15 La danse

16.00  South of the Border

18.00  Horses + Q&A

                                   20.30  The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

 

Interviews are available with the following guests before and during the festival by appointment with the IFI Press Office:

 

Maya Derrington                 - Director of Pyjama Girls

Sé Merry Doyle                    - Director of Jimmy Murakami: Non Alien

Gilbert O'Sullivan and Adrian McCarthy          

- Star and Director of Gilbert O'Sullivan - Out On His Own

Liz Mermin                           - Director of Horses

Colin Stafford Johnson     - Director of Broken Tail

John Murray                          - Director of A Prayer for the Wind Horse

Matt Harlock & Paul Thomas       

- Directors of American: The Bill Hicks Story

Michael Holman                 - Producer of Downtown Calling

Chico David Colvard          - Director of Family Affair

Jeremiah Newton & Michael Newman

 - Producers of Beautiful Darling

Kerthy Fix                             - Director of Strange Powers

Niall Macpherson                  - IFI Stranger Than Fiction programmer

Sunniva O'Flynn                    - IFI Curator presenting the Outside Looking In strand from the IFI                                                     Irish Film Archive

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