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Robert Bodrog

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John Ford Film Symposium in Dublin, June 7 - 10

Both Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles called him their favorite director. On set, John Wayne called him “Coach”. Jimmy Stewart referred to him simply as “Boss”. In a career that spanned over 60 years, few directors have rivaled John Ford in terms of creative output, popular success, critical acclaim or overall influence on the craft of cinema. And from June 7th to 10th, Ford fans and scholars will converge on Dublin for the inaugural John Ford Ireland Film Symposium, organized by the Irish Film and Television Academy.

The four day event will feature a wide variety of lectures, screenings and panel discussions centered around the theme of films and filmmaking inspired and informed by Ford's work. And there is a lot of material to cover. Ford directed 137 films, as well as dozens of shorts and documentaries, and holds the record for having won the most Oscars (six) for his directorial work. Not surprisingly, he was the first director to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.

Born John Martin Feeney on February 1, 1894 in Cape Elizabeth in the American state of Maine, he was the eleventh and last child of an Irish immigrant family. “Jack” was introduced to the movie industry by his brother Francis “Ford” who made his way west to California and directed a number of silent films. After appearing as one of the Klansmen in D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation”  (1915), Jack began acting in his brother’s one and two reelers, and soon started directing his own films and took as his new moniker the name of the Jacobean dramatist John Ford.

In celebration of Ford's first major work, “The Iron Horse” (1924), the symposium's opening night gala on June 7th will present the film at the National Concert Hall with live musical accompaniment by the RTE Concert Orchestra. At the time he directed it, the western had widely fallen out of public favor and was generally considered a low-brow genre. But the film, which told the story of the building of the trans-continental railroad, changed all that, and almost single-handedly made the Western respectable, proving the genre could engender works of visual excellence and storytelling, and do it on a grand scale.

Renowned film historian and screenwriter Joseph McBride, author of the biography “Searching for John Ford” will deliver the opening lecture on June 8, which will provide an extensive overview of Ford's career evolution from camera assistant to one of the most celebrated and accomplished directors in cinema history.

The symposium programme will also include a public lecture and interview on June 8 by director Peter Bogdanovich, whose 1971 documentary “Directed by John Ford” played a vital role in reviving interest in Ford among the public and critics. Mr. Bogdanovich will discuss his friendship with the director and the significance of Ford's work as a director.

Other symposium highlights will include screenings of some of Ford's most popular and critically acclaimed work, including “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Fort Apache”, “The Quiet Man”, “The Informer”, a free public screening of “The Searchers”, and for the first time in Ireland, a screening of the silent film “Upstream”, long thought to be lost, which was rediscovered in New Zealand in 2009 and subsequently restored. Peter Bogdanovich's documentary “Directed by John Ford” will also be presented.

Additionally, the symposium will feature a series of daily panel discussions by a number of internationally renowned film experts, which will cover various aspects of Ford's work and its continuing impact on contemporary filmmakers.

So, if you're a Ford fan, Dublin is the place to be from June 7th - 10th. The Dublin Author's Festival also runs from June 4th - 10th, so book your hotel ASAP if you're planning to attend.

For further information about the symposium and a full listing of the programme and special events, go to:

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