"Second Irish American Movie Hooley" Review- Two Film Synopses

From September 20 through October 2nd, the Second Annual “Irish American Movie Hooley” screened films at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 164 N. State. After each film, the director or producer who was present in each case, was interviewed by the eager and attentive audience in attendance. This reviewer had an opportunity to attend the first screening and Q and A session, and to privately view the second film.

Movie Hooley banner stand copy; photo courtesy of Paddy Houlihan


Capsule summaries of the two films follow:

“Beneath Disheveled Stars”, 2016, written and directed by Kenneth Baggott, who also starred in the film, is an intriguing tale of the mishaps of an Irish-American well-meaning ne’er-do-well who goes to Ireland to bury his mother’s ashes. While there, he encounters a number of colorful and often touching people who sometimes offer him succor and other times play with his mind, misdirecting his efforts to find the appropriate cemetery, and ensnaring him in blarney.  He falls under the spell of one trickster in particular, who can be seen as an elf, a mad clown or even as the embodiment of the devil, who gives him a discouraging run for his Yankee money.

From "Beneath Disheveled Stars"; photo courtesy of the Irish American Movie Hooley

Meanwhile, back at home, he has left a mobster neighbor and other fellow tenement-dwellers in the lurch, and there is a grimly hilarious series of cell phone calls as the camera cuts back and forth from the beleaguered streets of New York to the green and peat-bog lined aerie in Ireland.  The film, starring Irish locals and beautifully filmed, often at a cinematic remove, is funny, disturbing, and will leave you thinking. The Irish people who acted in the film were novices “discovered” by Baggott- one would never know it by their deadpan and thoroughly delightful performances. The music chosen is also spot-on- loud, forlorn and often eerie.

Mike Houlihan, curator of The Irish American Movie Hooley; Kevin Baggott, writer, director and star of "Beneath Disheveled Stars; Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming for the Siskel Film Center; photo courtesy of Paddy Houlihan


 “A Doctor’s Sword”, 2016, written and directed by Gary Lennon, is a remarkable documentary of Dr. Aidan MacCarthy of  Castletownnere, Ireland and his experiences during World War 2, from which he returned bearing a souvenir Japanese “Samurai” sword. This reviewer was overwhelmed at the opening of this  Ronan Coyle artistic animation-enhanced family saga- my own father also returned- thankfully-from the South Seas with just such a prize!

Dr. Aidan McCarthy in uniform with hat; photo courtesy of the Irish American Moovie Hooley


While I never learned the provenance or story behind our own weapon of war, as my father refused to discuss his experiences, in this compelling film interspliced with archival war footage and commentary by MacCarthy and his family, we do learn how his family discovered the tale of his heroism and sufferings. Indeed, he published a book about his experiences in 1979, entitled “A Doctor’s War”. His “adventures” and ordeals included four years of terrible captivity and torture. The film is a testament to the love of family, bravery, and as MacCarthy puts it, “lots and lots of luck”. The voice of Aidan McCarthy is masterfully edited in from a number of radio interviews. The reviews of this film have all stressed the “nonjudgemental” nature of the chronicle and it’s point of view. More than this, the film and the story- told by MacCarthy’s surviving daughters, Adrienne and Nicola, is a labour of love.

 Both of these films are well worth seeing and highly recommended.

Bob Jackson, producer of "A Doctor's Sword"; Mike Houlihan, curator of The Irish -American Moovie Hooley; and Aodh O' Coileain, director of the 3rd film, "A Lark's View"; photo courtesy of Paddy Houlihan

For more information about Hibernian Transmedia, the entity who produced the Festival, next year’s Hooley, and these films, go to the individual film websites or www.hiberniantransmedia.org




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