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Keeping It Green: A Four-Leaf Filmmaker Shamrock For St. Patrick’s Day

Irish directors who bring their national identity to international stories

Focus Features 03.17.2019
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On March 17, people of Irish ancestry—and even those who just feel Irish—will take to the streets to celebrate their unique heritage. On St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrate the poetic imagination, quick wit, and joy at championing the underdog that is particularly Irish. While many no longer live in Ireland, that unique spirit and shared cultural identity travels with them wherever they go. Even when the filmmakers we celebrate here don’t deal with Irish stories, the hearty humor and independent spirit of their homeland resonates in their work, be it a wild romp in New York City or a dangerous working vacation in Bruges.

The official trailer for Greta

Neil Jordan | Greta

Neil Jordan's Greta may take place in New York City, but it was crafted with Irish skill and spirit. In addition to working with a dream team of his fellow countrymen—including cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, production designer Anna Rackard, and editor Nick Emerson—Jordan shot much of the film in Dublin. Born in Sligo and educated at University College, Dublin, Jordan often mines his Irish background for inspiration and subject matter. Some of his films (like The Crying Game and Michael Collins) deal directly with Ireland. Other movies, like Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles and The Company Wolves, reflect Jordan’s quip that “The Irish people are terribly impatient with the real world.” As Chloë Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert take the audience on a roller coaster ride of suspense, it is clear that Greta operates by Jordan’s own fantastic logic. For The Observer, “It’s a nail-biter that…proves that in the hands of a master director, any genre is capable of achieving new heights of imagination.”

Get tickets to see Greta now.

The official trailer for The Little Stranger

Lenny Abrahamson | The Little Stranger

After reading The Little Stranger, Sarah Water’s spooky novel about the decline of a country estate in post-war England, Lenny Abrahamson felt an immediate kinship with the story. “I grew up in Ireland, but right next door to Britain," Abrahamson exclaims. “I am fascinated by class as well.” Abrahamson, whose family hailed from Eastern Europe, grew up in Dublin, immediately taking to the traditions and culture of his new homeland. His first feature Adam & Paul, as well as his hit TV show Prosperity, held up a comic mirror to Dublin’s underclass. While his Academy Award®-nominated film Room takes place in the United States, Abrahamson brought a special understanding to his fellow countryperson Emma Donoghue’s novel. For The Little Stranger, Abrahamson foregrounds the perspective of an outsider looking in. In the movie, Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) feels unable to separate his own working-class background from the strange happenings affecting the aristocratic inhabitants of Hundreds Hall. “The class system and its ruthless pecking order is something Abrahamson sews into the fabric of his film,” notes Rolling Stone, turning The Little Stranger “into a hypnotic and haunting tale of how the past can grab hold of the flesh-and-blood present and squeeze.”

Get The Little Stranger now on iTunes or at Amazon.

The trailer for In Bruges with introduction by Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh | In Bruges

With In Bruges, writer/director Martin McDonagh hilariously brings Ireland to Belgium as two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), hang out in the feudal city as they wait for further instructions from their handler. After growing up in London, McDonagh returned to Ireland as a young man where he quickly became one of that country’s most promising and audacious playwrights. With two trilogies of plays that revolve around characters living in County Galway (“The Leenane Trilogy” and “The Aran Islands Trilogy”), McDonagh introduced a distinctive mix of carnage and comedy drawn from his Irish background. For theater director Nicholas Hytner, “No one who isn’t Irish could have caught that world so dead-on right.” With In Bruges, McDonagh moved his characters to Belgium and translated that sensibility to film. “Those who know McDonagh's work know a vein of darkness will run deeply through the comedy,” writes The Washington Post. “It has seldom been darker. Or funnier.”

Get In Bruges now on iTunes or at Amazon.

John Crowley talks about Closed Circuit in this special featurette

John Crowley | Closed Circuit

Before making the Academy Award®-nominated Brooklyn, Irish-born director John Crowley distilled that sense of being an outsider into his surveillance thriller Closed Circuit with Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. Having grown up in Ireland, Crowley first turned to theater before picking up a film camera. He wedded his two passions together with his first filmic foray, Come and Go, a TV adaption of Samuel Beckett’s play. Keeping close to home, his debut feature Intermission—produced by Neil Jordan—comically explores bad romance among working-class Dublin folk. Moving to London to direct theater, Crowley experienced firsthand the immigrant perspective of seeing his home as an outsider, a perception he sought to bring to Closed Circuit. “One of the ambitions of the film was to make a great London film that doesn't feel like a picture postcard version,” notes Crowley. For The New York Times, the paranoid thriller succeeds in its look: “With its hushed suspicions, breathless rushing and gleaming surfaces … the London in this movie looks like a science-fiction reimagining of a medieval fortress town.”

Get Closed Circuit now on iTunes or at Amazon.

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