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Fiona Clark • CEO, Cork Film Festival

"Our ambition is to make Cork the destination of choice for great storytelling on film"

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- We spoke to Fiona Clark, producer and chief executive officer of Cork Film Festival, which is poised to celebrate its 63rd edition

Fiona Clark  • CEO, Cork Film Festival

We had the chance to sit down with Fiona Clark, producer and chief executive officer of Cork Film Festival, to discuss the changes implemented for this year’s edition, the future of the festival and the current state of the Irish film industry.

Cineuropa: What’s new for this upcoming edition of Cork Film Festival?
Fiona Clark: Over 250 films and events will be presented at the Cork Film Festival across ten days, from 9-18 November. The programme features the latest and best international and Irish films from 2018, 90% of which will be having their Irish premieres at the gathering. Cork Film Festival strives to be relevant and engaged, a mirror to the world. Our documentary programme incorporates films addressing the refugee crisis, environmental issues, Christian evangelism, revenge porn and online harassment, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Donald Trump’s America and the very nature of democracy itself. Mental health will also be explored through our unique “Illuminate” programme, whilst music also features strongly, together with strands for families and schools. The inclusion of 18 short-film programmes illustrates our commitment to the form and to promoting new talent.

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The festival will be opened by Carmel Winters’ Float Like a Butterfly [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carmel Winters
film profile
]
 and will be brought to a close by Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. Why did you choose these particular films?

The eagerly anticipated European premiere of Float Like a Butterfly is a perfect fit for Cork, as it was written and directed by Cork filmmaker Carmel Winters and filmed in West Cork. This story of a Traveller girl in Cork during the 1960s coupled with the closing-night story of a child growing up in poverty in modern-day Beirut are deliberate bookends – Float Like a Butterfly and Capernaum are both humane, relevant and imaginative artistic statements from filmmakers with vision and integrity. At a time when female voices have been emboldened by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, it is only right that we are opening and closing with two stand-out films directed by women.

Your festival programme is definitely comprehensive and jam-packed. How would you describe Cork Film Festival’s mission today? What are your primary goals?
Our mission is to bring people together through an outstanding programme of films and events, and to create an unforgettable festival experience over ten days in Cork. Our ambition, as we build towards our 65th anniversary in 2020, is to make Cork Film Festival the destination of choice for great storytelling on film — for filmmakers and audiences alike. As Ireland’s first and largest film festival, we hope that this year’s edition will excite and entertain, and perhaps even inspire the creative visionaries of tomorrow.

How would you assess the current state of the Irish film industry? What are its strengths and what do you think needs to be improved?
The Irish film industry is experiencing something of a renaissance, and a strong Cork Film Festival full of variety and vitality reflects this. We are delighted to be able to present the Irish premiere of Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest daring comedy The Favourite [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, produced by Element Pictures, and new Irish titles feature across all aspects of the programme: The Dig [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
The Belly of the Whale [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
One Million American DreamsTown of Strangers, The Curious Works of Roger Doyle, The Overcoat and Maeve as well as eight dedicated Irish shorts programmes. The festival is fundamentally enabled by the significant investment of our principal funder, the Arts Council, and initiatives such as Screen Ireland’s POV Scheme, which supports the production of low-budget live-action features by female writers and directors, are welcome developments in 2018 in supporting the Irish film sector. 

What are this year's special events? What can we expect from the Industry Days?
We have two special-event cine-concerts this year: a charming 1920s silent comedy called Little Old New York, with accompaniment by pianist Morgan Cooke; and the 1922 classic gothic horror Nosferatu, presented with a new score by Cork composers Irena and Linda Buckley, in the dramatic gothic-revival setting of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral. The festival’s long-standing partnership with the National Sculpture Factory will showcase artist Alan Butler’s new work, On Exactitude in Science, comprising Godfrey Reggio’s motion picture Koyaanisqatsi in synchronicity with Butler’s 2017 shot-for-shot remake, KoyaanisGTAV. We have expanded our Industry Days, building on the success of First Take (a training and professional development initiative for emerging filmmakers) and Doc Day (a development and networking opportunity for Irish and international documentary filmmakers) with Focus: Filmmaker Forum, a new networking and round-table event to support filmmakers in short-to-feature development. 

Could you tell us something about the future of Cork Film Festival? What are your long-term plans?
When the first Cork Film Festival took place in 1956, the “King” was belting out “Blue Suede Shoes”, and like rock and roll itself, over 63 years we have retained our youthful energy and verve. Whilst the digital age is driving rapid change and the film landscape is continually evolving, one thing is constant – our need to tell and share stories. We believe it is vital that we continue to push artistic boundaries, support new talent and seek out fresh audiences for cinema.

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