A Brief History of the Galway Film Festival

Actually, the name of the Galway event is “The Galway Film Fleadh.” Held in Galway, Ireland, this particular fleadh was started in 1989 and in celebrating its 3oth anniversary. A fleadh is a festival, but it can be for music, film, or art. The organizers announced on Twitter that “The Galway Film Fleadh is a six day international film event held every July and welcomes a mad diversity of filmmaking from around the world.” Originally, the film fleadh focused on cinematography from Ireland but since has spread its wings to invite talent from all over the world.

Galway proudly states its invitation to cultural and generational diversity, and insists there are no red carpets to be found at its fleadhs. Everyday people who have a love and talent for filmmaking as well as those who have achieved the highest recognition from their peers in their profession are welcome to attend, participate, and compete. The fleadh began, interestingly enough, as a result of a lack of opportunity. Irish filmmakers did not see the same attention given to its cinephiles as many other countries, so decided to take a positive step and start the film festival. Galway is now the most popular and attended film festival in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

For its 30th anniversary, the event has hired a new director, William Fitzgerald, who proudly has taken up the mantle and will continue in the proud tradition of the fleadh’s 29 year history. His predecessor, Gar O’Brien, chose to step down from the position after serving 7 memorable years for Galway. Originally, the competing films were held at a single location on two screens, but today the fleadh is spread across Galway over several locations. A map of the locations can be found at http://www.galwayfilmfleadh.com/welcome-galway-film-fleadh/how-to-fleadh/venues/.

Past attendees have included such familiar names as Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto. Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore, Pierce Brosnan of James Bond fame, Gabriel Byrne, Maureen O’Hara, Matt Dillon, and Woody Harrelson. Each festival sponsors a number of workshops for budding filmmakers, including screenwriters, directors, and even a seminar on how to take advantage of the tax credit for filmmaking offered by Ireland. These seminars are technically part of the fleadh but ca be found on the website under the “Galway Film Fair.” This year’s theme is “Part of a Creative Momentum Project: Screen Industries on the Periphery: Policy and Practice.”

To encourage young people, there is a Junior section of the fleadh that offers opportunities for young people. Events included in the Junior festival are screen feature and short length fiction presentations as well as documentary cinema in a number of languages: English, Gaeilge, French, German to name a few. There also are a number of filmmaking workshops and a script pitching competition to help those passionate about success in the filmmaking industry develop their talents. Since its inception, Galway has expanded its reach to young people to not only feature a separate event, but during the course of the year goes to classrooms all around the country to inspire creativity and promote the fleadh.

The fleadh is an Oscar eligibility event, so that films that meet the criteria can be submitted for nominations to the prestigious Academy. (Even for those not familiar with the Galway festival, the requirements of the Academy are available at http://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/90aa_rules.pdf and may be of interest to Academy fans and followers.)

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