An Interview with Enda Murray
Enda Murray’s involvement in film-making is decades long, beginning in 1984 after he’d completed a Science degree in Dublin (a wrong turn for him): a work-for-the-dole scheme making a music video of a Drogheda punk band was a springboard into the world of cinema.
After a short stint in the US, he went to London and took part in Channel 4 workshops learning film-making. ‘Red Ken’ Livingstone’s largesse made available to him for an astonishing £1 an MA at St Martin’s School of Art. Subsequently, he went on to create edgy films, short and long, exploring the stories of disadvantaged, marginalised people: first, the Guildford 4, Birmingham 6 and the Maguire 7, then Jamaican musicians in London, and after moving to Australia in 1996, the Indigenous scene in troubled Redfern, migration and refugee histories, Arabs in Bankstown, and after 9/11, Palestinians.
It seems Murray is drawn to gritty stories which tell of social change, often among poor communities in rough areas, and documenting the resilience he finds in such communities. He made the link to his own family history as one of 14 in a tough area of Drogheda (see his film about his family, Secret Family Recipes). He is no stranger to prizes and awards for his film-making and his films, both documentaries and features, have been selected for film festivals world-wide. He initially found commissions with SBS because of his interests in ethnic groups, and commented sadly that making films in Australia is not sustainable (his daughter earns more in base-level hospitality). The withdrawal of funding to the Arts and to the ABC and SBS, and to academe (where he might have expected employment given his track record) over the last decade are no doubt factors in his disillusionment.
Like film-making, his turn to mounting an Irish Film Festival is also a ‘love-job’. He does it for the buzz and fun of being around creative and inspirational people and the enjoyment of their artefacts, and a conviction of film’s social and cultural significance in giving voice to the silenced.
His Irish Film Festival in Australia is one of 20 globally, attesting to the transnational appeal of Irish films. This newish phenomenon owes much to a government that invests in cinema, knows its cultural uses and caché, and sees it as ‘an essential industry’, even in the midst of a pandemic. Interestingly, he sees Covid as having given an extra filip to the Arts, making 2021 a bumper year for Film in Ireland. He cites the experience of the makers and creatives on An Cailín Ciúin who spoke during a recent Q&A in Sydney of their sense of privilege, after two years of pre-production beginning in 2019, in being finally allowed to work in 2021 when many couldn’t. They also noted how the strict distancing conventions mandated under Covid gave an extra emotional frisson to rare moments of touch in the film, and mandated a strong focus on the film-making workplace as cinematographers and actors were forced to forgo pubs and coffee-shops. The effect was an intensification of focus on the act of film-making which he believes is manifest in the film.
He sources films from the Dublin and Cork Film Festivals, and finds Screen Ireland newsletter and the Irish Film Institute (Screen Australia is a more limited and commercial beast and not comparable) invaluable for staying in touch with the beating heart of Irish cinema. It’s a complex job because of rights in different countries and the need to track down sales agents and distributors all around the world. To complicate matters further, it is not at all uncommon now, given Ireland’s place in the European Union as the only English-speaking member, for Irish films to be funded co-productions with countries as diverse as Luxembourg, Iceland or even China.
By the 7th Irish Film Festival (2021), viewers had embraced online streaming, and Enda reports it was a surprisingly strong year, but he remains attentive to the needs of those who cannot get into cinemas and this year’s 8th Festival will be a hybrid one, with a suite of films available in cinemas and others, later in the season, online.
Frances Devlin-Glass, a member of the Tintean editorial collective, conducted this interview with Enda Murray on 6 August 2022.
Details of the 2022 Programme
The 8th Irish Film Festival in Australia
Festival Director, Dr Enda Murray said, “I’m delighted to bring a new program of Irish films to Australia this year. It’s very exciting to travel to cinemas in five cities and return to the cinema experience, which brings us together to celebrate our culture and our resilience. I’m also happy to be able to provide some of our program online to meet the needs of our audiences in far-off places in Australia and allow them to join our film community.”
Among the highlights this year has got to be the breakout Irish language film An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), which has restored the primacy of the Irish language to our popular culture. Singer Damien Dempsey’s, Love Yourself Today has a lot to say about the healing power of music, while our Opening Night film Steps of Freedom celebrates the way that Irish dance culture has quietly influenced artists everywhere around the world.”
The 2022 festival will showcase a total of 16 films, including 13 Australian Premieres. 10 of the films will be screened in Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra from 25 August – 25 September, while 7 of these join an additional 6 films available for streaming as part of the online festival from 30 September – 16 October.
This year’s program includes moving dramas, inspiring documentaries, eerie horrors, darkly funny comedies, and captivating family films. Festival award-winners include Redemption of a Rogue, Steps of Freedom, The Cry Of Granuaile, You Are Not My Mother, An Cailín Cúin (The Quiet Girl), Let the Wrong One In, Young Plato and Who We Love.
The opening night film, Steps of Freedom, is an award-winning documentary about how Irish dance has become a global phenomenon. It relies on historical records, scholars, dancers and musicians to trace the history and development of Irish dance over the past 2,000 years.
Who We Love is a coming-of-age film about identity, sexuality and standing up to bullying. Director, Graham Cantwell said, “I’m excited to bring Who We Love to audiences across Australia and I’m really grateful to everyone at the Irish Film Festival Australia for giving us this opportunity to present our message of inclusion and self-belief. It’s a film with a lot of heart and humour and I think it will really appeal to Aussie sensibilities.”
Our family film is the award-winning, Into The West, complete with an all-star cast including Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, Colm Meaney and Brendan Gleeson, which returns to the silver screen thirty years after its release.
A number of directorial debuts are included in the program such as Philip Doherty’s black comedy, Redemption of a Rogue, Kate Dolan’s ominous horror, You Are Not My Mother and Colm Bairéad’s deeply moving Irish-language film, The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin).
‘Film as a medium, film as an art-form and film as entertainment is unique in its ability to bring us inside another culture. When you marry Irish people’s ability to tell stories; our need to share enjoyment and our strong connection to our heritage, you achieve the irresistible cocktail of culture and craic that is the Irish Film Festival.
I hope the films on show finds their audience in Australia. Pick your favourites or binge them all. I am sure that any time invested in each and all the titles will be well-rewarded.’ Irish Ambassador to Australia, Tim Mawe.
The not-to-be-missed Irish Film Festival Opening Nights in each city will be preceded by a Gala reception with complimentary drinks and live Irish music from 7pm.
Audiences will also have exclusive behind-the-scenes access to films via our Q&A sessions between Festival Director, Dr Enda Murray and a selection of our films’ Directors and cast.
Steps Of Freedom
Steps of Freedom is Writer/Director Ruán Magan’s award-winning documentary of how Irish dance has progressed to become a global phenomenon. Beautifully shot and mesmerising to watch, Steps of Freedom traces the history and development of Irish dance over the past 2,000 years. Steps of Freedom was the WINNER – Best International Feature Film and WINNER – Best Original Music Score at the International Black and Diversity Film Festival in Toronto in February.
An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl)
Rural Ireland 1981. Cáit, a quiet, neglected girl is sent away from her overcrowded, dysfunctional family to live with foster parents. Under their care, Cáit blossoms and discovers a new way of living, but in this house where affection grows and there are not meant to be any secrets, she discovers one painful truth. WINNER – Best Feature Film, Berlin International Film Festival 2022. WINNER – Discovery Award, Director, Dublin International Film Festival 2022. WINNER – Audience Award, Dublin International Film Festival 2022 and WINNER – Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress in a Lead Role, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Irish Film and Television Awards 2022.
Love Yourself Today
Damien Dempsey’s inspiring mix of Irish folk and social commentary strikes a resonant chord, exploring themes of addiction and trauma, positivity and hope. This film is about the power of music to heal. It examines the relationship between the artist and his audience by focusing on the lives of three individuals who’ve been affected by Dempsey’s music. It has recommendations from both Brian Eno and Christy Moore.
You Are Not My Mother
In a North Dublin housing estate Char’s bedridden mother, Angela goes missing. When Angela the following evening without explanation, it becomes clear that something is amiss. Char is determined to uncover the truth of her disappearance and unearth the dark secrets of her family. WINNER – Discovery Award, Dublin International Film Festival 2022 and WINNER – Best Film Gérardmer Film Festival 2022.
In Belfast’s Ardoyne, Kevin McArevey, a primary school headmaster is determined to change the fortunes of an inner-city community plagued by urban decay, sectarian violence, drugs and poverty. McArevey and his dedicated team illustrate how philosophy can encourage children to question the mythologies of war and violence and challenge the narratives of their families, peers and socio-economic status. WINNER – Human Rights Film Award, Dublin International Film Festival 2022. WINNER – Social Impact Award, Greenwich International Film Festival 2022. WINNER – Best Feature Documentary, Irish Film and Television Awards 2022.
Redemption Of A Rogue
A prodigal son returns to his hometown of Cavan to farewell his dying father and make amends for past wrongs. When his father dies, the heavens open, commencing a deluge of biblical proportions that throws everyone’s lives into disarray. Jimmy must face his past to find the path to his salvation. Writer/Director Philip Doherty’s debut production was the WINNER at the Bucharest Comedy Film Festival 2021 and WINNER – Best Debut Irish Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh 2020.
The Cry Of Granuaile
An American filmmaker reeling from the death of her mother enlists the help of a young Irish academic on a trip to the west of Ireland to research a film about Granuaile, the legendary 16th century pirate queen and “nurse to all rebellions.” As the two women journey towards a remote Atlantic Island, lines begin to blur between memory and history, dream and reality. WINNER – EX AEQUO Award for Best Performance and WINNER – Best Music at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema 2022.
Into The West
This award-winning Irish classic complete with an all-star cast returns to the cinema screen thirty years after its release. A mysterious white stallion appears to a Traveller grandfather and his two grandsons in a Dublin’s run-down Ballymun. Since the younger of the two boys is the only one who can control the horse, ownership falls to him and his older brother. With their father, the police and an underhand horse breeder all chasing the stallion, the boys escape on their steed to begin an inspiring journey into the west of Ireland.
Who We Love
The story of Lily, a girl with a secret, on the cusp of becoming a young woman. With her best friend, the fiercely loyal and flamboyant Simon, she navigates the treacherous waters of school life. When a misunderstanding with the beautiful and popular Violet leads to a vicious attack, Lily is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life. WINNER – Best Narrative Feature Kerry Film Festival 2021.
Let the Wrong One In
Young supermarket worker Matt, who is a little too nice for his own good, discovers that his older, estranged brother Deco has turned into a vampire. Matt’s faced with a dilemma: will he risk his own life to help his sibling? Or will he stake him before he spreads the infection further? The film stars upcoming Irish talent Karl Rice and Eoin Duffy, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer icon Anthony Head, in the role of Henry; a taxi driver with a sideline in vampire hunting. (Vampires are no strangers to Ireland – Dublin-born Bram Stoker wrote the original gothic horror story Dracula in 1897) WINNER – Best Visual Effects, Dublin International Film Festival 2022.
When: In cinemas August 25 – September 25
Online September 30 – October 16
Where: Irish Film Festival Cinema Tour Dates
25-28 August – Sydney – The Chauvel Cinema
1-4 September – Melbourne – Kino Cinema
8-11 September – Brisbane – Palace Barracks
15-18 September – Perth – Palace Raine Square
22-25 September – Canberra – The Palace Electric Cinema
Tickets: Cinema tickets go on sale Friday 5 August.
Single ticket: $23
Concession ticket $19
10 x e-Ticket $139 for Palace Movie Club members (free sign up)
Opening Night only (Steps of Freedom) Thurs night in each city*
Single ticket: $39 (includes complimentary drinks and live music)
Concession ticket $35
Palace Movie Club: $35
*Not available as part of e-Ticket x 10 pack
Ticket sales: www.irishfilmfestival.com.au
Online tickets on sale September 9th.
For further information, imagery, screeners or to discuss interview opportunities contact: Donna Campbell
About the Irish Film Festival Australia
The Irish Film Festival Australia has been sharing the culture, traditions, history and character of Ireland and the Irish people with Australians since 2015.
Following a national festival touring in Palace cinemas in 5 cities each weekend from late August through September, the IFF is proud to present a different and expanded selection of films streaming online in October 2022.
The Festival is a not-for-profit cultural event supported by the Irish Embassy in Canberra, the Irish Consulate in Sydney, and the NSW Government through Screen NSW.
About the Festival Director Dr Enda Murray BSc MA DCA
Enda Murray is an award-winning filmmaker and educator with 30 years’ experience in the industry having worked in Ireland, USA, England and Australia. Enda Murray’s work has featured in numerous international film festivals and on BBC, RTE, ITV, ABC, NITV, Maori TV and SBS.