This weekend is the 10th annual Magners Boston Irish Film Festival (BIFF)
Of particular interest to musicians: Catch a screening of The Busker, the debut film by Lowell native Stephen Croke, on Sunday, November 16 at 7:00 at the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, Mass.
The busker is a 13-yr-old fiddler, Seamus. After the tragic death of his father—who was a musician and Irish native raising his family in the US—Seamus falls for a free-spirited African-American girl. Their developing relationship is threatened by the racial tension that surrounds them and an opportunity presented to Seamus by an unlikely stranger. This is a story of innocent young love, and the havoc that friends and family can wreak on something that is, at its heart, colorblind and pure. Set during the snow-filled Christmas season, The Busker was filmed mainly in Lowell. Additional scenes were shot in Tyngsboro, Dracut, Bedford, Worcester and the airport at Manchester, NH.
A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, writer and director Stephen Croke grew up in a large Irish-American family. He originally conceived the story as a Protestant/Catholic epic to take place in Belfast, but after deciding to base the work in his native Lowell, he chose an issue familiar on the streets of many a New England burb.
As Croke’s first film, it is an amazing achievement. Croke shows great promise, both in his film making skills and in his courage to present such a complicated issue with honesty and depth. Racism is an age-old story, yet his use of a young Irish American boy musician and an African American girl artist tromping through snowy New England woods makes it very, very fresh. The film abounds in memory-invoking imagery—conversations between boys during a hockey game on a frozen pond, a gleeful run through a frozen-over baseball field, a secret room paneled with cheap, walnut grain veneer, and the backroom view of a nighttime pub through steel keg barrels.
Seamus’s father is played by Liam O’Maonlai, lead singer of Irish band Hothouse Flowers. Many of the film’s other actors, however, are new to the screen—but surprisingly the acting is very understated. As a cynic who typically rolls her eyes at the shallow treatment that filmmakers typically give to musicians as characters, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Croke’s understanding of that sort of artist.
The film is complemented by a moving soundtrack under the supervision of Boston-based Irish singer/songwriter Katie McD. It includes music from Hothouse Flowers, The Push Stars, Kila, Luka Bloom, The Walls, Aine Minogue, Cormac Breatnach, Katie McD, Eric Saulnier, Paddy Saul, Nicky Sanders, ms. pigeon, and Marina Bousa. Solo fiddle throughout underscores the cold of winter and quiet tension that underscores the action.
Croke received his Master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications/Media from Fitchburg State College. His screenplay for The Busker was selected as a semi-finalist from over 5,000 scripts in the 2001 Academy of Motion Picture's Nicholl Fellowship Awards (oscars.com), “regarded as the nation's most prestigious competition for aspiring screenwriters.”
About the Boston Irish Film Festival
BIFF Productions originated as the Boston Irish Film Festival (BIFF), which was founded in 1999 by Jim Lane and Peter Flynn. Originally conceived of as a once-off film series, the festival became an annual event with Flynn as director. In 2003 BIFF expanded its operations to include the annual BIFF Awards to celebrate the work of outstanding filmmakers. That same year, Magners Irish Cider was invited to become the festival’s title sponsor and, in its 6th year, the Boston Irish Film Festival was renamed the Magners Irish Film Festival and became the largest event of its kind in the United States.
For more information, visit http://www.irishfilmfestival.com/BIFFAbout.htm.