A surprise jewel-in-the-crown, the Galway Film Fleadh is one of those rare gem festival experiences. The logistics are simple enough. A six-day festival held in the sweet town of Galway on the northwest coast of Ireland, the Fleadh (ÒfestivalÓ in Gaelic) is a smallish festival with major league attendance. Due completely to the efforts of the festival team, including Festival Director Miriam Allen and her staff, the Festival attracts name industry players from both sides of the pond. Close in dates to Karlovy Vary, the Fleadh shares some major titles with the Czech festival and filmmakers take full advantage to attend both.

Known for its legendary hospitality, this is where the Fleadh sets itself apart from other festivals and entices those industry players back every year. Filmmakers receptions every night, industry guest dinners, late night festival cocktails (and by late night I mean if you go to bed before 5:00am you must not be feeling well, who cares if the sun came up at 4:00am?) and breakfast with fellow festival guests.

If you read my festival reviews often, youÕll know that feeding filmmakers is an important component of festival hospitality. The Fleadh does, with a daily lunch at the Rowing Club (also the home of the nightly filmmaker cocktails and film events). But itÕs not just food that makes a festival shine.

The Fleadh, quietly and without fanfare, has attracted some of the best co-production players from around Europe to the festival each year. In addition to the Film Fair, the Fleadh holds events to empower their filmmakers: The Real Deal, a Pitching Award, and Masterclasses. The high level of attendees gives the Irish filmmakers a leg up on understanding the global markets for their film projects.

The FleadhÕs programming team, headed by Felim Mac Dermott, cover the festival circuit to find strong films and can even be seen picking up one more film just weeks before the festival at Cannes. Audiences are strong, congregating around the screenings at the Town Hall most often. Attendance is high for all films, and certainly over the top for local and Irish films. A strong program of Irish shorts is well programmed as well (full disclosure here, IÕve been on the short film jury two years running), but of particular note has to be the Short Cuts series—five minute films made on a specific theme just in time to be world premiered at the festival. In 2009 the theme was musicals—and if you donÕt think a brilliant musical, loaded with big production numbers and plenty of song and dance routines, can happen in five minutes, think again.

The Fleadh is strong for three audiences: industry, film lovers and filmmakers. Industry will love the atmosphere and have the best working vacation imaginable, particularly if they take advantage of festival hospitality and travel outside the city to surrounding attractions. Film lovers, especially film loving tourists, will find the festival accommodating, well programmed and set in a fantastic local with world class restaurants (my favorite is NimmoÕs) and a brilliant music scene (in fact, filmmaker Michael Chang hosts many a festival guests when he and his mates plays traditional Irish music at the nearby pubs).  Filmmakers will love packed audiences, proximity of industry and the legendary Irish warmth.


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