CIFF 2019 Audience Talks Back

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A record number of filmgoers attended the 13th annual Capital Irish Film Festival last weekend at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. Almost 500 audience members gave us written feedback on their impressions of the Festival films.

The Drummer and The Keeper, Director Nick Kelly and Producer Kate McColgan, and I, Dolours, Director Maurice Sweeney and Producers Ed Moloney and Nuala Cunningham tied for Audience Favorite. Second in the voting for Audience Favorite was Lomax in Eirinn and the third was Float Like a Butterfly.

Click Image for trailer.

Among the 6 short films in that category, The Invention, Director Leo McGuigan and Producer Margaret McGoldrick, was the Audience Favorite. The second place among short films was Gra e Eagla (Love and Fear in Irish) and third place was Late Afternoon.

Click Image for trailer.

You can help your favorite films from the Festival find U.S. distribution by going to and rating them there.

Look for our bi-monthly Irish Popcorn! films throughout the year (“Keepers of the Flame” on May 6, 2019, at NYU DC campus 13 and L Sts. NW) and Save The Date for 14th annual CIFF 2020 at AFI, February 28, 29 and March 1, 2, 2020.

Docudrama "I, Dolours" grew from a series of interviews

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‘I, Dolours’ – The Backstory

By Ed Moloney

Ed Moloney will be interviewed by Niall Stanage, associate editor and White House columnist for The Hill, after the 5:45 p.m. showing of the film on Saturday, March 2, at the Capital Irish Film Festival.

The origins of this film on the life of the late Dolours Price – directed by Maurice Sweeney and produced by New Decade TV – lie in an interview that she gave to the Belfast daily, The Irish News in February 2010, in which she spoke, for the first time publicly, about her part in the saga of the IRA ‘disappeared’.

That interview set in motion a cascade of crises that culminated in an agreement between herself and myself in which she made a promise not to reveal any more about the ‘disappeared’. In return she would record her story on tape and video and it would not see daylight until she died. That way the truth could eventually be told without causing harm to herself.

The journey to that agreement was a long and complicated one, so for the purpose of brevity I will tell the story in bullet points:

  • For around three or four years I was the director of the Boston College Oral History Archive which was established in 2001 to collect and record interviews with participants in the Northern Ireland Troubles, primarily Republican and Loyalist activists;

  • I had been a journalist in Belfast until 2001, most recently for the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune. That year I moved to New York. In 2003, Penguin published my study of the IRA’s journey to the peace process, a book called ‘A Secret History of the IRA’;

  • Dolours Price was one of several former IRA members who I spoke to for the book. Amongst other things, she confirmed the existence and role of ‘the Unknowns’ and told me about the ‘disappeared’;

  • When the Boston archive was set up, Dolours Price agreed to give a series of interviews about her life and times in the Provisional IRA. Both myself and the researcher knew that she had been involved with ‘the Unknowns’ in taking people away to be ‘disappeared’;

  • Before the interviews began Dolours was given the opportunity to exclude subjects she did not wish to speak about at all or fully in her interviews, matters that she did not want her family to know about. She chose ‘the disappeared’ as one of those subjects.

  • In 2009, I was asked to write a book based upon interviews given to the archive by Brendan Hughes, a former Belfast commander of the IRA, a hunger striker and a onetime close friend of Gerry Adams. RTE and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland also accepted a proposal to make a documentary based on the book;

  • In late 2009 we approached Dolours Price in Belfast for an interview and she agreed. She and Brendan Hughes had been close comrades. Shortly afterwards I was contacted by a family member who told me that Dolours had been ill with PTSD. I was asked not to interview her and immediately agreed. There the matter would have ended but for events;

  • I have always believed that one event in particular pushed Dolours Price over the edge. In late 2009, the Belfast daily,The Irish News reported that the IRA had lied when it had admitted ’disappearing’ people during the Troubles. A list of victims prepared by the organisation, the paper reported, was incomplete. Missing was Joe Lynskey, the IRA’s chief of intelligence in Belfast and the first ‘disappeared’ victim to be driven across the Irish Border by Dolours Price;

  • Joe Lynskey was a friend of Dolours Price. He believed utterly in the IRA, believed he had been rightly sentenced to death and went willingly with Dolours across the Border. He could have escaped but didn’t. I think the reminder of all that disturbed her intensely and led to the next fateful step;

  • In February 2009, Dolours Price gave an interview about the ‘disappeared’ to The Irish News reporter who had broken the Lynskey story, but her family intervened with the editor to reduce the harm. I visited her in hospital that day only to learn that she had scheduled another interview, this time with The Guardian. Her family didn’t seem to know about this. I knew the journalist; he was good at his job. Nothing, it seemed, was going to stop her from telling her story to the world;

  • It was clear that a major effort would have to be made to stop her from a course that would be disastrous for her and her family;

  • So, I made the proposal that has led to this film. She could sit down and tell her story on tape and video; it would then be stored away until her death. Only then would the world hear what she had to say about that period – and I told her that if she predeceased me, and I was able, I would ensure that her story was told. She agreed;

  • Although subsequently she gave interviews to CBS and The Sunday Telegraph, Dolours Price never revealed publicly the full, untold story of the ‘disappeared’ which is disclosed in this documentary. She kept her word. And I have now kept mine;

The result is this film, ‘I, Dolours’.


Ed Moloney was Northern Editor of the Irish Times during the IRA hunger strikes of 1981 and

was Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune during the peace process years which saw the IRA

end its campaign and decommission its weaponry.

In 1999 he was voted Irish journalist of the year for his coverage of Northern Ireland at the time

of the Good Friday Agreement. He is the author of three major books on the Troubles: ‘Paisley -

From Demagogue to Democrat?’, an unauthorised biography of Ian Paisley; ‘A Secret History of

the IRA’, an account of the IRA’s journey to the Good Friday Agreement and ‘Voices From the

Grave’ - the story of two combatants, Brendan Hughes of the IRA and David Ervine of the UVF.

He is also co-producer of a documentary based on ‘Voices From the Grave’ that won the Irish

Film and Television Academy prize for best documentary of 2009; and of the film ‘I, Dolours’,

the life of IRA veteran Dolours Price. He is married with one son and lives in the Bronx, New

York where he moved to from Belfast in 2001.

Award-winning film “The Drummer and the Keeper” is Nick Kelly’s first feature.

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Writer/ director Nick Kelly will join Solas Nua and the American Film Festival at the opening of the 13th annual Capital Irish Film Festival.

Produced by Calico Pictures and inspired by Nick’s experiences as both a rock musician and the parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, his first feature The Drummer And The Keeper premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July 2017, where it won Best Irish First Feature.

After a successful Irish theatrical release it was selected for the BFI London Film Festival, and won Best Feature at the Irish Film Festival London in November 2017.

The Drummer And The Keeper was nominated in 5 categories at the 2018 IFTA Awards, including Best Screenplay for Nick’s script, with Jacob McCarthy winning the prestigious Rising Star for his portrayal of Christopher. Nick was one of three screenwriters nominated in the Best Feature Script section of the Irish Writer Guild’s annual ZeBBie awards 2018.

To date The Drummer And The Keeper has also won the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Best Foreign Film at the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Silver Award in the Score Bernhard Wicki Preis for Best Film at the Emden-Norderney International Filmfest, Best Feature at the Umbria Film Festival, the Special Jury Prize at Filmfest Bremen, Audience Award for Best Feature at the Eureociné Film Festival Nantes, and both the Audience Award and Young Jury Award at the Semaine Du Cineam Britannique in Bruz. Nick was awarded Best Director at the Breaking Down Barriers International Film Festival Moscow.

Nick Kelly began writing and directing award-winning short films in 2003, culminating in his third short Shoe being shortlisted for an Oscar nomination in 2011.

Having qualified as a solicitor and given up his legal career the same day, Nick’s working life has been devoted to creative endeavours. In addition to his work in film, he is a Clio-winning advertising creative, a Choice Music Prize-nominated musical artist and an Ian St. James Award-winning short fiction writer.

The festivals bringing the best of Irish films to a US audience


No need to rely solely on Netflix, these U.S.-based Irish film festivals are working to bring all the hottest new big-screen gems to an American audience.

IrishCentral readers are certainly film lovers and jump at the chance to stream the latest Irish hit but for many of you, there is access to great Irish movies on your own front door. Here, Pat Reilly of the Capital Irish Film Festival in D.C. explains how audiences even within Irish America differ from each other and how collaboration is key to bringing the best of Irish film stateside.

The Capital Irish and Chicago Irish Film Festivals met over a crisis.

I still had my training wheels on four years ago as director of the Capital Irish Film Festival (CIFF). Showtime was the first weekend of March, and right after a successful opening night, I heard from “the other CIFF,” the Chicago Irish Film Festival. The same weekend, same acronym, and not surprisingly, many of the same films. The one we had just opened with the night before in Silver Spring, MD, had not made it from Ireland to Chicago for their festival. I had the only copy this side of the Atlantic.

The American Film Institute Marquee used by the Capital Irish Film Festival.

The American Film Institute Marquee used by the Capital Irish Film Festival.

Chicago’s Jude Blackburn had almost two decades of experience running a film festival, but that couldn’t guarantee the Irish mail service. I overnighted my copy of the film, impressed that Chicago had an account with FedEx!

While we checked in frequently to track its progress, we promised to share a whine over a glass of wine when it was over. It turned out that would only happen in Galway several years hence. Along the way, though, we traded information, shared guests and compared audience tastes.

The Washington-area audience enjoys films exploring Irish history and culture and will turn out in large numbers for “political films,” or ones about church scandals. Chicago “has moved towards indie or edgier films like ‘The Survivalist’, ‘Traders’ and ‘Writing Home,’” says Blackburn.

Everybody loves films about music and musicians—like the comedic “Sing Street” or the 2018 documentary “Lomax in Éirinn.”

Chicago is renowned for its shorts programs, having screened over 700 shorts in 20 years. Capital Irish is proud to show this year’s Oscar-nominated short “Late Afternoon.”

And despite the Irish reputation for having fun, great comedies are hard to find and we hunt for them like snipes at a full moon and feel blessed when we get a good one for the festival. This year, the Capital-area CIFF opens with a dramedy “The Drummer and the Keeper” and a talkback with director Nick Kelly. We’ll celebrate with a reception hosted by The Embassy of Ireland.

The Capital’s CIFF has long enjoyed the support of Culture Ireland (CI), the Irish government ministry whose mission it is to support the spread of Irish culture worldwide. CI funds the travel of filmmakers to festivals, one of the favorite festival features for artists and audiences.

This year, we’re excited to have one of the busiest Irish actors around, Lalor Roddy, whose range has him acting on stage with the Lyric, the Abbey and the Royal Shakespeare and also playing the Catspaw Assassin in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” He stars in three of our festival films, “The Devil’s Doorway” (priest), “Don’t Leave Home” (priest again) and “Float Like a Butterfly” (traveler grandfather).

With a little bit of schedule jiggering, I can bring artists from Ireland to D.C. early in the weekend and then route them through Chicago by Sunday, and vice versa. Capital Irish has the help of Caddie Tours, a local travel company that makes artists’ flight arrangements pro bono. That acts like aspirin for organizers.

In recent years, thanks to the smashing box office success of Irish films like “The Favourite,” “Room,” “Brooklyn” and the phenomenal “Game of Thrones,” Irish films, filmmakers and actors are in high demand. Films go more quickly to international distributors or video on demand so that film festivals largely run by volunteers on sparse budgets rely heavily on the Irish Film Institute, the Arts Council and Screen Ireland to help us get the attention of filmmakers who are holding out for Sundance or, better yet, an Oscar nod.

My CIFF is part of a group in the Washington, D.C., area, Solas Nua (new light in Irish), a non-profit dedicated to multi-disciplinary contemporary Irish arts. As a member of the board of directors, I coordinate with a theater arts director, a visual arts director, a book club, a poetry series and a range of musical presentations from all over Ireland.

Blackburn and her board of directors are all about film and receive hundreds of films each and have a panel of reviewers to create a diverse program of films.

While Chicago has used the beautiful Logan and Gallery Theatres for years and now Theatre on the Lake, an incredible space for their opening night gala and screening, Capital Irish has partnered with the American Film Institute, which specializes in international film festivals and operates the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in suburban Silver Spring, MD. The partnership has brought us theaters, a spacious lobby for parties and a staff of film aficionados to help with everything. AFI’s massive art deco marquee can put Irish filmmakers’ names in lights for the run of their shows, which sends some first-time filmmakers into orbit.

If you are within reach of our festivals, why not come out and see some amazing films and meet the filmmakers before they get that Oscar nod. To see the full program and buy tickets go to Capital Irish Film Festival or Chicago Irish Film Festival