One week back from Ireland, and what was playing at the Cinematheque in Santa Monica? The Irish Film Festival. I couldn’t escape from the Irish. The whole nation was following me and whispering, Jan, Jan, don’t forget about us.
By the way, The Irish Film Festival is kind of old news as it happened nearly three weeks ago, but I like this post, so I’m posting. After this, I’m most definitely back in LA-LA land (Go Dodgers!).
I went to the Irish Film Festival on two nights. The first night, I went to see Gabriel Byrne: Stories from Home, a documentary about the actor, Gabriel Byrne, who was at the screening to take questions from the audience afterwards. As I walked into the theatre, I heard Gabriel Byrne exclaim, It’s a comedy, my life is a comedy.
The film starts with his actor biography printed up on the screen just in case we didn’t know who Gabriel Byrne was. We then see Gabriel Byrne walking around New York. He looked like himself but also very much the average New Yorker.
When I went into see the film, I figured Gabriel Byrne: Stories from Home would be about Gabriel Byrne walking and talking with family and friends in Ireland, or the family and friends will be telling him all their stories while Gabriel Byrne listens in his brooding listening kind of way. After all, isn’t home that place where you were born, grew up, and can always go back to even if you just can’t stay?
Instead, in Stories from Home, we watch Gabriel Byrne wander around New York, Dublin, and Toronto and camp out in a hotel room in Los Angeles. We see home movies from both his private and professional worlds. We see him address us directly on a range of topics from acting to drinking to depression to fatherhood. But where was the home?
When I thought about the film the next day, I realized that Stories from Home was a good title. On the surface, Gabriel Byrne might seem to be a wandering carnival player with no home. However, when I thought about it some more, I saw that he carries his home inside him. It might seem like a lot to carry around New York, Dublin, and Toronto, but he shows us by example and through story, that it is not a burden. We all carry around the home of the self, and it’s lighter than we might think. This home of the self keeps us grounded in all the roles we play in our lives---as parent, professional, artist, nice guy. I never thought an actor would teach me something.
The second night I went, I saw a double feature of a narrative film called Kisses and a documentary about Irish surfing called Waveriders.
Kisses is a sweet story about two kids who run away from a housing estate to Dublin. When they get to Dublin with some money in their pockets, they go shopping and buy those sneakers with the wheels in the heel. The rest of the movie glides as they glide through Dubin streets at night. It all ends well, and after the film was over, I felt remarkably good. Yeah, that was a nice film.
When I was in Ireland, I met some Irish guys who surfed off the west coast of Ireland, so I was really excited to see Waveriders, which was also the highest grossing documentary ever in Ireland and the UK. Even though there were Irish surfers in the film, most of the film seemed to focus on Irish American surfers going over to Ireland and ooooohing at the awesome waves. Where were all the Irish guys? Maybe they didn’t want to give up their prime spots.
Still, there’s a ride that Kelly Slater does that is so epic and beautiful that everyone in the audience cheered. I wanted the projectionist to run that bit again. Whoah, dude! It’s like whoah.