Guth Gafa Documentary Film Festival starts this week

By Brendan Callaghan

The tenth International Guth Gafa Festival will kick off tomorrow (Wednesday) in the resplendent surroundings of Headfort House in Kells, Co Meath.

For those of you unacquainted with this hidden gem of a festival, let us give you the low down.

Guth Gafa (meaning ‘captive voice’ as gealige) is an independently run documentary film festival now in its tenth year that offers an eclectic and eminently intriguing mix of new Irish and international films.

This year the festival will include a swathe of Irish premieres (it’s difficult to find a single inclusion in the programme that isn’t an Irish premiere) by documentary filmmakers hailing from all four corners of the globe including Georgia, Pakistan, Uruguay and Scandinavia.

The broad range of topics covered by these films ensures that there will be something of interest for everyone. A particular focus will be paid to films dealing with the recent refugee crisis which has blighted European and world affairs for the last two years.

One such title is the Swiss production Mahmud’s Escape – A Syrian Family Seeking Refuge which follows the journey of a former Syrian rebel, Mahmud who decides to escape the war-torn country with his young family. The film follows Mahmud from the trenches near Azaz to the centre for refugees in Switzerland.

Maahmud’s Escape promises to give a unique, intimate and emotional insight into a subject which has received exhaustive coverage in the mainstream media but which usually fails to effectively communicate the true experiences of the victims of the war.

In this sense the documentary has the potential to open our eyes once more to the true hardships endured by millions of refugees. The film screens at 4.15pm on Friday and is followed by a Q&A with director Andrea Pfalzgraf.

In addition to the large number of international titles, there are also a handful of Irish interest stories featured in the festival programme. The pick of the bunch looks to be a joint Austrian and Irish production called The Invisible Man.

This film tells the story of Donal Donnelly – a teenage political prisoner who escaped from Britain’s highest security prison on St. Stephen’s Day 1960 and spent 25 years on the run before receiving a royal pardon in 1986.

The film features Donnelly retracing the root of his escape 50 years later and even meeting some of the strangers who helped him at the time.

The Invisible Man plays at 6.15pm on Saturday and will also be followed by a Q&A with the directors.

Besides the many interesting documentaries on show there will also be some live entertainment in the collaborative form of Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu and Donegal percussionist Eamonn Cagney at 11pm on the Friday.

Also included in the programme are a number of discussions based around the art and process of documentary making and the effect that virtual reality technology might have on the practice of documentary making in the future.

On top of all these features is the kids section of the programme which ensures that there is something for all the family as this exciting, inventive and independent celebration of film-making makes it into its tenth year.              

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