The Young Offenders
TORONTO IRISH FILM FESTIVAL 2017 from Friday (March 3) to Sunday (March 6) at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). See listings for showtimes. Rating: NNNN
This year’s Toronto Irish Film Festival, which kicks off today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and runs through Sunday (March 5), is much the same as the previous six festivals, in that the content is very Irish and very satisfying.
Opening with the world premiere of Puck Of The Irish (Friday, 8 pm), a documentary about Irish immigrants’ influence on the development of Canadian hockey, the festival rolls through the weekend with a short-film showcase (Saturday, 7 pm), an Irish animation showcase (Sunday, 3 pm) and a couple of features.
The Flag flies high at this weekend's festival.
The Flag (Saturday, 4 pm) is a broad comedy about an out-of-work builder (Pat Shortt, whom you may recognize from Lenny Abrahamson’s Garage or John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary) who enlists some pals in a half-baked scheme to liberate an Irish heirloom from English custody in time for the centennial of the 1916 uprising.
The Young Offenders (Saturday, 9:15 pm), which screened at TIFF Next Wave last month, is also a caper picture, sort of, following a pair of self-styled rebels as they cycle through County Cork looking for a bale of cocaine. Alex Murphy and Chris Walley are entirely watchable as the two leads, and director Peter Foott finds a loose, rambling tone that suits their chemistry.
Remarkable documentary How To Defuse A Bomb is TIRFF's finest this year.
But the best of the fest has to be this year’s closer, How To Defuse A Bomb (Sunday March 5, 8 pm), a documentary about Project Children, an outreach program that offered kids from Dublin and Belfast a six-week summer vacation in the United States.
The plan – conceived in 1975 by Denis Mulcahy of the NYPD bomb squad and a few friends – was to mix Catholic and Protestant children together and letting them see each other as individuals rather than the faceless enemies they were being taught to hate at home.
It worked very well indeed: some 23,000 kids benefited from the program over the decades, and director Des Henderson crafts a very convincing argument that it was – however unwittingly – the first step in bringing lasting peace to Northern Ireland.
That sounds like a news report rather than a documentary, but How To Defuse A Bomb builds emotional momentum as the stories accumulate. The work of Project Children radiates through the decades in the friendships it spurred and the attitudes it changed, and in the film’s last third Henderson knits his various narrative threads together for a truly stirring finale. The world is demonstrably a better place for the efforts of Mulcahy and his compatriots, and the proof of this is so wonderfully moving to see.
Tickets are available at the box office or at the festival’s website. Don’t miss out.