Film Festival promises much more than movies this year
By emily beck cogburn
Special to FUN
November 26, 2012
This year’s Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival will offer a lot more than just films.
Organized by the Baton Rouge Irish Club, the film festival is in its fourth year. Perhaps someone found the luck ’o the Irish because this year has brought new and exciting opportunities, according to vice president, co-chair of the film festival and self-proclaimed “chief cook and bottle washer,” Laura Davitt.
One lucky break was discovering the work of local artist William Eldredge. “I saw it and said, ‘That’s from the Book of Kells.’ He said, ‘How did you know that?’” Davitt said.
The ancient Irish illuminated manuscript has survived fire, flood and age thanks to monks who preserved and copied it, Davitt said.
Eldredge’s work uses images from the Book of Kells as well as other ancient Celtic manuscripts.
“This all came out of a hobby. Basically, it’s overactive coloring,” Eldredge said.
The art combines Eldredge’s interests in detailed coloring and Celtic lore.
“These guys were really drawing in three dimensions. It’s heavily geometric, is the best way I can describe it,” he said.
Patience and a steady hand is required. Eldredge enjoys the high level of concentration and controlled breathing that the work demands.
“It’s meditation. I think those guys who copied the manuscripts would have been aware of that. These images are as precise as if they were made on a computer,” he said.
Eldredge has never seen the images in their original colors. “I just color them how I see them,” he said.
Eldredge’s art will be featured at the festival along with one of only 1,800 facsimiles of the Book of Kells.
“There are actually two in Baton Rouge. One is owned by the Southern University Library and the other by a local collector,” Davitt said.
Ray LePine agreed to display his copy during the festival as a tie-in with the screening of the animated movie, The Secret of the Kells.
The Oscar-nominated movie is a fantastical story about a young man who is enlisted by a master illuminator to help finish the ancient manuscript.
“Fans of animation will really like this film,” Davitt said.
Another featured film, Hard Times, will have its American debut at the festival.
“We’re going to have a champagne reception after Hard Times and do the whole red carpet thing,” Davitt said.
Plans are in the works to bring two of the actors from the film to the festival, she said.
A film about the life of Liam Clancy, a member of the Irish band, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken, will also be shown. The Yellow Bittern explores how the excesses of rock and roll spilled over into folk music during its rise in the 1960s.
Daniel O’Flaherty, who knows both the Clancy and the Maken families will perform before the film.
“I remember hearing the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken on the radio in 1962 or ’63. They had big hits in America and it made us feel good. When I lost my place in New Orleans during Katrina, the Clancy and Maken families came to my rescue. I have great respect for them,” he said.
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken were the Beatles of Irish music, taking folk music to the world stage, O’Flaherty said.
“They elevated our music and Ireland. They made people want to go to Ireland. And others like me followed in their footsteps.”
Though he hasn’t seen The Yellow Bittern, he lived it, O’Flaherty said.
“I’m a product of the ’60s and the accomplishments of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. I’m trying to pass on the torch,” he said.
Folk music is the music of the people and tells the history of all of us, not just the Irish, O’Flaherty said. It is music that deserves respect and more attention that it gets these days, he added.
Another new event at this year’s festival is an appearance by the McTeggart Irish Dancers of Louisiana. Located in Kenner, the studio has 40 dancers and performs for many different kinds of events including the Celtic festival, past president Bob Van Den Akker said.
The group will host a special performance as well as a workshop and demonstration on Irish step dancing. Students from local dance studios will be invited on stage to join the dancers. The film Jig also will be shown.
“Jig shows the amount of work that is necessary to compete in Irish dance at the higher levels,” Van Den Akker said. “It also shows the one-of-a-kind dresses and wigs and so on. The costumes are very elaborate.”
During competitions, dancers are judged on overall appearance, including large, curly wigs that highlight their movements, Van Den Akker said.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to show people what Irish step dancing is all about,” he said.