The beauty of Dublin took me by surprise. Like many, my only previous experience of this energetic city was a stag night many years ago - a booze fuelled descent focussed more on being VERY, VERY MALE than on taking in the city.
Through more sober eyes, Dublin is a refreshing surprise, an antidote to London's green but sometimes terse attitude. The Liffey, the river running through Dublin, affords endless waterside strolls; the people are fantastically warm, exuding a powerful confidence. More than anything, the place just feels alive. Buoyed up by Dublin's buzz, I headed to the screening.
When the film started, I was stunned by how good it looked. Almost every film I make sits on the Internet - so seeing it blown up to cinema size was amazing; the Sony EX1 is a fine camera indeed. I was a bit nervous about the audio (I did it myself in Final Cut Pro - no Pro Tools or sound engineers) but it came blasting out of the speakers just fine. Sitting in the dark, surrounded by other humans, watching the journey I'd created, was simply magical: up on that massive screen, Bret danced, Biondo played, Claire mused... They were alive.
Now, you'd think being in an Irish pub with five wonderfully charming Dublin women would have been the best way to end the night. In fairness, it does rank pretty high on the 'great nights out-o-meter' but the best was yet to come. While leaving the Cobblestone pub, an older fella grabbed my arm as I went past; naturally mild alarm bells started ringing but his smile spoke only of warmth, 'You're the one who made that film about normality, right?'
'Well, we saw yer film and have been talking about it all night!'
At this point, I realised the man was with another four younger folk, his kids, all nodding vigorously. Maybe it was the excitement from the night, the beer or being in the midst of an all-female entourage but that was a real life highlight. More than anything, I want my work to reach people, to affect that generic, wildly varied thing we refer to as 'the public'. Dreams came easily that night, a moronic grin plastered across my face.
It's hard to avoid cliche here, but judging is hard - out of the 80 or so films, it was easy to select around 20 that were 'good'. But we needed to shortlist five. Five! In the end, alongside the others in the panel, weeks and months of other peoples' work becomes a considered 'yes' or 'no' until we have, at last, the merry winners.
This year, the two stand out films were the Periodic Table Table, a wonderfully quirky, self-explanatory film and a wonderful animated short called, Slow Derek. Both just nailed the essence of the festival: fun, inspiring, entertaining.
A different judging session focussed on the films made by a collaboration called Science Expression, in which UCD Research and film students from The National Film School, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology brought filmmakers and scientists together to make new films inspired by science. All the films shone but one, Invisible, was a corker and, I'm pleased to say, the other judges agreed.
After the screening of the five films, myself and the other judges sat before a full cinema to discuss the role of film in science communication, a subject met with great enthusiasm from the crowd and sci-comm crowd who'd taken a moment away from ESOF to join us.
I'll leave it to Alexis Gambis to talk about the festival in more depth below, but for me this festival is a miracle of curation (not a sentence I ever thought I'd use). From the roving Google Cinema to an eclectic night of electronically enhanced music, from documentaries to sci-fi, from animation to feature films. Even James Watson showed up for a screening of Life Story and Q&A! This festival simply hits every note perfectly. It's not about didactic filmmaking, educational films and worthy 'learning', it's all about storytelling and inspiring, it's all about science being an integral part of the story.
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A cinematic highlight was Al and Al's film about Alan Turing (see trailer below), a bit of a hero of mine, called The Creator. A fusion of CG, live action, poetry and abstract sic-fi, it's a mind-blowing experience and, quite rightly, is attracting oodles of attention.
At the end of the festival, brain fizzing with inspiration, I grabbed the festival's founder, (one very tired) Alexis, for an impromptu interview via the magic of the iPhone...