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Cinegael Buffalo Film Festival

The seventh edition of this program dedicated to Irish films takes place this Friday at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The day begins at 3pm with The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy, a documentary about the last surviving member of the popular singing group the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. (Since the making of the film, Liam has also died.) For the most part filmed sitting alone on a darkened stage, Clancy looks back on a life that began in 1935 (“born with one foot in the Middle Ages”) and took him to undreamt of fame in the US when he and his brothers rode the wave of the folk music boom. Bringing authentic Irish music, which he calls the “people’s history,” to Irish Americans raised on the sentimental mush of Bing Crosby, he has a lot to say about their intersection with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Leisurely but evocative, with lots of period footage, Alan Gilsenan’s film makes a strong case for an overlooked music.

The Boy from Mercury is a nostalgic memory of life in Ireland in the late 1950s, seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who copes with the loss of his father by imagining himself to be an alien visitor. (He’s inspired by the science fiction movies he sees at the local theater.) Featuring such renowned actors as Rita Tushingham and Tom Courtney, this lovely 1996 film has been little seen since, though it deserves a place along side My Life as a Dog in the realm of films about childhood. It plays at 5:15pm.

At 7pm, the hour-long documentary Cinegael Paradiso—Once Upon a Time in Connemara charts the history of the Gaelic film industry from the vantage point of the movie theater where filmmaker Robert Quinn grew up in the 1970s. The day concludes at 8:15pm with The Secret of Kells, a surprise (but deserved) nominee for Best Animated Film at this year’s Academy Awards. Set in a medieval monastery where a boy is fascinated by the illustrated manuscripts produced by the monks, the primarily hand-drawn film is designed as if it were one of those ornate, much-labored manuscripts.

All four films are suitable for family viewing. Admission is free and open to the public.

—m. faust

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