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Elián and School Life Among Irish Documentaries at 2017 Sheffield Doc/Fest

9th Jun 2017

The 2017 Sheffield Doc/Fest begins today with Ross McDonnell and Tim Golden’s Elían and Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s School Life screening at the festival alongside four other Irish titles pitching in the MeetMarket.

Following its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, Elián recounts the story of a Cuban boy named Elián González who, on Thanksgiving Day in 1999, was found floating on an inner tube in the Florida Straits. Set to the backdrop of a tense and acrimonious relationship between the US and Cuba, the documentary gives unprecedented access to key players in the saga. As McDonnell and Golden showcase how that particular Thanksgiving Day set in motion a bitter custody battle between Elián’s Cuban father and US relatives, the documentary is underscored by a deeply moving personal and political commentary. Produced by Trevor Birney at Fine Point Films with funding from the IFB, Elián uses one boy’s remarkable journey to plot the path to rapprochement between Cuba and the US.

Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s School Life has already enjoyed major success on the international festival circuit over the last few months, having premiered at IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) in December 2016 and impressing the critics at the Sundance Film Festival in January, with one hailing it as “delicately executed in every department.” Telling the story of Headfort; the last remaining boarding school for primary age children in Ireland, School Life is set on a sprawling estate in Kells, Co. Meath.

Produced by David Rane at Soilsíu Films and financed by the IFB, BAI, RTE, TVE and Creative Europe, the documentary melds two seemingly incongruent worlds as the ultra-modern teaching of Headfort’s brilliant staff is set against the 18th century backdrop of the school’s grand reception rooms, long corridors and secret doors.

Irish docs that will feature in Sheffield’s MeetMarket include:

  • Feargal Ward’s The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid
  • Ollie Aslin’s Castro’s Spies
  • Nuala O’Connor’s Keepers of the Flame
  • Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia: Letizia Battaglia

Turlough Kelly’s The 4th Act, which examines the legacy of Ballymun’s 15-year regeneration project will also screen on the Doc/Player.

Sheffield Doc/Fest is the UK’s premier documentary festival, celebrating the art and business of documentary and all non-fiction storytelling. The 2017 festival takes place from 9 – 14 June and more information can be found here.

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