2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program I


Diverting from the other short films in this program at the 2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival, “Blackbird” leans to the existential and experimental.  The abstract feel and weighty themes are in place to knock one’s socks off.  However, in an ironic fashion, this is a short film that feels too short.

In “Blackbird,” a man (Steve Gunn) is running on a rural road to nowhere (filmed in the shrubby grasslands of the Wicklow Mountains of southeast Ireland).  Nameless in the film, he’s 41 years old, dressed in a suit, and doesn’t remember how he got there.  He encounters a female artist (Susan Loughnane) on the roadside sketching away with charcoal and approaches her to talk.  The last thing the man remembers a party and the woman seems to know the same details, but how could she?  

Director John White and writers Caroline Grace-Cassidy and Ciara Gereghty have struck on a poignant mood and artfully composed topic with “Blackbird.”  Its narrative scenario begs for deeper interpretation and the cinematic creativity is there from Emmet Hare’s distressed cinematography.  However, there’s not enough present to heat that interest into a larger temperature of fervor.  

“Blackbird” is missing that next story point to push what stands as a very good start and attention getter.  The bare bones minimalism is purposeful, but too sparse and too incomplete.  If this film had five more minutes, its moment and consequences would hit even harder.

LESSON #1: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS-- Seeking answers is all about asking the right questions.  Be wise, open, and interpretive, especially when you are confused.  See Lesson #2.

LESSON #2: IS THERE SOMETHING OR IS THERE NOTHING?-- To reveal where this film is asking about something or nothing would give too much away.   Again, think existential.  Watch further and let your theories build.