Rhod Sharp's Smallville: Little Star
It would have been called the Pauline complex if Napoleon hadn't got there first. Persuading an army of Frenchmen to march on Moscow looks like child's play after sweet-talking the great and the good of the British and Irish film industry into starting a film festival in a place that doesn't have a cinema.
The day it all kicked off the other weekend, the pace in the @ Your Leisure video and internet centre on Main Street in Schull, West Cork was frantic. Behind a black curtain, a knot of six and seven year olds sat with their mothers watching Googuri Googuri, an animated short film from Japan about a secret code between a girl and her grandmother. This year's festival co-chair Maurice Seezer stood in the shadows fielding producers' emails at a steaming laptop. People kept coming in and out asking for beer, unsurprisingly when the main sponsor was Corona.
The festival, now in its fourth year "was probably my idea" admitted Pauline Cotter, truthfully if immodestly. She learned how to speak out in the orphanage. Making a success of life at 4'3" takes buckets of determination. In the olden days of the early sixties, Catholic Ireland didn't look kindly on pregnancies among little people like Pauline's mother who was raped one night by a drunken Irishman of regular height and stunted soul. Consequently, mother and daughter were separated. Now she has a boy of her own.
When she opened the youth centre six years ago, she says she was fascinated by what teenagers did with their phones, and with the videos they made. Making it easier to translate this desire to encourage them into a fullblown film festival, the village's social hub is only two doors up.
Here in Hackett's pub, a darkly musical place, she bribed and cajoled some of the most talented blow-ins of Ireland to make it happen. The first to step up was Chris O'Dell, the cameraman who brought Morse, Lewis, Sharpe, Poirot and Hornblower to life. O'Dell laid the foundations for the crucial first year, reaching out to the Irish director Tony Barry (Strumpet City), the legendary David (Lord!) Puttnam, the film music composer Maurice Seezer (In the Name of the Father, Moulin Rouge) and his longtime collaborator Irish director Jim Sheridan (The Boxer). Soon they added Greg Dyke, who is Putnam's near neighbour down the road in Ballydehob, as patron.
"You were my boss", I say to Dyke. "A lot of people say that to me", he replies merrily. He still looks the same, younger if anything, than the day the whole BBC newsroom raucously dropped everything to applaud his career-shortening clash with Tony Blair over the David Kelly affair.
There was the year Schull, or the Fastnet Short Film Festival, to give its proper name, clashed with Cannes. So he chose Schull. "It's just weird and wacky. I wouldn't miss it." Before a Sunday interview session with Puttnam and fellow producer Sandy Lieberson (Performance, Jabberwocky), Dyke flew to London to see Barcelona and Manchester United at play in the final of the Champions' League.
Also this year, the kind of masterclass people pay thousands for. With O'Dell running camera, the director Jack Gold (The Naked Civil Servant) turned to Shakespeare (Macbeth, Act 1, scene 7) to describe how differently this intense scene between a horrifyingly ambitious wife and her reluctant king-killer of a husband can be played on stage and film.
All the while, 113 short films from film makers in 16 countries played on four days at nine different venues, excluding the peepshow at Pauline's, the bicycle theatre which makes the rounds of the village ("6 bikes, 12 legs, a 2000 Lumen projector and 150W audio system), and the horsebox in the car park where one lucky kid and a parent could sit in remarkable luxury.
Such abundance from adversity. The Irish economy stinks, of course, but it was a blow from the blind side when the creditors called time on the village's only hotel in December 2010. With five months to go, the main venue disappeared. So John D'Alton who runs Newman's bar, thought up the idea of stringing a gigabit ethernet cable along the street and the people at local ISP Digital Forge, cable box providers Iomega and others made it happen.
One lunchtime in Hackett's bar I tuned in "distributed cinema" on my phone, like watching a movie on a plane, but a lot more convivial. Still, 130 happy locals turned out in the village hall for a communal preview of The Runway, the Irish film going on UK release on June 10. It tells the true story of what happened when a Brazilian smuggler crash-landed his plane in Mallow, county Cork.
The village scenes were shot right here in Schull. The hall looks so much like a cinema it may as well be one, which is what, years after the last films were shown here, it's going to be again.
Up All Night presenter Rhod Sharp attended the Fastnet Short Film Festival while on holiday in Ireland last month. You can hear the full story on the programme on Thursday 9 June.