Here is the Cinema Without Borders interview with Joan Burney Keatings, the Chief Executive of the Cinemagic International Film and Television Festival. Joan previously worked at BBC Northern Ireland in event management and public relations, and has been with Cinemagic since 2001.
Bijan Tehrani: Can you tell us the story of how Cinemagic started?
Joan Burney Keating: Cinemagic has been going for twenty years in Northern Ireland. This year we will be celebrating our twentieth anniversary, which is why we are now extending into the U.S.; specifically New York and Los Angeles. Our agreement is to educate and motivate young people through film and television exhibitions and workshops. When we come to the U.S.A, we will be specifically focusing on Irish films for children. We would like to show the cultural differences and similarities between the two countries and to give young people who have possibly never viewed Northern Irish cinema access to these films.
BT: You said that this event has been going on in Ireland; Has it branched into any other countries?
JBK: It’s been going for twenty years in Belfast, three years in Dublin and we have also delivered events in the UK.
BT: How has Cinemagic been received over the years?
JBK: This event has been very well received internationally, which is why we screen over 150 different foreign films every year and the festival receives hundreds of competition submissions from all around the world.
BT: What are the different categories that you have in the festival?
JBK: We have International Features, Family Favorites, Foreign Language, Animation and Documentaries, and more. So we have a great mix of films for ages 4-25
BT: Please tell us about your U.S. program.
JBK: We open on Thursday the 25th of February, when we will have an opening ceremony at the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel where I will be speaking and doing a presentation on Cinemagic. Then on Friday morning, we will begin delivering workshops with the Sesame Workshop, involving the producers behind Sesame Street in New York. On Friday afternoon we will be in the Bronx screening a film that has recently been shot here in Northern Ireland called A Shine of Rainbows that has won numerous awards. We have the producer and the director coming to speak to the students in the Bronx about the film. Then on Saturday the 27th we have the actor Edward Burns hosting an acting class at a community college in the Bronx where he will discuss his acting career and give insight to the young people who are interested in becoming actors. Then in the Irish Art Center we will have a screening of Hotel Rwanda and also a Q & A with the director Terry George. We will then move to Los Angeles where we will open on Monday, March 1st in the REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater); we have a special day of screenings for young people with films that have been shot in Ireland such as Micky, Bo& Me and Waveriders. Young people from Los Angeles will come to give their opinions on the films and of course we will have directors coming in. Then on Monday night we will have a special U.S. screening of The Race where we will have the writer and producer present. On March 2nd we will have workshops at the Jim Henson Company, where we will put on workshops for young people and show them how the studio works. Then on Wednesday the 3rd of March, we will be in Hamilton High School and we will have screenings for young people who have never seen Irish films. We will also have acting classes with Jason Connery and a filmmaking workshop coupled with a casting workshop. Then on Thursday, March 4th we will be in another school for the arts in downtown Los Angeles where Patrick Bergin will teach an acting class as well as a scriptwriting workshop with Ryan Rowe. So as you can see it is an action packed week but it is also very educational and culturally fulfilling.
BT: How effective is this event in terms of discovering, training and introducing new young filmmakers?
JBK: We want to inspire young people, help them understand the filmmaking process, and to break down the barriers and explore the industry themselves.
BT: Will this be a yearly event happening in the states?
JBK: Yes, we are hoping to make Cinemagic into an annual event, but we will see how everything goes in the coming weeks.
BT: Please tell us a little bit about your own background and your involvement with Cinemagic.
JBK: I have been involved with Cinemagic for nine years, the concept of the US Cinemagic events was an idea which I thought of six months after I gave birth to a baby girl. I went to New York and Los Angeles to see if there were people who wanted to get involved and I was very humbled by the amount of people that were willing to help and get involved, so that I suppose was the start of things and more and more people came on board. So I hope that everything goes well in the coming weeks and we really hope that this can become an annual event.