The Festival De Cannes Short Film Corner is a side-stage that has long been stooped in scrutiny. While some have criticized the festival section as function as a mere brand attachment to an otherwise larger piece of the Western European puzzle, others will undoubtedly see not only its charm, but overall advantages for the independent voices bellowing through said program. The more radical minded filmmaker may not see the opportunity it bestows to those looking to market and directly establish their cinematic namesake. Friend and fellow filmmaker Eli Hayes returns for his fourth time this year, making the SFC somewhat of an annual event. Such allows the lucky entrants to explore all that is Cannes around their programmed works. This is especially helpful when that work in question is not just a short film on its own, but also a proof for much larger vision to be.

One such proof of concept would be the Aston Productions crafted short film, Deirdre. Directed by Jo Southwell, this Irish short presents a classic romantic archetype, but harbors a much darker tone than most consumers of the genre may be used to. Based on the Deirdre of the Sorrows folklore, the story here is deeply rooted in its setting’s cultural background. Going as far as to film within the tale’s native homeland, Southwell has sought out to obtain a truly authentic representation of what the feature-length version of what the renowned lore would encapsulate. Classic literature has been adapted to the screen for over a century now. However, the piece of writing in question has remained oddly devoid of cinematic counterparts. Knowing this is all to change soon enough is quite the positive notion. However – By what level of desire does the morsel demand a main course?

Southwell’s adaptation is a work that immediately takes up residency in the auditory nerve. A traditional Irish soundtrack quickly begins dancing around the visuals that come into play almost simultaneously. As the film’s opening quickly establishes the region in which the narrative calls its home, recognizable styles of dance and a prominent shade of green eliminate any alternatives otherwise. One thing this production scores points for is its modernization of a classic tale. Taking place in 1970’s Ireland as opposed to its Shakespearian time of origin is quite the interesting update. Introducing us to our two star-crossed lovers right off the bat, it’s revealed that a war of family clans are to instantly pull them apart. Containing aspects of both dark romance & even religious horror, the short teases just enough of what the end-all feature length version will indeed be capable of. Shot well enough within the confines of a simple environment, the short provides an abridged rendition of the very tale at play. However, with a script that delivers the cohesive narrative necessary, it easily works as its own self-contained version.

The performances all feel intensely authentic, with an impactful sense of dread looming over the  more antagonistic players. Southwell has directed them to the pinnacle of her vision, showing us just how well the next chapter in her line of cinematic endeavors will be handled. The music, though beautiful, may become somewhat of a subconscious nuisance to those less accustomed to blaring scores that run the majority of a runtime. Though I found it to be a bit distracting in the sense that it tends to compete with dialogue, it also made those few moments of silence all the more powerful. Something I hope to see(or hear, I should say)in the feature. Speaking of, its wonderful to know such is already underway, with development approaching that of a shooting schedule at a quickened pace. Having just played multiple screenings at and around Cannes, the modern consciousness will soon become much more accustomed to this lesser travelled literary classic. With Game of Thrones‘ Tara Fitzgerald already signed on to play the story’s role of Mary, things are looking nowhere but up for Southwell’s first full-length film.

“Working with an auteur, as is the case with Jo Southwell on Deirdre, is a gift… you have the possibility to get all the information you need for playing a character straight from the source – to be able learn of all their inspirations and desires. Why they behave the way they do. For me, Mary is a mighty and complex female role and she shares a relationship with her daughter that is ancient – as if from Greek mythology. Playing her I hope to unearth the truth of her damage, the softness or compassion that she has spent years trying to eradicate and to find that expression,” says actress Tara Fitzgerald.

All in all, a few questions will definitely plague the unread viewer of this short. That is easily remedied by time however. With Southwell’s continued production imminent, such – for the very most part – will no longer be the case. Considering this was practically a tech demo for an upcoming release, claiming the Beta version is off to a good start is an understatement to say the least. As a man with his celtic lineage dating back to the Irwin Clan of Ireland, my own personal interest is all there to see this film’s eventual success. Some actually say the Festival De Cannes Short Film Corner is not but a gimmick. But I say, if it’s used to establish our modern scribes, much like the one’s who wrote the very tale we spoke of in this adaptation, I say tradition shall always have a strong foothold alongside technicality.


Writer/Director: Jo Southwell

Runtime: 15 min(Festival Version)

Language: English


A Message From The Author

Dear Readers,

    I wanted to take a moment to honor the memory of a friend who has left us all too soon. On Saturday, May 20, 2017, a Mr. Christopher Payne passed away at the age of 45. Serving as set photographer for The Highway, I’m simply shocked at the sudden example of loss the San Diego film community has been dealt. Though I’d only known him for less than one year, I can easily admit to him being one of the nicest people I’d ever met & the first person who, in person, told me that my writing had effected people in a positive way. It is through people like him, people who encourage others in the field that this website shall march forward. My review for The Highway shall be dedicated in his honor, as will a good portion of this blog as a whole. Thank you Christopher. You’ve given my words validation I could’ve never conjured up myself. Rest in Peace my Friend.

Christopher Payne(on right)with The Highway Director, Susan Davis.

– The Spork Guy