The trip from downtown Baton Rouge to Dublin may be far — 4,300 miles, to be exact — but you can get a bit closer to the European island during this weekend's Irish Film Festival.
The 10th annual event begins at 7 p.m. Friday with the Wee Irish Film Night, which features more than 10 short films. On Saturday, free and ticketed screenings run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. All festival shenanigans will take place at Manship Theatre.
Co-chair Laura McDavitt said the festival's anniversary is an achievement. She cited the event's annual growth and ability to show big and small films as just two reasons for the Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival's successful run so far.
"I'm proud of this," McDavitt said. "Some film festivals don't make it this long. This type of event is niche for Baton Rouge, but more and more people find out about it. Each year, they can't wait to see it."
The festival has grown from its humble beginnings as members-only movie nights. Along the way, the festival has added an evening full of short film screenings and regionally premiered hit films, including two collaborations between writer/director John Michael McDonagh and actor Brendan Gleeson — "The Guard" and "Calvary."
Last year, the festival screened the 2016 political drama "The Journey," a film starring Colm Meaney that was on the festival's wish list but film organizers didn't think they would get.
"The studio wanted to distribute it a certain way, but we were able to show it," McDavitt said. "We keep track of what movies we pick, and what gets chosen in bigger markets like Boston and Chicago. Little old Baton Rouge was able to get some of those movies first."
Saturday's feature film slate begins with a free screening of the 1959 Disney film "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" and wraps with a ticketed screening of the 2017 nonclassical Irish comedy "Halal for Beginners." In between is a prison-break crime drama ("Maze"), a docudrama loosely based on an Irish singer's life ("Song of Granite"), a family drama ("Zoo") and an award-winning buddy drama ("The Drummer and the Keeper").
Co-chair Aaron Bayham said the festival's reach has grown, allowing for more specialized films to join the fun.
"We've gotten better at developing relationships with producers and distributors, and we have access to more unique content than when we first started," Bayham said. "The first few years, it was (Baton Rouge Irish Club) members watching some Irish films they all enjoyed and knew. Now, as we go on, we are getting access to more unique content that you can't just watch on Netflix."
Outside of the feature films, submissions for Friday night's Wee Irish Film Night also continue to increase.
"Once we opened submissions and allowed Irish filmmakers to enter, we had a wealth of content submitted to us for consideration," Bayham said. "Now, we're getting some international attention from filmmakers who want their films shown. Just the wealth of content that comes out of Ireland, it's good stuff that wouldn't otherwise be seen."
Resulting from the festival's work is a budding friendship between Ireland and Baton Rouge. Just five years ago, the festival created the O'Kalem Award, an audience choice award for best short film. McDavitt said the award is well-thought of in the Emerald Isle.
"It's not your typical award. It's a unique creation we came up with here that combines the two cultures," she said.
After this weekend's festivities, McDavitt and a group will travel to Ireland to hand-deliver the O'Kalem Award to the winning director at the Irish Film Institute. The delivery is a festival first, and it's key to growing that relationship between the two cultures.
"With the presentation, the institute will also show some Louisiana films," Bayham said. "It will be a mini-Louisiana cultural exchange. We want to continue to develop relationships there. We want to have more harmony between Baton Rouge and Ireland, working together through film."
McDavitt agreed, and she takes pride in the festival's ability to expose audiences to a different set of films.
"We've been constantly developing this event, and our team has been consistently good at putting this festival together," she said.
She does still have one dream for a future event.
"If we got Colm Meaney to introduce a film … he could even just make an appearance and say, 'Hey guys, it's me' … that would be the best."
FILM FEST SCHEDULE
Wee Irish Film Night includes two blocks of screenings of judged short films. Screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. with an intermission at 8:35 p.m. featuring music and food. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The first block of short films includes "Departure," "Man to Man," "Thespish," "Shellshock," "Gustav" and "The Wedding Speech."
The second block of short films features "I am Jesus," "Throwline," "Strangers in the Park," "The Timekeeper" and "The Family Way."
10 a.m.: Free screening of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People"
11:40 a.m.: Irish dancing from Muggivan School of Irish Dance
Noon: Bagpiper, welcome
12:05 p.m.: Screening of "Zoo"
1:45 p.m.: Music from Ordóg and food from Splendid Baton Rouge
2:30 p.m.: Screening of "Maze"
4:05 p.m.: Intermission
4:20 p.m.: Free screenings of the short film "It's a Long Way from St. John's" and the docudrama "Song of Granite"
6:05 p.m.: Music from Ordóg and food from Splendid Baton Rouge
6:50 p.m.: Screening of "The Drummer and the Keeper"
8:25 p.m.: Intermission with Champagne and desserts
8:40 p.m.: Screening of "Halal for Beginners"
10:15 p.m.: Event ends with after-party at The King Bar & Bistro, located inside Hotel Indigo, 200 Convention St.
BATON ROUGE IRISH FILM FESTIVAL
WHEN: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge
COST: $8.50 on Friday, and $8.50 per film screening on Saturday