Opening night took place on Friday 6th June in the Savoy Cinema. The night was orientated around Hollywood’s Golden Year of 1939, which saw classic films like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ hit the big screen for the first time. It was also the year that Ford’s ‘Stagecoach’ was released, the film which not only revived the western as a significant movie genre but also launched the career of its lead, John Wayne.
‘Stagecoach’ was brought to the big screen again that night, with special guests Marisa Wayne (the daughter of John Wayne), Dan Ford (the grandson of John Ford) and Scott Eyman (author of ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’) introducing the film. Marisa Wayne said that her father loved Ireland and expressed awe at how “it’s amazing that he has been gone 35 years and that he still has the popularity internationally that he has.”
Another highlight of the first day of the Symposium was a sold out Directing Masterclass with Ben Wheatley. The Masterclass, supported by Screen Training Ireland and hosted by writer/director Ian Power was attended by up and coming writers, directors and producers from across the industry. Wheatley, whose films include ‘Kill List’, ‘Sightseers’, ‘A Field in England’ and the upcoming ‘High Rise’, which will be filmed in Belfast this summer, shared his expertise as a creator, director, writer, editor and producer of feature films, viral ads, commercials and shorts.
Wheatley also participated in the Director’s Hub (which formed part of the Industry Hub, presented in association with the Irish Film Board) alongside Whit Stillman, Kieron J Walsh, Ken Girotti and Neasa Hardiman, who chaired the discussion. The directors presented clips from their favourite Ford films and engaged in a heated debate over Ford’s continued influence on contemporary films. The Industry Hub also included the Producer’s Panel, with guests Laura Hastings Smith, (Macbeth, Hunger) Andrew Reid (Northern Ireland Screen), James Flynn (Calvary, Vikings), Sue Bruce Smith (Film Four) , Alan Moloney (Byzantium, Albert Nobbs) and chair David Collins (Sampson Films) discussing the challenges of making independent films in the UK and Ireland today. Both panels took place in the Gresham Hotel on the Saturday of the symposium, as did an ‘Adapted by John Ford’ panel made up of Irish and UK Academics Liam Burke, Ian Hunter, Charles Barr And Tony Tracey and a presentation by film critic Edward Buscombe on John Ford and the significance of ‘Stagecoach’ to the western genre.
One of the special guests at the John Ford 2014 Symposium was biographer Scott Eyman. Eyman wrote ‘Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford’ and on Saturday afternoon, he attended a book signing event at Eason’s for his latest work, ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’. Later that day, he took part in what proved to be a very popular conversation event with Tara Brady from the Irish Times. Eyman discussed his new book as well as the life and career of the beloved actor John Wayne in general.
The 7th of June also saw a number of screenings of Ford favourites such as ‘My Darling Clementine’ and ‘The Searchers’, both shown in the Savoy on O’Connell Street along with a special FREE outdoor screening of ‘The Quiet Man’ at Meeting House Square, which Ford filmed in Mayo and Galway and starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
The final day of the event, Sunday 8th of June, saw a poignant presentation dedicated to honouring John Ford’s involvement in World War II in association with Collins Barracks, a screening of Ford’s Academy Award-winning documentary ‘The Battle of Midway’ was presented along with a lecture from Lar Joye, the Curator of Military History Collections, and a discussion with Dan Ford on his grandfather’s involvement in the war. Free guided tours at the National Museum of Ireland’s Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition took place in the afternoon and the symposium closed with a screening of ‘The Were Expendable’, John Ford’s tribute film to the United States Navy.