A FESTIVAL dedicated to Hollywood icon Richard Harris could become an annual fixture on Limerick’s cultural calendar.
The inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival doubled up as a gathering for up to 20 members of the Harris family, many of whom had flown in from around the world to be in the screen legend’s home town for the weekend.
Among them were Harris’ eldest son Damian, a film and TV director, who had jetted in from Los Angeles, and Damian’s daughter Ella, who arrived from London.
Messages of support from Harris’ other sons - actors Jared and Jamie - were read out at Friday night’s gala opening at 69 O’Connell Street (formerly the Belltable), which included a screening of Pat Shortt’s Life’s A Breeze.
“We had a full house with about 20 of the Harris family and of course the Limerick literati was out in force as well. It was fantastic with red carpet - really glitzy. We all went down to Curragower bar afterwards and had a great night. We were all thrilled to have Damian and Ella there and to get wishes from Jamie and Jared,” said Eleanor McSherry, creative director of the festival.
Among the movies shown was This Sporting Life, for which the promising young Limerick actor was Oscar nominated all of 50 years ago.
Journalist Joe Jackson said the kitchen sink drama about a rugby league player, while not a commercial success, was a defining role and “one of only five of his own movies the actor rated highly” in his twilight years. Jackson has 30 hours of Harris on tape which he hopes to make into a series of radio documentaries to coincide with Limerick City of Culture 2014.
“It (This Sporting Life) was a huge critical success and he applied himself to it like he had never applied himself to anything previously and like he wouldn’t again for a long time. He poured his soul into it, his rugby-loving soul, his battling self and all his torment into it,” Mr Jackson said.
Mayor Kathleen Leddin, meanwhile, said it was “shameful” that a figure as significant as Harris, who was celebrated overseas, wasn’t feted more in his home city. “I want to congratulate the organisers of the festival and I hope it turns out to be the start of something very big for Limerick,” said the mayor.