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Monday, September 01, 2014

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'The Runway' is light-hearted St. Patrick's Day fare

Published 10:11 am, Monday, March 17, 2014
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When a plane crashes near Drumoleen in rural County Cork in 1983, 9-year-old Paco Thomas (Jamie Kierans) is the first to spot the pilot. Battered, bruised Ernesto Cordoba (renowned Mexican actor Demian Bichir, Oscar-nominated for "A Better Life") is a Colombian who speaks no English.

Since Paco's single mother (Kerry Condon) told him that his father lives in Spain, Paco has been listening to Spanish-language tapes. Because of his smattering knowledge of the language, Paco becomes Ernesto's official translator to the villagers who are soon convinced -- by highly imaginative Paco -- that the mysterious, Cuban cigar-smoking pilot who dropped out of the sky is some kind of a heroic celebrity, related to Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. So they not only offer to rebuild Ernesto's Martin B26 Marauder but also construct a tarmac runway so it can take off.

Before the recession, Drumoleen was the double-glazing capital and its workers are experienced in sheet-metal fabricating, electronics and engineering. But when a seedy Colombian detective appears, threatening to reveal a dark secret about Ernesto, the town begins to question whom they can trust.

Inspired by actual events involving a Mexican pilot who made an emergency landing in Mallow, debuting Irish writer/director Ian Power has created a genuinely uplifting, heartwarming story about a boy yearning for a father, a man wanting a family and unemployed townspeople needing a task to get them out of a communal depression.

This light-hearted, almost-true tale won the audience award for Best Irish Feature at Galway Film Fleadh -- and for good reason. It's adventurous, engaging and charming, particularly for those who love Irish cinema.