The IFI Documentary Festival Roundtable Podcast

L-R Paul Webster, Peter Kilmartin, Nodlag Houlihan

 

Ahead of the 2019 IFI Documentary Festival (25-29 September) Gemma Creagh talks to three filmmakers whose films feature in the Shorts Programme, which takes place on the 28th September. Nodlag Houlihan (Reality Baby ), Paul Webster (The Vasectomy Doctor ) and Peter Kilmartin (Sunny Side Up) join Gemma to talk about their films and what it takes to put together a documentary.

Reality Baby (Nodlag Houlihan)

A group of friends are given lifelike baby dolls to care for over twenty four hours, but how will they rise to the challenges of teenage motherhood?

The Vasectomy Doctor (Paul Webster)

Dr Andrew Rynne was the first doctor to perform vasectomies in Ireland, estimating that he has performed over 35,000. Persevering in the face of opposition from the Church and State in Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s, Dr Rynne continued to challenge the laws governing sexuality, eventually forcing the government to change policy.

Sunny Side Up (Peter Kilmartin)

 

Peter Pringle and Sunny Jacobs both served years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. After being exonerated, what are the chances they both met and fell in love?

The 2019 IFI Documentary Festival Shorts Programme takes place on Saturday, 28th September 2019 at 13.30

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Filmmakers’ Bios

Nodlag Houlihan is an Irish film director, producer and writer. Her short documentary Reality Baby premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and won Best Documentary at the Fastnet Film Festival 2019. She is the writer and producer of the RTE series My Trans Life (2018), nominated for the prestigious Prix Europa and the MIPCOM Diversity Award. She produced the feature documentary Broken Song and a number of Screen Ireland funded short films which have played at festivals around the world and won many prizes. Nodlag also teaches filmmaking at the School of Creative Arts, Trinity College Dublin and has facilitated numerous film projects for young people. She is currently working on The Francis St Photographer, an hour-long documentary for RTE about the work of Dublin photographer John Walsh.

www.zuccafilms.ie

Paul Webster is an award-winning producer, writer and director. He is a graduate of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and the MA program in Production and Direction at the John Huston School of Film and Media in Galway.  He went on to work in production for Element Pictures and later as a script editor on Fair City, he is now a regular writer on the popular soap. Paul was the winner of the Físín Pitching Award at the Dingle International Film Festival 2012 from which his film Stuama received its funding. He directed the drama which won Best Irish Film at The Cork Underground Film Festival 2013. Let Those Blues InPaul’s documentary about Irish Blues musician, Paddy Smith, was the winner of Best Short Documentary in association with RTE at The Sky Road Film Festival, Clifden, Co. Galway. He was one of the filmmakers chosen by Science Foundation Ireland and The Galway Film Centre as part of their Science On Screen documentary scheme. Written and directed by Paul, Mending Legends goes behind the scenes of Irish sport to explore the unseen drama caused by injuries for our top athletes. It screened on Tg4 in Autumn 2017 and was the third most-watched independent production for that year. Paul co-directed Borderland, a 26-minute documentary exploring the refugee crisis along Europe’s Borders. Under the 2018 Real Shorts scheme, Paul received €20,000 from the Irish Film Board for his docu-drama The Vasectomy Doctor, produced by Carbonated Comet Productions. The film premiered at the Cork Film Festival in November 2018 and went on to win the Audience Award for Best Short at the Dingle International Film Festival 2019, Best Short Film at The Still Voices Short Film Festival and Best Short Documentary at The Louth Film Festival.

Peter Kilmartin is from the Wild Wild West of county Roscommon in Ireland and is a recent graduate from the National Film School of Ireland . He has an avid interest in documentary filmmaking, alongside this he also runs his own successful award winning production company, Spicy Dog Media. This year he directed his debut short The Sunny Side Up, a short documentary about two exonerated prisoners finding love, hope and acceptance in each other.

www.facebook.com/spicydogmedia

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Bruno

Seán Crosson takes in Karl Golden’s Bruno, which follows an Irish homeless man who has drifted into a life on the streets of London.

Homelessness has been among the most prominent social challenges in recent years in Ireland, an issue the current administration has singularly failed to respond to effectively with the number of people classified as homeless crossing the 10,000 mark in recent months. This topic has already been addressed in Irish cinema, including Darragh Byrne’s Parked (2011) and more recently Paddy Breathnach’s and Roddy Doyle’s damning indictment of Irish society and the government’s response to homelessness, Rosie (2018). Karl Golden’s Bruno provides a further development to this theme by focusing on an Irish homeless man living in London, a city to which tens of thousands of Irish people have emigrated (with a considerable number there also ending on the streets). In his post screening Q&A, Golden talked about the background to Bruno as being inspired from his time living in London and encountering homeless people. The production provides a fictionalised and imaginative exploration of what might have happened in the life of one individual he witnessed to lead to their homelessness, as told through the story of Daniel, the central protagonist, brilliantly played by Diarmaid Murtagh.

We encounter Daniel first living with his dog Bruno in a garage lock-up from which he is evicted shortly thereafter. While seeking other accommodation, he witnesses a group of men trashing a local playground, with which we discover later he has a traumatic connection. When Daniel intervenes, he suffers a severe beating and ends up in hospital, losing his dog Bruno along the way. When he returns to the playground in an attempt to find Bruno, he encounters a young run-away boy called Izzy sleeping there. When Izzy insists on following Daniel around the city and helping him find Bruno, Daniel is forced to come to terms with a horrific moment of personal loss in his life. 

Woody Norman as Izzy provides the heart of the film and Norman’s revelatory and complex performance belies his young years – he was only nine when the film was shot. Izzy offers a focus for Daniel in coming to terms with his own deep trauma and eventually a way to reconnect with society and his family. 

The film is impressively shot by Jalaludin Trautmann, whose mostly handheld cinematography perfectly complements Daniel’s inner turmoil. As one audience member at the Galway premiere remarked, London, in all its greyness and glory, has rarely been captured as effectively on film. Golden reflected on the filming process following the Galway screening and described the process as almost guerrilla in nature – given the shoe-string budget available and the lack of permissions for some sequences (shot clandestinely).  

Bruno is marked often by a lack of dialogue or communication; indeed Daniel hardly speaks throughout the entire film (until forced to do so), but yet in his gait and expression he communicates a deeper trauma, only revealed much later in the work. While homelessness may be prominently featured here, Bruno is above all a moving and sensitively told excavation of personal loss.

Seán Crosson

Bruno screened 12th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

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People on Sunday with Live Musical Accompaniment

Black and white still from People on Sunday film showing two women in bathing suits having a picnic.

Film \ People on Sunday

26 SEPTEMBER 18.00 – 19.15

Location
Shaw Room
Admission

There will be a special screening of the silent film People on Sunday (1930) at the National Gallery of Ireland, with live musical accompaniment, in the Shaw Room.

Matthew Nolan (guitar and electronics) and Rachel Grimes (piano and electronics), with guest Mary Barnecutt (cello), bring a new, original live score to this cinematic paean to the last days of Weimar Germany.

Filmed on location in Berlin, using a cast of amateurs in roles based on their actual day jobs, the film sustains a lyrical tranquility as people swim, listen to music, flirt, and generally enjoy their time away from the daily grind. People on Sunday  was an unassuming but groundbreaking response to the big-budget films being produced by UFA at the time, and boasted a crew of young German cineastes who would later become major filmmakers in Hollywood: Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann and Billy Wilder.

Presented by Note Productions, one of Ireland’s leading promoters of new and contemporary music, in co-operation with the Goethe-Institut Irland.

“The new musical score to People on Sunday is based on a creative response to that which we don’t see. This compositional strategy allows us to echo those internal psychological and narrative meanings behind and beyond the images. For us, there is a haunting duality to Siodmak and Ulmer’s vision of 30s Berlin, and the new score reflects this sense of social or even political turbulence. Ultimately, our aim is to offer the viewer another way of seeing the movie apart from the surface view.” – Matthew Nolan and Rachel Grimes

Part of the programme of events supporting the exhibition Bauhaus 100: The Print Portfolios. See a full list of all Bauhaus-related events at the Gallery here

 

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Irish Film Review: Naked

 

June Butler takes a look at Naked, Edward Kennedy’s film which documents the collaboration between Irish artist Róisín Cunningham and three life models. The film explores the relationship between sexuality and creativity, the similarities and differences between the male gaze and the female gaze, and body image.

If a group of people were questioned about what would constitute their worst nightmare, standing naked in front of total strangers for hours at a time while those same viewers stare and scrutinise every line of your body must rank at the top of the scale. For three models, this is their daily job – for one model, it is her sole means of income.  

The promotion line for Naked is touted as a ‘life modelling film about life’ narrating the story of three young life models who pose for artists. Director Edward Kennedy has beautifully rendered a most imaginative take on life models who tell their stories – provoking the same questions of each as they are asked the reasons behind embarking on such a career. Two female models and one male model are interviewed individually and it is fascinating to hear how they arrive at the same conclusion albeit using different language. All insist the initial stages were daunting but all equally maintain the ultimate payoff was worth the risk. 

Model Kate Dunne explains once the threshold of fear was crossed, the idea of posing naked was no longer fraught with difficulties. Dunne is emphatic in her new-found sense of empowerment and observes being in such a position has lent increased meaning to her life. The narrator asks of Dunne whether she agrees with the statement that to be naked is to be oneself but to be nude is to be seen naked by others yet not recognised for oneself. Artist Roisin Cunningham, queries of Dunne which she prefers – to be naked for the camera or to be nude for the artist’s drawing. Dunne states she would prefer to be neither but feels in the setting she is both. Dunne brings her own sense of impartiality to the scene – Dunne senses she is an object yet is at peace with this depiction of her body. When Kate is asked if the feeling of being unclothed is one of sensuousness, she is unequivocal in her assertion that it is not but goes on to say that when looking at a naked body, the viewer can either take sexuality from that body or project sexuality onto it.  

Izabella Linuza confesses to being fundamentally shy and claims that entering into the world of life modelling was her key to finding inner stability and peacefulness. Linuza exudes an air of contentedness and it is patent to see she is confident with her choice of metier particularly when artists, in some cases, can be standing as close as one metre away. There is a sense of Linuza accepting she is on a journey but pausing at this stage of emboldening, intent on continuing her travels when the need is sated. Izabella reveals when she is modelling, she can feel slightly numb, distanced from the activity but concludes this experience brings with it serenity and tranquillity – away from the bustle of day-to-day living.  

The only male model of the three is Dylan Jon Matthews and for the most part he emanates a different energy. He discusses the male gaze versus the female one and agrees the female gaze is slowly coming to the fore. Matthews claims the male gaze is more overt whereas that of the female is somewhat hidden. However, Matthews feels this is changing and agrees with the evolutionary process. Dylan is the most extravert of the three – cheekily he suggests everyone should be naked all the time. He feels this is liberating but states it was not always the case. When Matthews first started life modelling, he did so because a friend challenged him to do something that took him out of his comfort zone. Life modelling fitted the bill and Matthews has never looked back. 

Director Edward Kennedy has directed a wonderfully, enlightened documentary. Instead of stopping and starting the narrative, he provides a seamless continuum between watching the life models pose, witnessing the artist (and narrator) sketch, and hearing the testimonies of the three life models themselves. William R. Keane rounds off a most evocative and beautiful rendering with an imaginative and well-placed musical score. In all, Naked is just exquisite and truly worth watching. It is what a documentary should look like when it has grown up.  

 

Naked is available to rent or buy on

 

The distributor for Naked is Journeyman Pictures.
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Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman, Co-Directors/Co-Writers of ‘Extra Ordinary’

In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman, Co-Directors/Co-Writers of Extra Ordinary, a supernatural comedy which tells the story of Rose, a sweet and lonely small town driving instructor who must use her supernatural ‘talent’ to save the daughter of a local man from a washed up rock-star looking to use her in a satanic pact that will reignite his fame.

Mike & Enda discuss things that go bump in the night, getting the project from script to screen, and working with Maeve Higgins, Will Forte, Barry Ward and Terri Chandler. They also talk about their early days in IADT and experimenting on mini-VHS tape, making music videos, ads, the influences behind their work and being practical with visual effects .

Extra Ordinary is released in Irish cinemas 13th September

 

 

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Irish Film Review: Extra Ordinary

DIR: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman • WRI: Mike Ahern, Demian Fox, Maeve Higgins, Enda Loughman DOP: James Mather • ED: Gavin Buckley • DES: Joe Fallover • PRO: Ailish Bracken, Yvonne Donohoe, Katie Holly, Mary McCarthy • MUS: George Brennan • CAST: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte

That rare beast, the funny, Irish, comedy feature film is back again in the form of Extra Ordinary, which follows the supernatural adventures of Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins), a psychic paranormal expert, who tries to pursue the ordinary life as a driving instructor since having inadvertently caused her father’s death many years before when the two of them tried to save a dog from a haunted pothole. You know how these things go.

But the ordinary life is not to be; local widower Martin Martin (Barry Ward) reaches out for help with his abusive dead spouse who won’t move on to the afterlife. Though Rose initially refuses to help him, his second call for help with his levitating, comatose daughter is one she feels she can’t refuse and sure she fancies Martin anyway. What they don’t know is that these coma/levitation shenanigans are the result of satanic dabblings by the local, evil, failed rock star, Christian Winter. Yes, Christian Winter not Chris De Burgh. He plans to sacrifice the virginal girl to Ostrogoth and revive his failed music career; as you do.

Directors Enda Loughman and Mike Ahern have created their own satanic alliance, ignoring the sacred rules of co-directing by not being siblings and it has paid off quite nicely with this clever, funny little film.  With a matter-of-fact attitude, blending the ordinary and banal with cheap shocks and fantastic absurdity, Extra Ordinary builds its humour gently before finally reaching hysterical proportions in its final scenes.

Holding these elements together are a superb cast, playing fun characters, who are as enjoyable in the more down-to-earth scenes before the supernatural shenanigans really kick in. Maeve Higgins’ central performance holds things together quite nicely with her innocent, yet mischievous, Rose Dooley but she is well aided by brilliant performances from all those involved, including some American fella, Will Forte, looking to make it big on the Emerald Isle.

A highly enjoyable romp for children of all ages, except for maybe the squeamish ones under ten.

Paul Farren

94′ 13″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Extra Ordinary is released 13th September 2019

Extra Ordinary – Official Website

 

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Review of Irish Film at The Dublin Feminist Film Festival 2019: Shorts Programme 

 

The Dublin Feminist Film Festival has established firm roots on Dublin’s cultural calendar, shining a spotlight on women in film. It promotes and celebrates female filmmakers, hoping to inspire and empower others to get involved in filmmaking.

Irene Falvey went along to this year’s Shorts Programme.

On Thursday, 22nd August, the Dublin Feminist Film Festival showcased an impressive and varied collection of short films, all made by female directors. 

The Beekeeper (2019) Ireland (6.29)
Dir. Robyn Conroy

As the only animation feature in the programme, The Beekeeper stood out as the most visually arresting of the shorts. Set in a bamboo forest, the landscape feels blissfully detached from the world. In a short timeframe, The Beekeeper manages to create a bond between the two characters – a young girl called Mae and the bear that protects her; their attachment to each other is undeniable. They live in harmony together, nourishing themselves on honey. Disaster strikes when Mae discovers where this food source comes from, a bee sting attack forces the bear to return Mae to her place amongst her own kind. This short film evokes equal parts sadness and sweetness; the joy and simplicity of their connection and the sadness of their true incompatibility.    

Moon Rabbit (2018) Japan (14.25)
Dir. Kae Ho

Moon Rabbit tells the story of 7-year-old Rio as she returns to Japan with her recently separated Japanese mother Seiko and her older brother. Clearly these kids have grown up in America and this trip launches them back into their Japanese heritage, comically highlighted when their cousin tactlessly proclaims how foreign they look. While the film does deal with cultural differences, many other ideas are threaded throughout; themes such as innocence, the stories we tell ourselves and secrecy all feature. The film takes place principally in Seiko’s parent’s house. This domestic setting is used to effectively illustrate the main motif – what goes on behind closed doors.  While this family unit is closely contained in a physical sense within this house, behind closed doors they can easily block each other out. The children are dismissed as Seiko closes the door and confides in her mother about the breakdown of her marriage. Rio’s older brother and her cousin shut the door so that they don’t have to play with her. This barrier that is created by closed doors is lifted when Seiko enters the bathroom where an upset Rio has shut herself in. The privacy that a closed door provides fades and secrecy falls away. This is an insightful film about the secrets we keep and the stories we need to tell ourselves. 

 

Tra na mban / Ladies Beach (2019) Mexico (6.36)
Dir. Carmen Garcia Gonzalez

This short documentary provides an insightful glimpse into the lives of women that brave the chilly depths of the Irish sea every day. Several of the women that meet regularly are interviewed; explaining honestly why they do this and the effect it has on their lives. In particular Martell speaks of the way this ritual has transformed how she feels about herself and how she carries out her life. We get the sense that we are being let in on a great secret to life; the women are infectious in their enthusiasm. What is interesting about this documentary is that it shows a way that these women have carved out an inclusive and supportive community. It is a practise built on bravery and self-respect. 

 

Driving Lessons (2019) Iran (12.48) Winner Best International film
Dir. Marziyeh Riahi

Driving Lessons focuses on an Iranian woman taking driving lessons; it is illegal for her to be alone with her instructor meaning that her traditional and misogynistic husband must tow along for the ride. The film is shot solely in the instructor’s car, taking place over a couple of days of lessons. This keeps the action contained in one place, meaning that the tensions between the two men eventually boil over and erupt. The husband constantly interrupts, is bossy, controlling and makes a lot of chauvinistic statements that sting. However, a twist arrives when we see that perhaps the young instructor is actually worse – he won’t sign his wife’s travel papers preventing her from visiting her sick father. Both the husband’s behaviour and the instructor’s refusal of his wife’s demands demonstrate that even as women in the Middle East are given more rights (driving) progress is still slow. Our female protagonist’s lack of speech throughout the entire feature re-affirms her powerless position. 

 

Clay Project (2017) Ireland (4.50)
Dir. Kathy Raftery

This film examines the work of artist Vanessa Donoso López.  We are brought to a sun-soaked and sleepy part of Spain, bursting with nature and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. What stands out about this feature, is the fact that it examines the artists approach and ideas/inspiration rooted in her work rather than the outcome. Instead we get a glimpse into the how and the why of a piece of art. The artist makes her art from clay, the camera shows her going through the manual process of turning earth into this material. This means that her art is very much connected to the place it was created. Seeing how this art is made gives us a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation for the artistic process. 

 

Early Days (2018) UK (12.00) Winner Best Film
Dir. Nessa Wrafter

This film highlights the more troubling and traumatic aspects of welcoming a newborn into the world. It examines the internal emotional conflict of becoming a mother. We get a window into Kate’s world as she struggles through the first few trying days. Flashback sequences reveal that it was a painful birth, blood and hospital scenes subvert the typically joyous portrayal of welcoming new life. This film effectively shows the realities that make this transition alienating from the self; shown through Kate examining her inflated post-birth stomach. She feels distaste for her body and estrangement from it when there is no longer life growing inside it. Excluding flashbacks, all of the film takes place within Kate and her partner’s home, creating a sense of entrapment. The only glimpses of the outside world we see comes from Kate looking outside the window and spotting her eccentric and colourfully dressed elderly female neighbour. In the end this woman provides Kate with some solace, concluding the film on a hopeful note. 

 

Mother (2018) Ireland (9.24) Runner-up for best film
Dir. Natasha Waugh

Mother is a bizarrely comical and cleverly creative film. It deals with all the insecurities that a mother may face; depicting all the things she must do to please her family.  The film examines one mother’s attempts to go about caring for her family and husband until she is replaced by a fridge! The fridge can cook better, is more entertaining, can do French plaits and is better in bed. This bizarre and wacky feature is laugh-out-loud funny and smart; making us hope to see more from this director in the near future. 

 

The Shorts Programme took place 22nd August 2019 as part of the Dublin Feminist Film Festival (22—24 August) 

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Review: It Chapter Two

DIR: Andy Muschietti • WRI: Gary Dauberman • DOP: Checco Varese • ED: Jason Ballantine • DES: Paul D. Austerberry • PRO: Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Barbara Muschietti • MUS: Benjamin Wallfisch • CAST: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader

There is nothing quite like reading a Stephen King novel. King is a master of his craft; no one on this planet can inject tension into words like King. The acclaimed author’s books have sold over 350 million copies to date. Without his novels, the world of film would be without classics. It’s easy to forget that masterpieces such as The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Shining, Stand by Me and The Green Mile all stemmed from the pages of King’s novels.  Notice anything about those films? They all came before the 21st century. Film adaptations of King’s novels from 2000 onwards were almost entirely missed; hands up if you’ve seen Dreamcatcher or Hearts in Atlantis? Out of nowhere in 2017 It arrived.  Not only was the horror a revival; for King’s work on the big screen, but it was one of the finest horrors of the decade. Combining the heart of Stand by Me with a cannibalistic clown was the perfect formula that no one could have predicted. From there, King’s work began to get justice on the big screen; Gerald’s Game, 1922 and Pet Sematary have continued the author’s hot streak. It Chapter Two arrives with a huge task on each shoulder. On one shoulder it’s faced with the task of keeping the reputation of the novel alive. On the other, the film must deliver a worthy sequel to one of the finest coming-of-age films you’ll ever see. 

It Chapter Two continues the story of The Losers Club as they deal with the trauma that comes with being terrorised by a sadistic clown (Bill Skarsgård). Whereas most sequels would follow up directly on from the events of the previous films, like the book and TV movie, the second part of the film takes place 27 years later.  Over the course of those 27 years, The Losers Club have gone their separate ways. Bill (James McAvoy) is a struggling screenwriter who can’t find the perfect ending for his film a la Stephen King. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is suffering from emotional and physical abuse from her husband. Richie (Bill Hader) has progressed from making fun of his friends as a kid to making fun of his audience as a stand-up comedian. Ben (Jay Ryan) is a successful businessman who still reminisces about what could have been. Eddie (James Ransone) has taken his irrational fears in his stride by becoming a risk assessor. Stanley (Andy Bean) is the loser who has been affected the most by their childhood trauma.  All but one of the losers have moved on with their lives. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has spent his adulthood investigating the mythology of Pennywise. Following a brutal homophobic attack that finds the victim seeking help from Pennywise, Mike realises that it’s time to get the gang back together to put an end to Pennywise’s reign of terror.

From a horror perspective, there are lots for fans of the genre to take from the film. This is a big-budgeted horror flick that doesn’t shy away from being bloody. Any sequence that involves Pennywise stalking a victim is guaranteed to unleash fear into its audiences. What makes these sequences special is that the build-up to Pennywise’s kills are as terrifying as the actual murders he commits. Bill Skarsgård manages to sell Pennywise’s negotiation methods in a way where you don’t feel that any of the victims are being idiotic. A magnificent funfair sequence allows Skarsgård to run wild with the horrific nature of his character.

With Pennywise, Skarsgård has arguably outdone Tim Curry and created a horror icon who belongs on the top of any best villain lists. A scene that hints at Pennywise’s origin delivers an image that will be embedded in the minds of the audience for weeks to come. Skarsgård deserves plaudits for turning Pennywise into a character who justifies the need to be dealt with for two films. It’s easy to forget that the second part of the original TV special is shambolic. Thanks to Bill Skarsgård, It Chapter Two is a worthy successor to the 2017 film.

It Chapter Two is perfectly cast from top to bottom. It’s hard to think of another sequel that has to replace its entire cast. It’s hard enough for directors to cast characters that fit a role in the first place. When you have to cast actors that must deliver performances that match the flawless performances from the first film, odds are you’re going to end up with a dud of a film. It Chapter Two pulls off an impossible task with ease through its impeccable casting. Every single one of the adult losers feels authentic. While their story may not be as strong as the one their child versions got to star in, each actor delivers the goods. James McAvoy is as reliable as ever as Bill. Even when McAvoy is in a bad movie, looking at you Dark Phoenix and Glass, the Scotsman always delivers the goods. One of the highlights of the film is his relationship with a young child who reminds him of Georgie.

Jessica Chastain as Beverly is unfortunately underused. Instead of investigating the psychology of a woman who has suffered from immense trauma the film opts to throw her into an unnecessary love triangle. When Beverly is given something to do Chastain nails the character. Beverly’s meeting with a suspicious old lady is the scariest scene in a film in recent memory. Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben in It Chapter One was the most sympathetic character in the film. Seeing him dismissed by everyone due to his weight was heartbreaking. Jay Ryan as the adult iteration of Ben certainly feels like the same heart is in him, but the film chooses to ignore his characteristics and focus on his looks. A large portion of the film is wasted by pitting Bill, Beverly, and Ben into an unnecessary love triangle. When there is a killer clown on the loose it’s probably a good idea to put your rivalry on standby. 

When scholars look upon genius moments in film history in a thousand years their heads will turn to the direction of It Chapter Two. Casting Bill Hader and James Ransone was a stroke of magic by Andy Muschietti. In the lead up to the release of the film much has been said of Bill Hader’s performance as Richie. It’s a pleasure to say that all the hype surrounding Hader’s performance is more than justified. Hader is electric as Richie. Every joke he delivers lands effortlessly, all the more impressive when you consider just how many of them there are. Casual Hader fans who know him from the likes of Superbad and Trainwreck will be floored by the raw emotion he brings to the film. James Ransone who plays Eddie may not give as dramatic performance as Hader, but it can’t be underplayed how perfect he is as the germaphobe. Ransone’s facial expressions capture every single fear that his character is feeling. Actors often fail to sell the fear their character possess, yet one look into Ransone’s eyes will showcase how terrified his character is. Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer use their minimal screentime to move each of their character arcs forward to the point where the adult actors can make the audience sob in the final act. Wolfhard and Grazer are both proving on a regular basis that they are going to be stars. With any luck they will be as gifted as Bill Hader and James Ransone. 

With a runtime that falls just under the three-hour mark, It Chapter Two gives director Andy Muschietti free reign to leave his audience with goosebumps. With only three films under his belt Muschietti is relatively a newcomer to directing. Saying that, he is proving himself to be a future master of his craft. Instead of following the recent trend of over-relying on jumpscares. Muschetti is interested in creating monsters that will haunt the dreams of both young and old. Even though Pennywise is the main monster of the film, there are plenty of other creations that are unnerving. As mentioned earlier a scene involving Beverly meeting an old lady is chilling. This is down to Muschetti installing subtlety into his direction. Not every scare needs to be big and in front of the camera. Sometimes the scariest things are the images you capture in the background. The film falls short is justifying its lengthy runtime. The overuse of flashbacks to the original cast is the film’s biggest flaw. Instead of focusing on what happened after the events of the first film, the flashbacks show sequences that happened during the timeframe of the film but were never mentioned previously. It ends up feeling like deleted scenes from the previous film were installed just to capitalise on the talent of the younger cast. While it’s nice to see them again it feels like filler for the sake of filler.

It Chapter Two is written solely by Gary Dauberman, both Chase Palmer and Cary Joji Fukunaga failed to return. Losing two of the three writers of the first film messes with the flow of the sequel. Dauberman has to create compelling dialogue for a cast that has doubled since the first film. It’s a task too big for anyone and as a result the dialogue of the film doesn’t flow as naturally as the first. Moments of humour where they should never be stick out like a sore thumb. One scene that is meant to be scary installs an odd musical cue that will have the audience thinking of Deadpool 2 instead of what’s on the screen. 

It Chapter 2 is a miracle. While it just falls short of the heights of the first film, this sequel manages to spin a record amount of plates in a china shop without breaking anything. To replace your entire cast, terrify your audience and come up with a satisfying ending is miraculous. In a world that is filled with mediocre horror film after mediocre horror film, it’s therapeutic to watch a big-budgeted horror film that takes risks. Andy Muschietti is a name you need to familiarise yourself with quick. This is a director who does not want to follow the norm. In an age where it’s becoming harder and harder to find directors who make every movie their own. Muschietti is here to show the world that horror is a genre that deserves to be respected. No risk is too big for Muschietti. After all he did just manage to make six-hours of compelling content that revolves around an evil clown. 

Liam De Brún

169′ 11″
16 (see IFCO for details)

It Chapter Two  is released 6th September 2019

It Chapter Two– Official Website

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Stephen Clarke Dunne: Director/Co-Writer of Thank You Come Again

Director/Co-Writer Stephen Clarke Dunne takes us behind the curtain of  his drama comedy day-in-the-life type story with a mosaic of seemingly unrelated characters centred around an adult shop.

After a purchase is returned to the shop for a refund, it is revealed that the box contains something of far more importance than just a toy.

It was a crisp autumn day in February 2014, John Sweeney and I were on the way through town to shoot a scene for his show-reel when we happened to pass a pokey little adult shop. In the midst of discussing ideas for future films, we immediately turned to each other and said; wouldn’t it be absolutely hilarious to set a comedy inside one of those shops?

Later that evening, we were messaging each other from around 7pm till 2am in the morning continuously with ideas for the story and characters. We came up with all the story and characters in that several hour burst of creativity.

Over the next couple of months, we finished the full script and did a number of re-drafts with a view to doing the impossible and shooting a feature film without a budget.

We got a production team together over the summer of ’14 and managed to raise a meagre budget of €5k with thanks to credit cards. The production team agreed to work unpaid with the budget being used for insurance, catering, production design and some equipment (whatever equipment we couldn’t borrow – mainly hard-drives).

During the autumn we held auditions – it was hilarious meeting the actors and have them read the characters lines, so much so that myself and the casting director had bouts of laughter so hard that we couldn’t speak for several minutes!. It was amazing, but we actually managed to find an actor that suited each role absolutely perfectly, so much so that you would think that the roles were written just for them.

Once the actors were cast we set the shooting schedule for October and upon completion of the first day of principal photography, the second worst thing that can happen to a film production happened – we lost our main location. The shop that we had booked to shoot for the next several weekends announced that they were closing down within a week. The production shut down.

Everyone was immensely disappointed that the production had shut down, but many of the cast came back to say that they would love to continue to be attached to the project if it was to still go ahead. One cast member in particular, the late Steve Harris, gave me great morale support to try and give the film another go; these things happen and you have to just keep going, and “keep her lit” is what he said to me.

I managed to get my head together, and co-writer / lead actor John Sweeney and I had another go at tweaking the script as we felt this was an opportunity to make the ending stronger and tie in some random characters into the ending. We got a new production team on-board and contacted the cast to see if everyone was still available, and still interested – which almost everyone was to our delight. To overcome the hurdle of losing the location for the first production we decided to attempt to build a set in order to give us the freedom to shoot at times that suited us instead of having to work around a real shop’s opening hours.

We managed to source an old tyre shop just three weeks before the shoot, and in the absence of securing a production designer I had to step up to the plate and also fill the shoes of a production designer. I spent three long, hard weeks with my dad building the set, my fingers literally bled from the hard work that went in to it. We borrowed a lot of the props – it’s amazing what some people keep under their beds and down the back of their wardrobes! and we also bought a few bits of stock to try and fill the shelves. On the first day of principle photography, in order to get the shop ready, we painted and moved props around to get the shop looking good right up until the cameras started rolling. As the lights flicked on, and the last drop of paint dried, another calamity occurred – the electricity went out. After a quick scan of all the building work, we were relieved to find out that a nail must have pinched a wire, and the lights went back on. Finally we were rolling on our feature film – again!

Even with our own shop set, the shoot still proved a major challenge as we had a lot of actors schedules to work around, especially with everyone being unpaid we had to make concessions with people’s availability. After three exhausting long weeks we finally wrapped on all the shop scenes, and the police station location – we were able to use a room downstairs in our tyre shop as an ‘interrogation cell’. This brought the film to around 60% completion – we still had another several locations to get through, including a church, beach, bar, lounge, house, etc. The plan was to pick up at least one location every couple of weekends over the coming weeks to finish the film, this would give us the time to try and scrimp save and organise the loan of equipment to get the film over the line. Also, most people were now only available over weekends.

Sadly, these next weeks would prove to be the most difficult yet for the production, and it ended up taking over a year to finish all the remaining scenes. Initially, it proved very difficult to get people available for their remaining scenes, and then more difficulties piled on top of that: a cast member had to cancel at the last minute to attend the funeral of a good friend, another location was badly damaged in a fire. Then the very worst thing that could ever possibly happen midway through a production happened. I was shocked to hear that my good friend and cast member Steve Harris had been involved in a tragic accident with his brother, Alan, during June 2015. Alan lost his life in a workplace accident. Steve put his life on the line to try and rescue his brother. Very sadly, the following day, Steve Harris succumbed to the injuries he received and passed away. Steve Harris died a hero trying to save his brother.

I shook when I heard the news. I stood on Grafton Street with the world walking past as a blur for I don’t know how long. I also remembered feeling terrible guilty thinking that that was the end of the film now, as we had several key scenes still to film with Steve Harris in them. Then I thought to myself I will do whatever it takes to finish the film as a tribute to him and to dedicate the production to him, as this would now be his final on-screen performance.

After the shock had settled, I spoke with the production team and the cast members who still had scenes left and we all agreed to somehow rally on to finish the film for Steve Harris. John Sweeney and I put our heads together and found a way to re-write Steve’s scenes without him. Thankfully, we had his character’s first and last scenes, so we managed to re-work it so his character ‘goes missing’ from his on-screen wife for the entire middle of the film, and she is hunting him down during this period of time. By some miracle we somehow managed to finish the film, and have it still, somewhat, make sense.

Another long, hard year of post-production followed with many, many technical hurdles, but everyone pulled out the stops to get the film into a deliverable state considering the hardships the production had faced. We had used a myriad of different cameras and various lighting equipment and I was very concerned that film would even visually look coherent. Thankfully, the cost of this post-production process, which is normally a very expensive process, was once again minimised by people offering to help out to get the film finished. We also received a grant from Fingal County Council to allow this post-production process to happen.

Upon completion of the final deliverable of the film, we started the film festival process. We aimed for the big Irish festivals and the big international comedy festivals, another cost which we as filmmakers had to absorb. Unfortunately, despite receiving fantastic feedback, the film only got accepted into a handful of festivals but it did thankfully pick up some awards.

In hindsight, this production which ultimately cost €9k plus another €4k for post-production, was an unbelievable life-learning experience, and despite its immense challenges I am really delighted that it found its way to the cinema for the sake and creativity of all involved. Despite the production’s many hardships and as the tagline says, I found myself thinking “what could possibly go right!?” many times, as nothing ever seemed to be going right. Well, finally what possibly, eventually went right is that we now have a feature film to show and people are now going to get the great chance to come along and see it.

Stephen Clarke Dunne 08/08/2019

In Cinemas September 6  

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Reel Horror Show: Episode 13

Reel Horror Show’s Mark Sheridan is joined by Dr Sarah Cleary in this special episode to explore the cobwebbed tunnels of horror.

Sarah and Mark discuss how the horror genre is being controlled, regulated and restricted in response to its alleged effect on children. Other topics include horror as the messenger. Trump horror.  A take-down of Stranger Things and the comfort blanket of ’80s nostalgia. Franchises! Zombies!! – watching Diary of the Dead in the context of Love Island. The Exorcist as a conservative narrative. Is there ever a cause for censorship? An examination of I Spit on Your Grave. The discomfort of seeing the human in the monster. A look at Midsommar‘s folk horror. The condition of Irish horror and where it can go. Plus a Rob Zombie love-in.

And to quote Sarah – “a good horror should always leave us a little bit looking over our shoulder as we leave the cinema”

 

 

Dr Sarah Cleary

Awarded her PhD in Horror, Sarah has dedicated her studies to exploring the juxtaposition between the media and the alleged negative effects of popular culture on children. Having published and given talks on a wide variety of horror and pop culture subjects, from eco-zombies to satanic panic, Sarah splits her time between lecturing and academic consultancy in the media. 

With her first book on horror and censorship forthcoming in 2019, when she is not nose deep in books and film, Sarah is also a horror specialist and pop culture panellist on a day time current affairs TV show, Creative Director of Horror Expo Ireland which seeks to unite academia and pop culture and producer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Ireland, now in its 15th year.

sarahcmcleary@gmail.com

@sarah_clearysc

https://www.facebook.com/horrorexpoireland

www.linkedin.com/in/drsarahcleary

Reel Horror Show, Irish Film Podcast

 

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Review: The Farewell 

DIR/WRI:  Lulu Wang • DOP: Anna Franquesa Solano • ED: Matt Friedman, Michael Taylor • DES: Yong Ok Lee • PRO: Anita Gou, Daniele Tate Melia, Andrew Miano, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng • MUS: Alex Weston • CAST: Awkwafina, Shuzhen Zhou, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Chen Han, Aoi Mizuhara

Based on the real experiences of writer/director Wang, the twist in The Farewell is revealed immediately when Billi (Awkwafina) learns that her beloved grandmother “Nai Nai” (Shuzhen Zhou) has received a fatal cancer diagnosis. But, as is common within the Chinese culture, Nai Nai isn’t not being told about her fate. 

Instead, the family are all going to assemble for a hastily-advanced wedding between youngsters Hao Hao (Chen Han) and Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara). It’s the perfect ruse for a big bash and for everyone to say their – secret – goodbyes to the family matriarch.

Billi of course wants to fly from New York like her parents (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin) are doing, but they reckon, what with news about a scholarship coming and the fact that she’s still single and living cheque to cheque, perhaps she should stay put. 

More than that, having been bought up in America, she surely won’t be able to keep her composure and dignity like a good Chinese girl: she’s bound to let the cat out of the bag.

Billi has other ideas, and, arriving at what’s essentially a tragic/happy reunion, she (and us) are then taken on a funny but often deeply emotional journey as we find that she isn’t the only one who has misgivings about this “good lie”.

Awkwafina is about as far from her role in Crazy Rich Asians as she can be here, and we’re with her all the way.  More than that, the delicate direction and the astoundingly good supporting cast – all of whom have their moment – make you complicit in the secret and you begin to wonder: should they tell Nai Nai? 

You’ll have to go to find out what happens, but bring some tissues along with you! 

James Bartlett

100′ 10″
PG (see IFCO for details)

The Farewell  is released 16th August 2019

The Farewell – Official Website

 


  

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The Bleeding Pig Film Festival Roundtable Podcast

L-R Emma Fagan, Laura O’Shea, Gemma Creagh, Mia Mullarky

In this podcast Gemma Creagh is joined by Emma Fagan, programme manager of The Bleeding Pig Film Festival (9-11 September) and filmmakers Mia Mullarky (Mother & Baby) and Laura O’Shea (Hold the Line), whose films are screening at the festival.

46′ 03″

Mother & Baby (Mia Mullarky)

Mother & Baby explores the memories of Mother & Baby Home survivors who were sold or fostered out by the Irish church and state if their mothers conceived them out of wedlock.

Mia Mullarkey is a film director based in Dublin, Ireland. She
directed several successful shorts, receiving 35 awards globally, and screening at major international short film festivals such as Palm Springs, Aesthetica, São Paulo, Valladolid, Tehran and Helsinki. In 2018 Mia received the Discovery Award at Dublin International Film Festival for her body of work, and was made the 2018/2019 Filmmaker-in-Residence with Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival and The Digital Hub.

http://motherandbabyfilm.com
http://miamullarkey.com
http://ishkafilms.com/

Hold the Line (Laura O’Shea)

Em works in a call centre. She faces a day that’s more difficult than the usual ‘customer care queries’ and is on the brink. That’s until: she picks up the phone to Patsy.

Laura O’Shea is an award winning actor/writer/filmmaker from Limerick City. Her filmmaking-debut was a Short Film titled Hold the Line. This was the Winner of the ‘Best Short Film’ award at the 2019 Belfast Film Festival and it also won the ‘Audience Award’ at the 2019 Chicago Irish Film Festival. Laura won the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the 2018 Richard Harris International Film Festival for her performance in Hold the Line and also received a Special Mention at IndieCork 2018 for ‘Best Emerging Irish Female Director’. In the theatre world, her play Knowing Nathan that she co-wrote as well as acted in was the Winner of the ‘Judge’s Choice Award’ at the 2018 Galway Fringe Festival. Laura comes from a musical background and holds an MA in Music Technology.

Emma Fagan has a background in marketing and project management but her life-long passion for film led her away from office life and, for the last six years, she has worked with a number of Irish film festivals in various capacities. In 2016, in association with the Bleeding Pig Cultural Festival in Donabate, Co. Dublin she set up the Bleeding Pig Film Festival, platforming independent Irish film to the local community there. Emma also runs a PR & Marketing agency, Fillum, which promotes independent filmmakers in Ireland.

 

Mother & Baby and Hold the Line screen as part of a selection of short films all written/and or directed by women on Tuesday, 10th September: 7.30pm to 9pm – followed by a Q&A.

The 2019 Bleeding Pig Film Festival takes place 9-11 September in Keelings of Donabate, Co. Dublin.

The full programme is here.

 

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation

The Dream Report

Orla Monaghan was at the Fleadh to celebrate the creative cornerstone of Irish film: the animation industry. 

On Sunday, 14th July the Galway Film Fleadh treated us to sixteen short animations from both new and established talent from all across the country. There was some truly imaginative work on display, and all genres were covered.     

  

Streets of Fury

The standout in comedy was Streets of Fury, directed and produced by Aidan McAteer. The tale follows the violent Max Punchface, an ’80s-styled video-game character, as he punches his way through levels and life. And just like that, Max is suddenly transported into the calm, bloodless world of Sheepland. How will Max now cope without using violence as currency?  Streets of Fury is a fun blend of nostalgia and humour. It definitely has everything you would want from an animation!

THEM

The absolute standout on the day was THEM. Directed by Robin Lochman and produced by Mathias Schwerbrook, it is an original animation with a gritty new look. In an isolated village where everyone bares the same sliver reflection, how will life change when a new, golden, self-proclaimed leader shows up? The story examines the place and power of false idols in our world and follows one characters attempt to fight and overhaul the system. A definite must-see!

A Quack Too Far

For younger viewers, A Quack Too Far and Far Isle are both superb options. Directed and written by Melissa Culhane, A Quack too Far tells a simple tale about a sleepy fox and a noisy duck. What does a fox have to do to get some peace? A Far Isle, directed by Laura Robinson and produced by Gavin Halpin, is enjoyable for both adults and children. The story of one girl’s enchanting boat journey is beautifully told with an impressive, colourful visual. 

     

Dorothy

In terms of horror, Dorothy offered up a truly spooky piece about a child being tormented in the witching Salem Massachusetts in 1687 and Offering showed us what happens when a mysterious quest goes awry. 

   

Legend Has It

A few of the animations focused on Irish subject matter. Legend Has It told the tale of a young girl’s struggle with a dark secret in an ancient Celtic community. Whereas The Bogman was an interesting take on the transition between old Ireland and new. In reaction to the recent sustainability announcement from Bord Na Móna, the story follows a man from the midlands who has harvested peat his whole life. How will he, his community and more like him cope with this news?

Wear and Tear

Also worth a mention is Wear and Tear, a sort of psychological thriller about nightmare-born creations following you into your waking day.  Cliona Noonan’s humorous Tuna about a woman’s odd obsession.  And I’m sure any student can relate to Ctrl + Alt + Z, which tells the classic, stress-inducing story of the student who forgot to hit save. Visually, The Dream, directed by Jack O’Shea, really merits a mention. The positively unique style of this animation was stunning and certainly made it unforgettable. Finally there were strong debuts from Shannon Egan (Archie’s Bat) Kayleigh Gibbons (Featherweight), Rachel Fitzgerald (Bubbles) and Janet Grainger (Outside the Box) completing an impressive programme of Irish animation.

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation programme screened 14th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)

        

 

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Review: Crawl

DIR: Alexandre Aja • WRI: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen • DOP: Maxime Alexandre • ED: Elliot Greenberg • DES: Alan Gilmore • PRO: Alexandre Aja, Craig J. Flores, Sam Raimi • MUS: Max Aruj, Steffen Thum • CAST:  Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson

 

Alexander Aja, the man who, many moons ago, gave us a quite credible, scary remake in The Hills Have Eyes, is back on something close to form with Crawl, a horror/disaster mashup about a father and daughter under siege by alligators during a storm in Florida no less.  What’s the chances?

The film takes its name from the crawlspace one finds in many American homes, especially homes found in those stickier, hotter climes, and that is where the bulk of the action takes place as daughter must try and rescue her injured father from a crawlspace after he goes AWOL during a storm.  If the storm wasn’t bad enough to be dealing with, said crawlspace is filling with water and alligators, so rescuing herself is also part of her agenda. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be an American horror/disaster film if there weren’t estrangements between loved ones, in this case a father and daughter who need to discuss the family break-up. Also up for discussion is their unhealthy competitive streak which has also resulted in her delving into the world of competitive swimming thanks to dad’s sporting ambitions (see where this is going). 

A perfunctory laying out the stall and box ticking  of all the usual clichés is soon forgiven once the ‘what the hell are we going to do about the alligators?’ plot kicks in. Throw in a nasty sense of humour, some nice suspense and surprises, add the right amount of gore and it makes an acceptable date movie that has plenty of brain-dead thrills for its modest running time.

Paul Farren

@PaulFarrenA

87′ 25″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Crawl is released 23rd August 2019

Crawl – Official Website

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Ivan Kavanagh, Writer/Director of ‘Never Grow Old’

In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Ivan Kavanagh about his latest feature Never Grow Old and the influences behind it, and discusses the Western genre in general and its enduring appeal. Ivan also talks about working with John Cusack, Emile Hirsch and Déborah François and the craft of filmmaking itself.

In Never Grow Old, Irish carpenter and undertaker Patrick Tate (Hirsch) lives with his young family on the outskirts of a small frontier town on the California trail during the 1849 gold rush. It’s a tough but relatively peaceful place, until outlaw Dutch Albert (Cusack) and his gang take over, killing anyone who stands up to them. Patrick initially plays a dangerous game, profiting from the outlaws’ mayhem, but it is only a matter of time before he must protect his own from the bloodshed.

Starring Emile Hirsch (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Into The Wild), Déborah François (L’Enfant) and John Cusack (High Fidelity, Being John Malkovich), Never Grow Old was filmed in Galway and Luxembourg and was produced by Dominic Wright and Jacqueline Kerrin for Ripple World Pictures and Nicolas Steil for the Iris Productions Group.

Never Grow Old is released in Irish cinemas Friday, 23rd August.

40′ 16″

 

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Extra Ordinary

Stephen Burke was in Galway to witness firsthand Rose Dooley’s supernatural abilities that allow her to communicate with spirits.

Over the course of six days, 95 films were screened at the Galway Film Fleadh from a total of 36 different countries yet Irish comedy-horror Extra Ordinary may well have been the most anticipated of them all. It was one of the films announced early at the start of June and tickets sold out several weeks in advance. On the Saturday evening of the festival a very large crowd gathered outside the Town Hall Theatre before the domestic premiere with co-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman present alongside leading performers Maeve Higgins and Will Forte. The marketing team even went the extra mile by offering free shots of an alcoholic drink referred to as “ectoplasm” (as you will learn below, ectoplasm plays a key part in Extra Ordinary). 

Once inside, I found myself seated next to one of the country’s most esteemed producers and to this person’s left was one of Ireland’s best-known and highly regarded actresses. When an audience member (and fellow reviewer) decided to exit the row a time too many, the producer wryly declared that she wouldn’t be letting the offender back in upon his return and that he’d have to sit on the floor. While the threat was tongue in cheek, the idea of patrons being reduced to standing or sitting on steps started to look like a real possibility as the crowd continued to stream through the door. Eventually, every seat in the auditorium was filled and the lights dimmed.

In Extra Ordinary Maeve Higgins stars as Rose Dooley, a lonely woman working as a driving instructor somewhere in small town Ireland. This uneventful existence is in direct contrast to her childhood days, a time when Rose used her paranormal abilities to assist her father (Risteard Cooper, mainly seen in flashbacks but funny), a spiritualist and TV personality. One day a terrible accident left Rose without a father but with a great feeling of guilt instead due to her perceived part in the tragedy (an incident Rose refers to as dad-slaughter). From that day on Rose shunned her psychic gifts. 

Martin is a widower living with his teenage daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman). This is no normal household though as the spirit of Martin’s deceased wife Bonnie continues to linger (quite literally), bringing extreme nuisance to their lives rather than any fear. Martin is regularly the victim of minor acts of violence at Bonnie’s expense. “Catastrophes” such as choosing the wrong shirt or placing a bowl into a plate spot of the dishwasher result in swift reprehension for him (for example cabinet doors are regularly slammed against Martin’s head by his not quite late spouse). He enlists Rose’s services, initially under the false pretense of requiring driving lessons. The truth soon emerges though with Martin admitting that he needs Rose to bring her spiritual talents out of retirement so she can help rid him of Bonnie’s meddlesome presence. That’s not even the half of it though. What’s more pressing is the fact that lately Martin has found Sarah levitating above her bed.  Christian Winter (Will Forte) is the man behind this. Winter, a once-famous for fifteen minutes rock-star, now living in Ireland (for tax purposes no less) has somehow become convinced that the demonic sacrifice of a virgin will reignite his long since evaporated musical talents (if they ever existed at all). Sarah fits the bill perfectly for this purpose as far as Winter is concerned.

In most cases Rose would have flat out refused to get involved in something like this. However, as she’s quite smitten with Martin she agrees to assist him, explaining that the only way to prevent Winter’s dastardly wishes from coming to fruition is to collect enough ectoplasm (told you it plays a key part) to be able to cast a specific spell. To obtain this ectoplasm they have to partner up and carry out a series of exorcisms all over town. In these instances Martin is required to inhabit the spirit of the deceased so Rose can expunge it.

The script plays to Maeve Higgins’ strengths (she has a writing credit) and her charming awkwardness brings about many of the laughs. In the post screening Q&A, Ahern and Loughman explained that from day one the part was written with Higgins in mind. Higgins joked that the character is not based on her in real life.

Over the past few years, strong central performances in films such as Jimmy’s Hall and Maze have cemented Barry Ward’s reputation as an actor of real pedigree. Those were dramatic turns however and comedy is a whole other discipline. Apparently Ward turned down the role in Extra Ordinary at the first time of asking. Luckily for him so that he reconsidered, as he has now added the bow of comedy to his string of talents. He gives a very funny performance, especially in the scenes where Martin is forced to inhabit spirits and operate as multiple personalities at once, showing a real flair for physical comedy. 

As antagonist Christian Winter, Will Forte sports a ridiculous moustache and carries a large magical wooden staff (referred to at one point as a “willy stick”), which directs him in his evil underworld dealings. The character doesn’t feel new but more like the kind of villain we’ve become accustomed to seeing in comedy-horrors like Extra Ordinary. Forte can do this kind of thing in his sleep and although he hams it up suitably, I have to admit that his shtick got repetitive quickly (more a script issue than an actor issue), save for some very funny moments during the final act. His involvement will likely help the film to find a foreign audience though. Claudia O’ Doherty, so very funny in last year’s The Festival, is a rather irritating presence this time around. She plays Winter’s wife and her character’s response to every problem seems to be to “kill the bitch”, a statement that becomes a catchphrase very quickly and loses steam even quicker. Extra Ordinary works best when focusing on the relationship between Martin and Rose. Both of them are sympathetic characters and it’s not hard for the audience to root for them to end up together.

One area that the film certainly succeeds in is tone. In an early scene Rose stands at her father’s roadside grave and dolefully says: “I’m very sorry for murdering you daddy.” Maeve Higgins’ innocent and deadpan delivery makes this line genuinely funny. Add to this the fact that Barry Ward’s character’s full name is Martin Martin and you know what you’re in for. Ahern and Loughman are in no doubt about the kind of movie they want Extra Ordinary to be – a funny one. The film is a comedy above all else and while there are of course some touching moments, at no point does the humour play second fiddle. The absurd mood remains consistent from the opening title (a Fargoesque “Based On A True Story”) right through to the final piece of dialogue, a gloriously savage condemnation. Although paranormal activity is the theme, Extra Ordinary is never really scary at all. It’s not clear when the film is set. It could easily be the present day but there are glimpses of VHS tapes and cassettes on occasion. Regardless, there is a retro look to Extra Ordinary that is reminiscent of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace in terms of atmosphere and it serves the comedy well.

The storyline itself is not exactly the most original. To be fair though, one promo did advertise the film as “Father Ted meets Ghostbusters” which is pretty much on the nose. There are many little witty details specific to Ireland that will be appreciated by the domestic audience. Credit to the filmmakers too for avoiding some of the obvious Irish tropes. In the post screening Q&A they explained that in writing the script, they only had three rules – “No priests. No drinking. No IRA”. Extra Ordinary has secured North American distribution and it will be interesting to see how it travels. For example, the Americans are unlikely to appreciate the cameos from Mary McEvoy and Eamon Morrissey as much as us locals!

It’s no secret that Extra Ordinary scooped the Fleadh Award for Best Film. The audience at the screening certainly appreciated it too with many people in hysterics throughout. However, it has to be said that at a film festival (especially on home soil), the laughter will always be louder and the plaudits always greater. The thing most people will want to know is if the film is actually funny. The answer is that Extra Ordinary is fun and has plenty going for it but I don’t feel it’s the hilarious work of originality that many might proclaim it to be. Not every gag hits home and in parts the script is a bit flabby. However, the jokes do come at a breakneck pace and are so frequent in fact that there are probably more laughs in this film than the average comedy. On the other hand though, this also means there’s quite a number of misses too.  

George Brennan’s score is fantastic and the parts of Extra Ordinary that are funny are very funny indeed. There is some great use of dialogue in the script with certain lines likely to be quoted years from now, e.g, Martin fears his daughter will become a “homeless sex maniac on the streets snorting hash”. At another point Christian Winter’s laments: “Can one not just sacrifice a virgin in peace?”  The finale is also a completely bizarre and off the wall spectacle with the film boasting one of the most imaginative and least gratuitous threesomes you are ever likely to see on screen. 

In general, there is much to like about Extra Ordinary but be warned… It’s not a comedy to suit everyone and viewers will likely need to be in the right mood for it. Extra Ordinary feels like a cult film in the making. However, if future audiences like it as much as those at the Fleadh did, then it might become more than that.

Stephen Burke

 

Extra Ordinary screened 13th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

Extra Ordinary is released in Irish cinemas 13th September 2019.

 

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Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 37- Sexy Thrillers… There’s No Buckets Involved

 

Sarah Cullen and Richard Drumm return to give us their latest contemplations and ruminations on film.

This episode’s reviews include The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, Never Grow Old and Toy Story 4. Netflix fodder Secret Obsession and Kidnapping Stella, plus a daylit look at MidSommar, Woman at War, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Good Boys.

 

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Review: Angel Has Fallen

DIR: Ric Roman Waugh • WRI: Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook, Ric Roman Waugh • DOP: Jules O’Loughlin • ED: Gabriel Fleming • DES: Russell De Rozario • PRO: Gerard Butler, Mark Gill, Matt O’Toole, Matthew O’Toole, Alan Siegel, Thompson, Les Weldon • MUS: David Buckley • CAST: Gerard Butler, Frederick Schmidt, Danny Huston, Rocci Williams

When you think of heroes that have led action series, the same names pop into our heads. John McLane, Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, John Rambo and the most obvious character of all Mike Banning. Gerard Butler’s character has saved the president from terrorists in the White House and the streets on London. There’s nothing Mike Banning can’t solve with a headshot and a knife. In a thousand years when film students learn of iconic characters from cinema, Mike Banning’s face will be on the front of their textbooks. On a serious note, who was asking for a third installment into the Fallen series? Is there a dedicated fanbase out there demanding more of these mediocre films? Olympus Has Fallen is a generic action film that tethers a fine line of being racist propaganda. Its sequel, London Has Fallen, has zero subtlety in its decision to jump far and beyond that line. Once you take five minutes to think about the themes of these films it becomes clear that they are offensive to everyone and anyone. The third and possibly the final installment of the series, Angel Has Fallen, has seemingly come from nowhere to close out the Summer season. Don’t worry, the ending of Mike Banning’s story is slightly less mediocre as the beginning and middle installments. 

Angel Has Fallen finds Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) facing his toughest enemy to date: old age. Banning’s turned to pills to try and recover from the physical and emotional trauma that comes with saving the world. Right when he’s about to exit the game the unthinkable happens. Mike is framed for an assassination attempt on the US President (Morgan Freeman taking over from Aaron Eckhart). Can Mike evade the colleagues he worked so hard to save to clear his name? Or is this one mission too far for our hero?

Angel Has Fallen works best in its first two acts. The first act is a surprisingly thoughtful examination of the effects that battle has on a person. Mike’s turmoil of possibly having to retreat to a life behind a desk. It’s the first time in the trilogy that the film is quiet enough to examine its characters. When explosions and gunshots aren’t ringing in the air the characters are genuinely sympathetic. We know nothing about Mike beside the fact that he loves to save the day; when he may no longer be able to do that you can’t help but feel for the guy. Once the story gets into the thick of the action so loud you can’t hear yourself think, the film loses its connection to its leading man.

The second act transforms the film into a remake of The Fugitive with Gerrard Butler instead of Harrison Ford. This sequence of the film is possibly the most compelling of the trilogy. It’s a welcome change of pace seeing Mike as the hunted instead of the hunter. While the action isn’t exactly ground-breaking there are enough stakes involved to keep you interested. The final act of the film loses all momentum as it resorts to copying the previous films’ final acts beat for beat. Had the final minutes of the film dared to showcase originality Angel Has Fallen could have been the first genuinely decent film of the trilogy. 

The career of Gerard Butler is a baffling one. For the better part of a decade, the actor has been starring in films that range from acceptable to abysmal. A quick glance at his filmography will show you films such as The Bounty Hunter, Gods of Egypt and Geostorm; each one of those movies is slightly more painful than the last. Outside of 300, Butler hasn’t had any great live-action films. Yet in 2019 the Scotsman is still leading action romps. It’s a testament to the actor’s likability whenever he’s on-screen. In Angel Has Fallen Butler delivers the same performance that he’s been giving for years. A dodgy one-liner every 5 minutes is the only thing that breaks up the ultra-violent action. After watching three of these films in one week I’ve come to the realisation of what Butler’s niche is. Gerrard Butler is an ’80s actor trapped in the 21st century. Think about the constant stream of action movies Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris starred in during their wonder years. Is there a place for these kinds of films in 2019? Considering there are three films in the Fallen series it clearly has an audience. It’s just disheartening that Butler is limiting himself to these films when you look at the heartfelt performances he gave in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. It appears that Butler is going to stick to his niche for the foreseeable future. Get ready for even more characters identical to Mike Banning. 

Angel Has Fallen features a supporting cast filled with big names. Morgan Freeman returns for his third run out as Allan Trumball; the winner of the trilogy as he’s climbed up to ranks to become President as the films progressed. When Freeman isn’t sleepwalking his way through scenes, he’s literally asleep as he spends most of the running time in a coma. Freeman has gone on record time and time again to declare that he only does these kinds of films for the money. At 82 years old it’s becoming evidently clear that it’s time for the legendary actor to call it a day. Freeman has nothing else to prove to the world, it’s upsetting seeing him in these roles that are beneath him. Tim Blake Nelson doesn’t get anything to do in the film besides making unnecessary digs at the Russians. In one scene, he basically stares at the camera as he claims that the Russians rigged the election. Jada Pinkett Smith and Lance Reddick are both wasted in roles where you won’t remember either of their names or what their point was. The film’s villain, Danny Huston, is identical to Pedro Pascal’s villain in The Equaliser 2 to the point where the film should be flagged for plagiarism. Angel Has Fallen carries a secret weapon in the form of Nick Nolte. The veteran actor gives his all as Mike’s deranged father. Nolte is terrific in every scene he’s in. Following three films of the entire cast not trying it’s startling to see a genuinely great performance. Nolte’s emotional scene left me with a lump in my throat. A lump in my throat in a sequel to London Has Fallen. Film can be strange at times. 

Every single one of these films has been directed by a different person. Ric Roman Waugh takes the wheel for this film following in Antoine Fuqua’s and Babak Najafi’s footsteps. Waugh is a relatively experienced director having directed The Rock in Snitch and the underseen Shot Caller. The director doesn’t add anything fresh in terms of action. You can be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen the fight scenes a million times before. The emotional backbone Waugh implants into the film is commendable. Waugh wrote the film along with Robert Mark Kamen and Matt cook. It’s bizarre that Kamen, who wrote The Karate Kid, is now writing generic action films. With three writers behind the script, you’d expect a film politics that aren’t murky. However, Angel Has Fallen is filled with politics that will surely provoke a reaction with audiences. Considering how fragile America is at this moment of time it feels like the writers are trying to add fuel to the fire. War veterans are treated as if they are responsible for any mental or physical problems they may possess. For a film with an eighty million dollar budget, the PlayStation 2 standard of graphics and constant green screening is unacceptable. One scene towards the end of the film will have you suspending your disbelief at how dodgy the effects are. Anyone who’s ever wondered what Forrest Gump would be like with Morgan Freeman will finally get the answer they’ve yearned for. 

Angel Has Fallen puts an end to perhaps the most unspectacular trilogy of all time. A series that goes from mediocre to atrocious to back to mediocre. While films like Dredd and Mad Max: Fury Road, that changed the landscape of film yet are still waiting for sequels, it’s mind-boggling that films like Angel Has Fallen gets huge budgets. While yes, it is slightly better than what’s come before, it’s not exactly a game changer. The film is still filled to the brim with actors phoning it in, poor CGI and casual racism. It’s the kind of film that you’ll struggle to remember after you exit the cinema. When there are so many filmmakers struggling to get their passion projects off the ground it’s horrendous that studios pump so much money into these lame blockbusters. After six years it’s time to say goodbye to Mike Banning.

Farewell Mike, we hardly knew ye. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

120′ 53″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Angel Has Fallen  is released 23rd August 2019

Angel Has Fallen – Official Website

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 3, Fiction

Stephen Burke checks in on Galway’s programme of live action shorts which explores the parallel problems of escapism from a variety of settings: judgement, troubled pasts and unhappy status quos. 

It’s a great credit to the Fleadh that the range of shorts on offer is so incredibly diverse. Half of the shorts in this line-up were directorial debuts and all were being screened for the first time. Aside from a brief synopsis, there’s very little information to be found on such films before seeing them. That’s what makes screenings at the Fleadh so exciting though. You’re not quite sure what you’re about to see. This is refreshing in an age where marketing is quite often so over the top to the point where it’s not a rarity for a trailer to spoil the entire plot of a movie. 

Before the screening, the short film co-ordinator, Eibh Collins, emphasized that some of the films were quite heavy. She certainly wasn’t just saying this for effect. The first three shorts on show featured some of the darkest themes you’re likely to see in any film programme outside of a Lars Von Trier retrospective. Of course, when tackled properly the darkest of themes can make for the most interesting pieces of cinema and such was the case here with the two strongest films coming from this first half.

Limbo

Darkness is firmly established in the first scene of this debut film from 21-year old Matthew McGuigan when we’re presented with the image of a man walking across an abandoned landscape. This is cleverly juxtaposed alongside scenes of the central character Brendan interacting with his elderly mother Eilis in her nursing-home room. You just know that there will be some connection between the two images, but what is it? This gives the audience something to think about from the beginning.

Eilis’ death is clearly imminent. She is as aware of this as anyone and so finally feels comfortable enough to reveal a long-held secret to Brendan… A fellow resident of the nursing home overhears and insists that some man on a particular island will be able to solve “the mystery” for them. Brendan is skeptical, feeling the resident’s suggestion is all a bit fairytale like. The reality of what’s happening with his mother though is far from a fairytale of course and wanting to honour her wishes, Brendan agrees to follow up the source.

The acting in this film is strong and the relationship between Brendan and his mother is completely believable with top-notch performances coming from Patrick O’Kane and Roma Tomelty. For such a harrowing subject matter the script also manages to inject some humour without unbalancing the overall sombre tone. Despite its short running time, Limbo boasts more character development than it perhaps has any right to. The pacing is also spot on with the film taking its time to reach what seems like an inevitable conclusion. However, in not rushing things, the emotional impact of this conclusion is greater when it does arrive with audience members likely to be all the more devastated when their suspicions prove to be founded. This is a very impressive debut from Matthew McGuigan with much credit also going to his cinematographer Mark Garrett for capturing the required mood and tone. 


Run

Caroline Grace Cassidy and Róisín Kearney have each written and directed several short films before but Run is their first collaboration. It was created following the introduction of a new legal framework on domestic abuse, to include coercive control in Ireland. 

Right from the off it’s clear that the lead character, Sarah is married to a pig of a man. Physical violence isn’t the issue here however. The point of the film is, of course, rather to show how a spouse can wield emotional control over a partner. In Run Sarah’s husband is so much of a pig though that you initially wonder how she hasn’t left him a long time ago. What’s interesting is that in a strange way, as the film progresses, the viewer does become acclimated and accustomed to the husband’s boorish behaviour, revealing just how easily people can end up trapped in such toxic relationships.


Void

Ger Duffy’s Void is a visceral experience boasting a tour-de-force performance from Laurence O’ Fuarain. At the outset, the audience is presented with some interesting images, all of them begging a similar question – “Where the hell are we?” Are we in the future? Is it the present world?’ One thing is clear. The nameless character onscreen is a man who is being tortured by a whole range of agonizing yet mostly indecipherable thoughts. 

The man sets off into the night in search of something. It might be judgment. It might be an escape from the demons within. If it’s the latter they soon confront him instead. Before long, he arrives outside a nightclub. After making an aggressive but unsuccessful attempt to gain admission, he manages to sneak inside. Once in, he engages in full-on debauchery, including pill popping and having sex in a bathroom cubicle. All the while the mental anguish continues. 

The interesting thing is that apart from O’ Fuarain nobody else actually appears on screen throughout. Instead of using supporting actors, Duffy employs an extremely imaginative narrative technique to evoke the memories of the character. He uses lighting and audio effects in particular to tell the story. In other words, while we see the man dancing or fighting or going through the motions of interacting with people, these other people are never onscreen. We hear them but don’t see them. Sound has long been considered to perhaps be the most undervalued aspect of filmmaking and it is used here to brilliant effect. Much credit must go to sound mixer Andrew Fenton and sound editor Damian Chennell.

From a visual point of view, the nightclub itself is actually an empty house with strobe lighting and similar effects portraying otherwise. Duffy’s methods work very well in unsettling viewers and bringing them into the seedy world that O Fuarain’s character is desperately navigating. The consideration of film being a form of voyeurism comes to mind as the audience is watching some very personal and intimate memories and as such they are forced to not only observe the character’s actions but also to be somewhat complicit in them. It feels like the definition of a bad trip but more importantly it’s a very powerful piece of cinema.

As the sole performer O’Fuarain is quite simply terrific. He possesses a very strong screen presence and at times in this film he physically resembles a feral Paul Galvin. His character is a ticking time bomb detonating at regular intervals before resetting to soon do the same again. O’Fuarain is a skilled enough actor though to wrench empathy from his audience. The character is explosive but in his hands and in Duffy’s there is always the sense that an unfortunately misguided individual lays beneath all the rage. This is why a late hint at redemption doesn’t feel like it’s stretching the bounds of credibility. O’Fuarain’s performance in Void is far removed from his equally impressive leading turn in Alan Mulligan’s The Limit Of, which was released in cinemas this past April. In the latter film his character may have been burning up on the inside but he constantly projected an outward appearance of stoic calm. The fact O’ Fuarain can portray both roles so convincingly marks him down as a talent to watch. The same can be said for Duffy. Void is a great follow-up to his very impressive debut short film Little Bear (which he co-directed with Daire Glynn) and he is now 2 for 2.


Halo

Halo is the directorial debut from Michael-David McKernan, who also plays the lead role of taxi driver Dara in this 16-minute one-take film. Ever since the 1970s when Travis Bickle first got behind the wheel in Taxi Driver, onscreen drivers of this ilk have usually fallen into one of two categories – the comical chatterbox or the lonely crusader. Dara belongs to the latter category though at the beginning of Halo, he doesn’t seem to be on any particular mission.

When we first meet him, Dara seems to be having a fairly standard night on the road, dealing with a fairly obnoxious couple of passengers before picking up a female customer (Toni O’Rourke). While driving her to her boyfriend’s house, he tries and somewhat succeeds in striking up a conversation. What happens next affects them both. Dara is clearly a lonely guy and McKernan’s portrayal is good, veering between awkwardness and sincerity. He brings a charming likeability to Dara. His acting is restrained which is impressive considering McKernan is directing himself. 

The nighttime setting of Halo creates a suitably dark and detached mood, the latter matching the likely mindset of the lead character. McKernan must be commended for his creativity and ingenuity in using some royalty free Beethoven music too, which works in terms of plot as well as serving the atmosphere. The one-take style actually suits this type of story quite well and there isn’t really any occasion where it feels unnecessary. Burschi Wojnar’s cinematography is un-showy and he keeps a largely steady hand throughout.

One issue though is that as Halo moves on, the direction that the story is heading begins to feel predictable. As such, a slight left turn at the end is more than welcome. While not perfect, this is a solid first effort from Michael-David McKernan and it will be interesting to see what he does next, both as an actor and as a director.


Starry Night

Starry Night is a graduate film from students of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire with Emma Smith directing from a script by Rachel Moloney. The first scene opens on an estate in Dublin city as Cara (played by Hazel Clifford) leaves her house and gets into a taxi with her best friend Jeanie. A voiceover narration from Cara explains that she’s finally leaving the place she grew up in, something she never felt she’d have an opportunity to do. Up to this point she’s had to put her own future on hold to take care of her young sisters.

The film then flashes back, showing the events leading up to this moment juxtaposing scenes from the recent past alongside scenes from this day of departure for Cara. Starry Night follows Cara’s attempts to get somebody to take care of the children for her, under the false pretense that she’ll be collecting them again later that night. In reality she is about to abandon the girls to pursue her own dreams. Throughout the piece, titles are repeatedly superimposed on screen displaying how long it is before Cara and Jeanie’s flight leaves. The use of these titles does get a bit tiresome after a while. 

While the stakes are unquestionably high for Cara, there’s just not as much tension in the film as there could be. Following her great performance as Sharon Curley in the stage version of the Snapper last year, Hazel Clifford gives another likeable turn and she has a bright future ahead.  At the end of the film, Cara faces a huge decision but there’s never really any doubt which way she will go with it and it all becomes a bit obvious. It wouldn’t be quite fair to say that the voiceover is overdone but Clifford is a good enough actor that perhaps the film didn’t need it. It’s likely that a greater emotional effect would have resulted if the audience weren’t told Cara’s feelings at certain points but were just allowed to concentrate on the performance instead. 

The production design is worth praise and the cinematography is strong. Without meaning to be condescending the film does look and feel like a professional production, which is not always the case with student pieces. The use of a single location for the majority also brings across a feeling of claustrophobia, which effectively mirrors Cara’s constricted existence. 


The Blizzards – Behind the Music

Who Would Want To Be In A Guitar Band? This is the question that is playfully explored in Jeff Doyle’s lighthearted mockumentary about Irish band The Blizzards. It’s a relevant enough question too in this modern world where guitar-based music seems to be drifting further and further from the mainstream scene. 

The plot of the film consists of The Blizzards attempting to make a comeback and being led in their quest to do so by hapless manager Duncan Browne. In an attempt to get with the times they actually record a non-guitar inspired song called “Who Would Want To Be In A Guitar Band?” (“your music is just too guitary” moans Browne at one stage), which is met with widespread derision. This spells catastrophe for Browne and for the band members, with each of them dealing with the fallout in their own individual way.

Johnny Elliot gives a good performance as Browne. The band is also game for proceedings too and they do well at sending both themselves and the music industry itself up. This kind of film has been done many times before though and although humorous, Behind The Music is just not laugh-out-loud enough to compensate for the lack of originality. Mockumentaries have burned themselves out over the past decade or so and the humour in such films needs to constantly be razor-sharp if they are to stand a chance at being noticed from amongst the pack.

There is a constant stream of celebrity cameos throughout with Mattress Mick and John Connors probably being the most memorable. These guest appearances are fun at first but soon begin to grate when hardly a minute passes by without one occurring (though kudos to Doyle for getting Stormy Daniels to appear in his film!).

Aside from fans of The Blizzards, it’s hard to know who the film is aimed at. Ironically a serious documentary about the same subject matter may have broader appeal. There are plenty of music fans out there that would find the notion of the guitar as an instrument of the past to be a very unappetizing one indeed. It would be interesting to see just how a thirty-something band like the Blizzards manage to navigate this current world of sanitized pop. At one point in the film Louis Walsh shows up to give lead singer Bressie a pep talk. Aiming to convince him that there is still a place for guitar in the music business, Walsh stresses that: “Ed Sheeran plays guitar”. Regardless of whether that line is intentional or not, it might just be the funniest joke in the entire film.

 

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary Irish Talent: New Shorts 3, Fiction programme screened 11th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)

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Review: Good Boys

DIR: Gene Stupnitsky • WRI: Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky • PRO: Lee Eisenberg, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver • DOP: Jonathan Furmanski • ED: Daniel Gabbe • DES: Jeremy Stanbridge • MUS: Lyle Workman • CAST: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon

Growing up is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do in your life. Following the carefree comfort of childhood where everything is sunshine and rainbows you are thrown into the real world without any warning. Once you hit the pre-teen stage of your life everything becomes complicated. You’re expected to do things independently without your parent’s help, who said that was part of the life package? The cute little annoying traits you possessed for years are now considered childish, no more puppy eyes to get off the hook. Not to mention the horrifically confusing changes you’re going through emotionally and psychically. The thing that no one tells you is that this period of your life lasts from when your twelve right through your twenties and possibly beyond. Coming of age is defined as the “transition between childhood to adulthood “. What a terrifying concept. One day you’ll wake up to find that you’re not a child anymore. You now have responsibilities and people who depend on you.

Movies that try to show this period of life have gifted the world with some of cinemas finest pieces.  Films such as Dazed and Confused, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lady Bird, The Edge of Seventeen and Stand by Me show those who are going through this tricky period of their life that they are not alone. It may be the most important genre of film out there. Good Boys on paper may not seem like it has anything in common with the previously mentioned film. How can a Pre-Teen Superbad that leans on gross-out jokes teach kids a valuable lesson? Suspend your disbelief because Good Boys is oddly one of the sweetest films of the year.

Good Boys tells the story of three boys The Beanbag Boys. Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor’s (Brady Noon) whose lives change when they get invited to their first party. The trio ditch school and set upon their adventure in hope of climbing the popularity ranks. It’s safe to say that their day off doesn’t run as smoothly as Ferris’ as they face run-ins with teenage girls seeking their stolen drugs, a vicious frat house and a cop who just wants to go home.

Produced by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, if you’re not a fan of the raunchy humour of Superbad, Pineapple Express or any of their other collaborations then Good Boys isn’t for you. If, like me, you find their work to be uproariously funny then you’ll be treated to one of the fine comedies to emerge this lackluster year. The humour relies on kids saying things that every parent dreads the thought of. It’s kind of crushing to see the kid from Room dropping F-bombs for ninety minutes. Why does the film feel the need to rely on this style of humour? For starters, it works wonders. The language coming from the boys is the same ridiculous method of cursing that every boy uses when he begins to learn new words.  The escapades the gang gets themselves into is where the film’s biggest laughs run from. A running joke involving a childproof lid is a winner. Seeing how the boys interact with beer, drugs, an odd CPR doll and even odder weapons are hysterical. Even though the high jinks are far fetched the cast make it believable. The Beanbag Boys are played by three young men who all have bright careers ahead of them.

Had the film been miscast then there was a real possibility that the entire concept would have flopped. Putting a film into the hands of any young actor is a mammoth task, when you increase that number to 3 teenagers then making a great film is a minor miracle. Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon elevate this film by leaps and bounds. Each one of the three leads plays a vital role. Jacob Tremblay as Max is the only popular member of the group. Faced with a conundrum that many faces when growing up. How do you make everyone like your friends? Tremblay plays Max with a sincerity that is often missing from R-rated comedies. In one scene, a kid dismisses Lucas and Thor as “random”, to which Max beautifully responds “They’re not random. They’re specific.” Brady Noon gives what would normally be a one-note character in Thor layers of emotional depth. Thor is plagued by bullies who won’t allow him to pursue his dream of singing. As any man can tell you one of the hardest parts of becoming a man is that people try to limit who you can be to fit their perception of what’s masculine. Keith L. Williams steals the show as Lucas, a boy who just wants to be honest. Williams’ comic timing would be impressive for a comedy veteran. His realisation that his parents are getting divorced when he gets his favourite dinner and fizzy drink on a school night is wonderfully funny. The chemistry between the young actors makes you root and believe in their friendship. Beanbag Boys for life. 

First-time film director Gene Stupnitsky injects fresh energy into the comedy genre. The past few years of R-rated comedies have been brutally average. You’ll struggle to name five genuinely good comedies from the past twelve months off the top of your head. Universal put their trust in a man who hasn’t gotten many breaks in the industry. If you look at Stupnitsky’s work on television you’ll see that he’s clearly talented, he directed the all-timer Office episode “The Michael Scott Paper Company.”. Stupnitsky is aware that comedy can’t work on its own, you need to relate to the story. Good Boys is filled with a surprising amount of heart. The final ten minutes left me with an unexpected lump in my throat at how much I related to the story. Stupnitsky wrote the script along with his good friend Lee Eisenberg, who he wrote Bad Teacher and Year One with. While those films aren’t exactly stellar keep in mind that Eisenberg wrote the funniest scene of The Office in “Scott’s Tots”. The Good Boys’ script is filled with one-liners that keep hitting it out of the park and sequences that will leave you floored. The film’s major flaw is one that is continuing to clog recent films: unnecessary pop-culture references. This is another film that can’t resist making a Stranger Things and Game of Thrones reference. These jokes are unfunny now, what happens in twenty years when those not in the current zeitgeist visit these films for the first time?

Good Boys is fun from start to finish. As the summer season is winding down this is a perfect film to catch before it ends. Seth Rogen, who produces the film, is establishing himself as one of the sought-out men in Hollywood. Following the critically acclaimed Long Shot, the juggernaut Lion King remake and the most popular show of the summer The Boys, it seems that he can’t put a foot wrong. When you put people who are passionate about the comedy genre behind it you’ll get the results you deserve. Good Boys is a film that will become the first R-Rated comedy that many kids catch at 2am in the morning at a sleepover. It’s lovely to know that along with the raunchy humour they’ll get a film with a good message. 

 

Liam De Brùn

89′ 39″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Good Boys is released 16th August 2019

Good Boys Official Website

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The Dublin Feminist Festival: Filmmaker Carmen García & Programme Manager Dr Jennifer O’Meara

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh is joined by Carmen García and Dr Jennifer O’Meara to talk about the Dublin Feminist Film Festival, which runs 22 – 24 August 2019.

Carmen García is a feminist videojournalist, journalist and filmmaker. Her film Tra na mban / Ladies Beach screens at the festival as part of the shorts programme on Thursday, 22nd August.

Dr Jennifer O’Meara is an Assistant Professor in Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and a programming manager for the Dublin Feminist Film Festival.

Full programme here
Buy tickets here
Tra na mban / Ladies Beach (2019) Mexico (6.36)
Dir. Carmen Garcia Gonzalez

 

 

In the west coast of Ireland, a group of Irish women 40 to 80 years old swim every morning in the Atlantic cold waters come rain or shine. Martell, who hasn’t missed a day in 10 years now, let us know how is it for her and the swimmers to meet at the Ladies Beach in Galway, vent together under the cold water and share a hot coffee and a warm chat afterwards. A tight-knit bunch brought together by their love to the sea.

 

Instagram: @carmengarxia
Twitter: @carmengarxia

 

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Review: Dora and the Lost City of Gold

DIR/WRI: James Bobin • Matthew Robinson, Nicholas Stoller • PRO: Kristin Burr • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Mark Everson • DES: Barbara Ling • MUS: John Debney, Germaine Franco • CAST: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña

Hey you freeloading users of Film Ireland online. Are you looking for value for your zero-money-spend visit to this website??? Because right here in this here review, you are going to get true value for money. Because I have employed* two junior reviewers to join me in reviewing Dora and the City Of Gold.

*In case anyone from child services is reading this, I didn’t actually employ them. They did it for the pure love and passion for cinema. Like every Film Ireland reviewer…

So we are going to review Dora not once, not twice but thrice.

Joining me are seasoned film goers, Elise Nangle and Marcus Nangle. What they lack in age, they make up for in experience. Both being avid cinema goers. And even their parents are steeped in the old timey picture-house business too. So it’s in their D.N.A. 

I’m first up. 

Dora  and the City of Gold  reviewed by James Phelan (Age – Bronze)

Can you say …… ‘Wise and Witty Update of Mostly Unpromising Source Material’?

Can you? Because Paramount Pictures can.

 Like the savvy reboot of Peter Rabbit before it, here lies a clever and cheeky live action aging up of a cartoon that moves Dora from pre-school appeal to something a lot more universal.

Fidelity to source material isn’t always a virtue. If Dora made the jump to live action without adding some extra sass, charm and humour, most parents and accompanying adults would be locked in an instant endurance test or on their phones throughout a gamut of sappy purity. 

Instead we are served up a genuine family entertainment that is energetically paced and performed with plenty of pizzazz.  The film quickly establishes it is having affectionate fun with its own origins with some knowing winks to the audience. That helpfully happen to be hilarious.

It also helps that a real gem is unearthed in the lead role. Isabela Moner depicts a Dora that expertly navigates the fine balance between perky positivity and annoying innocence. When she moves to LA from the rainforest, her fish-out-of-water antics blend deliberate cringe factor with real wit and insight. Onscreen characters turn against her in a plausible way but the audience remains firmly on her side.  

Before long, Dora is back in the jungle searching for her missing parents with a few ill prepared classmates in tow including her sulky cousin Diego. What follows is a familiar trek through jungle escapades, traps and intricate ancient puzzles. But it’s all breezily staged and infused with just enough Lara Croft jeopardy to occasionally raise a pulse. If not an eyebrow.

By the end, even an early plot contrivance is revealed to be a rather clever piece of storytelling. And smidges of real regret emerge – like pining for a bit more screen time for Michael Pena and Eva Longoria as parents who seem like they should be giving lessons in chemistry and not archaeology. Add in the most charming closing dance sequence this side of Slumdog and we have a film that is way better than could have been reasonably expected. And how often do we get to say that these days????

And now I’d like to pass the mic to Elise….

Elise Nangle (Age: 10 and a half)

I really liked this movie. I used to watch the TV show when I was younger. The film is very different. The main difference being that it is live action. One of the elements that they keep is the amounts of songs the characters sing during the story. One song in particular was a bit rude but I will leave that as a surprise.

Isabela Moner was really good in the lead role as Dora. She was very likeable, funny and energetic. Dora’s father was especially funny. I know him from a lot of other movies too. Unlike the cartoon, the character of Diego is pretty grumpy in the film until he realises that Dora is his only chance of surviving in a very dangerous situation. Then he realises that family need to stick together.  At first glance, one of the other actors was very charming but there is a twist towards the end.

I would describe the movie as an adventure comedy. It is mostly set in the jungle but there is a sequence in the city where Dora is out of her comfort zone. She doesn’t entirely understand life in the city and the city people don’t really understand her either.

The movie reminded me mostly of the new Jumanji film. I would recommend this film to anyone who thinks they are too old for the Dora cartoons. I would like to thank Paramount Pictures for inviting us to the preview. It was the best movie I have seen this summer. And I’ve seen a lot of movies this summer!!!!

Marcus Nangle (Age 8)

I only really watched the Dora cartoons when my sister used to but I was looking forward to the movie because the trailer made it look action-packed.

I was not disappointed. There were some exciting bits. Some surprising bits. And some funny bits. Even the songs were funny. One of my favourite bits was when Dora’s father was describing dance music and making the sounds with his mouth.

Dora had to move to the city for a bit because her parents wanted to go find an ancient city filled with gold. They left her behind because they didn’t think she was ready for adventure and danger.  She proved them wrong for the rest of the film.

Along with the human characters, there were also some animated ones from the cartoon. The good guys had Boots, who is a monkey. And the bad guys had Swiper, who is a fox and steals stuff.

I liked how the movie started without any ads. That was really cool. I would like there to be a sequel to this film and I would definitely go.

 

James Phelan

102′ 18″
PG (see IFCO for details)

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is released 14th August 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold – Official Website

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Never Grow Old

Ruth McNally reviews Ivan Kavanagh’s Western starring John Cusack, Emile Hirsch and Déborah François.

The sold-out closing film of this year’s Film Fleadh was Never Grow Old, a dark and gritty Western, written and directed by Ivan Kavanagh. Kavanagh and some of the Irish cast and crew were in attendance on the night. Kavanagh described the film as the “Western he wanted to make”. He had begun writing it almost ten years previously but noted that it felt like the right time to make the film now as many of the themes feel very relevant to current times. 

The film centres around Irish immigrant Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch), the local undertaker in a small American frontier town. The town is a pious community, a “holy town” effectively run by the Preacher (Danny Webb). Alcohol, gambling and prostitution have been prohibited and judgement is rife should you step out of line with the town’s imposed morals. Patrick Tate and his French wife, Audrey (Déborah François), consider setting off towards California as they struggle both to fit in and make ends meet.

The quiet existence of the town is unreservedly changed upon the arrival of the outlaw Dutch Albert (John Cusack) and his two cronies. Arriving to the town in search of a wanted man, they decide to stick around and set up shop. They forcibly reopen the saloon, recruit some reluctant prostitutes and with that, the Wild West is back. Dutch Albert takes a special interest in Tate, asking him to facilitate a “private burial”. The threat of the gang and the fact that his family are struggling forces Tate to take this opportunity and henceforth they form an uncomfortable business relationship.  

John Cusack is almost unrecognisable in his manner as Dutch Albert – he fills his scenes with a quiet but palpable menace. The character is both erratic and strangely moralistic in his way, appearing to be taking Patrick Tate under his wing as an immigrant – and therefore an outsider – in the community.  The hypocrisy of this “holy” community is referenced throughout the film, particularly as people rejected by the church start desperately turning to Dutch Albert for work. The law does not wield much power in this town – the sheriff is an ineffective character who bends to the will of the preacher. The two extremes of religious purity and hedonism are the forces at odds with each other and the only sources of power in the town.

Patrick Tate is an almost passive character, adapting to situations as they arise and only acting when something forces his hand. He appeases Dutch Albert while holding him in contempt. His fluctuating motivations in the story mean that he is not a clear hero. As he gets more deeply involved in Dutch Albert’s dirty work, the voice of reason comes from his wife Audrey, played by Déborah François. She is a sympathetic and endearing character and while Tate becomes more dubious in his morality, Audrey becomes the character that you root for. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of the film comes from the threat against Audrey from Dutch Albert’s tongueless henchman Dumb-Dumb (Sam Louwyck), who leers at her a cold, quiet, violence throughout. The anticipation created around this violence adds a sense of dread that permeates the story.

The film is visually very impressive. Much of the outdoor scenes were shot in Connemara – an American frontier town was effectively created somewhere near Oughterard, Galway. The attention to detail in the production design, costume and set design means that everything feels authentic in terms of place and time. The Irish weather conditions do make an appearance in the form of the copious amount of mud visible in the film. These conditions are used to the filmmaker’s advantage as everything is built into showing the hardship of life in this town. The grey skies, rain and seas of mud are all part of the struggle of daily life and reflect the characters’ experience. 

Never Grow Old is an immersive film – once you are in, you are in, for better or for worse. It shows frontier life at its most fantastically harsh, with characters that showcase the darker extremes of humanity. At the screening Kavanagh described it as an allusion to how America was “founded in violence”; the result is a convincing Western, with a good dose of grim and grit.

 

Never Grow Old screened 14th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)

 

Never Grow Old is released in Irish cinemas 23rd August 2019


2019 | Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France | 100 mins

 

 

 

 

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Review: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood 

DIR/WRI: Quentin Tarantino • PRO: David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino • DOP: Robert Richardson • ED: Fred Raskin • DES: Barbara Ling • CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood marks Quentin Tarantino’s 9th feature film. It’s his self-confessed lament for the halcyon days of Hollywood, and the promise of a golden age that came and went, and the sadness born from that loss. We’re shot back in time by one of cinema’s defining auteurs, straight into the sun-soaked bliss of 1969, on a ride through the valley of dolls, dreams, and celebrity. But in the land of milk, honey and a thousand dances, nothing is what it seems. It’s a world of high flyers, low flyers and no flyers as we cruise through the tiered social strata of Hollywood.

Once Upon a Time… mainly follows faded and jaded TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo Di Caprio), a middle-aged actor passed his prime who never quite blossomed into a star. Rick’s big break was ‘The Fourteen fists of McCluskey‘, a feisty war picture that should have catapulted him to the stars but fell short. That said, Ricks no one-trick pony, he’s currently the star of TV western ‘Bounty Law‘, where he plays righteous lawman and purveyor of justice Jake Cahill. Between takes and beers, Ricks usually cruising with his best friend Cliff Booth(Brad Pitt). Cliff is Rick’s stunt double on ‘Bounty Law‘, and in his own words he’s just there “to carry the load.” Cliff is a warrior spirit, a weapon of a man, and a World War II veteran at that. But underneath his herculean physique and charming smile is a zen-like temperament, he’s a man accepting of his lot, which doesn’t amount to more than a dog, a trailer and a lingering rumour that he killed his wife. But make no mistake Cliff and Rick’s friendship is the driving force of the film, catapulting it forward scene by scene, pound for pound.  Cliff keeps Rick’s spirit in check as he grabbles with his failures as an actor. Of course, matters aren’t helped by the fact that Hollywood royalty and emblems of success Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski are living next door; or that Manson hippie chicks are floating around the streets like sirens, trouble can’t be far.

Quentin’s vision for Once Upon a Time… is brought to the screen by regular collaborator cinematographer Robert Richardson. The cinematography is a dynamic dance somewhere between naturalism and sheer cinematic spectacle, envigorating late ’60s Hollywood with a raw earthy freshness. Richardson’s finely tuned eye and magnanimous lighting lend a painterly quality to every composition that can’t be argued with. Of course, then there’s the soundtrack. And as to be expected, it’s sonic gold for the eardrums, with some timely oldies and some less familiar ones to boot.

Brad Pitt gives a muscular and affectionate performance as Cliff Booth, lighting up the screen with smoking cool ’60s charm. Leonardo Di Caprio gives a masterful turn as wild west thespian Rick Dalton, unleashing a six-shooter’s worth of despair mixed in with a tablespoon of comic gold. Margot Robbie’s take on Sharon Tate is set to be the definitive cinematic realization; Robbie brings a candid naturalism and fiery vitality to her every movement. The main cast is accompanied by an ensemble of players fit to die for, with the likes of Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Damian Lewis, and Margaret Qualley.

Throughout Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, there’s a pervading tone of melancholy. Tarantino’s portrayal of Hollywood pierces through the thin veneer of LA glitz and glamour, in search of characters caught in an existential trap, and who can’t get out. This is Tarantino at his most mature since ‘Jackie Browne’, underneath its golden facade Once Upon a Time… is an expertly crafted meditation on the loss of the dreams of a generation. Tarantino’s film is a potent love letter to the end of an era in Cinema and history, and at its core it’s equally embedded in the present. The Tate/ La Bianca murders were a fulcrum in space and time, a catastrophic turning point that ended the ’60s, shattering free love and the hippie dream forever. It was a singular moment that was a precursor of everything to come, the toxic wave of ’70s paranoia and uncertainty, when a country was brought to its knees and an empire broke. Ultimately ,Tarantino taps into the electric vibrations that tingled in the air in ’69, there’s a lingering sense in every scene that things are coming to a close, its a sun-soaked funeral procession for all, and it ends with a bang that will reverberate throughout cinematic history.

Michael Lee

161′ 17″
18 (see IFCO for details)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is released 14th August 2019

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – Official Website

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Early Irish Cinema: “Leaning towards the Spectacular”: The Suppression of the Sinn Fein Review in April 1919

Denis Condon’s blog Early Irish Cinema looks back at the early development of cinema in Ireland on the anniversaries of those developments and offers information on what cinemagoers could have seen in Irish cinemas a century ago. Here Denis highlights the banning and seizure of the Sinn Fein Review, a compilation of Irish Events newsreel (1917 – 1920) items  100 years ago.

Drogheda Advertiser 19 Apr. 1919: 3.

On the evening of Wednesday, 16 April 1919, Head Constable John Orr arrived at the Boyne Cinema in Fair Street, Drogheda, accompanied by a squad made up of all the available Royal Irish Constabulary men in the town’s Westgate and South Quay barracks. As Orr recorded in his official report of events, caretaker Thomas Borden told him that manager Joseph Stanley was not present and initially refused to give the policemen the key to the projection box. However, when Orr threatened to break in the door with a heavy hatchet he had instructed be brought from the barracks, Borden relented and opened the door. Seizing two reels of film that made up parts 1 and 2 of the Sinn Fein Review that had been produced and supplied to the cinema by Norman Whitten’s General Film Supply (GFS), Orr brought them back to Westgate barracks to await further instructions (CSORP).

Poster seen on 29 Mar. 1919 by Inspector Herbert of the Dublin Metropolitan in the window of the General Film Supply offices in Dublin. Courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland.

This dramatic raid was the end point of a process that began two-and-a-half weeks earlier, when a poster in the GFS office window at 17 Brunswick had caught the eye of Inspector Herbert of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) as he had been strolling past between 10 and 11am. Making this his business, Herbert had quizzed an unnamed GFS employee about the poster and had been told that the film showed “a number of incidents in connection with the Rebellion of 1916, its leaders, and the Sinn Fein movement generally which have been shown from time to time have been put into one film in review form” (CSORP).

What happened between these two police actions has been well known in Irish film studies since the late 1980s, thanks to Kevin Rockett’s detailed account in Cinema and Ireland, the first systemic book in the field (Rockett, Gibbons and Hill 34-6). Rockett based his account on a file in the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) that covers the banning of both the Sinn Fein Review in April 1919 and Ireland a Nation in January 1917 (see an account of the latter film here). As such, this file offers the richest detail of any official document of the period on the British authorities’ regulation of Irish cinema in the late 1910s, between the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. Rockett charts how the police and military authorities consulted on what to do, and citing the precedent set by the Ireland a Nation case, the police sent two detectives to view the film. Their report led to the conclusion that it should be banned because it was “Sinn Fein propaganda pure and simple.” When the police arrived at the GFS offices to seize the film, they were told that copies had already been despatched to Drogheda, precipitating the raid on the Boyne Cinema.

Ian Macpherson was appointed Chief Secretary of Ireland in January 1919; from Century Ireland.

The details of Irish Events films provided by the detectives and local newspaper accounts of the events in Drogheda deserve more attention than they have had, but it’s worth first saying something about the kind of source this file is. It is part of the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers (CSO/RP), the surviving documents held by NAI that went through the Dublin Castle office of the British cabinet minister with responsibility for the administration of Ireland. In April 1919, the post of chief secretary was held by Ian Macpherson, but as the two-year gap between the Ireland a Nation and Sinn Fein Review cases suggests, cinema-related cases only rarely crossed Macpherson’s desk.

The IVA advertises a 1919 funding drive; Freeman’s Journal 21 Jun. 1919: 4.

The day-to-regulation of cinema was done at a different level of government, by local councils under the powers provided by the 1909 Cinematograph Act. That act originally focused on the very real danger of loss of life from cinema fires caused by the bringing together of highly combustible nitrate film and light sources that produced high heat or even used a naked flame. As a result, regulations initially provided for fire-proof projection booths and auditoria with adequate provision for escape in the event of fire. The employees of the council who were given this responsibility typically belonged to the public health or sanitation department, such as Limerick Corporation’s sub-sanitary officer Solomon Frost, who in February 1919 prosecuted the Athenaeum Hall and Coliseum for overcrowding, or Dublin Corporation theatre inspector Walter Butler who in April 1919, brought similar charges against the Sackville Picture House, Pillar Picture House, Mary Street Picture House and Electric Theatre (“Limerick News,” “City Picture Houses,” “Picture House Crowding”). Butler was not just Dublin Corporation’s theatre inspector. His duties increased considerably in June 1916, when in response to the incessant lobbying of by the Catholic-church-based Irish Vigilance Association (IVA), the Corporation appointed him and Councillor Patrick Lennon film censors.

Frank Leah’s caricature of Eugene McGough; Irish LimelightJun. 1918: 1.

When it became clear that Butler and Lennon could watch only a fraction of the films exhibited in Dublin, the IVA again successfully lobbied the Corporation for the appointment as additional censors of IVA members Eugene McGough and AJ Murray, “two gentlemen of education and standing in the City who are willing to devote their spare time to carry out the work, without fee or reward, solely in the interests of the citizens” (Dublin Corporation). In May 1919, the IVA claimed that McGough and Murray had watched over 700 films in the previous year, spending “2,100 hours of their time viewing these films before they were presented to the public, which meant that they were engaged for seven hours a day cutting out of these films whatever was objectionable” (“Worthy of Support”).

The definition of what was objectionable differed between the IVA-enhanced Corporation censors and the British officials at the CSO. In January 1918, McGough had clarified his and the IVA’s view that “pictures dealing with sexual matters should be prohibited by law and the house showing them should be heavily penalised” (“Our Cinema Censors”). This is shockingly clear; moving pictures should not treat sex or sexuality in any way. Historical or newsreel films such as Ireland a Nation and the Sinn Fein Review were beyond this kind of reproach, but they attracted the attention of the Castle authorities for political content that had the potentiality to cause disaffection among the majority nationalist audience. Nevertheless, politically contentious films that required the involvement of the CSO were rare, in part because the authorities used banning as a way of warning off distributors and exhibitors who may have seen a commercial opportunity in screening politically controversial material in times when Irish audiences appeared to be especially receptive to advanced nationalist, anti-British opinions.

Frank Leah’s caricature of Frederick Sparling, who was best known as the proprietor of the Bohemian Picture Theatre in Phibsboro, Dublin, but who had hired the larger and more centrally located Rotunda to show Ireland a Nation. Irish LimelightAug. 1917: 1.

In this sense, distributor Frederick Sparling was doing the government’s work for them by keeping the Ireland a Nation case in the public eye. Not that that was his aim: the banning of the film had cost him a considerable sum in securing the distribution rights and in hiring the Rotunda, Dublin’s largest cinema at the time, in which to show it. Understandably, he sought compensation for the banning of a film that the press censor appointed under the Defence of the Realm Act had initially passed for exhibition. But by seeking redress from the War Losses Commission in January 1918 and when this proved unsatisfactory, prompting Irish Parliamentary MP Jeremiah McVeagh to ask a question about it in the House of Commons in February 1919, Ireland a Nation became exemplary of the difficulties over years that distributors could face if they released politically contentious material (“‘Ireland a Nation,’” “Irish Questions”).

Norman Whitten was well aware of these developments, but he had good reason to think that the Sinn Fein Review would not receive such treatment. For a start, the film was a newsreel compilation consisting almost exclusively of short items concerning Sinn Féin that had already been shown as part of Irish Events, and none of these individual items had been banned. The only non-Irish Events items were a couple of films that predated the start of Irish Events in July 1917 and the first film of Sinn Féin president Éamon de Valera since his daring escape from Lincoln Prison on 3 February 1919. Perhaps the de Valera film so prominently featured in advertising was the problem. If the police couldn’t recapture de Valera, they could capture his image. In any case, as the poster spotted by Inspector Herbert indicates, Whitten clearly made no secret that he was compiling the film and intended to offer it for sale. Fingal, the new writer of trade journal Bioscope’s “Irish Notes,” had mentioned it in his/her column of 10 April. “Mr. Whitten’s biggest scoop recently has been the filming of the Sinn Fein ‘President,’ Mr. de Valera, in his hiding place near Dublin after his escape from Lincoln Gaol,” Fingal observed. “This is being included in a film survey of the Sinn Fein movement since the Dublin rebellion in 1916, and is being released under the title ‘Sinn Fein Review’” (“Irish Notes”).

Fingal gave some attention not only to this first Irish newsreel compilation but also to other ambitious film projects that Whitten had in train. These included the feature-length hagiography In the Days of St Patrick, the first scenes of which Fingal had seen and praised as “strikingly picturesque.” But Fingal began the column with the political events that GFS’s Irish Events newsreel covered more generally. “The Irish people have a decided leaning towards the spectacular,” the column began.

Which is a good thing for the makers of topical films.

“Irish Events” is never short of good topical material, and is very popular with audiences in this country. […] At the present moment the most dramatic and picturesque incidents are being provided by the Sinn Feiners.

Fingal probably did not get a chance to see the full Sinn Fein Review, and it does not survive, but Inspectors George Love and Neil McFeely wrote a detailed description of it in their report of a special screening at the GFS offices on the morning of 12 April 1919. “The Film is in two parts and it takes half an hour to show,” they began, before describing the items in each part. Paraphrasing them slightly, these were:

Part I

  1. The annual Republican pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave at Bodenstown, including a scene at the graveside.
  2. The first Sinn Féin electoral victory in the North Roscommon by-election on 5 February 1917, featuring successful candidate Count George Plunkett.
  3. Scenes at the East Clare by-election after the declaration of the poll on 11 July 1917, showing successful candidate de Valera in uniform alongside Plunkett and Sinn Féin leader Arthur Griffith.
  4. The Sinn Féin Convention at Dublin’s Mansion House on 25 October 1917, showing delegates leaving.
  5. Scenes at the East Cavan by-election of June 1918, showing senior Sinn Féin member Father Michael O’Flanagan and crowds outside the White Horse Hotel.
  6. The funeral procession in Dublin on 17 November 1918 for journalist and author Séumas O’Kelly, who had edited the Sinn Féin newspaper Nationality after Griffith’s arrest
  7. The procession from Dublin’s Westland Row railway station and scenes outside Fleming’s Hotel after the arrival of amnestied Easter Rising prisoners on 18 June 1917, and the reception of Countess Constance Markievicz after her release four days later.

Part II

  1. General election events in Dublin in December 1918, including scenes outside the polling booths, the declaration of the poll at Green Street, and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington congratulating Alderman Thomas Kelly.
  2. The anti-conscription meeting at Ballaghadereen on 5 May 1918, showing Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Dillon and de Valera addressing the audience from the same platform.
  3. Irish Women’s Anti-Conscription Procession in Dublin on 9 June 1918.
  4. Crowds outside the Mansion House on the occasion of the first Meeting of Dáil Eireann on 21 January 1919, with a group portrait of key figures.
  5. First film of de Valera after his escape from Lincoln Prison on 3 February.
  6. Markievicz exhibiting a picture she painted in Holloway Prison, entitled “Easter Week”; also the Countess engaged in gardening and painting a picture.
  7. De Valera’s first appearance in Dublin after his escape, showing his arrival at the Mansion House with Cathal Burgess [Brugha], footage of the Lord Mayor and his two daughters, and de Valera leaving the Mansion House.

Both parts were no doubt close to the standard 1,000-foot reel length, running about 15 minutes. As such, each numbered item ran an average of two minutes, but some were likely the one-minute standard of newsreel items while items taken from newsreel specials were probably over two minutes. Apart from the two final films of de Valera (II 5 and 7) and possible the one of Markievicz (II 6), it is probable that all the other films had been shown previously, as Whitten told the two detectives. Certainly some of them are readily identifiable as films discussed here previously, such as the newsreel special of the first Dáil.

While the structure of the film may seem a bit haphazard, it appears to sacrifice a strict commitment to chronology to a progress towards emotionally charged climaxes. Part I begins with a key annual event in the Republican calendar, the pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave in June, but the likely film used here was not the oldest Sinn Féin film but probably the film shot on 29 June 1918. Following it, the film proceeds chronologically through items I 2-6 of the by-elections, convention and Séumas O’Kelly’s public funeral. The final item of the triumphant return of the 1916 rebels from prisons in Britain is most clearly out of chronological order but is placed at the end of the reel because this event had such a strong emotional charge and showed the popularity of figures such as Markievicz.

The chronology of part II is not as disturbed, but it begins with the December 1918 general election, at which Sinn Féin had been so successful, before including events earlier in 1918 and finishing with de Valera’s reception at the Mansion House. The fact that Irish Events had two films of de Valera during his period after his escape from prison suggests a close connection between GFS and Sinn Féin, a convergence of the filmmakers’ leaning toward the spectacular and the politicians’ need for publicity. It is also interesting to note the prominence of Markievicz and other women activists again in this half of the film. “The Film as it stands,” Love and McFeely’s report concluded, “is a glorification of Sinn Fein and wherever exhibited would, no doubt, be good Sinn Fein Propaganda, and might in that way be objectionable to members of an audience holding different political views” (CSORP).

Handbill for the exhibition of the Sinn Fein Review at the Boyne Cinema. Courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland.

It was unlikely that many of the members of the Boyne Cinema’s audience held different political views, or at least were not aware in advance of the kind of film that the Sinn Fein Review was. Whether the GFS poster was used in Drogheda is not clear, but the cinema did issue a handbill that survives in the NLI file on the seizure of the film. The handbill also stresses de Valera’s name among all the Sinn Féin leaders who are connected to the movement’s history since 1916. The cinema itself had substantial 1916 connections, having been established by Joseph Stanley, the proprietor of the radical Gaelic Press in Dublin’s Liffey Street and printer of such key 1916 Rising documents as the Proclamation and the Irish War News. Stanley had been among the activists imprisoned in Britain, and Constable Orr in his report on the raid on the Boyne described him as a “Sinn Fein suspect, now living in Drogheda,” a phrase that may explain the heavy-handedness of the seizure.

The Boyne Cinema’s opening programme; Drogheda Independent 25 Jan. 1919: 1.

Although the Boyne seems largely typical of the many small cinemas of the period, Stanley’s radical politics marked it out in certain ways. When it opened on 27 January 1919, the Drogheda Independent reported that it would be run under “Irish-Ireland management” (“New Picture House”). This was immediately evident in the presentation of the opening programme, which was topped by the “Irish-made screamingly funny comedy” Rafferty’s Rise (Ireland: FCOI, 1917) and featured among its supplementary attractions the dancing of gold-medal Irish dancer Greta Daly. As a man under surveillance, Stanley’s choice of a film poking fun at the foibles of a rural constable may not have wholly accidental. This level of Irish content was not long maintained, however. During the second half of the opening week, the programme was topped by American comedy The Clodhopper (US: Kay Bee/New York, 1917), but perhaps there was more continuity in Charles Ray’s performance of the country bumpkin than initially seems. “People who foolishly imagine that a ‘Clodhopper’ cannot get on in other spheres of life,” the synopsis in the Drogheda papers warned. “should have their minds disabused by a view of th[is] famous comedy film “(“Only a ‘Clodhopper’”).

Drogheda Independent 19 Apr. 1919: 3.

The appearance of the Sinn Fein Review must have been a gift for Stanley, but audience reaction is a little more difficult to judge. Local newspapers carried no ads for the film, but they all reported differently on how waiting patrons reacted to the police raid on the cinema. “At the time of the seizure there was a large crowd outside waiting to gain admission,” the Drogheda Advertiser observed, “but there was little or no display on their part with the exception of cheering” (“Boyne Cinema Raided”). “The seizure was effected quietly, and without any excitement,” the Drogheda Argus reported. “The management, however, carried on to full houses during the evening with other pictures, as if nothing had happened” (“Sinn Fein Review Film Seized”). This impression that the audience was little disturbed by the seizure is contradicted by the Drogheda Independent, which suggested that the audience were hostile to the police actions: “the crowds in waiting accompanied their [the police’s] movements with shouts and jeers, interjecting as well remarks that seemed suited for the occasion” (“Picture Film Seized in Drogheda”). Even if the “excitement called up by the incident was short-lived,” this account suggests that it at least provided an occasion to express disapproval of the police.

While these different accounts would bear some more examination in relation to the editorial persuasion of Drogheda’s newspapers, they show that the Sinn Fein Review had at least brought Irish audiences’ leaning towards the spectacle onto the streets.

Denis Condon lectures in film at NUI Maynooth.

Contact: denis.j.condon@nuim.ie

References

“Boyne Cinema Raided.” Drogheda Advertiser 19 Apr. 1919: 3.

“City Picture Houses: Alleged Overcrowding.” Dublin Evening Mail 25 Apr. 1919: 3.

CSORP/1919/11025. National Archives of Ireland.

Dublin Corporation, Reports, 1917: 173.

“‘Ireland a Nation’: Why Military Authorities Banned the Film.” Evening Telegraph 29 Jan. 1918: 3.

“Irish Notes.” Bioscope 10 Apr. 1919: 119.

“Irish Questions.” Cork Examiner 28 Feb. 1919: 4.

“Limerick News.” Cork Examiner 1 Feb. 1919: 5.

“New Picture House.” Drogheda Independent 25 Jan. 1919: 2.

“Only a ‘Clodhopper.’” Drogheda Argus 25 Jan. 1919: 1.

“Our Cinema Censors: The Difficulties They Have to Contend With.” Evening Herald 31 Jan. 1918: 2.

“Picture Film Seized in Drogheda.” Drogheda Independent 19 Apr. 1919: 2.

“Picture House Crowding in Dublin.” Dublin Evening Mail

Rockett, Kevin, Luke Gibbons and John Hill. Cinema and Ireland. Routledge, 1988.

“Sinn Fein Review Film Seized.” Drogheda Argus 19 Apr. 1919: 2.

“Worthy of Support: Activities of the Vigilance Association Outlined.” Weekly Freeman’s Journal 3 May 1919: 1.

 

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Review: Blinded by the Light

DIR: Gurinder Chadha • WRI: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor • PRO: Jane Barclay, Paul Mayeda Berges, Jamal Daniel • DOP: Ben Smithard • ED:  Justin Krish • DES: Nick Ellis • MUS: A.R. Rahman • CAST: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nell Williams, Rob Brydon and Hayley Atwell

It is not a mystery that Bruce Springsteen has a loyal and avid following. If this is news to you, check out the 2013 documentary Springsteen and I, or better yet go to one of his concerts. Springsteen means different things to different people, but every fanatic will attest that Springsteen represents truth, or at least the search for one. Gurinder Chadha’s new film Blinded by the Light (named after the first song on his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park) is a celebration, not only of Springsteen’s music, but of individualism. Written by Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha and Sarfraz Manzoor, the message, like a lot of Springsteen’s work is not only to go out and live your life, but to go out and grab it by the balls, no matter who you are, or where you are from. 

There are a lot of correlations between Chadha’s film and Springsteen’s music. One being that if it doesn’t pull you in from the start, I can only imagine that one might see it as a facile attempt to exploit his music. But if it grabs you, like it did this reviewer, you’ll be all in. Blinded by the Light tells the story of a young Pakistani teenager, Javed (Kalra), growing up (pardon the pun) in Luton in the late 1980s. Thatcher, The National Front and a conservative father form a three-pronged repressive force to this aspiring writer. He has a best friend, Matt (Chapman), who listens to The Pet Shop Boys and believes that ‘synths are the future’ (he is not far wrong). However, it is a new friend Roops (Phagura), a Springsteen obsessive who loans Javed Born in the USA and Darkness on the Edge of Town. He sticks them in his Walkman and his life is changed forever.

The formula of the film is a predictable one. In fact, it follows the same beats as Chadha’s 2002 film Bend it Like Beckham (replace David Beckham and football with Springsteen and writing). Yet the raw emotion that accompanies Springsteen’s music and lyrics elevates this film and becomes its heart and soul. To be fair to Chadha, she is also not afraid to veer into more adult themes than she has before. Montages of Thatcher’s Britain, job centres and National Front marches recall the work of Shane Meadows as she ups the ante on racist themes she has alluded to in previous films. Some sequences are frighteningly current. She, like Springsteen, can mix darkness with hope. 

Blinded by the Light joins the present wave of musical films, some good, Rocketman, and some bad Bohemian Rhapsody, Yesterday. Blinded by the Light falls into the former category, while systematic, its fantastical elements and musical numbers are enough to sweep you along, outweighing and disavowing otherwise predictable storytelling. 

Tom Crowley

117′ 11″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Blinded by the Light is released 9th August 2019

Blinded by the Light – Official Website

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody

Seán Crosson reflects on Aodh Ó Coileáin’s exploration of confluence.

Galway has long been regarded as the cultural capital of Ireland. However, this reputation has rarely been interrogated on film to identify what may make the city and surrounding county distinctive for creative artists, and the more complex story that may lie behind this description. Aodh Ó Coileáin’s Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody addresses these questions through reflections from an array of Galway based artists from varied fields, including musician/composer Máirtín O’Connor; novelist Mike McCormack; poet Rita Ann Higgins; artistic director of Macnas Noeline Kavanagh; singer songwriter Róisín Seoighe; visual artist Pádraic Reaney; and comedian Tommy Tiernan. 

These reflections are accompanied by stunning imagery of Galway city and county that perfectly complements the perspectives offered while confirming the scenic beauty of the area that provides inspiration for many of those featured. Within the documentary, each contributor reflects on their own creative process and the inspiration they have taken from the space around them – these are not always entirely positive recollections; they speak to the complexity of Galway as a space, as well as the challenges of the artistic process itself. The creative work of each contributor is threaded through the documentary, providing musical, visual, and literary accompaniment to their words and the images featured. 

A recurring trope throughout the work is the concept of confluence (one of the many definitions provided for Cumar in the production) – Galway through history has been above all a meeting place, most obviously for the waterways across the city that converge in Galway Bay, but also for the many individuals down the years of varied backgrounds, cultures  and languages that have interacted, and influenced each other while making Galway their home. Ó Coileáin foregrounds this theme of interaction through a conversation between Tommy Tiernan and Mike McCormack, to which the production repeatedly returns.

Given the presence of Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht in the county, Ó Coileáin rightly chooses to take a bilingual approach to the topic and the Irish language itself is a recurring theme, even among writers (such as Rita Anne Higgins) who write primarily in English. However, there is also a tension evident here at times, articulated most clearly by Tiernan who refers to the linguistic divide between the city and Gaeltacht area. 

There is a further critique evident by Mike McCormack of the failure of the city to provide adequate exhibition space for the visual arts in particular. While Galway may pride (and market) itself on the prominence of culture and the arts, there is a strong sense expressed across several of the contributors here that this status is not always supported appropriately in terms of either facilities or support provided for the arts in Galway.

However, overall this is a celebratory work. In advance of Galway taking over as European Capital of Culture next year, Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody is a timely, engaging and at times provocative reflection on Galway (city and county) as a distinctive place from the perspective of some of the city and county’s leading creative figures.

Seán Crosson

 

 Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody screened 10th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

 

2019 | Ireland | 72 mins 

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Irish Films Screening at Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from 5-15 September and features a number of Irish films in its programme.

 
 

Henry Glassie: Field Work
DIR: Pat Collins

 

 

A magisterial portrait of the most renowned American folklorist and ethnologist Henry Glassie, now in his seventies. The film is a beautifully intricate exposition of Glassie’s life’s work, displaying Collin’s trademark deft touch and remarkable eye for details of the deepest significance.

Ordinary Love
DIR: Lisa Barros-d’Sa and Glenn Leyburn 
WRI: Owen McCafferty

 

 
Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville star in this Northern Ireland Screen-funded film as a long-standing couple facing a potentially life-changing cancer diagnosis, in this drama scripted by Northern Irish playwright Owen McCafferty.

 

CAST: Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville, Amit Shah

 
The Other Lamb
DIR: Małgorzata Szumowska
WRI: C.S. McMullen

 

 
A girl (Raffey Cassidy) born into an all-female cult led by a man in their compound (Michiel Huisman) begins to question his teachings and her own reality, in this haunting, English-language debut from acclaimed Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska (The Body, Mug). An Irish-Belgian co-production.

 

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Raffey Cassidy, Denise Gough

 
A Bump Along the Way
DIR: Shelly Love
WRI: Tess McGowan

 

 
When a fun-loving, middle-aged single mom accidentally gets pregnant, her prim teenage daughter is scandalized. But mother and daughter slowly reverse roles as the pregnancy progresses, in this delightful, insightful Northern Irish dramedy.
 

 

CAST: Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew, Mary Moulds

Calm With Horses
DIR: Nick Rowland
WRI: Joe Murtagh

 

When a former boxer is offered a gig as an enforcer with the local drug mafia, life seems on the uptick — but the demands weigh heavily as he makes inroads with his young son, in Nick Rowland’s brooding yet tender crime film.

 

CAST:  Barry Keoghan, Ned Dennehy, Niamh Algar

 
Sea Fever
DIR/WRI: Neasa Hardiman

 

 
A bizarre creature hitches a ride on a departing trawler, in this masterful genre film from Irish filmmaker Neasa Hardiman that leverages the mysteries of the sea to amplify the potential horrors of the unknown.

 

CAST: Connie Nielsen, Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott

 
Sweetness in the Belly
DIR: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari
WRI: Laura Phillips

 

 
Dakota Fanning stars in this Irish-Canadian adaptation of Camilla Gibb’s bestseller, set in England and Ethiopia, about an altruistic and devout young woman with a nomadic past seeking to reconnect with the man she loves.

 
CAST: Dakota Fanning, Kunal Nayyar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

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