Film Ireland is currently working on its new website.
We apologise for the current temporary holding page but will continue to publish content (see below).
We look forward to revealing our new website very soon.
Film Ireland is currently working on its new website.
We apologise for the current temporary holding page but will continue to publish content (see below).
We look forward to revealing our new website very soon.
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.
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
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.
18 (see IFCO for details)
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is released 14th August 2019
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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’”).
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.
“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.
June Butler talks to filmmakers Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell about their documentary Gaza, a portrait of the resilience of people in the most challenging of circumstances and living under the constant threat of a looming war.
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.
12A (see IFCO for details)
Blinded by the Light is released 9th August 2019
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.
Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody screened 10th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).
2019 | Ireland | 72 mins
CAST: Dakota Fanning, Kunal Nayyar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Image: B1999.14.1210D, Hilscher Collection, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.
James Bartlett found himself in Fairbanks, Alaska and learned about the single most powerful businessman in the Territory of Alaska and its richest resident, Austin “Cap” Lathrop, who would have a role to play in the territory’s film history.
Ireland may be famous for its weather, but it struggles to hold a candle to the freezing extremes of Alaska. Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska, and, due to its location right in the center of the state, is nicknamed “The Golden Heart.”
Alaska is enormous, too. Twice the size of Texas, I was surprised to learn that it only became a US state in 1959. Until the discovery of gold (and later oil), the purchase of this frozen, largely-uninhabited landmass was famously derided as a folly.
Hollywood rarely comes to Fairbanks, though a number of its landmarks did feature in the Oscar-nominated 2007 film Into the Wild. Directed by Sean Penn, it looked at the life of Christopher McCandless, a young man searching for adventure who died in the Alaskan wilds he had made his temporary outdoor home.
On a recent visit to Fairbanks I saw several of the locations that featured in the film, including a couple of evenings in the shamrock-friendly Big I pub (you just can’t get away from Irish pubs, no matter where you are).
Inside I heard stories of fur trapping, driving across the ice on the frozen Chena River (there was only one two-way steel bridge), and how travel by small plane is still as common as ever. I also learned that Fairbanks was once home to a film mogul named Austin “Cap” Lathrop.
Lathrop first made inroads into Alaska in 1895, when his steamship bought supplies – and prospective miners – to the territory. He later invested in mining and oil, and in 1911 he converted a clothing store into his first Empress film theatre in the city of Valdez.
He opened other Empress-named cinemas, including the all-concrete one in Fairbanks (1927), where he also bought out the owners of the rather forlorn-looking Lacey Street Theater (both now long replaced by a multiplex).
He had radio and newspaper interests in Fairbanks and beyond too, but in 1924 he was the driving force behind adventure-drama film The Chechahcos (the title meaning “tenderfoot” or “new arrival”).
Many Alaskan stories had been seen on the big screen, but they didn’t shoot on location. Lathrop, as president of the Alaska Motion Picture Corporation, wanted to change that. They announced plans for the production of a 12-reel picture – three of which were to be shot in Alaska – as a co-production with Oregon-based American Lithograph. A large studio was built in Anchorage, and the crew from Hollywood, New York and Oregon flew in to work on the melodramatic story of gold-rush days.
Every effort was made for full authenticity, and actors and crew alike faced the challenges of shooting on location, including a final chase involving mushing, a frozen river and a glacier – all of it real. Many local actors were hired, and others lined up to help and to work as extras (a story familiar to the countless hundreds or more who picked up work on the many years that “Game of Thrones” shot in Northern Ireland). Pathe-International bought the rights, and it was screened at the White House for the President before being released across America.
Hopes were high and reviews favorable, but audiences weren’t impressed (and the unusual title probably didn’t help either). Some, however, noticed that Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 comedy The Gold Rush might have been influenced by it, and in 2003 it was selected by the National Film Preservation Board.
Lathrop died in an accident in 1950, but he did live on in perhaps Fairbanks’ most famous film. Released in 1960, Ice Palace was partly shot in Fairbanks, and featured a cast that included Richard Burton and Robert Ryan.
Based on the 1958 novel by Edna Ferber, it saw rich businessman “Czar” Kennedy (played by Burton) and Thor Storm (Ryan) as two friends and rivals living in “Baranof,” a growing city looking towards statehood. “Baranof” was greatly inspired by Fairbanks, and Czar was based on the life of “Cap” Lathrop.
In 1950 a new, swish, eight-story apartment complex called the Northward Building had been built in Fairbanks. It was home to the city’s elite, and a very-similar building was Czar’s home in the pages of the book. Writer Edna Ferber was fresh off the success of her previous novel Giant (and the subsequent James Dean film), but this movie version was a flop.
Though it has lost almost all its lustre, the Northward Building still pays tribute to its moment in the spotlight: the hallway is lined with posters, newspaper articles and copies of the book. Locals still call “The Ice Palace”.
Perhaps the best show in Fairbanks is the Aurora Borealis, which can be seen – weather conditions permitting – on many nights of the year here, thanks to that central location. I was lucky enough to catch a pre-winter glimpse….
Currently based in Los Angeles, James Bartlett is a story analyst for the Sundance Institute, the Nicholl Fellowships, the UCLA Professional Screenwriting Program, the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and National Geographic Films. He also reads for several UK regions, is the US consultant for Euroscript, and lectures across the UK and Ireland.
He’s available for private consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
DIR: Thurop Van Orman • WRI: Peter Ackerman • DOP: Simon Dunsdon • ED: Kent Beyda, Ally Garrett • DES: Pete Oswald • PRO: John Cohen • MUS: Heitor Pereira • CAST: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader.
Video games movies never make it past the first film. Over the years we’ve seen them nearly all die at the first level. Max Payne, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Need for Speed, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider (2018) and two separate Hitman movies all came and went without anyone caring. For those who happened to catch these films, presumably playing in the background on a Sunday evening, we’re treated to boring films that spent their runtimes pandering to video game fans who deserved better. Outside of Mila Jovovich carrying Resident Evil to six films and Ryan Reynolds turning Pikachu into Deadpool, video game movies have been a genre with little success. Of all the games in the world that could have been a surprise hit, no one expected it to be one based on the Rovio Entertainment puzzle video game.
The Angry Birds Movie arrived in 2016 to claim the throne of the best video game movie ever made. Was it good? It was fine but you’ve got to remember that everything that came before it ranged from mediocre to atrocious. Can the Angry Birds unite to become the best video game movie sequel of all time? The answer to that is a resounding yes as its mere existence tops everything else that came before.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 continues the story of our angry hero Red (Jason Sudeikis) and the rest of the flock. Following their triumphant victory over the Pigs in the previous film, Red is no longer an outcast. Red’s newfound sense of acceptance and the fame that comes with it is threatened when new foe Zeta (played by SNL’s Leslie Jones) makes her presence known. The birds must do the unthinkable and team up with the dastardly pigs before it’s too late.
What struck me most about this film is how in terms of plot it’s as basic as it comes. There are no major twists or obstacles that get in our heroes’ way from start to finish. Normally this would be the point in the review where I’d lay into another animated film that exists to distract its younger audiences with flashy colours for an hour and a half. This rant can’t be made against The Angry Birds Movie 2. The film relies on its characters and witty humour to entertain both adults and children. The jokes come at a relentless pace. There’s no time to rue the ones that don’t land because the follow up will wipe the poor one out of your memory instantly. It’s admirable that the film chooses to focus on humour rather than plot. No one is going to an Angry Birds sequel for a story on par with The Dark Knight.
As with every kid’s film, there’s a lesson; a lesson of self-acceptance is essential for any kids or adults to learn. From a technical perspective, the animation feels exotic, it’s neither photo-realistic or cheaply made. It’s as if a wacky Sunday morning cartoon from the ’90s has been remastered.
The film ticks thanks to its leading cast. With a lot of animated films that aren’t Disney or DreamWorks it often feels that the cast is doing it for a paycheck. The leading cast members clearly had a great time making the film. Jason Sudeikis as Red is an unorthodox straight man, never afraid to deliver a killer joke despite being the rational member of the group. Danny McBride makes his, at first glance, one-note character work for a second film without ever becoming annoying. If you think Olaf from Frozen is annoying, you haven’t seen anything until you see Josh Gad as Chuck. The speedster bird is Olaf dialed up to the max. Whenever he was on screen, I could feel my blood boil. Leader of the pigs, Leonard, lets Bill Hader be Bill Hader, which is always welcome. Hader is the star of the show in most of his projects and here is no different. Sterling K Brown and Tiffany Hadish both turn their miniature roles into highlights. The two biggest new roles in the film are given to Rachel Bloom and Leslie Jones. Bloom plays Silver, an engineer who rivals Red for leadership. Bloom and Sudeikis’ chemistry make an almost forced romance feel genuine. Following the end of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend get ready to see a lot more of Bloom who is going to blow up. Leslie Jones finally finds a film that knows how to utilize her talents. Ghostbusters (2016) should have been the actor’s big break but she was held back by a limp script. Jones as the villain Zeta is hysterical; the comedian is given free rein to go wild with her character leading to the audience rooting for the villain. It’s always refreshing to have a voice cast who want to act.
Directors of the first film, Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, have opted not to return for the sequel. Sony has opted to give first-time director Thurop Van Orman a shot at directing a feature. Van Orman is no stranger to animation having written episodes of The Powerpuff Girls and creating The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack. Animated movies often feel different from the cartons we see on TV. Animated movies at times feel like they give up after they come up with their concept. While cartoons on TV aren’t afraid to embrace their weirdness. Thurop has clearly set out to make a film that is one of the more cartoonish you’ll see on the big screen. The oddness of the film makes it fresh as it never takes itself seriously.
A side plot involving baby birds would normally be released as a short film, Thurop sees no reason as to why his film can’t have a separate story that is as entertaining as his main plot. This wise decision was almost certainly from the mind of writer Peter Ackerman who previously wrote the first Ice Age film, in which Scrat, a character with no impact on the plot, became the series’ most famous character. The film’s only glaring fault is that it throws in references for the sake of it. The final act of the film crams in as many popular songs as possible for no particular reason. No one on this planet ever wanted to hear the “Baby Shark” song in a film.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 had no right being this entertaining. Not one person seeing this film expected it to be the best video game movie of all time. Yet against all the odds it is. It never takes itself seriously, its primary goal is to entertain. Had you no clue about what Angry Birds is, you would never even notice that this is a video game movie. The lesson to be learned here is that when making a video game movie, ignore the video game part and stick to making a movie. If it’s half as much fun as this one you’ve succeeded. Never in my life did I expect me to be clamoring at the prospect of a third film based off an app.
G (see IFCO for details)
The Angry Birds Movie 2 is released 2nd August 2019
Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah)
Seán Crosson took in a selection of documentary shorts at this year’s Fleadh, featuring works from both established and debut directors, showcasing the best of Irish talent.
A key component of the Galway Film Fleadh’s focus on new and emerging talent is the series of short programmes featured across the festival. In total there were nine sessions dedicated to shorts at the Fleadh, covering documentary, fiction, and animation and as always the organisers deserve great credit for the focus and space they allocate to young Irish filmmakers in the programme.
The films included in the first programme covered a wide range of topics from reflections on Irishness, to profile pieces, and considerations of aspects of the natural world.
The programme began with the visually stunning and evocative El Hor directed by Dianne Lucille Campbell. Inspired by the beautiful Saluki dog, the film combines mythology, nature imagery, and dynamic cinematography, with otherworldly musical accompaniment. In the surreal landscapes and images created, the film is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s work, but also in its imagining of the world from the perspective of the animals featured, the work of Stan Brakhage. Overall Campbell has produced an extraordinary cacophony of sound and image, impossible to categorise but rather oddly included in a section dedicated to short documentaries; this was a work much closer in form to experimental film.
More in keeping with documentary form was Eoin Harnett’s Our Land, an impressively realised reflection on what makes Ireland distinctive. Featuring seven contributors, each of whom provide engaging, humorous and at times insightful commentary on the topic, the documentary was excellently paced, moving effectively between its contributors and supporting footage from the streets of Galway.
The subsequent films Recommend Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey) and Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) (Gerard Walsh) each provided profiles of intriguing characters from Galway. Recommend Rapper focuses on would-be rapper Danny Rock from Kinvara in Galway and his efforts to produce his first music video. While generally well produced, there is an uneasy tension (never entirely resolved) evident in this work between the director’s concern to sympathetically portray the subject and Rock becoming himself a figure of fun. Farmer Michael concerns the man (Steven Timothy) behind the comic character in the film’s title who has achieved a considerable following in recent years for his entertaining and idiosyncratic YouTube videos. This is an entertaining and at times moving account of the challenges Timothy has faced in his life. However, it is also a somewhat unbalanced piece that would have benefited from either a longer profile to accommodate the tonal changes apparent or a more focused production.
Squared Circle is an interesting chronicle of a group of wrestlers setting up and performing on Waterford promenade, accompanied by an evocative commentary of the events concerned, written by Dublin-based wrestling promoter Simon Rochford, and recited by actor Ger Carey. In its day-in-a-life structure, the documentary is an informative account of the wrestlers featured and the effort involved in the events they organise and participate in.
Big Tom McBride was a legendary figure in Irish country music, above all for people from his native Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan. Táine King and Lorraine Higgins’ Making Tom is a sensitively produced study of the making of a statue to commemorate the country and Irish legend, and the impact of its unveiling on residents of his home town.
Pigeons of Discontent
The final documentary featured in this programme was Paddy Cahill’s Pigeons of Discontent – this was amongst the strongest works featured in this section, imaginatively engaging with the divided opinions among local residents of Stoneybatter in Dublin city towards the large number of pigeons that gather in the area. Cahill rightly chooses to focus his camera almost entirely on the pigeons themselves and the, at times, striking and beautiful shapes they create in flight, accompanied by comments (both positive and negative) from those who share Stoneybatter with them.
Screen Ireland has announced the successful applicants for funding at development, production and distribution stages for the second quarter of 2019.
|Project||Director||Writer||Production Company||Funding Award|
|Losing Alaska||Tom Burke||Tom Burke||Marcie Films||€10,000|
|When All is Ruin Once Again||Keith Walsh||Keith Walsh, Jill Beardsworth||Twopair Films||€10,000|
|Project||Director||Writer||Production Company||Funding Award|
|Metal Heart||Hugh O’Conor||Paul Murray||Sentio Ar Ltd t/a Break Out Pictures||€30,000|
|Vita & Virginia||Chanya Button||Eileen Atkins, Chanya Button||Wildcard Distribution||€12,500|
|Papi Chulo||John Butler||John Butler||Eclipse Pictures||€34,000|
|Prisoners of the Moon||Johnny Gogan||Johnny Gogan||Eclipse Pictures||€10,000|
|Float Like A Butterfly||Carmel Winters||Carmel Winters||Eclipse Pictures|
|Project||Director||Writer||Production Company||Funding Award|
|Let the Wrong One In||Conor McMahon||Conor McMahon||Workshed Films||€650,000|
|Borderland||Ronan Bennett||Parallel Films||€800,000|
|Cutters||Rachel Carey||Rachel Carey||O’Sullivan Productions||€600,000|
|Beards||David Freyne||David Freyne||Atomic 80||€700,000|
|Mo Ghra Buan||Peter Murphy, Rachael Moriarty||Peter Murphy, Rachael Moriarty||Macalla Teoranta||€300,000|
|Foscadh||Sean Breathnach||Sean Breathnach||Magamedia||€300,000|
|Beards||David Freyne||David Freyne||Atomic 80||€50,000|
|Wildfire||Cathy Brady||Cathy Brady||Samson Films||€75,000|
|Sea Fever||Neasa Hardiman||Neasa Hardiman||Fantastic Films||€50,000|
|The Racer||Kieron J Walsh||Ciaran Cassidy||Blinder Films||€100,000|
|Puffin Rock Feature Film||Jeremy Purcell||Sara Daddy||Cartoon Saloon||€300,000|
|Glimpse||Benjamin Cleary||Michael O’Connor, Benjamin Cleary||€50,000|
|The Edge of Chaos||Sam Uhlemann||Sam Uhlemann||New Stage Films||€100,000|
|Untitled||Anna Rose Holmer, Saela Davis||Shane Crowley||Sixty Six Pictures||€Unquantified Offer|
|Bird||Naomi Sheridan||Naomi Sheridan, Charlotte George||Underground Films||€Unquantified Offer|
|Wolf||Nathalie Biancheri||Nathalie Biancheri||Feline Films||€800,000|
|Project||Director||Writer||Production Company||Funding Award|
|Sweetness in the Belly||Zeresenay Mehari||Laura Philips||Parallel Films||€50,000|
|My Salinger Year||Philippe Falardeau||Philippe Falardeau||Parallel Films||€200,000|
|The Last Rifleman||Terry Loane||Kevin Fitzpatrick||Ripple World Pictures Limited||€250,000|
|Project||Director||Writer||Production Company||Funding Award|
|Fantasy Ireland||Trevor Courtney||Ciaran Morrison, Mick O’Hara||Igloo Animations||€220,000|
|Mya Go – Season 2||Alan Foley||Senta Rich, Amy Stephenson, Liam Kavanagh||Piranha Bar||€150,000|
|Saturday Club||John McDaid||Aidan O’Donovan, Colm Tobin||Turnip & Duck Ltd||€91,200|
|Project||Director||Writer||Production Company||Funding Award|
|The 8th||Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle, Aideen Kane||Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle||Cowtown Pictures||€150,000|
|A Short History of Decay||Sarah Share||Sarah Share||New Decade TV Ltd||€125,000|
|Father of Cyborgs||David Burke, Sean O’Cualain||David Burke||Dot TV & Films||€100,000|
|Devil in the Feet||Ruan Magan||Ruan Magan||Tyrone Productions||€75,000|
|Demons and Dancers||Pat Collins||Pat Collins||Harvest Films||€75,000|
|Hostage to the Devil: In Pursuit of Evil||Marty Stalker||Rachel Lysaght, Marty Stalker||Underground Films||€34,300|
|TUKDAM: A Question of Life and Death||Donagh Coleman||Donagh Coleman||Wildfire Films||€110,000|
DIR: David Leitch • WRI: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce • PRO:Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Morgan, Jason Statham • DOP: Jonathan Sela • DES: David Scheunemann • MUS: Tyler Bates • CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby
Has there ever been a franchise as odd as The Fast & Furious? From its humble beginnings as a Point Break rip-off to becoming the biggest non-superhero series in the world, nothing about the series makes sense. The first sequel that starred Vin Diesel didn’t arrive until the 4th film. The titles for each entry in the series haven’t followed a pattern; for example, the 7th film is called Furious 7 while the 8th film is called The Fate of the Furious. The series has been mocked by movie buffs for being nightmare fuel. Granted, the series hasn’t delivered an all-out amazing film, it has come agonisingly close to delivering a film worthy of all the hype. Fast Five’s bank vault heist in Rio is glorious. The tribute to the late Paul Walker in Furious 7 is one of the most sincerely beautiful moments in cinema history. When The Fast & Furious movies want to be more than explosions and exploiting its female characters it strives. Even though the first film arrived 18 years ago it feels like The Fast & Furious franchise is only getting started. Hobbs & Shaw marks the series’ first foray into spinoffs. Can ‘The Rock’ and ‘The Stath’ team up to deliver a film worth toasting a cold Corona to? Or is this a sign that the wheels are beginning to come off?
Hobbs & Shaw tells the story of, surprisingly enough Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham). The dynamic duo must put aside their differences, which, for the record, they already put behind them in the last film, in order to take down Brixton (Idris Elba) before he releases a deadly virus into the air changing the course of humanity forever. For a series that started with an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a group of street racers, you can’t help but feel giddy reading the plot synopsis. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham teaming up to battle an evil Idris Elba with superpowers is the film 2019 has been calling out for. Hobbs & Shaw is a welcome break from the relentless car action that the series is famed for. While, yes, there are still ridiculous chases, it takes a backseat in favour of more choreographed action. It’s refreshing to see Johnson and Statham use their action-movie experience instead of sticking them behind a car for 2 hours. The duo bounce off each other with ease,;the film could have been 2 hours of them trading ribs and it would have been glorious. The film may rely on a MacGuffin like the rest of the series, but this never feels like a generic action film. What could have easily been a chase for a bottle of the superhero serum is avoided when Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself with it in the opening sequence. The dependency on the theme of family doesn’t feel forced for the first time in the series. The Shaws are clearly a tight-knit group who are always conjuring a plan, while Hobbs Samoan heritage is explored to its full potential. Those who turn their nose up at the film because it’s a Fast and Furious film are missing out on a film that is a thrill from start to finish. When the action and humour are this strong you need to put your hands up and applaud the boldness of a film which could have easily been a cash-grab.
Hobbs & Shaw is a success thanks to the men playing the titular characters. While, together they are electric, it’s important to highlight the importance of their individuality. Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs is the straighter of the 2 leads. Hobbs is a man who has always been presented as the ideal father, to see his strained relationship with his family outside of his daughter allows the character to feel ordinary and less perfect. Johnson is as charming as we’ve come to unfairly expect. It’s hard to distinguish if he’s ever acted or if he’s just a super nice guy. Following 2018, which saw the superstar stuck in the mediocre Rampage and the flat-out awful. Skyscraper, it’s nice to see Johnson strike back with another hit following Fighting with My Family earlier in the year.
Jason Statham has always been a somewhat underrated actor. While the films he takes on often centre around ridiculous premises, it’s hard to find an actor who can make them feel real. Statham carried The Meg on his back last year and gives one of the decade’s finest comedic performances in Spy. Hobbs & Shaw is another showcase for why we can’t take Statham for granted. As Shaw, Statham is the funnier of the two. Shaw’s frustration with what’s happening around him leads to brilliant comedic moments. A scene involving a door scanner will leave audiences in stitches. Statham’s fighting style is more technical than Johnson’s brute force style. It’s always enticing to see how Shaw handles a fight against those who are bigger than him. Hobbs and Shaw are no odd couple. Both can fight, crack one-liners and take on anyone who comes their way. Together they have created a duo who fans will gladly watch deliver more pulsating adventures for years to come.
What’s disappointing about the film is how they treat its side characters. Outside of Hobbs and Shaw, everyone else draws the short straw in terms of character development. Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw had the opportunity to become as memorable as her fictional brothers played by Statham and Luke Evans. While Kirby shines in her action sequences, the film relegates her to a potential love interest for Johnson. Kirby is great in the sense where she’s allowed to show some personality and flare, but the film lets her down in another example of the series not caring about its female characters in the same way it cares about its men. If Kirby does return for the eventual sequel it’s only fair that they change the title to Hobbs and the Shaws.
Idris Elba as a supervillain is the type of casting that makes perfect sense. It’s clear to see the Elba is having a ball as Brixton. Whenever the actor gets to chew up the scenery it’s delightful. Brixton is bogged down by a needless mysterious evil group, but that can’t take anything away from how fun Elba is. The smirk on his face as he declares himself “black Superman” is delightful. Elba has served another reminder as to why he must be the next Bond. The actor commits to any project with an admirable degree of dedication. Who knows? Maybe Cats will be good?
Director David Leitch has wasted no time in delivering another blockbuster following his work on Deadpool 2 last year. A film which I found to be a huge let-down following the brilliance of the first one. Thankfully, with Hobbs & Shaw, he brings a similar type of direction that he used for Atomic Blonde. The action sequences are amongst the series’ best. The final act is insane and glorious at the same time. Leitch has been given the creative freedom to deliver a film that mostly feels less like a Fast & Furious film and more like a David Leitch film. There are some sloppy moments that can’t be forgiven. There are plenty of nameless female characters that are viewed as nothing more than objects – in 2019 you’d have hoped that the series would move away from that direction. Leitch also seems eager to keep returning to a POV shot from Brixton’s perspective that is let down by subpar special effects.
Writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearse may have written a film that makes next to no logistical sense, but they get a pass for coming up with dialogue that no other movie could pull off. Hearing Statham calling himself “a champagne problem” before fighting with a bottle is wonderful. Leitch fills the film with big surprises that no one saw coming. It’s odd that the typical Fast & Furious tropes are what let the film down. When Leitch focuses on making the film his own it’s clear to see that this is a director who could ascend to the top of the action pile sooner than we expected.
Overall, Hobbs & Shaw is the finest Fast & Furious film to date. It’s bonkers from start to finish, not a minute goes by where the film attempts to be normal. It arrives at a time where most summer blockbusters have been mediocre and repetitive. Nothing about Hobbs & Shaw feels like more of the same. This is a film that gets Dwayne Johnson his mojo back, gives us tier one Statham action and gives us hammy villainous Idris Elba. What’s not to love? If most of the series was like this then The Fast & Furious franchise would not be a mocked one. Go watch this on the biggest and loudest screen you can find. Soak up two hours of pure mayhem. You will not find a film this year as fun as this one.
PG (see IFCO for details)
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is released 2nd August 2019
Siomha McQuinn gives up her seat for Shelly Love’s A Bump Along the Way.
A Bump Along the Way, a product of an all-female creative team and winner of Best Irish First Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, is about the tumultuous relationship between happy-go-lucky Pamela and her 15-year-old daughter, Allegra, who does not shy away from scolding her mother’s behaviour. Picture a modern-day Gilmore Girls but the relationship between the Lorelei and Rory is more hostile, Rory is a vegan and Stars Hollow is now a gossipy town in Derry.
After a night of lacklustre romance with a younger man, Pamela is baffled to find herself pregnant. Her situation is far from ideal as the father wants nothing to do with her and she can barely make ends meet in her current situation. The news puts further strains on her relationship with Allegra and the pair must learn to navigate their reality as they prepare for the arrival of their newest family member.
Many of the ideas in this film are already well-trodden paths such as the mother/daughter role-reversal and the absent father. However, both Pamela and Allegra are given narratives that are separate to the central relationship and this makes the world of the film richer.
The role of Allegra is played by Lola Petticrew, who won the Bingham Ray New Talent Award for her performance. She switches seamlessly between being a callous and bitter teenage daughter and a shy, artistic student who falls prey to some of her classmates. Her acting style is very natural as she creates a character who is quietly brave. The way she treats her mother initially seems disproportionately cold and unfair but with the realisation that Allegra is having a difficult time in school, and the knowledge that Pamela’s pregnancy will only act as fuel for her bully’s taunts, it is easier to empathise with a teenager who is doing her best to survive a tough time in her life.
Bronagh Gallagher, who plays Pamela with big-eyed lovability, is clueless to Allegra’s bullying. She is well-meaning but vulnerable, which makes the growth of her character even more pleasing. A party-girl by nature, she is restless during her pregnancy and it is endearing to watch the pure torture that it is for her stay at home and rest, made worse by Allegra’s increasingly busy social calendar.
Apart from Pamela’s delightful baker boss and Allegra’s kind teacher, men are painted in an almost entirely negative light; from the father of Pamela’s unborn child, who is fiercely unkind when discovering the pregnancy, to Allegra’s father who kicks up a fuss when asked to contribute financially. Their characters lack much intricacy, but this is easily forgiven as A Bump Along the Way is a film that champions women and delves into their complexities, making a slight dent into the massive backlog of films that represent women through flimsily constructed characters. These typical toxic male characters are there to aid the narrative. Pamela realises that she needs to stand up to the negative men in her life if her daughter is ever to respect her.
A Bump Along the Way is a sweet and uplifting film about female relationships, the difficulties of life in a small town and the power of standing up for yourself. Despite engaging with difficult topics like bullying and misogyny it remains light and upbeat. It is satisfying and fun and suggests a bright future for the women involved in its production.
A Bump Along the Way screened 13th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).
From left to right Katie McNeice, Tom Speers, Maya Derrington, Gemma Creagh and Roisín Geraghty
In this podcast, we welcome three filmmakers whose works are screening at this year’s GAZE International LGBT Film Festival (1 – 5 August). Maya Derrington, Katie McNeice and Tom Speers join Gemma Creagh to talk about their films and filmmaking.
Plus festival director Roisín Geraghty pops in to give us a quick look at this year’s programme.
Frida Think (Maya Derrington)
A woman walks into a party dressed as Frida Kahlo, only to find that her version of unique has mass appeal.
In Orbit (Katie McNeice)
A hypnotic and beautiful love story between two women that crosses both time and space.
Boy Saint (Tom Speers)
A sumptuous short film of friendship and adoration between boys, based on a poem by Peter LaBerge.
The GAZE International LGBT Film Festival runs from 1 – 5 August 2019.
Full programme & tickets here.
Film Ireland Podcasts
Animals, starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, is a romantic and rebellious adaptation of Emma Jane Unsworth’s book of the same title. Its central characters, Laura and Tyler, are best friends living Sauvignon-Blanc-fuelled lifestyles in Dublin. Laura is an introspective writer who expresses herself privately through her journals, while Tyler is unapologetic and opinionated, the type of person who will condemn the institution of marriage but come wedding dress shopping to avail of the free champagne. They aid each other in avoiding responsibility through a friendship that knows no boundaries. However, once Laura meets Jim, a charming, successful pianist, their friendship begins to experience difficulties.
The film finds Laura situated precariously between the two lives that she can lead. Her options are a carefree lifestyle of drinking and drug-taking with Tyler or a calmer life with Jim in which she can grow as a writer and perhaps follow in her sister’s footsteps by settling down and starting a family. Laura initially appears to favour the latter. As her relationship with Jim develops, Laura blossoms and his influence spurs her on to develop a consistent work ethic. However, she begins to flirt with her old lifestyle by way of handsome and intellectual poet, Marty, a distraction that Tyler encourages as she sees as the opportunity to reclaim the old Laura. It becomes clear that Laura cannot stretch herself between her two worlds and must find a way to reconcile with her reality.
Partying provides the foundation for Laura and Tyler’s relationship and therefore drinking culture takes centre stage in Animals. The characters are frequently intoxicated and rarely seen without some form of alcohol in hand. They comically circle clubs pouring the dregs from other people’s drinks into their own glasses. The frequency with which they drink can be overwhelming but is indicative of the way people socialise in modern society.
The backdrop of their boozy nights is Dublin and while this film strives to explore a different kind of woman onscreen it also offers a different cinematic imagining of Dublin. The film avoids focusing on recognisable Dublin landmarks opting to film terrace houses and side streets by night and Georgian interiors as part of Dublin’s literature scene. Director Sophie Hyde remarks on this being a pronounced choice to capture the Dublin of an insider instead of a touristic viewpoint. It is an intimate look at the lives of two young women and the way in which it is shot enhances this.
Animals is an engaging and enjoyable film. It gives audiences a different perspective on what it means to be a woman represented onscreen. The two leads are impulsive, flawed and messy and this is shown in a way that is neither judgemental or glorified but at times these characters are not fully plausible. For example, a flashback in which Laura’s sister strips naked and climbs on top of a bar counter, only to set fire to her pubic hair, is jarring and seems outrageous even for the world of the film. The characters are extreme subversions of the traditional woman. That being said, it is a rich, thoughtful film with some very funny moments. It is an exciting example of the female-centred, female-made content that is making waves across the film industry.
Animals screened 11th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).
Animals is released in Irish cinemas 9th August 2019.
DIR: Jon Favreau • WRI: Jeff Nathanson • PRO: Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist, Jeffrey Silver • DOP: Caleb Deschanel • ED: Adam Gerstel, Mark Livolsi DES: James Chinlund• MUS: Hans Zimmer • CAST: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor
The Lion King (1994) is one of the greatest films of all time, period. Think about it for a moment. What film has the heart that The Lion King possesses? What film can make your eyes crumble into floods of tears? What film can make your belly ache with fits of laughter? What film has as many songs that everyone knows inside and out? What film has told a Shakespearean story for all the family to enjoy? What film has a colour palette filled with as wide a variety? What film after 25 years keeps getting better with every viewing? The film has defined childhoods since its release. Whether young or old there is something for everyone within the film. Disney has decided to lay all their cards on the table and make a play that could lose them many fans. To remake The Lion King is akin to remaking The Godfather. It’s an impossible mission. How can you improve on cinematic perfection? Granted that isn’t the goal. The goal is plain and simple for the world to see. Disney as with all their recent remakes views their famed property as a nostalgic goldmine. To achieve anything less than matching the original is a failure. What’s the point of remaking a film if you’re not going to at least hit the heights of the original? Does the 2019 version of The Lion King (2019) make the case for these remakes being any way necessary? Or is this Disney’s way of taking your money and laughing in your face?
The Lion King (2019), for those of you who don’t know, tells the story of Simba from cub (JD McCarey) to mature lion (Donald Glover) learning what it means to be a king. To call the film live-action feels like a fib. When no one is talking you’d swear that the Discovery Channel was on. The opening “Circle of life” sequence is astounding. As the camera sweeps from the iconic sunrise to pride rock you can’t help but feel giddy as you see a vast variety of animals hurrying to see little Simba’s presentation. Visually this is up there with the finest CGI to ever grace the screen. From a technical perspective, the film is a glorious success. Considering how haunting the new Dumbo looked we should be happy that the animals here are breathtaking. Sadly, the opening sequence is the only time the film comes close to recapturing the spirit of the original.
This film feels like flat coke. The same ingredients are there, yet it just doesn’t taste as satisfying. The voice acting – besides 2 characters – never comes close to matching the originals. The songs have the same lyrics, but you can’t shake the feeling that they’re just covers. The story follows the exact same beats without the charm. This iteration of The Lion King is completely okay. There’s nothing offensively wrong with it. The problem is that the original wore its heart on its sleeve. The story was never what drew us into The Lion King. It’s always been about the heart. It’s basic science to know that you can’t replicate the heart. This Lion King is the same movie that we got in 1994 without its soul.
The hardest challenge for any remake is the casting. Trying to reimagine iconic voices is a mammoth task. Especially in the case of The Lion King as the voice acting is one of the originals strongest assets. Director Jon Favreau decided to make the film as realistic as possible, a decision which leads to the film’s biggest flaw. Favreau wanted the lions in the film to have the same facial expressions as real lions. If you’ve ever seen a lion, you’ll have noticed that they always have the same expressionless face. An expressionless face is not what you need when you’re making a film about talking lions. Whether Simba is happy, sad, scared or excited he has the same facial expression. The actors voicing the lion’s voices never quite match up to their characters as a result. JD McCrary is unable to convey the childish innocence of young Simba because his character looks constantly bored. Donald Glover ,the most charming man in Hollywood, is stiff as the older Simba as he is unable to bring his swagger to the lion. Beyoncé is miscast as Nala; Disney clearly went for name over acting calibre in her casting. Nala is given more to do in this version but Beyoncé struggles to charge any emotion into her acting. James Earl Jones returns as Mufasa in a performance that is surprisingly tame. Jones gave Mufasa one of the most iconic voices of the 90s, yet here he sounds bored and uninterested in the beloved character. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the only one of the lions who delivers a memorable performance as the villainous Scar. Ejiofor is aware he will never be able to copy Jeremy Irons stunning performance; he chooses to go at the character in a new direction. Ejiofor’s Scar is more vengeful, angry and resilient that Irons’ theatrical villain. Out of all the actors playing lions, Ejiofor is the only one who attempts to bring some originality to the project. When the actors give up trying to replicate the 1994 film this version strives.
Even though The Lion King is the lion’s story, the film is filled with other animals that elevate the film to its classic status. The side characters in this version save the film from being a complete write-off. At the halfway mark of the film, Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) are introduced. From here the film stops sleepwalking and attempts to bring something new to the table. Eichner and Rogen are electric as the dynamic duo. Eichner makes Timon feel perfect for a new version of his show Billy on the Street. Timon is quick-witted and fires one-liners at an impressive rate. Rogen as Pumbaa is wonderfully cast. Rogen is fast becoming a comedy veteran; at just 37 the actor never gives a lazy performance. Together Eichner and Rogen have a chemistry that rivals Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella. If Disney had any sense, they would commission a new Timon and Pumbaa series as the two are easily the highlight of the film. John Oliver brings his dry humour to Zazu. Oliver chooses to give his own take of the bird rather than copy Rowan Atkinson’s. While many of his jokes fall flat it’s admirable that Oliver was brave enough to try something new. When the film is attempting to be original it shines. Unfortunately, there aren’t many moments or characters that try to be original. What made the new Aladdin enjoyable was that it clearly wasn’t a mere rehash of what we saw before. 90% of this Lion King is the exact same as what we seen in 1994 without the charm. Which is all the more surprising when you look at the man behind the camera.
Jon Favreau is a typically reliable director. The director turned Will Ferrell into a superstar with Elf, kickstarted the MCU with Iron Man and made the wonderful yet underseen Chef. Favreau has already proved himself capable of nailing a remake with The Jungle Book (2016). Favreau’s Jungle Book is tremendous, the film perfectly captures the soul of the original while adding new elements that arguably top the original. The Jungle Book is hands down the best remake that Disney has released by a landslide. Anticipation was high when it was announced that he was returning to take on The Lion King. Sadly, this is the first film that Favreau has directed where it feels as if he didn’t have creative freedom. This version is confined to its promises of a realistic tale. Which means characters like Rafiki (John Kani) are relegated to minimal roles. The decision to turn the hyena’s (Alfre Woodard, Eric André, and Keegan-Michael Key) serious rather than unhinged makes them less menacing and intriguing than they were before. As the film is attempting to be realistic the classic songs lose much of the substance that made them memorable. “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is no longer the vibrant colourful piece that it was before. “Be Prepared” is spoken as if it’s a speech rather than a musical number. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is sung during the day in a decision which boggles the mind. The score from Hans Zimmer isn’t the problem, it’s as beautiful as it was the first time. The problem is that Favreau’s vision strips the songs of the imagery that made the iconic movie moments. A movie about talking animals is not the one that you should be determined to make realistic. Beyoncé is given a song near the end that is inserted for publicity and nothing else. Outside of the questionable music choices, Favreau’s direction is sluggish and sloppy. A slow-motion flashback scene near the end is ludicrously bad The film clocks in at 2 hours, over 30 minutes longer than the original. There’s no real reason for the sudden extension. In fact, there are sequences in the movie where not much is happening. To feel bored during The Lion King is a sign that this project should never have seen the light of day.
Overall The Lion King (2019) is a shadow of its source material. It never strays too far from the original. When it occasionally does it’s great. Timon and Pumbaa are so good that they are almost worth the price of admission. Everything else in the film is a stiff version of the impeccable original. The decision to be as realistic as possible while staying loyal to the original leaves the film stiff. When Donald Glover is your leading man and he’s boring, you know something is wrong. Is the film worth watching? Honestly, you’re better off watching the 1994 film for the hundredth time. While many will defend the film by saying it’s its own thing, that statement is made redundant by the film inside the opening 5 seconds. Disney is more than happy to feed off your nostalgia. To them, it doesn’t matter how mediocre these films are. By the end of the month, this film will be the second highest-grossing of the year. Give it 15 years and we’ll eventually be getting remakes of these remakes.
PG (see IFCO for details)
The Lion King is released 19th July 2019
Dathai Keane’s Irish language feature, Finky, was warmly received at its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh. Set between Galway and Glasgow, the ambitious, arty and action-packed film was brought home for its debut outing. This fever-dream of a film follows Micí Finky, a musician who is haunted by a dark past leading him to look for an escape. He finds himself in increasingly off-the-wall and dangerous situations which ultimately force him to confront his past once and for all.
Finky is a celebration of the Irish language. It catapults the language onto an exciting new terrain, far beyond the traditions of Irish-language filmmaking.
A puppet show opens the film and this whimsical and unconventional beginning sets the tone for the rest of the film. It is made up of a series of sequences which defy expectations at every turn, leaving the audience clueless about what will happen next.
After a bust-up in Galway, Finky flees to Glasgow with his friend Tom where, after meeting an eclectic mix of characters, he is involved in an accident and becomes wheelchair bound. He seeks refuge in his state of reduced mobility but is not safe from his own memories. In an act of recklessness he finds himself recruited by a sinister circus which causes things to go from bad to worse in a spectacular final sequence.
The film originated as a character study and this is wholly apparent as it devotes itself to Finky’s viewpoint above all others. At times he is not likable and loses the empathy of the audience with his actions. It is a challenging character and is performed well by Dara Devaney. The erratic nature of Finky’s personality is mirrored in the events of the film.
In addition to Finky, the film has a wide range of colourful characters who bring different energies to the screen. The character of Bang Bang, played by the film’s co-writer Diarmuid De Faoite, provides comic relief with his eccentricities. His character is one of the contributors to the tone of the film shifting frequently; one moment it seems to demand that it is taken seriously while at other times it is farcical and surreal in nature.
The sensory experience of the film is enhanced with the use of a strong soundtrack. Dreamy, melodic pieces accompany the beautifully shot frames. Above all else, the film creates mood effectively. The visuals provide a dream-like quality to modern-day Galway and Glasgow.
Overall, Finky is a well-acted, engaging and memorable film. It could have benefited from a less complicated structure as it was at times confusing, however, it is sure to be a provocative film.
Finky screened 11th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh is joined by writer Stephen Shields (The Hole in The Ground, 2019) to chat to Hugh O’Conor about his feature directorial debut Metal Heart.
Hugh talks about pitching “Twin Peaks in Terenure” to writer Paul Murray, the development process, a darker version, casting and working with the actors. Hugh explains how his own background as an actor influences his directing and learning from other directors he’s worked with as an actor. Finally, Hugh sheds light on getting the soundtrack right, Louise O’Neill’s influence on the script , creating a complex bad guy and Resistance, an upcoming pilot for RTE.
Film Ireland Podcasts
DIR: Alison Klayman • PRO: Marie Therese Guirgis, Alison Klayman • DOP: Alison Klayman • ED: Brian Goetz, Marina Katz • MUS: Ilan Isakov, Dan Teicher’ • CAST: Stephen K. Bannon, Louis Aliot, Sean Bannon
White nationalist Steve Bannon has been a shady figure in politics for years. Many of us would love to return to the golden age where ‘Sloppy’ Steve was virtually unknown by the masses, and mainly spent his time quietly hobnobbing with, and in, the lunatic fringe. There, he peddled his extreme views and conspiracy theories to other Nazi sympathisers through the likes of Breitbart and his questionable films. Ultimately, it was his work as a political strategist on the 2016 presidential campaign which catapulted him to the status of celebrity racist; Trump’s surprise victory meant Bannon became a divisive household name internationally, which provided a pretty loud platform for his special brand of xenophobia.
Filmmaker Alison Klayman begins following Steve for The Brink soon after his relatively amicable resignation from the White House in August 2017. Although not explicitly stated in the film, Steve repeatedly insists that he resigned because of how unpleasant he found it working there. He says this a lot. However, like-many a recently dumped ex, he remains infatuated. He spends his time rallying for Trump, talking about Trump and even making films for, and about, Trump. This, Steve concedes, is all propaganda for the right. In fact, very early on in the film, Steve monologues about on the successes of Nazi Germany, admitting his admiration for their processes, but just falling short of outright agreeing with their goals.
It’s clear from the get-go where Klayman’s political leanings lie; in this fly-on-the wall documentary she gets excessive access to his world. Her voice can be heard on occasion, picking at the holes in Steve’s narrative or questioning his allegiances. While The Brink highlights Steve’s hypocrisy and thinly veiled racism early on, what shows Klayman’s restraint and talents as a filmmaker, is also the balance she gives. For all his many, many, many flaws, Steve comes across as warm, folksy and charming. She picks up on all the quirks that makes him relatable, such as his desire to lose weight, his penchant for fizzy drinks and his go-to catchphrases. This was the first time I could see why the other side could be so seduced by such eloquently phrased delivery from what appears to be such a gentle man.
However, underneath the superficial niceties, Steve Bannon is as shrewd as they come, and a very subtle bragger at that. He’s a former investment banker with a Harvard Business School education. In a public forum, he’s quick to denounce the ‘elites’, however, to his entourage and Klayman, he humblebrags about learning strategies in Goldman Sachs while taking private jets to 5-star hotels. In fact, the public persona he presents feels structured, and carefully curated even through the film. Steve regularly gives various outlandish characters loud introductions, (for example the ever lovely Nigel Farage, or Chinese billionaire Miles Kwok) and then slinks away, going ‘off the record’. Klayman still manages to catch him with his guard down on occasion, banging his head against a wall, firing staff, or shouting profanities down a phone. Overall, the time frame is relatively short, and while Klayman covers his work riling up the far right in Europe, she finishes up just after the US 2018 midterm elections.
There are moments in this film that are perhaps the most telling as to his true nature, such as when Steve’s confronted over his antisemitism by Klayman and separately by a journalist for The Guardian. He starts to sneer like a delighted, guilty dog, who’s just ripped up an expensive leather couch cushion and is absolutely loving it. Either Bannon is an evil genius trying to usher in the age of the Fourth Reich, or he’s a sleazy snake-oil salesman desperate for attention from those with actual power. Judging by this film, he could be either – or both.
The Brink is released 12th July 2019
WRI/DIR: Jim Jarmusch • PRO: Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan • DOP: Frederick Elmes • ED: Alfonso Goncalves. DES: Alex DiGerlando • MUS: SQÜRL’ • CAST: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Selena Gomez, Caleb Landry Jones, RZA, Iggy Pop, Rozy Perez, Tom Waits
In the town of Centerville, USA, the dead start rising from their graves and feeding on people. An array of eccentric characters must deal with the consequences. These include the police chief (Murray), his understudies (Driver and Sevigny), sword-wielding mortician (Swinton) and angry Hermit Bob (Waits).
Jim Jarmusch returns with this agreeable, if often toothless, zombie satire. The cast are all pleasantly droll and the laid-back atmosphere of the piece is enjoyable. Jarmusch’s satirical targets are, however, both decidedly on-the-nose, yet also under-cooked. There is a clear emphasis on the climate crisis. Polar fracking is said to be the cause of the zombie breakout. However, this is never elaborated on further. Steve Buscemi’s remorseless redneck also acts as something of a Trump surrogate. He even wears a MAGA-style hat. Again though, it’s hard to draw too much depth from any of these allusions, in this case given the scale of the cast of characters and the fairly meagre screen time offered to Buscemi. In keeping with Jarmusch’s post-modern style, the film occasionally veers into breaking-the-fourth wall commentary on itself. Again, like most things in the film, it prompts approving smiles but never turns into anything meaningful.
Jarmusch’s engagement with zombies also feels dated. He gives the impression that he thinks this film’s attempts to draw parallels with zombies and consumerism – the zombies are drawn to things they were when they were alive, such as Iggy Pop’s coffee guzzling zombie – is original, as if Dawn of the Dead and the subsequent forty plus years never happened. One could also question Jarmusch’s decision to have the zombies excrete dust when they are dismembered. Jarmusch said one reason for this was because he didn’t want to make a splatter film. But avoiding the splatter only results in the violence of the film feeling soft and unaffecting, further adding to the anaemic feeling the film gives off in general.
Jarmusch remains a singular, albeit inconsistent voice in American cinema. This is unmistakably his work and features on array of familiar, talented faces from his other films. It’s good to see Murray back in a lead role again. The likes of Swinton and Waits too always make for pleasant company. Newcomers to the Jarmusch universe such as Landy-Jones and Gomez also equip themselves well. Frederick Elmes’ cinematography is typically excellent. SQÜRL’s score also contributes nicely to the laid-back atmosphere of the piece.
Enjoyable, but not likely to live long in the memory.
12A (see IFCO for details)
The Dead Don’t Die is released 12th July 2019
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh sits down with three filmmakers whose short films screen at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. Director Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair (Break Us), writer Sarah Ingersoll (The Bridge) and producer Marissa Aroy (The Ferry) join us to talk about their films, their roles as director , writer and producer and their individual approaches to the craft of filmmaking.
(DIR/WRI: Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair • PRO: Claire McCabe, 925 Productions • CAST: Gavin Drea, Danielle Galligan, Tristan McConnell)
Irish Talent: New Shorts 7Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts
Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45
Mark and Sophie plan to rob a post office but as things go awry, they each discover what they’re really made of.
(WRI: Sarah Ingersoll • DIR: Mark Smyth • PRO: Lynn Larkin • CAST: Lochlann O’Mearáin, Peter Coonan, Marie Mullen)
Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction
Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00
After the sudden death of his parents a young man must choose between returning to his home village in the west of Ireland to care for his estranged younger brother, and a bright future in Canada.
(PRO: Marissa Aroy, Roisin Kearney, Clodagh Bowyer • DIR/WRI: Niall McKay • CAST: Aoife Duffin, Deirdre Donnelly, Clodagh Bowyer)
Irish Talent: New Shorts 5, Fiction
Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45
Aoife searches for her birth mother and unveils a past that entangles two other women in town.
In his short film Buoy, a young man throws himself off a lighthouse to end it all, but it’s only the beginning. Ahead of the film’s screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, writer/director David Magnier tells Film Ireland how his short film came to surface.
Buoy screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 2, Fiction programme on Thursday, 11th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.
Sarah Cullen and Richard Drumm return to open up the bonnet of film. In this episode, our podders shine a light on Netflix fodder Rim of the World, I Am Mother, When They See Us and The Perfection, and take a look at some recent cinema releases, including Too Late To Die Young, Diego Maradona, Brightburn, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, High Life, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and In Fabric.
DIR: Jon Watts • WRI: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers • DOP: Matthew J. Lloyd • ED: Leigh Folsom Boyd, Dan Lebental • PRO: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal • DES: Claude Paré • MUS: Michael Giacchino • CAST: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jon Favreau
Sony’s well advised alliance with the Disney, Marvel people continues to pay off with this entertaining sequel to Spiderman: Homecoming, entitled Spider-Man: Far From Home in continuance with its home-themed titles. I’m guessing the next one is going to be called, Spiderman: No Place Like Home.
Far from Home follows on from the events of Avengers: Endgame, which resulted in the successful destruction of Thanos and the return of those who were turned to ashes five years prior (if you don’t know this already shame on you).
Peter Parker and his friends, Ned and MJ, are adjusting to life, five years after the ‘blip’, as it is now known… at least to teenagers. Not having aged, they are finding some of their friends have grown in their absence. Most notable of these, for Peter, is Brad, once a scrawny ten-year-old, now a buffed up teenager who is making the moves on MJ. The gang’s school trip to Europe is interrupted by Nick Fury, who needs an unwilling Spider-Man to help a new hero in town, Mysterio, Quentin to his friends, (a better than expected Jake Gyllenhaal). Quentin is chasing down elemental creatures that have destroyed the earth of his dimension and now threaten to destroy ours. Peter Parker unwillingly aids the agents of SHIELD and Mysterio, who becomes a sort of replacement mentor for the much missed Tony Stark.
Moving alongside the expected superhero shenanigans is the joyful, humorous teenage road trip. Peter is head over heels in love with MJ now and this possible romance is the where the story’s heart is. The last near girlfriend of his, moved a distance after her dad, The Vulture, was incarcerated, you might remember. I’d say teenagers move on quick but there was a five-year gap if you count the ‘blip’.
I wont tell you anymore, suffice to say Spidey has all sorts of ups and downs, personal challenges and life-threatening moments that he manages to overcome and save the day. Director Jon Watts does a great job of balancing the drama and the comedy. Watts understands that the whole thing is absurd already but that doesn’t mean it has to be treated with mockery and, god forbid, that camp might rear its head. For the most part, he balances out the humour and jeopardy beautifully. There are some clunky moments in there and some of the humour doesn’t quite hit the mark, but it’s easy to forgive, when the heart of the piece is so adeptly handled by the actors.
The nerd part of me would love to say more about the plot but to say more would spoil the hell out of the wonderful revelations. I should point out that the film only plays to full satisfaction if you stay to the very last scene; yes, that means the final post-credit scene, not the middle post-credit scene. Anybody who leaves the cinema before seeing that final scene has in affect watched a different movie than us stalwarts. I was never so amused and satisfied with a post-credit scene as I was with this one. If you stay for it you’ll thank me.
12A (see IFCO for details)
Spider-Man: Far From Home is released 5th July 2019
Documentaries were always something that I enjoyed watching but I never thought I would make one. Feature films have been my goal for over ten years and after directing 3 I decided why not! Let’s give it a go.
I have always been interested in telling people’s stories through small profile pieces and just putting them online so I was really going into the documentary blindfolded. Learning each day.
In between work and personal projects I enjoy asking interesting people that I encounter if I can document their story or talents and just put it out there. It helped me with my filmmaking and storytelling and I would always learn something new.
I still don’t know if it’s a selfless or selfish thing to do because I enjoy taking a peek into other people’s lives. The goal for me is always to help the subject with some sort of release or maybe just help them show off their talents.
I started this with a YouTube channel over 5 years ago called “LIVESETS” at the time. I would contact bands and singer/songwriters and just shoot one-take live performances. But after a while I wanted to do profiles on people from all walks of life. From barbers and sportspeople to comedians and grieving mothers.
Eventually I was approached by Stevo (Farmer Michael). I had worked with him a few years back on a promo video for a pub in Galway and after that, asked him to play a small part in my film South, so there was a bit of a relationship there.
He was looking for someone to create a short video about him and his life so I agreed. When I sat down to interview him I really wasn’t expecting him to tell me the things he did. I felt Immediately torn on how to tell his story.
On one hand, it is a story of success, redemption and prevailing through art. I think that’s the story he wanted me to focus on originally. But on the other hand, it’s a story about a terrible tragedy and something that could change a lot of people’s’ minds on how they feel about Stevo as a real person and not just his character.
After the first interview I realized that the story was bigger than I originally thought so I decided to spend more time exploring his life. I shot more days over the course of a year and wanted to see different sides of Stevo. I wanted an ending, I wanted some sort of redemption. For me, redemption needs to be shown over the course of time, it needs to be earned and I wanted that to come across in film.
If I’m being honest I was just looking for an honest way to tell the story and I’m not 100 percent sure I found it. The cut of the film as it stands has an ending, I think it works the way I indented it too, for now, but I would eventually like to explore the idea of a longer film, hopefully we can acquire some funding for a feature-length version.
I always had a the goal of letting the viewer decide how they feel at the end and not forcing my own opinion on them. I could have easily sugar-coated Stevo’s story and tied it up in a nice little bow but there is no way I would. I have laid out as much as I could and I think that’s my responsibility as a storyteller.
If people are expecting to see a film based on a comedian and his hilarious exploits, they may be in for a bit of a surprise with this film. It is a story about a comedian, but also a story about a man with an extraordinary past.
I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions and views after they see the film, I could be over-thinking everything and it’s entirely possible that I may have my head up my hole with my analysis of the film. But let’s see how it gets on.
Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 1, Documentary Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction programme on Wednesday, 10th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 12:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.
The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.
DIR/WRI: Patrick Strickland PRO: Andrew Starke ED: Matyas Fekete DOP: Ari Wegner MUS: Cavern of Anti-Matter CAST: Marianne Jean-Baptise, Gwendoline Christie, Leo Bill, Fatma Mohmed, Hayley Squires
Patrick Strickland’s film In Fabric takes on aspects of different genres combining thriller, horror and romance into a fantastically beguiling and eerie watch. At once stylish and disturbing, this film is as visually evocative as it is intriguing. While Marianne Jean-Baptiste excels as lonely, recently separated Sheila, the “artery” red dress that she buys also has a leading part to play. The film follows the journey of this dress as it wreaks havoc in the lives of those that are unfortunate enough to wear it. Interestingly, this dress does not possess it wearers – it has its own blood-thirsty agency. The film is highly symbolic and somewhat dreamlike – or more accurately nightmare-like. Reality blends with the bizarre and we are kept on our toes throughout as we watch the dress take on its victims.
In Fabric is set in 1980s London, taking place during the winter sales season. Dentley & Soper’s department store features as the hive of retail activity; demonstrating a time when in terms of consumerism high street stores still reigned supreme. Set against this backdrop, the experience of shopping within this film emerges as a transformative and transcendental experience. Indeed, the changing rooms are not changing rooms but “The Transformation Sphere”. Framing the purchasing experience in this light is achieved in both comical and somewhat creepy ways. For example, the sales assistants are dressed in glamorously gothic style, filling the ears of shoppers with fantastical statements.
The film alludes to the possible evils of consumerism but doesn’t appear to be an outright attack on capitalist culture. Instead, the evil here appears to function on a spiritual rather than a cultural level. The department store, its staff and the red dress seem to be connected with something that is cult-like, occult and satanic. We witness entrancing advertisements on television screens which show the employees posed as though readying themselves for some type of ceremony, beckoning for customers to enter the shop. Indeed this ritual is repeated every morning before the buyers are welcomed in. The fact that the dress is red is significant; a colour which is typically associated with evil, danger and the devil. However, the ambivalent tone persists in the film and we are left wondering about the true nature of what is going on until the very end.
While red is seen as the colour of evil it is also known as the colour of love and lust. On one level, the red dress is used as a means to find love for the characters in this film. Firstly with Sheila, it is bought for a blind date. It can be viewed as a potential tool to find love and quell loneliness. Following on from Sheila, Babs tries to re-spark her fiancées interest in her by asking how she looks in the dress. Reg is also forced to wear the dress on his stag night. What ties these three characters together is that wearing this dress represents something hopeful for each: for Sheila she might find someone, Babs wants to feel admired by her fiancée and Reg is celebrating his soon to be married life. However hopeful the characters might be, the love that is represented here is disappointing – the embarrassment of a bad blind date and the difficulty of living with a demanding fiancée show how impossible it can be to find true love. It is clear in this film that love is not the answer as each character is doomed from the moment the dress comes into their lives.
Structurally In Fabric could be viewed as a somewhat unsettling watch. Vested in the story of Sheila, the quick cut to the story of Babs and Reg is unexpected. These narratives have quite a different tone and while our interest has been with Sheila, their story feels a little dragged out in terms of pace. However, this demonstrates that the plot is revolving around the trajectory of the red dress rather than the human characters.
Conclusively, In Fabric is a disturbing yet colourful watch enhanced greatly by a good sprinkling of bizarre dark humour. Overall, the film has several unusual qualities which make it a memorable watch. It mixes genres so that there is suspense – but a slow seeping kind of suspense. The horrifying moments come in dribs and drabs; there’s blood but it’s not constant gore. Above all, this is a film rich in symbolism, with many shocks throughout; it’s overall ambiguity and many allusions leave viewers with much to ponder afterwards.
18 (see IFCO for details)
In Fabric is released 28th June 2019
The Writers Guild of Ireland has announced the appointment of Hugh Farley as its new Director, following the departure of David Kavanagh.
The Guild is the representative body for writers in Ireland for stage and screen. Its 510 members write for film, television, radio, theatre, animation and games providing the basic foundation for employment in Ireland of tens of thousands of people.
Hugh Farley has been Series producer on ‘Ros na Rún’ and on ‘Red Rock’, has worked as a screenwriter and served on the Board of the Guild, and has extensive experience as a director.
He replaces David Kavanagh who has taken up the position of Executive Secretary of the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe.
Image used with kind permission from the IFI
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to director Johnny Gogan and writer Nick Snow at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon at the IFI. The film tells the story of Arthur Rudolph, a scientist who played a key role in NASA’s historic 1969 moon landing. Rudolph was one of over 100 Nazi V-2 rocket engineers secretly brought to America in 1945 to work on the Cold War missile programme. He became a key figure in NASA’s space race, but was arrested in Toronto in 1990 on suspicion of being a war criminal. The dramatised trial (featuring Jim Norton and Cathy Belton) animates this revelatory documentary which uses archive material, expert witness interviews, and the testimony of Jean Michel, a slave labour survivor of the subterranean wartime V-2 Rocket.
This podcast was recorded at the IFI on Monday, 1st July 2019 at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon.