JDIFF: World Premiere of Still Films 'Build Something Modern'


DIR: Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley • PRO: Maya Derrington • DOP:Arlene Nelson• ED: Tom Roche • Music: Dennis McNulty

IFI, 6:30pm, Friday, 25th February

Build Something Modern is the latest documentary from Still Films, following on from Pyjama Girls 2010 and Seaview in 2009.  The film was made through the Arts Council funded Filmbase administered Reel Art scheme and is also directed by the same pairing as Seaview, Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley.

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s Irish architects designed and built many large buildings in Africa, in particular in Kenya and Nigeria, however in many cases they did not get to see their work for themselves. With the architect absent during construction and communications not what they are today, many plans were interpreted differently to what the architect had envisaged with sometimes fascinating results.

Co-director Paul Rowley’s background is as a visual artist and his influence is seen in the use of animation and stark sound which, with the help of Dennis McNulty’s music, help to tell the story and create an atmosphere of Africa. This a very different style of documentary to the jaw dropping narratives of Barbaric Genius or Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records.

It was remarked upon in the Q&A that Africa is almost a character in itself here and the animation of the sun appears several times reflecting its dominance on everyday life of those living there and on the design of buildings. Other striking images included some frightening photographs of what looked like a birds nest of wooden scaffolding several stories high as one church neared completion.

In the Q&A with Paul Rowley and Nicky Gogan, Alan Fitzpatrick of Filmbase commented that it is very much in the Still Films style and that the team were blessed with the archive material they were given.  Paul Rowley said that they didn’t know what was in there at first, it started with the discovery of a box of 80 slides, and the film itself opens with these slides being shown to an audience.

Gordon Gaffney


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