Watch Irish Short Film: Pernicio

In Pernicio, a young man explores his attitude towards life and death when his suicide plans are interrupted. David Fox tells us how he made the film.

Pernicio is my grad film from my final year in the National Film School in IADT, Dun Laoghaire.

The idea for the white ‘execution room’ sprung to my mind some time in 2014. I think there had been a lot of debate surrounding assisted suicide at the time, and my mind began to wonder what it would look like if it was a walk-in clinic and you could kill yourself as easily as buying a Big Mac. The idea began to snowball and dragged capitalistic ideas with it with the multinational corporation that would make money off people’s desires to kill themselves, and lo and behold I had the basic idea for a film.

I sat on the idea for about two years before I put pen to paper, a process which I think worked in my favour on this project. It evolved and developed in my mind for those two years, and when it came to pitching for my final year project in college, this was the idea that was itching to get out.

I finally got on to developing the script in early September 2016. I knew the theme of suicide had been overused and almost trivialised in student films, so I wanted to stray away from those clichés as much as possible. I think I went through 11 drafts of the script in the end.

Dave Fox, Director

The way it works in the NFS is that you get allocated a week to shoot your Grad film at the start of the year, anytime between late January and late April. We were allocated February 6th – 12th. We had one week to shoot it and maybe a couple of days here or there to get pick-ups if we needed.

We held open auditions just before Christmas 2016 and my leads walked through the door and sat down in front of me, something which I genuinely did not expect to happen, but each one of them struck perfectly in-line with the characters. I met with Eoin O’Sullivan (Gary), Danielle Galligan (Sam), Mark Lawrence (Doctor) and Aidan J Collins (Receptionist) about half a dozen times before the shoot. We rehearsed scenes, explored different routes and found our favourite direction before began shooting. That was something that proved to be invaluable to me; I did most of my directing off-set. Two weeks before the shoot I locked the script – finally.

Cast & Crew

We shot 5 days over a week-long period. The big white ‘execution room’ took a full day to build and light properly and we had about 8 hours to shoot everything and tear it down again the following day, which was terrifying and exciting.

Alfie Hollingsworth was my cinematographer and we clicked really well on this shoot. I asked him about the room, how we would light it properly, how to not make it look like a student-film-looking set and how we’d avoid shadows in the jib shots. He came up with the idea of lighting the room through a 16X16 silk which we hung over the set, a brilliant idea. This, coupled with the brilliant production design of Fiona Mitchell gave us the ethereal white light in those scenes that I wanted.

We actually pimped out a super old sound editing hardware that we found in the film school and put some tubes and lights on it for the machine in the middle of the room. If you look closely at the close ups of the machine you can see ‘treble’ and ‘bass’, something which became a lot more apparent when we were screening in cinemas, but I’m hoping no one notices on their first watch.

Our other locations included my bedroom, The Dublin Dental School (the reception scenes), Dollymount Strand, the Dart, and the Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire, all secured by my producer Laura Gaynor. The Lexicon was a brand new building at the time and I thought it had a real retro-futuristic look to it. We VFX’d the Pernicio ‘P’ on the side of the building, with the help of Robert Gaynor. The shoot went very smoothly overall, except for leaving our Data Wrangler behind in the Golf Club on Bull Island, who we only remembered when we had gotten into town – sorry Robyn.

Dani during final scene

Conor Donoghue edited the piece, and did an excellent job doing so. I sat back from the project for about a week and let him do an assembly cut of his own accord. We knew soon after that we had a film. We got really lucky with the sound mix, as our mixer Janneke van Nijnanten was doing work experience down in Ardmore studios on the sound stage. She showed Steve Fanagan what she was working on and he said he would be help us out with a 5.1 sound mix, and generously he gave his time for free. Not many student films can claim to have a professional surround-sound mix so that really adds a whole other dimension to the film when it’s screened in the cinema. Darius McGann put together a brilliantly emotional and poignant original soundtrack too.

Everything came together well in the end. We were well organised, believed in ourselves but also, we got really lucky with a lot of things and a lot of people helped us out on this film, to whom I am extremely grateful.

Student films are hard, everyone is learning, people can be unsure of themselves, and other people can let you down. I’m happy to say no one let us down with this film, everyone outdid themselves. We set ourselves a goal to make a student film that didn’t feel like a student film, and I think, and hope, we achieved that.

 

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The Movie Brothers – Part I: John Houlihan


John and Patrick Houlihan at Newsman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox Studios (pic: John Houlihan)

 

The Movie Brothers – Part I: John Houlihan

By

James Bartlett

 

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, we interviewed two brothers – John and Patrick Houlihan – who not only both live in Southern California and both have the same job as a music supervisor, but they also both work at 20th Century Fox film studios.

As the oldest of the two, we chose John to go first. Like Patrick, he is Senior Vice President of Music at Fox, and his credits include John Wick 1 and 2, the Deadpool and Austin Powers movies, Atomic Blonde, The Shape of Water and many more movies and television shows. He’s also the co-founder and past president of the Guild of Music Supervisors.   

He was born in upstate New York, “just a couple miles away from where my Great-Great Grandfather lived when he arrived from Ireland in 1867.” In the 1970s the family relocated to New Jersey, which was where he mainly grew up and graduated High School. “It was a rowdy upbringing, being one of five siblings with awesome parents,” he remembers.  

He now lives in Studio City, California, with his wife of 20 years Julie, and three teenage sons. “Daily life is like a sitcom without cameras,” he says, then admits that his official press-release age will stay “mid to late 40s” for as long as he can manage it.

John noted that the Houlihans “are a part of the great Irish diaspora: out of sight but not out of mind,” and that everything has changed in recent years.

“I’ve become obsessed with trying to confirm the Irish towns, churches and neighborhoods where my ancestors once dwelled – it seems around Tipperary. Fortunately for me and my brothers I’ve hit a research wall, so it seems like we need to travel over for a pub crawl across Ireland in order to find the original parish records that hold our family origin story. We’ll bring my 13-year-old son to be our designated driver!” he laughs.    

Both brothers have visited Ireland before, and John’s first trip was part of his honeymoon. “We both fell in love with the people and the land,” he says.

A few years later in 2004, John returned to Ireland – this time thanks to his career. He was working with legendary Irish writer-director Jim Sheridan on the biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which was partially edited in Dublin after shooting in Toronto.  

But what does a music supervisor do? In brief, they get a script and asses the music needs for the story; what the composer might produce, what songs should be used in the background, or in montages, or even sung by characters.    

“There is no such thing as a typical day,” said John, “and that’s why it is a dream job for us.”

Explaining further, he said that they “do the craziest things behind the scenes to help the vision of filmmakers and musicians come true. We jump into the fray and help a dozen different creative people agree on the best music approach for a film when everyone has their own highly subjective take.”

A large amount of time is spent on the business side of things too. Permission and (sometimes large) payments are necessary to use any song that’s still in copyright, but countless other factors can come into play and change everything. As a rule, the more famous the song, the more expensive it will be to use.  

“We can’t just think of music ideas; we need to deliver those ideas by creating new recordings that make movie magic, oversee the formal copyright clearance deals and manage limited budgets.”

John remembered helping a director get $2,000,0000 worth of licensed music choices into their final film on a music budget of $500,000, and said that there have been some strange moments too.

“I was tip-toeing down a recording studio hallway past two snoozing, 300 lb., 6 foot 6-inch-tall, bodyguards so I could crash a recording session and close a song deal with a famous rapper,” he remembers, adding that he even once meditated himself into a deep trance to send a beam of energy across America to Aretha Franklin so she would approve use of one her songs.

“And it worked too!” he laughs.

John – or his brother – can be working on up to a dozen movies simultaneously, “and sometimes we’re juggling 101 problems. We try to flow with it all, and be like improvisational jazz musicians. Coming from a big family was good practice,” he says.  

Though the world of the movies might be a secret to many of us, there is one thing professionals and public alike can relate to: how music has changed from being a physical form (vinyl, cassettes, CDs) to online streaming and computer files.

“I’ve received well over 100,000 CDs over the years from companies and artists pitching their music for use in film and TV,” says John, admitting that he occasionally had joyful clear-outs, junking countless silver discs.

Nevertheless, he’s been unable to go entirely cold-turkey. He tries to be as online and digital as possible in his day-to-day listening, but he and Julie (who, unbelievably, is a music supervisor too) still have some 40,000 CDs in their garage.

He half-jokingly says he expects to end up on a “Hoarders” reality television show one day, “clutching a David Bowie CD set as their psychologist tries to talk me into finally throwing everything away.”

More seriously, he notes that while a large majority of the history of popular music is available online, around 15% or so has not yet – and may never – make the migration to digital, so having as much available as possible gives him every opportunity to find that “homerun” song.

Talking further about work, it was impossible not to ask John about the pros and cons of working with his brother Patrick every day.

John wonders if their boss was “out of her mind to hire two Houlihans,” but then admits that it’s “definitely is fun to see my brother every day, and get the chance to collaborate with him on major film projects.”

Then came the inevitable sibling joshing.

“Patrick himself will tell you that I’m absolutely the smarter, funnier and clearly more handsome of the two of us – not to mention my athletic superiority!” boasts John.

John worked in the industry from his early days – booking bands for school festivals and working as a college radio DJ – and then, after graduating college, he started an artist management company and independent record label in New Jersey.

The two brothers have also worked together for many years; John was manager of Patrick’s indie rock band Daisyhaze in Washington, DC, though in 1992 John was the first to move to Los Angeles with the express purpose to get into music supervision.

He had just $200 in his pocket then, but in time he hired Patrick at a small company he co-founded, and the story continued with Julie and yet another of their brothers, Kevin, joining them (his expertise being in music licensing).  

As John says, “there must be a music secret sauce recipe in the Houlihan’s!”   

It could have been very different, though. John says that when he was in college, he started a house-painting company during summer vacation, and found he had a real knack for it.

“I am at inner peace when I’m painting a house, especially the windows and trim,” he said, adding that his work once moved a watching woman to tears. “I’ll admit she possibly had a drinking problem, but it was still a nice compliment!”

It seems that ultimately then he took the right path, but as for the future, he has an Irish dream that’s not related to music:

“To buy a home on the water in Kinsale. So, if in 20 years you see an old guy in a beat-up fishing boat puttering around the River Bandon before heading to the pub, that will be me.”

Next we talk to Patrick and learn his story…

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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Floating Structures

June Butler takes a look at Fearghal Ward and Adrian Duncan’s Reel Art film, Floating Structures, which shines a light on buildings and structures that seem as though they have emerged from another world. 

Floating Structures is an ambient architectural feast that focuses mainly on edifices where glass is considered an essential part of the project.

It follows a narrator as he travels to investigate the creation of German civil engineer Heinrich Gottfried Gerber. Gerber conceived of, and designed cantilevered bridges over the Regnitz at Bamberg and traversing the Main at Hassfurt. Elements of both conduits were then ably used by Peter Rice, an Irish structural engineer in the construction of a number of notable landmarks.

The audience is brought through the assembly of such buildings as the Pompidou Centre (1971), and La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Villette (1986) – both in Paris. However Rice can also lay claim to working on construction of the Sydney Opera House roof (1957), the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (1967), and Pabellón del Futuro, Seville, Spain (1992). Rice integrated Gerber’s structural concepts and incorporated them seamlessly into the buildings he worked on. La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie featured three greenhouse spaces in the façade which were deemed to be the first glass walls positioned without a frame or supporting fins. Footage from the time of assembly shows Peter Rice putting the glass in place.

What follows is a beautiful journey into the marvels of creation narrated easily in lay-person’s terms – a passage to unfettered imagination. The documentary encourages an interest in maps of the mind and lends visual meaning to the concrete landscape surrounding city dwellers. Both the old and the new are investigated – parallels are drawn between Chartres Cathedral and more modern buildings, concluding that while materials used on recent constructs differ, the overall supposition is that the law of physics remains the same.

Floating Structures is a quiet and unassuming foray into celebrating the genius of Peter Rice and well worth viewing.

 

Floating Structures screened on 25th February 2019 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March). 

 

 

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Nick McLean

The legendary cinematographer Nick McLean is currently in Ireland for a series of events honouring his work.  We were fortunate enough to have Nick join us to chat with Paul Farren about his illustrious career. Nick is joined by film historian Wayne Byrne, who co-authored a book with Nick which details McLean’s life and work on some of the biggest films and television shows of the past fifty years.

Nick takes us inside Hollywood and shares some fabulous stories, working with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, Vilmos Zsigmond, László Kovács, Brian De Palma, Burt Reynolds, Warren Beatty, Hal Ashby, Clint Eastwood, Mel Brooks, Richard Donner on The Goonies and Superman and working on Friends.

 

Events

March 8 – Triskel Arts Centre (Short Circuit film screening + Q&A; Cobra film screening + Introduction)
March 9 – The Harbour Hotel (An Audience with Nick McLean Masterclass)
                – Palas Cinema (The Goonies film screening + Q&A)
March 11 – The Sugar Club (Spaceballs film screening + Introduction and Q&A)
March 15 – Naas Community Library (An Evening with Nick McLean)
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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Gaza

Irene Falvey reflects on Gaza, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s documentary, set among the communities who live in Gaza.

 

Gaza, a documentary portraying the reality of people’s lives in Gaza, is introduced at its screening during the Dublin International Film Festival by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell who worked on this documentary together. It is clear from their introduction that this joint project required commitment as the production spanned from 2015-2018. The filmmakers’ perseverance was not in vain as this documentary provides an eye-opening insight into the world of everyday people living in Gaza.

In place of documenting the relentless political turmoil in this location, Keane and McConnell’s documentary looks at Gaza from a personal rather than a political point of view. It successfully encapsulates the human response to living in this conflicted space, revealing both defiance and uncrushable human will alongside frustration and fear. Throughout the documentary, the filmmakers record a collection of people from different walks of life, all sharing the same land and the same seemingly hopeless situation. The viewer witnesses a mixture of responses and coping mechanisms that the civilians assume, with an emphasis on humanity and understanding.

To commence the documentary we are given a synopsis of the situation in Gaza, a densely populated strip of land, with closed borders on either side. While there is a long and tense history to be examined here, the film focuses instead on those that are really affected by these events – the people. With this context in mind the documentary can be viewed as an examination of survival, both physically and mentally. How can a community carry on when their basic human needs aren’t being met? How can a community live in a space that is constantly inflicted by war? While the documentary doesn’t shy away from these subjects, it concentrates more closely on the coping mechanisms of the people themselves living in Gaza; it is clear that this is all the civilians can do, to aspire to cope rather than to live.

One of the main themes threaded throughout the documentary is the sea. Initially the sea is depicted as a symbol of freedom. One participant in the film, an educated fourteen-year-old girl called Karma, sees the hopelessness of her situation but says that the sea provides some solace. The sea in the context of this documentary can be seen as a horizon, that there exists a more free life outside of this trapped state. However, the horizon here is a conflicted one; it is an unreachable horizon, a horizon that is off limits. This unattainable border is both symbolic and real – there is a 3 mile border limitation on this sea front.

One of the first people we are introduced to in the film is a young fourteen-year- old boy whose greatest dream is to one day own a fishing boat and be the captain. His life expectations demonstrate that the sea is a barrier rather than a symbol of freedom. Growing up in the context of Gaza, how is an uneducated boy to imagine anything greater on his horizon than captaining a ship that can go no further than three miles?

In the face of adversity one of the most common human reactions is to take action. In the context of Gaza, however, the film portrays this being an unwise choice. Young frustrated men make violent attempts to bring about change with gunshots and stone-throwing, only to end up injured and feeling even more ineffectual.

For several people in the film they fight against the adversity by expressing their emotions through music instead of violence. Karma, a fourteen-year-old girl who dreams of winning a scholarship, finds escapism through playing the cello. While music won’t lift the barriers or stop the difficulties of life in Gaza, it manages to bring some peace and harmony to those that must endure their lives there. We witness an injured young man who becomes a rap artist,  to ensure that he isn’t “a burden to society”. A taxi driver, whose life we follow, sings with many of his passengers, using music as a universal language to strengthen the spirits no matter what strife they must struggle through.

In a place where a community can’t freely come and go as they please, the idea of Gaza as a prison is clearly established within the documentary. The people within Gaza could be viewed as innocent prisoners sentenced and confined, despite not being guilty of any crimes. In a place where education, jobs, electricity and food are in short supply there is a sense of a frustrated acceptance – while the people are resilient, they are also  aware that their situation isn’t going to change any time soon.

While the documentary successfully reveals the strength of these people in the face of hardship, the desperation of the situation they are going through remains constantly present.

The film creatively switches the context of the current situation in Gaza from the political to the personal to show the real effects of the relentless conflict. We witness a people and place that are trapped and frustrated yet ever on the verge of turmoil. Despite the severity of the situation, the documentary shines a light on the pervasive sense of humanity of those that are striving to survive in Gaza. With understanding and sympathy the filmmakers have managed to capture how the toils of war shape the lives of people who are trapped by it.

 

 

Gaza screened on 2nd March 2019 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March).

 


 

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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Dark Lies the Island

Stephen Porzio takes on the Mannions in Dark Lies the Island.

Martin and John Michael McDonagh better watch out. Another Irish literary figure has made the jump to the silver screen, bringing something fresh to the country’s trademark dark comedies.

Dark Lies the Island sees author Kevin Barry (City of Bohane, Beatlebone) team up with Irish directing old pro Ian Fitzgibbon (Moone Boy, Perrier’s Bounty) for a pitch-black comedy drama based on characters which appeared in various of the writer’s short stories. Charlie Murphy’s Sarah narrates. She is a bored, checked-out housewife to the much older and rich Daddy Mannion (Pat Shortt). Through a chain of businesses, he pretty much runs the sleepy town of Dromord in which the action takes place.

Daddy has two kids from his first marriage. There’s Martin (Moe Dunford), a weak womaniser filling the Fredo role and Doggy (Peter Coonan), someone who went from having a bright future to being an agoraphobe running a dating service from a caravan in the woods. Throughout the drama, these characters – along with Tommy Tiernan’s mysterious newcomer to Drumord and a pair of cousins in debt to Doggy – all converge in a climax where past histories and repressed trauma come to light.

At first, Dark Lies the Island feels like another Perrier’s Bounty, an enjoyable if forgettable sub-Tarantino comedy noir given an Irish flavour. After all, the ingredients for such are in place – pulpy narration, a seemingly scary psychopath in Doggy, eccentric locals.

Yet, as the movie continues and the plot gets increasingly bizarre and dark, one realises that Barry is doing something truly different. He is taking fantastical, heightened tropes that film fans like but is using them to explore contemporary themes like mental health and how patterns of emotional abuse develop within families.

Shot dreamily by terrific cinematographer Cathal Watters, the fictional town of Dromord (its palindromic spelling reflective of its purgatorial nature) is not meant to be interpreted as a real place. Neighbouring a lake – in which we often see ominous fog rolling alongside – it’s symbolic of Doggy, Martin and Sarah’s mental state. These are people living under the dark cloud of the sinister tyrannical Daddy, a nasty weak man who gets his kicks making others feel small.

While these characters all seemed like clichés at the beginning of the film, Barry’s script thoughtfully, as it continues, explores why these people have taken to these almost assigned roles, touching, at the same time, upon sins of Ireland’s past. While the climactic event is somewhat inevitable and all the characters outside the Mannion’s immediate circle feel slightly extraneous, it’s to Barry’s credit that by the end of Dark Lies the Island, the movie feels far less Grindhouse than it does Gothic. This reviewer wouldn’t be surprised if the writer eventually makes the transition to director.

 

Dark Lies the Island screened on Wednesday, 27th February as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March 2019).

 

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Director / Co-Writer Lee Cronin & Actor Seána Kerslake, ‘The Hole in the Ground’

One night, Sarah’s young son disappears into the woods behind their rural home. When he returns, he looks the same, but his behavior grows increasingly disturbing. Sarah begins to believe that the boy who returned may not be her son at all.

David Prendeville chats to director / co-writer Lee Cronin and actor Seána Kerslake about their horror The Hole in the Ground.

 

Lee, can we start with where the idea for the film came from?

Lee: It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. It was a combination of things. The first little scene of it all was a news story I read about a man sitting in his armchair in Florida. A sinkhole emerged and took him in and he died. I thought that was terrifying, to have the rug pulled in such a fantastical way. That spawned the title The Hole in the Ground which was then rolling around and around in my mind.

At the same time I was developing a story about a mother and a son and a situation of doubt between them after a trauma in their lives –  it was more a concept. The combination of these things over a number of months came together. It felt like the sinkhole that was rolling around my mind would be a great metaphor for the situation that this mother and son found themselves in. The actual development of the film was kind of a slow. Sometimes you have these lightbulb moments when an idea comes fully formed. With this one, it was more a kind of slow creep of different things coming together.

 

Seána, what was it that attracted you to the role?

Seana: I think the challenge of being in a horror movie but to make it feel real to me and real to the character – that challenge was attractive and one I thought that we could rise to. As well, a lot of the physical stuff was a huge draw, like having to be physically ready to go underground and do the fight scenes… They were huge pulls for me. And, of course, the story. I was always interested in that kind of concept of somebody you know not being who you think they are, or slightly off. There’s the idea there – do you ever really know people fully.

 

Were there other horror films you were looking at as reference points – either directorially or performance-based?

Seana: Lee had given me a list of some stuff to watch, but I did steer clear of it because there was some female performances that I knew if I watched then I’d feel maybe I’m going to take from those performances. For me, I just had to be totally emerged in this script rather than other ones.

Lee: We had our  influences and we discussed them, but we didn’t do a deep dive where we were trying to necessarily analyse other work in any way and emulate that. We were trying to be as fresh as we could be in our own way. The reason I wanted Seána in the role was because she was very different to what I had imagined this character would actually be from the get-go. I wasn’t trying to impress upon her or anybody else’s performance necessarily. It’s a case of what I saw in Seána I thought was going to challenge me and challenge the character on the page. That was the way to go about it. We just jumped in and went for it.

 

How did the casting of James [Quinn Markey] come about?

Lee: When I met Seána, she was the first performer that I met for the role, we just stopped the hunt right away. We sat down, had a coffee and decided it was right and offered her the role. But when you’re working with young performances you have to do a greater due diligence. You’re not just getting to know them, you’re trying to understand them a little more, meet their parents, get a sense of how this will all work. Especially you have a sudden responsibility when you’re making a horror film and you’re bringing an 8 year-old out on set to be part of that and to be an object of fear in the movie. So the process was a slower one. You have a casting agent that goes out and looks at a lot of different performers and then makes shortlists. You’ll see someone on the shortlist you’ll like and make mental notes. You might dig back into the longlist and look at someone else. You build these little groups and you’re always analysing and looking at what it is you want. What’s really interesting about James is that he’s not in any way a creepy kid at all. He has this ability to just step into different subtle places. But yeah, it was a long process. We did chemistry tests with Seána with a couple of different young actors. We definitely went through it. It’s the one decision, when you’re casting someone that young, that you can only make with so much confidence until you turnover and roll camera on the first day – despite all the rehearsals, because it’s a different environment once you’re on the set, so you are kind of slightly crossing your fingers. Thankfully it worked out great – he’s a little superstar.

 

Seana, the physicality of the role that you mentioned earlier, how did it compare in reality to what you imagined it to be like?

Seana: It was pretty spot on! It was tough. Brendan [Byrne – sfx coordinator] and his whole team were so amazing. It was exciting to be part of that, but tough work.

Lee: I had said to Seána in advance that it was going to be tough. We didn’t pretend that it wasn’t going to be very physically challenging – that it would be something very different for her to do. Seána had to dive in and do some pretty serious stuff. I don’t want give away any spoilers but later on in the film there are certain physical challenges that are done for real. There’s no hiding.

Seána: I think in hindsight I go “yeh, that was fine” but in the doing off it there were certain moments where I was like ‘suck it up and do it’ or else there’s moments where I’m feeling a little wary –  not so much scared – I’d never say it because I knew Lee wanted me to be scared in parts of it!

Lee: Show no weakness.

Seána: Yeh. I’m like, I’m not giving him that! So in my head, I’m thinking ‘go for it!’ But it was a lot of fun – hard work, but a lot of fun.

Lee: Good hard work.

 

The Hole in the Ground is in cinemas from 1st March 2019.

 

 

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Irish Film Review: The Hole in the Ground

Dir: Lee Cronin  Wri:Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet  Pro: Conor Barry, John Keville, Benoit Roland, Ulla Simonen  DOP: Tom Comerford. Prod Des: Conor Dennison  Ed: Colin Campbell  CAST: Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Kati Outinen, James Cosmo, Simone Kirby

 

Sarah (Kerslake) moves to rural Ireland with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). Through conversations between mother and son, we get hints at Sarah’s past abuse at the hands of Chris’ father with oblique references to an “accident” which left Sarah with a scar on her forehead. One night when Chris runs off into the forest and near a bizarre, somewhat otherworldly sinkhole, Sarah starts to notice strange changes in his behaviour. Her anxieties aren’t helped by a mysterious neighbour, considered crazy by the locals, Noreen (Outinen), who screams at Sarah that Chris is “not your boy”. It is revealed that Noreen rejected and possibly even murdered her own child decades before, under a similar idea that he had been replaced by an evil force.

Having received rave notices at its premiere in Sundance and having been picked up for US distribution by the mammoth A24, Lee Cronin’s supernatural horror and feature debut arrives for its homecoming with much fanfare and is unlikely to disappoint fans of the genre. It draws on horror tropes of creepy children and the fears of parenthood to consistently entertaining effect. It’s a film that touches on some dark ideas and resonant themes but is also keen to deliver a rollercoaster ride for the audience. Cronin and his editor Colin Campbell ensure there’s not an ounce of flab on this taut, decidedly effective genre-piece.

Seána Kerslake reaffirms her status as one of Ireland’s biggest acting talents with a performance of complexity, subtlety, charisma and no shortage of physicality. This looks like another step on her way to inevitable international stardom. She is ably supported by Markey who strikes just the right note of sinister unreadability. There are also fine, nuanced supporting turns by Outinen, who makes something more of the creepy neighbour character, and Cosmo, who essays a lifetime of confliction and tragedy in tremendously naturalistic terms.

Tom Comerford’s murky cinematography perfectly captures a sense of the alienation of rural isolation. There’s also terrific use of music. Indeed, the superb opening credits sequence, with a neat nod to The Shining, set up an overwhelming sense of dread from the get-go through the superb camerawork and Stephen McKeon’s deafening score. Cronin also bravely refuses to unwrap all the films mysteries, retaining an ambiguity that allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.

A superbly acted, lean and highly entertaining horror film, and a fine feature debut by Cronin.

 

David Prendeville

89 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
The Hole in the Ground is released 1st March 2019

 

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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Dub Daze

Dakota Heveron reviews Shane J. Collins’ take on modern Dublin in his comedy-drama feature, Dub Daze

Director Shane J. Collins has hit the ground running with his first feature length film Dub Daze, which premiered at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on Saturday. There couldn’t have been a better place for it, as it became clear right from the opening scenes that the film was an open and honest love letter to Dublin, written by one of the city’s own.

The film weaves together three discrete but connected narratives of young adults all trying to make a place for themselves in the city, each faced with their own particular obstacles. Dan (Ethan Dillon) and Baz (Sam Lucas Smith) are two friends looking for a way to celebrate their last day of school, but Baz’s recklessness ends up getting them in trouble with a local drug dealer named Petal (Clide Delaney). Sean (Shane Robinson) and Jack (Nigel Brennan) are medical students from Cork looking for a place to stay in Dublin. Sean is quickly accepted by a group of well-off Irish students who make Jack the butt of their ‘fresh off the tractor” jokes, causing Sean to question just where his loyalties lie. Fiona (Leah Moore) has dreams of making it as a musician, but she is forced to contend not only with Dublin’s cutthroat music scene, but also her father’s alcoholism.

It is to the film’s credit that despite the multiple plotlines and numerous characters scattered across its landscape, it manages to avoid becoming confusing or convoluted. The characters are so distinct and well-formed that we as the audience always know exactly who we’re with. This is due in large part to the film’s editing (done by Collins himself), as well as the incredible talent of its cast. There is nothing exaggerated or put-on in the actors’ deliveries; their performances are down to earth and strikingly realistic.

There are moments when the film itself feels like one long session, an unpredictable and turbulent night out in Dublin, punctuated by genuinely poignant moments that emphasize the incredibly three-dimensional emotions and realism of the characters. Scoring this night out is a well-chosen mix of songs largely featuring Irish musicians including Bantum, Majestic Bears, Indian, and This Side Up.

Also central to the film is of course Dublin itself. Dub Daze is clearly a labour of love, and Dublin is the focal point of its affection, the camera lingering just as lovingly on a graffitied wall as it does on the Samuel Beckett Bridge. The film makes a point to bring together its three narratives, connecting the city’s north, south, and center. There is a sense of intimacy in this connectedness, and in the consistent banter and comradery between its characters, painting the picture of a city where, despite its urbanity, ‘everyone knows each other’.

Deadly.

 

Dub Daze screened on Saturday, 23rd February as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March 2019).

 

Shane J. Collins, Writer/Director of ‘Dub Daze’

 

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Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 33 – Sandblasted and Dehydrated

 

Sarah Cullen and Richard Drumm are back in your ear to deliver their take on the Oscars. Plus amongst their reviews, Sarah implores you not to see Dragged Across Concrete, Richard ponders the point of Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson as an avenging Mr Plough and there’s love for If Beale Street Could Talk and a look at… a look at… a look at Happy Death Day 2U. Outside of the cinema, there’s a bit of Netflix chats and on the Irish cinema front Richard finds himself liking Cellar Door.
 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts


 

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Robbie Walsh, Writer/Director of ‘Eden’

Adam is a man left homeless in the wake of the Irish financial crisis. In Eden we follow him throughout one day of his life living on the streets of Dublin. We share in Adams living experiences and sometimes heartbreaking encounters with the different people from every walk of life he has while living rough.

Writer/director Robbie Walsh tells Film Ireland about his film.

“The idea of Eden was inspired in part from a very personal experience I had when I left the military – and which I won’t delve into. When I first began to put Eden together I had seen it as a short film and wrote short two people, talking-head scenes. I was originally to play the lead role of Adam but realized I couldn’t do it, along with directing and producing.

Donnacha Coffey suggested Johnny Elliott for the role, so I contacted, met him and knew he was perfect to play the part. I reached out to some of the most underused and underrated talent around to feature in smaller but very significant roles, Sarah Carroll as a former successful mum forced to “work” the streets, Chris Newman as an obnoxious posh guy, David Alexander as a heavy, Kellie Blaise and Nicci St George Smith in short but great scenes, Stuart Foran and Kevin O’Brien almost steal the film separately.

As myself, Donnacha Coffey and Francois Grey – both on camera and DOP duties – began filming around my hometown, we knew we could get more. So I began asking Johnny to improvise mundane things Adam might do to pass time as we walked between locations. To his phenomenal credit, I didn’t have to ask often as he would improvise as we moved – washing in a river on one of the coldest days of the year still gives me shivers to this day.

We filmed for 2 days and I got a call from my editor Richard Geraghty saying “we need another scene and a bit more footage and we’ll have the feature”. So I wrote what turned out to be the best scene in the film and we filmed an extra day. After a few months edit we had a stunning little film, it hit the festival circuit and was well received – honorable mention in international excellence LA Movie Awards – and was accepted to numerous international festivals over the years, but we couldn’t get any distribution.

A while passed and some re-shoots were required, which improved the film and it became better received than before. Unfortunately, and it saddens me to say, Eden has become far more relevant today and sadder still, a more common occurrence in Irish society. It is not an easy watch and shows the darkest side to homelessness but I’m very proud of the film.

Odeon Cinemas viewed it after they released Split and agreed to show Eden so we could raise money on behalf of the Dublin Simon Community. I’d hoped I was wrong about this situation when making the film in 2012.

Eden shows on Tuesday, 5th of march in Odeon Point Village at 7pm. All proceeds and donations go directly to the Dublin Simon Community

Ticket at www.odeoncinemas.ie

 

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Ross Killeen, Director of ’99 Problems’

 

The colourful and cartoonish ice cream vans across Ireland are synonymous with childhood delight, hot summers and their unmistakable chimes – but the person behind the cone is a character often forgotten about. 99 Problems is a short documentary which delves into the humorous, charming but often murky world of the Irish ice cream van trade. The unassuming ice-cream van business on the surface seems harmless, but has in fact quite a dark undertone, where turf wars are fierce. The self declared ‘king of the ice-cream men’, Pinky, works in the community where he lives. Competition is stiff, but he manages to make a decent living from it despite the challenges he faces. Through Pinky’s one liners, observational footage and animation, 99 Problems unearths unsung toils and troubles associated with this unconventional, yet humble profession.

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Dublin Film Festival, director Ross Killeen talked to Film Ireland about how his short film came to life.

 

99 Problems was something I’d had in my head for years. It all started when my wife was taking driving lessons with a guy called Ken. He was a bit of an hilarious character and turned out he was an ice cream man. So he has loads of stories about his profession and how it actually is quite violent. That there are loads of fights with other rival ice cream men. He told her how he used to be attacked and had to carry a baseball bat in the back of the van. She’d come home and tell me all these stories and we were thinking this is crazy, this would make a great little film. I don’t think people are aware that this goes on – these territorial spats between rival ice cream men. I’m a massive hip hop fan, so it was like ‘OK I’ve got the name of the film’… and then everything just kind of fell into place.

I started trying to meet as many ice-cream men as I could. It’s not something you expect to be doing –  you’re around the pub with the lads and they ask you what you’re at and I’d be saying I was out with Mr Softee or I was with Mr Jingles.

My wife’s driving instructor Ken was Mr Jingles and he introduced me to Mr Pinky (Mark Jenkinson), the subject of the film. Initially, I had this Reservoir Dogs Tarantinoesque type scenario in my head. The metaphors are all there – a man driving around getting the kids addicted to his produce; being territorial about his area and driving other dealers out of it. That was 4 years ago. After a break from production I returned and realised I needed to streamline the focus and settle on one driver and tell that story well. And after listening to Mark’s stories it was clear that the film just needed to be about him.

We focused on Mr Pinky and his route and spent some days observing him. He’s a great character and I really enjoyed hanging out with him. It also made me realise how hard drivers work and the pressure they face every day, including that of other drivers coming on their territory – there are no regulations to stop anyone from doing that. So you’re always looking over your shoulder. But they are enterprising. That appealed to me. I’ve my own company and my father was an entrepreneur before me and I’ve always admired people with a good work ethic who are out there doing their thing. That’s one of the things that drew me to Mark was how hard he worked. It struck me that being an ice cream man was just like any entrepreneur. Work hard, be tenacious and look for new opportunities. In spite of all the challenges Mark’s work ethic was always strong. As he says himself, “I could give you a list of things you’ve to put up with in the ice cream business but I go by what my ma’s philosophy was and my da’s philosophy was…. everybody has a right to make a living.”

We finally shot the film last summer. Did a few interviews with Mark. Got a really talented animator, Jonathan Irwinto bring Mark’s back-stories to life, which really works well. The whole idea was to keep the visuals quite colourful and although there’s some serious stuff there I think the film overall is quite fun.

 

 

99 Problems screens on Monday, 25th February at 6.pm at the Light House as part of the DIFF Shorts 3 programme at the Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (20 February – 3 March 2019).

Buy tickets at www.diff.ie

 

 

 

Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2019

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Shane J. Collins, Writer/Director of ‘Dub Daze’

Dub Daze is a comedy/drama set in the north, south, and centre of Dublin city. Get to know Dan and Baz, two friends looking for kicks on their last day of school; Cork medical students Jack and Seán who arrive in the capital to find their way amongst Ireland’s affluent youth; and songwriter Fi who struggles to break through on the cut-throat Dublin music scene.

Shane J. Collins talks to Film Ireland about his comedy-drama feature, “a passion project for all involved, a celebration of our love for Dublin City. I wanted to make a film that explores the different perspectives of Irish youth living in Ireland with classic themes of music, friendship and love re-examined to reflect an updated perspective of modern Dublin.

The film came about from my time in IADT. I had previously written a Northside Story. I met Leah Moore and wrote a Central story based on her. Mark O’Connor, one of my screenwriting tutors, gave me some advice that triple narratives usually work well so I thought I should really try write a Southside story and put them all together. Writing the story, I found passion and inspiration from some of Dublin’s best films, including Adam & Paul, Intermission, Kisses, The Commitments, and The Last Of The High Kings.”

Designed by street artists “Subset”

Self-financed on a shoestring budget, Shane is no stranger to taking on the various departments involved in making a film, “I had a good few jobs. I honestly think a massive challenge was doing the art department myself – that was a nightmare at times. But he insists that is not important “because when the film plays on the screen nobody cares who did all the jobs. They just care does this story work, is the acting good, am I engaged in this film – that’s the bottom line.”

The film’s soundtrack features a wealth of Irish musicians and it was important for Shane to get it right as “music plays a central role with a coming-of-age story, like Dazed & Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, American Graffiti.” Musicians include Brame & Hamo, Bantum, Laurie Shaw, Majestic Bears, Makings, Noel O’Brien, Indian, Rhob Cunningham, Sammy Dozens and This Side Up, “who all gave their music so generously.”

The film features a cast of 44 new acting talent and Shane describes it as a showcase for new and upcoming Irish actors. “I was really lucky, I tapped into the acting community in Ireland and they really knocked it out of the park. We all banded together knowing what this film could potentially be for everyone.”

Talking about the film’s upcoming screening, Shane takes a deep breath. “It’s nearly 20 months since I started this. It’s taken a lot out of me physically and mentally. I think I’ve aged 10 years! But to find out that this film was getting to play is an amazing opportunity. Grainne Humphreys [Dublin International Film Festival Director] has been so kind to give us a great spot on Saturday to screen the film. It really means a lot going forward as I’m very passionate about the future of Irish film and I really want to be able to showcase so much new talent.”

 

Dub Daze screens on Saturday, 23rd February at 2pm at Cineworld as part of the Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (20 February – 3 March 2019).

Buy tickets at www.diff.ie

 

 

Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2019

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Watch Irish Short Film: Gustav

 

A young man wakes up with a tune stuck in his head. But what is it and how did it get there? Co-director Ken Williams tells Film Ireland how the short film Gustav got into his head.

 
“I’ve had Billy Joel stuck in my head all day”, said Lindsey, at the desk next to me. “Wouldn’t it be funny if he was actually stuck in your head”, I replied, before quickly following up with “that would make a cool film” as I am prone to do to. And so Gustav was born.

Or at least conceived. I tend to leave ideas gestate before attempting the first draft when I have a deadline for another project. This was the case with Gustav, or ‘Billy’ as it was originally called – but Mr Joel didn’t return our calls.

After a few passes at the script – I’m lucky to have a small network of people who read my work and give feedback –  we were ready to put together a team.

Crew on set

Steven Daly from Brainstorm joined as producer, James Mather, who shot our previous film, The Final Fairytale, came on board, and him and his team, who all generously gave up their weekend for a few bowls of Thai food, were again a pleasure to work with.

The central performance was absolutely key to the success of the film and we thought of Seán [T. Ó Meallaigh] really early on. Denis [Fitzpatrick, co-director] knows him well and I loved him in the Vincent Gallagher short, Love is a Sting, so knew he’d be great. Thankfully, he liked the script and was up for it. Charlene Gleeson is a great actor and naturally very funny so was perfect to play Dee.

Brian Lane from Dissolve Audio, a Corkman based in Manchester, came on board as music supervisor, an obviously important role for this project and his help was invaluable.

Although we’ve been friends since we were 5, Denis is a Liverpool fan and I’m a United fan. We shot on the day Liverpool played United and kept an eye on the score in between takes. Luckily it finished 1-1 so we could enjoy post-shoot pints – we gave the goalscorers Zlatan and James Milner a thank you credit in appreciation.

 

 

 

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Richard Waters, Director of ‘In A Stranger’s House’

Richard Waters explains his journey to making the found-footage horror In A Stranger’s House.

The dreaded sophomore effort. Uff… No matter how well prepared you are, you just can’t ever really be ready.

My journey started off strong in 2010, with the feature film I co-produced with Alison Scarff for director Michael McCudden, called Sodium Party. Just two years later, Alison and I were making the romcom The O’Briens with Sodium star Slaine Kelly, which was my debut as a feature film director (unless you count the terrible feature I made as a teenager). Released in 2013, that little film achieved far beyond its station.

Sodium Party

Those first two features were ultra low-budget, and absolute challenges to make, but our entire team had the passion to make them, and nothing could stop that desire. When we were making Sodium Party, I thought ‘that’s it. After this, we won’t have to struggle to make our next feature’. Then on a very slightly higher budgeted The O’Briens, I thought ‘that’s it. This shows we aren’t a one-hit wonder. People will definitely help us make our next feature’.

Oh boy, was I wrong…

The following years were like a record stuck in a groove. We never had a look in with funding bodies. We found ourselves meeting with more and more people who swore up and down that they could definitely get this or that film made, only to go silent after months or years of time wasted working with them. I made a huge mistake of signing on to a ‘big budget’ crime feature that was ‘funded and ready to shoot in six months’, but of course had no money and no chance of shooting. Ever. But by the point I realised this was dead on arrival, the momentum from The O’Briens had slowed, and I was back in the cycle of trying to get scripts through application phases and meeting people who could “definitely” make the film happen. I never stopped chasing making my next feature, but the excitement of filmmaking became the drudgery of trying to be a salesman of my own ideas and failing miserably. I wouldn’t say I ever lost my passion, but my energy became redirected into my work as an editor for TV and trying to make a living, only peppering my cinematic passions with short films, music videos, the odd skit, and lots of writing that we could never get off the ground.

The O’Briens

My lowest point though, was last year, in 2017, when Alison and I helped make a teaser episode of a TV show we were pitching with some friends, and I clashed quite dramatically – for me, at least – with one of the heads of departments. Feeling compromised beyond reason, the project ended up being disappointing for me, and the experience was a sour one that knocked my usually unwavering resolve and confidence. So I locked myself away from the film world to lick my wounds.

Or at least I tried to. With about a week’s notice, Alison and I were surprised with an invite to attend the inaugural New Blood pitch/workshop at the massively popular Frightfest in London – one of my all-time favourite festivals. The refreshingly candid conversations with passionate filmmakers spurred Alison and myself on to one of our most creative periods, in which we are still in to this day. We continued our conversations and pitches, all the while making secret plans of how to turn a budgetarily realistic idea into a film off our own backs. We could and would figure this out.

Not a month later, I found myself house-sitting in the family home. With the creative spark sizzling, I decided to try something… different. With Alison’s Canon 7D and a creepy porcelain doll I still have no clue why we have in the house, I filmed myself in a found footage-style sequence that involved some camera and editing trickery to bring the supernaturally-tinged scene to life. And it worked.

Definitely not spooky

Bolstered by this, I figured out an entire narrative and began doing research to help fill in the holes needed to make the story fulfilling for a viewer. Drawing inspiration from some of my favourite found footage films and a fascination with creepy internet videos, I went for a raw shooting style to try emulate that feeling of watching something real. The influences of the likes of the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Creep are pretty clear, but it’s Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek and the 1963 version of The Haunting that I drew on most, to drive home the realism and bring a more palpable terror than just jump scares.

Surprisingly, shooting the film by myself with zero budget wasn’t all that cumbersome. Beyond some logistical planning for the more ghostly sequences, and editing as I went along to make sure the pace and story were on track, the biggest challenges were losing my camera knowledge to make the footage more amateur, and delivering lines in a less coherent yet more realistic way. Basically the antithesis of a typical film. Not one to usually consider myself an actor, my choice to step in front of – or primarily behind, I suppose – the camera became part of the thrill of the challenge for me.

I had to deliver as realistic a film by myself, starring myself, using techniques I had to pull off alone. And bar the involvement of a few actors for a few seconds of screen time, everything to do with In A Stranger’s House is me. I don’t say that to be boastful. I’d much prefer to be back in my team with Alison, Michael and Slaine, but after the disheartening experience the previous year, and before that, a long stretch of rejection, being able to get back on the horse, on my own terms, was empowering. The stakes felt low, and the rewards high. If I couldn’t pull it off, who else would really know? At the very least, I could look and tell myself I made something without compromise.

Beyond the production, I cut the film, made the music, did the sound design – I could write a whole essay on that nightmare – created the poster, transcribed and timed the subtitles, QCed the film, and I am reaching out to any and everyone I can to share what has proven to be a much bigger endeavour than I expected 14 months ago when I decided to try a little experiment.

I made a genuine passion film using all the skills I could, to try captivate and terrify the audience, and most importantly, not to bore them. The reactions so far have been so much more positive than I expected, with people connecting to the story and being able to tell that this film isn’t something that was rushed together in a weekend but born out of a genuine love for horror and creepy stories.

My ultimate lesson from this whole experience has to be that having money makes filmmaking easier, but in lieu of that, passion and a stubbornness not to quit definitely make up a lot of ground.

 

In A Stranger’s House is available via VOD to buy/rent from Amazon and irishhorrorfilm.com worldwide now.


weirdprettypictures.com

 

 

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Interview with Miwako van Weyenberg

Gabrielle Ulubay introduces Belgium filmmaker Miwako van Weyenberg and talks to her about her film Summer Rain, which screened at the 2018 Cork Film Festival.

Miwako van Weyenberg is a filmmaker from Belgium who has so far produced three masterful shorts: Hitorikko (2014), Il Faisait Noir (2015), and Zomerregen (2017). Her protagonists find themselves in emotionally challenging situations which often lead to personal growth, greater emotional intelligence, or an altered sense of identity. Having grown up at the crux of multiple cultures, van Weyenberg has a particularly astute sensitivity to these issues and to the minute details of life that often change our relationships, our outlooks, and even the way we see ourselves. Hitorikko (or Only Child) , for instance, gives audiences insight into the psyche of a young boy who discovers that his divorced father has since taken up a new girlfriend, re-situating the boy as an older brother rather than the only child he has always been. Il Faisait Noir (or It Was Still Dark), on the other hand, explores the world of two twin brothers, along with the psychological effects on one twin when tragedy strikes them.

Zomerregen (Summer Rain), van Weyenberg’s most recent film, focuses on a ten-day period of time in which a young boy with mixed-race identity stays with his grandparents. The grandfather is faced with his own prejudices, and this tension heightens when the two are left alone for a length of the child’s stay. After seeing this film at the Cork International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with van Weyenberg about her film.

 

Your film Summer Rain addresses all sorts of relevant issues like prejudice, multiculturalism within families, and diversity. Could you talk about your process in making the film.

So first of all, while I wouldn’t say Summer Rain is an autobiographical film, of course many elements of it come from a personal space – like the main character, I am half Japanese and half Belgian myself. I wanted to make something that’s really personal, but I also think that the subject is something that’s really universal.”

 

Would you be able to expand on that subject?

The subject is identity, and the search for identity in many different ways. I think that on one hand, it’s in a family, but on the other hand it’s in the idea of double nationality, where people have this ideas about what you are and what you should be.I think that’s something that can complicate the search for identity, and the search for identity in a family is complicated anyway. You have your father and your mother, and you came out of those two people, but you always look for yourself in that mix. I think when you also have that aspect of culture, that also complicates the search.

 

 

Speaking of the parents, and the idea that each of us are half of each, a choice in the film that I found really interesting is that the audience never sees the parents. We hear the father’s voice, but there isn’t much elaborated on in terms of the mother and father. I appreciated that detail, and have my own thoughts about why that’s a fitting and appropriate choice, but could you expand on what your intentions were in leaving those characters so vague?

For me, the story is just about the relationship between the child and his grandfather, so that is what I focused on. I think that in short film, it’s tempting to want to say everything, but it’s impossible because it’s a short film. So I really wanted to focus on that relationship. Also, he’s dropped there for ten days, nearly two weeks, so he doesn’t have access to his parents. His mom is in Japan, so he can only talk to her on the phone, but then there is still a time difference. So he’s really isolated in this countryside environment in Belgium, which he’s not used to because he’s from Brussels. I wanted him to be really out of his comfort zone, and I think that his parents are the comfort that he has, so I wanted to eliminate that. The grandmother is also a source of comfort, but then she ends up being taken out of the picture. So I really wanted to focus on the relationship between the grandfather and the grandson, and what happens when they are forced to live together and have no other option.

 

I appreciated that, and I also really enjoyed how you used the claustrophobic, isolated space of the home, along with the symbolism of planes in the film. I am glad that there were planes chosen specifically in the film for the child to fold, because there’s that stereotype around Japanese children that they will be folding paper cranes.

[laughs]

 

I think the choice of planes really subverts those problematic expectations. On the one hand, the little boy also likes planes because that’s a very normal thing for a child to be preoccupied with, but I also think that in the context of Summer Rain, the planes symbolize freedom. Could you talk about the choice of using planes in the film, and what that symbol meant to you?


It started from a point of planes being an obsession of a typical little boy, but it has more meaning when he finds himself stuck in a really isolated place. Also, his grandfather being a retired pilot, and discovering that connection, adds symbolism. So for me, the planes have a lot of meaning in a lot of different ways, but it starts from a really innocent obsession with things on wheels, and can fly, and go fast.

 

Right, and I feel like we go on that journey as we’re watching the film: It starts out as an adorable obsession of a little boy, and then the grandmother says, ‘look, he likes planes just like his grandfather,” and it becomes loaded with all this familial significance. It’s not just a plane, just this thing that flies and goes fast, anymore.

It’s not just the object anymore, by the end. I think the plane is the symbol of that relationship between the child and his grandfather.

 

I definitely appreciated that. Could you also talk about the process of casting the film? The little boy was excellent, and it can be very difficult to find child actors, yet you discovered this young boy who demonstrates such depth. Children are inclined to pantomime rather dramatically when they think of acting, but his performance was marked by incredible subtlety.

Right. I always work with children as main characters – this is my third short with children as main characters. For me, the acting process for a child is something that I’m used to. I did casting in Belgium, and I prefer working with children that have no acting experience at all. I did castings for half Japanese, half Belgian kids, and it was a difficult process because they needed to be able to speak Japanese but also French or Dutch, or they needed to at least be bilingual. But the boy, whose name is Kazuki, walked into the room and I knew after one second that he was the boy. And I did second rounds and the whole casting process to be sure, but I was convinced from the moment I saw him. It was an interesting process, because he brought so much to the character, and he became the character.

 

He really did. Did he understand the issues that the film was touching on? Because I think that children are exposed to those daily microaggressions and understand that they are being treated differently on a certain level, but on the other hand, you and I were talking earlier about how children who experience discrimination don’t necessarily understand why they are being treated badly or differently. So did that prompt any conversations with the boy? How do you think his age impacted the language and behavior used around these issues on set?

I think that children don’t really understand discrimination, because it makes no sense, but they do understand that it happens. They understand the concept of it, and of course him being half Japanese, and living in Brussels -that’s how I grow up. A lot of the scenes and the comments made in the film are also things that he gets on a daily basis, because I worked based on what I experienced. He’s an incredibly smart kid, and I never had to explain anything. Actually, I never give the screenplay to actors in advance. We just do it on set. But I read the screenplay together with him, we talked about the story, but we didn’t read the entire script as a dialogue. So we talked about the subject and how he experiences living in Belgium as a half-Japanese kid, but I didn’t have to explain anything. He felt a bit like a small version of myself, wherein he just understood what I wanted to say. He’s an amazing kid.

 

Yes, I can tell. That’s something that we can see an as audience: He embodies this duality between innocence and quiet, knowing observation. Every time someone is subject to discrimination or some microaggression, it’s like the incident is noted and filed away. It adds to this bank of somewhat unfortunate wisdom, and we can see this happening with the child in Summer Rain. Considering the rise of right-wingism, particularly in Western Europe, and the idea of being able to say whatever one wants to minorities without those words mattering, what has the reception been like for the film so far?

It’s really interesting, and a huge compliment, that what I hear a lot is that this film is something we need right now, and that this film needed to be made right now. Obviously it’s a compliment, but it’s not just something that’s needed right now. It’s been my story for my entire life, and it’s been other people’s story for their entire lives. So I think it feels more universal at this point, because people can relate it to what’s happening in the world right now.

 

Right, because it’s just that right now there’s a lot of visibility around those issues.

Yes. There’s more of a clear link between the film and things that are happening right now. It’s nice to hear that people link the story to themselves or things that they’ve heard, because it’s such a personal story for me and it’s nice to hear that such a personal story has resonated. It’s a personal story, but a universal impact.

 

I like the way you put that. I mean, there was a really interesting moment in the beginning when his grandparents think they’re doing something nice by giving him a pair of chopsticks. It was a great moment, because it’s so relatable. As a Latina, I can relate that to people presenting me with something like maracas and saying, ‘Here you go. This is your thing, isn’t it?’ And when the boy asks for a fork instead of chopsticks, the parents clearly think he’s being rude or ungrateful, though in reality it’s just that they don’t understand. So yes, it’s a film that we need now, but that’s because we’ve always needed it.

Yes, exactly.

 

So what made you use chopsticks for that moment in the film? It was such a subtle, poignant image.

Yes, because I think that the moments when I experienced that strangely naive racism – because I do like to call it naive racism – I get it through those small moments. It’s not people screaming at me on the streets like, ‘You’re Asian,’ it’s more like, ‘Here are some chopsticks. I’m sorry we don’t have rice. Is it okay if you have bread?’ [laughs], It’s more of those subtle things that are so naively racist, because it’s such a misconception but so funny at the same time. It’s just absurd, and to them it’s a nice gesture, even though it makes no sense. That’s why I chose the chopsticks, because it’s so racist yet so funny at the same time.

 

I also like that about the film, because it’s not too serious all of the time. That’s not to say that serious films are invalid, because in truth they can be excellent, but sometimes films about racism can be so heart-wrenching and emotionally traumatic that they’re largely inaccessible. This film, on the other hand, has comedy built into it, and it’s also very touching and hopeful, whereas many shorts tend to end violently.”

Yes, yes.

 

There’s also that movement within the filmmaking community that happy endings in films are overrated, but I like that Summer Rain ends on a note of hope. Of course it’s not that traditional, classical Hollywood, Singin’ in the Rain type of ending, but it’s still a positive one. What led you to end the film in that the way?

For me, it was important to have some kind of closure, because those two weeks at his grandparents’ house do something to him, of course. But I also didn’t want to make a full circle, and for me it was important for the audience to know that this was the end of those two weeks at house, but it was the beginning of a whole new relationship with his grandfather that would be even more complex. Then, of course, the hospitalization of the grandmother isn’t explained, and you know that will be a big part of his life from that point on. So, for me it was important to end on the beginning of a new thing.

 

Right, because there was a moment I really liked with the actress who played the grandmother, in which the child asks if she’s going to be home soon and she says yes, but there’s a hesitation in her voice that adults can certainly pick up on. And then the doctor is so kind to the child, but then asks the grandfather to step outside. It’s very jarring for a child to be in a hospital and see tubes spilling out of someone he cares for, but the grandmother tries her best to comfort him very subtly. Is that someone that you directed the actress to do?

 

Yes, for me, in the script and in the way I directed it, it’s very clear that it’s not going well with the grandmother in the film, and I think that’s the habit of adults trying to save a child from the truth. But a child is smart, and they sense these things.

 

Right. I love the line where he says, ‘I’m not stupid.’

Yes [laughs]. I think it’s just that adults like to believe they know more than children, and they may have more knowledge but children sense things in a purer way than adults, I think, because they’re not relying on all of the facts and information. They just sense what’s happening.

 

Exactly. So to start to wrap things up, I think that the medium of short film is overlooked within the realm of film-going. Filmmakers often seem to appreciate and seek out shorts, because they’ve often made them before, but shorts are not promulgated to the rest of society to the same degree that feature are. So, having made three short films, could you talk about the medium of short film and why you find it valuable and more appropriate for certain stories? It’d be great if you could talk about that within the context of your past work and any projects you’re working on moving forward.

I love the short film medium. I think that you can be very direct and that you can get to the point in shorts, because you don’t have the time to go around the story. You just show what’s happening, and you have all the backstory that you need within those 15 minutes.

 

Right, it needs to be very tight.

Yes, and that’s what I love about short films. But of course, like I said, I want to believe that I am make very personal and intimate stories that can reach a universal audience, and to reach a universal audience, short film is a difficult medium. That is why now I’m writing my first feature film, and I feel that it’s just a different form of art, so it doesn’t feel like a feature film is a long short film and short film is a short feature film. It’s just two different things and two different ways of expressing something.

 

It’s like the difference between a novel and a short story – completely different mediums and ways of telling stories. People accept that, but I do think it’s an indication that audiences have yet to fully take film art seriously. Film has been considered art for a long time, of course, but I think many people are stuck in the mindset that films are mindless entertainment, as opposed to writing. So people are less inclined to see divisions within the medium of film art, and are more likely to see shorts and features simply as variations of each other.”

Yes, exactly.

 

Finally, what’s the common thread that runs through your work? What do you tend to focus on?

For me, it’s the search for identity, in many different ways. Of course, they are all coming of age, but I don’t really like the term ‘coming of age,’ because I don’t think it fits. In a way, the search for identity is a coming of age story, but I think that a search for identity can happen in so many different ways, and then it will just so happen to be the story of a child, or a child who grew up in different cultures. I do keep coming back to those search for identity stories.


Summer Rain (Zomerregen)
Miwako Van Weyenberg / Belgium / 2017 / 20 mins / Subtitled
Keita, an 8-year-old boy from a Belgian-Japanese family, has a difficult relationship with his grandfather.
Producer: Antonino Lombardo


Summer Rain screened on 12th November, 2018 as part of the International Shorts 3 programme at the Cork Film Festival.

 

 

 

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Viko Nikci, Writer/Director of ‘Cellar Door’

Cellar Door tells the story of young lover Aidie as she searches for her son while in the grip of the Church. But as she gets closer to the truth, she suffers uncontrollable shifts in time and place that send her spiralling.

Gemma Creagh sat down with writer/director Viko Nikci to open up the Cellar Door and find out more about his moving mystery thriller.

Cellar Door is showing at Cineworld, Eye Cinema, IMC Dun Laoghaire, The Gate and Movies@Dundrum.

 

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Irish Film Review: Cellar Door

DIR/WRI: Viko Nikci • PRO: David Collins, Viko Nikci, John Wallace • DOP: Robert Flood • ED: Viko Nikci • DES: Mark Kelly •  MUSIC: Ray Harman • CAST: Karen Hassan, Catherine Walker, Una Carroll

Writer-director Viko Nikci weaves together a fragmented narrative in Cellar Door that is only fully understood near the end of the film. The film follows Aidie (Karen Hassan), who appears lost and/or trapped in time as she struggles with memories of her pregnancy and searches for her baby. The audience is placed in Aidie’s shoes, wading through her key memories as she continuously cycles through them in search of an answer.

The film begins with a fully-clothed and submerged Aidie awakening in a bath full of water visibly confused. As she takes in her surroundings and her condition she asks herself “what’s the last thing you remember?”, setting the tone for what is to follow. The audience is then taken through Aidie’s conversation with her ailing mother, a classroom in which she is the teacher, a dance with her lover which morphs into her pregnant and alone in a Church, and ultimately in an institution with other unwed mothers. The timeline for these events is shaky, and they repeat over and over, with subtle differences as Aidie tries to make sense of them, sometimes guided by other versions of herself.

While these scenes do become repetitious in places, they bleed into one another seamlessly thanks to the strong cinematography, score and editing. These allow the audience to sometimes feel that they are gently falling between or sliding into memories, and other times feel a sense of entrapment and panic as Aidie fights for a resolution.

Cellar Door is difficult to pin down, not only in terms of its narrative but in its elusion of categorisation. There are moments when one might question if supernatural elements are at play and it feels like a horror, and others that resemble a drama. This uncertainty, however, is deliberately carried across the film so that it can perhaps best be described as a puzzle.

The film requires commitment on the part of the audience to make sense of the pieces as they come, and may suffer from some unnecessary repetition or elongation at times, but when its resolution arrives, making sense of what has come before it, it is thoughtful and poignant. Cellar Door tackles the difficult topic of Irish institutional abuse, drawing connections in a thoughtful way and forcing the audience to think throughout.

Loretta Goff

93 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Cellar Door is released 25th January 2019

 

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Legendary Hollywood Cinematographer Coming to Ireland

 

Nick McLean and John Schlesinger shooting Marathon Man

Irish film fans and cinematography buffs should relish a rare upcoming visit to Ireland from one of Hollywood’s preeminent directors of photography. This March, legendary Hollywood cinematographer Nick McLean comes to Ireland for a series of events honouring his acclaimed work in American Cinema. McLean will be joined by Irish author Wayne Byrne at various film screenings and discussions around the country to celebrate McLean’s storied career in anticipation of their upcoming book.

Kildare-based Byrne is a film historian and music journalist; he writes for Hot Press magazine and has authored books on lauded indie auteur Tom DiCillo and screen icon Burt Reynolds. His next book, to be released later this year is one he co-authored with Nick McLean on the cinematographer’s prolific work behind the camera on some of the biggest films and television shows of the last fifty years. As Camera Operator or Cinematographer, McLean has shot the likes of McCabe & Mrs Miller, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, Marathon Man, Being There, The Right Stuff, City Heat, Stick, The Goonies, Short Circuit, Spaceballs, and many more. McLean was also the special effects cinematographer for George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) throughout the 1980s, shooting effects work for the likes of Ron Howard’s Willow. He was subsequently highly acclaimed and Emmy Award nominated for his work shooting successful television sitcoms, including Evening Shade, Cybill, and later Friends.

Speaking about their collaboration, McLean recalls his working relationship with Byrne, “I had a great time working on this book with Wayne. I have rarely met anyone with his depth of knowledge and passion for cinema. I provided the foreword to his upcoming book on Burt Reynolds and I was immediately struck by his expertise, his enthusiasm and his love for film history. He knew all of my work inside out, even the most obscure ones! He suggested to me that there should be a book on my career and I told I would only do a book if it was with him. Wayne makes it easy and comfortable. He knows his stuff.

For Byrne, McLean’s influence is far reaching and his legacy in film history an important one. “I am a huge fan of Nick’s work. His compositions are rich and inventive, his camera movements immediate and graceful, and he tempers the elegance of his framing with handheld and aerial work which is exciting, he gets right into the action with the characters. Just look at the action sequences in Stick or Cobra; the aerial shots in Sharky’s Machine or The Right Stuff; or the lighting work on The Goonies and Staying Alive. City Heat is a masterclass in high-contrast chiaroscuro lighting, Nick really gives it that great old film noir feel. I also think some of his best work can be found in Burt Reynolds’ television series, B.L. Stryker. It’s so rare to see such a stylish cinematic aesthetic in television, especially television in 1990! Just thinking about the shots from these works makes this whole thing very exciting to be part of.


Wayne Byrne

McLean’s work spans several generations of film audiences, from his crucial camerawork in the 1970s’ New Hollywood movement right through to his cinematography in the blockbusters of the 1980s; and of course, who hasn’t seen Friends? Camerawork runs in the McLean clan, his stepfather and grandfather, Fred Jackman Jr. and Fred Jackman Sr., were pioneering Hollywood cinematographers respectively, going back to the days of silent cinema and up to the Golden Age of the 1940s and 1950s. McLean’s son, Nicolas S. McLean continues the tradition, shooting shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, and Private Practice.

Charting Nick’s career with him right there with me for our book has been like my own personal tour of Hollywood of the last fifty years,” Byrne says, and I hope that is how it will feel for people coming to our events in March where Nick and I will be going through his career and looking at some amazing scenes and discussing his work with great directors, from his earliest work with Altman and Spielberg right up to Friends.

Byrne continues, “Nick’s career kicked off in earnest when he was Vilmos Zsigmond’s camera operator, they worked together on a lot of films and from there Nick really flourished. When you see our opening montage compiled of many films Nick worked on you will be blown away when you recognise the scenes he has shot. Nick really helped develop the visual style of the New Hollywood, which is for me one of the greatest eras of American cinema.

Nick playing Mouth’s dad in The Goonies

These events will have special meaning for Byrne, as he will get to celebrate the films that he grew up on.

I have been a big fan of Short Circuit, City Heat, Stick, Cobra, all these films Nick shot, since I was a kid. I rented these movies in the video shops of Naas back in the late-80s/early 90s. They are part of the reason that I love cinema. And of course I remember Nick from playing Mouth’s father in The Goonies. But more importantly, Nick has become a very dear friend of mine. We send each other movies and I always look forward to our discussions.

The first event to be announced is “An Evening with Nick McLean” which will take place in Naas Community Library in Naas, County Kildare on Friday March 15th at 7pm. McLean is particularly excited about his opportunity to visit Ireland.

I was fortunate to work with people like Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, John Schlesinger, Richard Donner, Paul Newman, Brian De Palma, Mel Brooks, Hal Ashby, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone…many amazing artists. So it will be exciting for me to screen and discuss scenes from these films with Wayne for the movie lovers of Ireland. I can’t wait to see Dublin and Kildare and many other places I’m hoping to visit while I’m there, I have wanted to come to Ireland for a long time.

The Naas event is free of charge though booking is essential. To reserve a seat, call Naas Library on 045 879111 or email them at naaslib@kildarecoco.ie  

For more information and updates on further Nick McLean events in March, check in with Wayne on Twitter @DiCilloBook

 

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Interview with Cathal Black

Cathal Black is one of the most significant film artists from Ireland’s “First Wave” of independent filmmaking during the 1970s and 1980s. 

In 2018 his newest documentary, Five Red Roses: One for Every Syllable of Your Name, was screened at the 63rd Annual Cork International Film Festival. The documentary explores Máirín de Burca, a prominent feminist and Irish republican activist, whose divisive yet gripping story is portrayed by Black in a poetic yet analytical way.

Gabrielle Ulubay had the opportunity to interview Black about the film and about his career more generally.

 

To start off, I attended the Cork Film Festival screening of Five Red Roses: One for Every Syllable of Your Name, and I found it such an interesting documentary on both an informational and audiovisual level. Máirín de Burca, the subject of the film, is such a fascinating figure in Irish history. Would you mind speaking about how you came to make a documentary about her?

I was kind of called into something many years ago, when I was offered the chance to interview a woman who had set up Attic Press, and who was very badly ill at the time, and later died. But I interviewed her and put together a small trailer that we could not, unfortunately, get off the ground. From then, it developed into something more than that. To be honest, there were a few times when I wanted to abandon the project, but we tried to make it a bigger, broader documentary about people like Máirín, Nell McCafferty, and that kind of period. That didn’t take flight either, because of whatever the atmosphere in Ireland was like at the time – some people said that they’d covered it before, or they weren’t sure what the point of view was, or they wanted to sex it up or have a specific, named person walk us through the period. We tried to do that, and used a female comedian, but that got turned down. Then we tried another person, and it wasn’t going to work with her, either. I finally said that it was either going to work with Máirín or it wasn’t going to work at all. Now, someone else could have tried those things and make a different film, but I decided that I didn’t want to have a narrator who appears on screen every once in a while, because that could get a bit boring.

That’s what I like about your documentary. I told you at the end of the film’s screening that I feel documentaries don’t have to be confined to a succession of interviews or voiceover narration. So while you certainly did a few interviews, I found your audio-visual choices very gripping. For instance, it really stood out to me when you had the audio of an interview in the background while we looked at a house with its lights gradually going out. Could you talk about what drove you to make some of those choices?

Well, I didn’t really know what Máirín’s house was like. As a matter of fact, a lot of us thought that the house where she was brought up, in County Kildare, had been pulled down. We thought it was no longer there, and Máirín didn’t seem too keen on filming there. Then, a cousin of hers, named Tomás, who was at the screening in Cork, let us have a look at it, and it was still there. That was very interesting because in my imagination, I had a clear idea of what the house was like: I thought it would be two-storied with old-fashioned staircases, and that wasn’t so.

Now, once we arrived there, the problem was that we didn’t have much time to work with or to mull over what it was about the place that was so interesting. We found some old photographs that we put away in a trunk, and I thought that this house where she was brought up would be instrumental in discovering more about Máirín. She didn’t originally want to reveal much about her father and mother, but she did after a while, when she became comfortable with us. I thought that was a layer which, once brought out, would reveal more about the whole history.

There also aren’t many archives in Ireland about that period in history. There are certainly photographs, and there have been books or bits and pieces written about it, but I wondered how we could visualize all of this. I thought, How do we get to the essence of all of this? Then, when Máirín talked about how she left school at the age of 12 or 13, then joined Sinn Fein at the age of 16 and would come home late on her bike, I found all of that quite captivating. So I took the notion of the house as, one one hand, quite romantic, but on the other hand as having a lot of unrest and a certain amount of sadness. So that was a great way to convey all of that.

Could you talk about the process of finding actors to play Máirín at different ages? Did you have them speak directly with Máirín, or did she have a say in the casting? I imagine that it must have been challenging, because she’s a very complex person.

No, it wasn’t a very difficult process. If you look at the two women who play her, they don’t even look like her at times. I paid more attention to Máirín when she was older, so the woman who is in her twenties was more important to me, whereas the girl on the bicycle was just a one-day shoot. I was trying to match the photograph that Máirín has of herself in her hallway, from her school days. So I thought that if I got someone who looked like that, then I could pull that off. But because of the way this film was made, it was only two or three people trying to piece it together. We didn’t have the luxury of a casting director, so a lot of it we just did ourselves. People did us a load of favors. In fact, there was a woman in Kildare who dressed the girl and found the bike for us, and then we went up to the house and shot what we could. Then we waited for it to get a bit darker, and shot that sequence with her walking with the bike. Nearby, there was actually a school with a little theatre attached to it, so we took footage of the Irish flag on the top of the stage, which is part of Máirín’s story as well. So, in a way, these were all visual metaphors that would probably take us through the story.

The problem is that we had to cut what Máirín said down to its very bone, because there just isn’t enough time to include all of it. It was a question of being visually poetic, as opposed to moving the story along and making good use of time.

I like that you brought up the necessity to bring the film down to its very bones, not only because of time constraints but because of budget constraints. Now, because I am writing for a population that will include aspiring filmmakers working with little or no budget, I was wondering if you could talk about what qualities a filmmaker needs in order to make films under such constraints.

Just speaking from my experience with this film in particular, I found it useful to speak with just two or three people who would be in it for the long haul. I also avoided shooting nonstop for a full week and then getting maybe two days that are very good, while the rest of the week is very bad. That’s just the way I work. I think that you should try to keep it very tight and avoid letting the shooting go on forever, because if it does then all sorts of little mistakes can begin to creep in. Because we were flitting all over the place, picking up shots here and there, it might have been difficult for a large crew to keep up, so I tried to contain it and then find people to help locally.

Now, sometimes we needed more people in scenes, like the Mansion House, which involved about 40 extras. That was probably our most expensive day, because we had to go in, pre-rig it, shoot all day, feed people, and pay them. That was a much bigger operation, so we brought in 2 or 3 extra people for the crew, but in general we kept it pretty tight. It’s almost like some guerilla warfare: You go out, shoot for day or two, come back and assess what you have, and the prepare for the next time you go out. It’s exhausting and not a great way to work, because you have to refuel yourself every time, but in my experience it was the only way we could do it. You also need time to ask yourself, ‘What would be the best image for that?’ or ‘How can I best express that?’ I would think about things that Máirín had told me and wonder if that was a strand I wanted to go on.

But one of the difficult things about doing documentaries is that you have to decide what the narrative is without just listing the things that the person has done. That is alright on paper, and even then looks a bit dull, so you have to consider how to bring some life into the material and what devices you should use to do that. An obvious way is to try to have enough photographs and archival material, and to have people talking, and to cross-cut between them. If you’re interested in this kind of material you would find that interesting, but if not then you might find that boring.

That’s something that came up in the Q&A – the question of how relatable this material is for people who don’t know anything about it, or have nothing to do with the historical material. When you were filming, did you have it in mind that you wanted to make the topic universally interesting?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, one could get into the entrails of the conflict in Northern Ireland, but that’s a very complicated, difficult area. And there are a lot of things Máirín said that people would find very offensive, even though that’s her point of view. You know, when recording this I tried to do justice to what she said, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m for her or against her, because I should be invisible in a certain kind of way. It’s not really my job to come down left or right of her. The aim was to make it so that ordinary people could follow this, without oversimplifying the conflict. There were times that I wondered whether I was skipping over things, but sometimes those are decisions that you have to make.

And it’s very difficult to make those editorial decisions because, like you said, when making a documentary like this you have to remain relatively invisible. I want to bring that back to what you said earlier about a documentary taking on a life of its own, and how Máirín would say certain things that would make you consider going down a different strand. In terms of making this documentary or even making documentaries in general, could you expand on this tension between making editorial, narrative decisions and letting the material take on a life of its own?

I’ve made both documentaries and dramas, and I find that making documentaries is much more fretful. It’s much scarier, because it can take a huge amount of time to find the sort of story you want to do. Also, you have to discover where the documentary leads you and when it begins to find its own energy. It’s a very difficult thing to describe, because the more you work on it the more you pare it back.

It can be quite scary to take things away, but I find that the more information you take, the more the mind expands.

That’s very interesting.

Because the other solution is to just force-feed people information and the audience becomes passive, whereas I wanted people to be riding the journey with her. I wanted them to have a certain amount of feeling for her. You know, I wouldn’t be the best sort of person to make a documentary with just talking heads. I don’t think I could do it.

That’s one of the qualities I appreciated most about the documentary: you captured what a gripping figure she could be, while of course acknowledging what a polarizing figure she could be. The way you depicted her made it so that, whether you agreed with her views or not, she was undeniably fascinating.

If that’s the way it’s working then I’m glad, because from my perspective it’s hard to know whether I’ve hit the right marks. After a certain point, you get thrown out of your editing room because you need space from it. You find yourself making strange decisions in a short space of time, and our editing went over a longer time. I gave myself a certain number of weeks, and it went another 3 or 4 weeks beyond that. I just found it very difficult to get the thing to fit, and I felt that I needed to be fascinated myself or I would get frustrated with it. I had to try to fit the scene with the televisions in, and to take those interviews and use them in an interesting, different sort of way. It didn’t all need to be from A to B to C to D. It could be small pieces of memory, and to me that was more interesting than creating a historical document of her life.

Right, and it is working in the way you intend for it to work. To tie this in with your larger body of work, I know you’ve addressed a number of thought-provoking, often contentious subjects in other films of yours, such as Our Boys (1981), Korea (1995), and Love and Rage (1998). What sparks your interest in these issues, and how do you determine whether you’re going to address them in a documentary or a narrative film?

Well, to go back to Our Boys, that film was made in anger. It was something I felt I needed to do, and I wanted to set the record straight on certain things that were happening in Ireland that are still coming to light. It wasn’t shown on Irish TV for at least 11 years, and it was quite a short piece. The idea was to be subversive in that we used both drama elements and documentary elements, such as archival footage. We want to be subversive and to make a film that said ‘Sorry, but this happened and it was wrong, and we’re going to be living with this for centuries to come.’ I was schooled in the way depicted in the film as well, so I was familiar with the material.

Korea, on the other hand, was made out of love for John McGahern’s short story. There’s an essential sort of dislocation in some of the work, which I find interesting. Anyway, Korea deals with America. It also deals with the notion of going to war, with policy, with legacy, where a father encourages his son to go to America, knowing that he might be enlisted. The father would get paid if his son was enlisted, and if his son passed away.

In a way, the films are about living in a world that I’m not completely comfortable with. I mean, I’m living in a country that I’m not completely comfortable with, but it’s always been like that. It was like that with Máirín de Burca in a way: I didn’t really understand her. I could appreciate what she did, and I was kind of fascinated by her single-mindedness, and yet on another level I wanted to see if there was a way of making this have its own truth, you know? So that you could transcend the historical material and turn it into something else. All my films are sort of like that: They seek to turn something sort of historical and uncomfortable into some energy, as though through some kind of alchemy, so that you can hit audiences in the back of their minds rather than necessarily in the front lobe.

That’s very interesting, and that’s exactly what I was thinking about: how to find the common thread in a diverse range of material. Because the material itself is all very interesting.

Right. For instance, I made a film about Thomas Lynch, who is a poet and undertaker who lives in Michigan. He found out he had some ancestors in Ireland, so he came back to County Clare and met this woman, Maura Lynch, who lived in a small cottage. He absolutely fell in love with the place and comes back every year, and he talks about journeys, the notion of being in Ireland, and the journey he then takes. I was fascinated by that. To put those two things together and to see what his point of view of Ireland was. I accused him once of being far too romantic about Ireland, but at the same time, that cottage in Clare is the same place where I once asked him, ‘Are we going to talk about the fact that you’re an alcoholic?’ You know, it was beautiful down there and I thought that would be the best place to talk about this.

It’s that sort of strange brood that interests me. I think I would be very bored if I didn’t find images and sounds to mix things up and make something interesting. Because without that, you’re just lashing the stuff together.

I agree, and you certainly avoid that pitfall. I really enjoy your work, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Thank you.

On that note, you said a while ago that you were working on some new things before we started talking. Would you be open to talking about those projects that are in the works, or what you might be considering for the future?

Sure. I have a script for a period drama that I’m hoping will work out. It involves the Second World War and certain royalty coming to Ireland, and what happened to them. That’s one thing.

Another thing is a project about a woman who is with the Irish army in Lebanon, and she comes home because her daughter is shot dead. The drama is about us following her, and seeing where her journey takes us. In a way, it’s about modern Ireland, and the idea of coming back to a landscape that you don’t really recognize anymore. There are so many new people, and everything has changed, and the meaning of being Irish is up in the air… and that’s a good thing, in many ways. Those are the two projects. I’m staying away from documentaries at the moment.

Yes, because you said it took you 8 years to do this last one!

Right. Eight years from the time of trying to get people in it, getting it off the ground and then putting it down for a while, and then picking it back up and trying to get some heat in it, and then being told no. We were bringing the budget down, and it’s vile but that was in part because we were thinking ‘Will it get passed if we bring down the budget?’ Then, of course, you get the money and you’re delighted, but the reality of having to make the film with that amount of money is difficult.

Now, when I say ‘that amount of money’ I don’t mean a couple of Euros. It was certainly enough, but when you’re bringing in scenes like the one with the televisions, and moving locations for different shots, you’re sort of asking for trouble with that budget. But we did it. In many ways, it was a miracle that we were able to do what we did.

Yes, and it’s very impressive, and certainly something we can be inspired by.

Thank you.

To close out, I wanted to mention that I saw a screening of Pat Murphy’s Maeve at the Cork Film Festival, and she mentioned Our Boys as a landmark film that was made around the same time as Maeve. I thought to myself how exciting and interesting that was, because I had just met you at that point and we had decided to do this interview. It’s great to see the filmmaking community and Irish film history come together like that.

Very good, yes. In some ways, I think that Pat is not being given the recognition she deserves. I know that her path has been quite difficult, but the problem about working in Ireland is that even when you make a film, and it’s well received, you feel a sort of pressure to reinvent yourself every time.

Yes, I think that’s a pressure that a lot of artists face.

Yes. There was no guarantee that just because you made something and it was good, you would get permission to do another one.

That’s something many of us artists certainly find ourselves hyper-conscious of. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Thank you.

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Kate Dolan

Filmmaker Kate Dolan was recently named in the Irish Times Top 50 people to watch in 2019: Ireland’s hottest young talent. Gemma Creagh sat down to talk to Kate about her career to-date and what we can look forward to in 2019. 

Kate graduated with an Honours Degree in Film & Television Production from the National Film School, IADT in 2012. There, she majored in Directing and minored in Editing. Her graduate short Breathe In (2012) was selected for a number of Irish and international film festivals. She then worked as a Broadcast Producer in TBWA Dublin for almost 2 years after graduating.

In 2014, Kate attended Berlinale Talents to develop a short called Little Doll at the Short Film Script Station. The film depicts the first same-sex crush of a young girl. The short then premiered as part of Generation Kplus at Berlinale 2016. For her work with Little Doll, Kate was included in the British Council’s fiveFilms4freedom 2016 Global List – 33 inspiring people from around the world promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights every day.

In 2016 Kate was chosen to take part in the Guiding Lights, the UK’s leading mentoring scheme for filmmakers and was paired with director Alice Lowe (Prevenge, Sightseers)

In 2017, Kate was funded by Screen Ireland to make Catcalls, an irreverent horror about a sexual predator who gets what’s coming to him. The film won Best Short Film at the YDA Ireland in 2018 and has played at many festivals all over the world since its premiere at the Cork Film Festival in 2017.

Recently, Kate was selected for Screen Ireland to take part in their inaugural POV scheme. The selected projects will enter a development and mentorship phase before three will be greenlit, with a budget of up to €400,000 each – the money has been ring-fenced from Screen Ireland’s overall production budget. They will be aiming to enter production in late 2019/early 2020. You Are Not My Mother is a horror feature to be written and directed by Kate and produced by Deirdre Levins (Nails) for Fantastic Films.

In the world of music videos, Kate has gained praise for her work with Bitch Falcon and Maria Kelly as well as her recently critically acclaimed video for Pillow Queens’ ‘Gay Girls’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate Dolan: Little Doll

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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Irish Film Review: The Favourite

DIR: Yorgos Lanthimos • WRI: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara • PRO: Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee Magiday • DOP: Robbie Ryan • ED: Yorgos Mavropsaridis • DES: Fiona Crombie •  CAST: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz

The Favourite just might be Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ crowning achievement. Lanthimos initially garnered recognition for his acclaimed film Dogtooth, and has successfully built on this with follow-ups  Alps, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

The Favourite is a monstrous regal satire set during early 18th-century England. And like any Lanthimos film, The Favourite is a strange creature, yet in many ways, it’s probably his most accessible and endearing. We’re immediately brought into a world built on a foundation of royal pomp and carnivorous manners, which lend to the presiding absurdist comic tone. But underneath the veneer of aristocratic fashion and elaborate dances is a world of barbarous cruelty, betrayal, cunning, and cunnilingus. In short, very quickly everything we think we know about the period film is subverted through the brutal absurdity of Lanthimos’ deranged vision.

So it’s the 18th century, and while England is at war with France, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is bedbound, and her closest friend and council the Duchess of Malborough Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs on her behalf. But this loyalty and love is a subterfuge for the Duchesses’ own quest for power. The Duchess is intent on continuing the war if it guarantees her personal advancement, and will even go as far as to tax the Queen’s people. But the Duchesses’ desire is at odds with esteemed trailblazing Tory and landowner Lord Harley (Nicholas Hoult), who is disgruntled by the proposed land tax and tries to persuade the Queen of this. Of course, then along comes Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), a disgraced relative of the Duchess, whom she begs for work.  Abigail impresses the Duchess and rises quickly up the ranks. But when Abigail’s desire earns the favour of the Queen too, this brings the Duchesses’ ambitions into doubt and puts her at odds with Abigail.

 

The script was crafted by writers Deborah Davis and Tony Mcnamara. It’s a  crazed work of royal madness that seems to strike straight to the heart of the zeitgeist. The script is toxically comic, the comedy is opulent yet fiercely dark, but there’s a richness to the absurdity which keeps it grounded in a clear emotional reality, even when logic seems to go out the window.

The savagery of Lanthimos’ vision is served honourably by his confidant in arms, Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan. Ryan’s cinematography injects a distinct sense of chaos and disorder into the aesthetic decorum and pomp of the 1700s. Together Lanthimos and Ryan boldly shape a perspective of the past that’s grossly distorted, both literally and metaphorically, and the film towers because of it.

The performances are staggering and endearingly comic. Rachel Weisz brings an intoxicating wickedness to her role as the Duchess, and Olivia Colman radiates a triumphant ignorance and warmth as Queen Anne. And then there’s Emma Stone, who just kills it, and brings a fierce sense of charm and duplicity to Abigail. Lanthimos really seems to have struck gold with The Favorite; it’s a terse tale fit for the chaos of the times that’s unrepentant in its originality, it’s like a cross breed of Barry Lyndon meets Doctor Strangelove with perhaps a bit of David Lynch thrown into the mix for good measure, go check it out.

Michael Lee

119 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
The Favourite is released 1st January 2019

 

 

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Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 32 – Space Jesus & Sudden Male Nudity

 

Sarah Cullen & Richard Drumm return to your ears after a forced lengthy absence in 2018. We hope to find a home in 2019 and have them back for their almost-regular film ruminations. For now, we set up shop in an abandoned room and reflected on the year in film…

The pod kicks off with our buffs looking at their favourite Irish films of the year and includes Richard finally asking Sarah if she’s “got any yokes”.

Our best branding people came together to title a special section for this episode called “The 2018 Oscar Films that Only Came Out Here in 2018 but Are Technically 2017 Films”, including a look at the politics of Phantom Thread and the fish-sex movie.

After discussing the sudden appearances of naked men, Sarah and Richard pull apart their favourite films of the year, discuss recurring tropes in the year in film, including assimilation, Motherhood as a horrifying thing, highbrow trash and how deaths of wives and girlfriends give men the opportunity to become violent and get in touch with their emotions. Handy.

Finally there’s the delicious mention of turkeys of the year.

Ear ye. Ear ye…


 

2018: Writers’ Choice

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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2018: Writers’ Choice

Film is everything we desire and we strive to recognise ourselves in it in a bid to be desired ourselves. It is the light in the dark. It is the whisper in the silence. It bequeathes us an infinity of lives. And so our band of film worshippers honour its divine power and cast an eye over the year that was 2018, delivering their highlights served with the occasional turkey. 

Behold the end of year list…

“The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

Davide Abbatescianni

 

On My Skin (Alessio Cremonini)

Alessio Cremonini’s film is a brave, moving, and incredibly shocking film that revolves around the last days of Stefano Cucchi, a 31-year-old Italian building surveyor who died in unclear circumstances during preventive custody. Alessandro Borghi’s interpretation is simply astonishing here. Now available on Netflix.

 

Woman at War (Benedikt Erlingsson)

Winner of Cannes’ SACD award and recipient of the prestigious Lux Prize, Benedikt Erlingsson’s feature presents the story of an intrepid woman and is a touching message of civil resistance that viewers cannot ignore.

 

Rosie (Paddy Breathnach)

Paddy Breathnach’s film treats the Irish homelessness crisis, one of the most discussed topics. A well crafted cinematography and the two lead characters’ interpretations (Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford) are rich of realism and tenderness.

 

1983 (Rou Siva)

The best from the East. It is a Polish TV series but with the same dignity of every good European film. Set in Communist Poland during the early 2000s, it is a bright example of what a good alternate history-based series should be. It also disrupts the stereotype that all Soviet-influenced countries should look like poor, depressing, and outdated places to live. 1983’s Warsaw is a feast for the eyes.

 

The Belly of the Whale (Morgan Bushe)

A very enjoyable Irish film, premiered in Galway and marks the directorial debut of Morgan Bushe. Excellent acting, beautiful soundtrack, and a very intriguing original plot. Definitely recommended.


Andrew Carroll

Suspiria (Luca Guadagino)

A feverish nightmare. A study in Nazi culpability. A film about witches. Suspiria is all of these things and more. It is a starkly beautiful, achingly powerful and graphically violent effort by Luca Guadagino with career best performances from Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton and Mia Goth. Suspiria isn’t just a great homage to the 1977 original it’s a genre-defining horror film in its own right.

 

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Ethan Hawke’s best performance since Linklater’s Before Trilogy anchors Paul Schrader’s modern day Taxi Driver. Cough syrup in whiskey and a barbed-wire crucifixion echo the film’s themes of religious faith and stewardship as well as personal pain. First Reformed acknowledges that when everything else is gone faith – no matter what it’s in – will be all we have left.

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

The greatest Western action film ever made. Tom Cruise’s willingness to die for our entertainment makes this film a necessity. No other movie superstar does this kind of thing on this level. Scientology and long running times be damned Mission: Impossible – Fallout never backs away from the edge, it jumps right off.

 

Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)

The newly crowned King of the midnight movie. Cage howls and roars his way through axe-forging and chainsaw duels in his most Nicolas Cage and most affecting performance ever. Panos Cosmatos conjures up dreamscapes with a dedication rarely seen outside of a heavy-metal album cover all while the late Johan Johansson saws at guitars and coaxes midnight blue melodies out of synthesisers. All hail the Children of the New Dawn!

 

Kissing Candice (Aoife McArdle)

A weird mood piece in the often realist landscape of Irish cinema but one that shines bright, nonetheless. It is a beautiful and gritty indictment of the culture that created a violent, wayward, disaffected youth across Ireland. Director Aoife McArdle’s dreamy, grounded direction makes Kissing Candice a Discover Ireland ad for those caught between the mire of the past and a future already out of reach.

 

Worst of the Year

Red Sparrow (Francis Lawrence)

By far the most disappointing movie of 2018. Full to the brim with needless sexual violence and grim torture Red Sparrow is nowhere near as clever or provocative as it thinks it is. Perhaps worse is that it’s euthanasia inducingly boring. And that is the worst crime a movie can commit in this day and age. A waste of a great cast is the final nail in Red Sparrow’s coffin.


Sarah Cullen 

Overall I’m satisfied with 2018. While there were some disappointments there were also some very pleasant surprises. Once again my top 5 is horror-heavy but at this point I’ve accepted it as my lot in life. In no particular order…

Unsane (Steven Soderbergh)

I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt quite as sick and claustrophobic at a film before. Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane takes on the classic gothic tropes of entrapment and hysteria and reworks them for the twenty-first century in this scathing attack of the American health system and American misogyny. There has been little more cathartic this year than Claire Foy’s vicious and devastating take-down of her relentless stalker. And it’s all shot on a camera phone, to put all those fancy-schmancy filmmakers in their place.

 

A Sicilian Ghost Story (Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza)

Based on the horrific real-life abduction Giuseppe de Matteo, the son of an informant, by the Sicilian mafia, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s adult fairy tale turns a nightmare into an aspirational tale of love and hope. Following the detective work of a local girl who is determined to discover the truth behind the kidnapping, Sicilian Ghost Story permits its child protagonists agency through fantasy, enabling them to transcend the bounds of their complicit adult society. Haunting yet strangely uplifting, the film becomes a way of exorcising the ghosts of Giuseppe’s unimaginable ordeal.

 

The Little Stranger (Lenny Abrahamson)

Did Lenny Abrahamson’s chilling tale of toxic masculinity just reinvent the ghost story? At the risk of sounding naive, I’m going to say yes, and also that I love it. The often mundane relationship between Domhnall Gleeson’s affable doctor and Ruth Wilson’s lonely impoverished patrician lulls the viewer into a false sense of security before Abrahamson ingeniously reveals (or does he?) the mysterious force at the centre of the film, Wilson’s crumbling family estate. It’s a thinker for sure.

 

Black 47 (Lance Daly)

Perhaps there’s a reason we’ve never had a film about the Irish famine until now: with the year (and even the week) that’s in it, it feels eerily prescient. Either way, Lance Daly’s western revenge thriller is chock-a-block with fantastic action and excellent performances. In particular, it should be praised for its sophisticated stunt choreography which ensures that the narrative never flags. Ultimately, Black 47 demonstrates how a film’s subject matter can add much-needed pathos and nuance to a genre.

 

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

It’s nice to see a slacker film really putting in the work. An almost pitch-perfect response to last year’s Get Out, Boots Riley’s absurdist comedy takes off where Jordan Peele left off in its examination of commodification and race in the United States, except this time we also get Danny Glover explaining double-consciousness to Lakeith Stanfield. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we might get a third film in the same vein next year and make it an unofficial trilogy. (Anyone know if Ava DuVernay has a gap in her schedule?)

 

Turkey

Red Sparrow

While there are a bunch of movies I would consider nominating here, I think I’m going to go with the one that was most watchable in a trainwreck sort of way, which would be Red Sparrow. If you really wanted to see Jennifer Lawrence and the director of the Hunger Games franchise back together to make a new version of the Hunger Games but this time about sexual assault rather than violence, then you’re in luck. But also, what in the heck were you thinking?


David Deignan

Custody (Xavier Legrand)

A masterpiece. I did Custody the disservice of watching it during a long-haul flight but that didn’t stop it from being the best cinema experience of my year. This terrifically tense family drama follows the destructive divorce of a hellish couple and the horrific toll it takes on them and on their two children. It’s almost overbearingly intense at times but remains absolutely engaging from the very first frame to the last – a testament to the sheer strength of the writing, direction and the performances of the key cast. This is faultless filmmaking across the board, and it is extremely hard to believe that this is only Xavier Legrand’s first feature. I can’t wait to see what he does next. If Custody is any indication, it’s going to be special.

 

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)

Spectacular in every sense of the word. Roma marks Alfonso Cuarón’s first Spanish-language feature since 2001’s Y Tu Mamá También and is a sprawling, heartfelt snapshot of a tumultuous time in the life of Cleo – a young, live-in housekeeper for a middle-class family – and the city that she lives in. Set in the Roma district of Mexico City in the early 1970s, this film boasts a gorgeous visual palette. Beautifully shot (with cinematography also by Cuarón) in black and white, every individual frame is carefully curated by a filmmaker at the absolute top of his game. It surprised nobody by winning the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and, while no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Roma will undoubtedly be in the picture come February. Although it’ll soon be available for streaming on Netflix, this sweeping behemoth begs to be seen on a big screen.

 

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

Lynne Ramsay’s powerful fourth feature is deeply intricate, deftly subtle and stirringly affecting, confirming her place as one of contemporary cinema’s most exciting filmmakers. Based on the 2013 novella of the same name, the film’s narrative is essentially a character study of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joe, an unstable hired gun who is tasked with rescuing trafficked girls from their captors. Phoenix is in fantastic form, delivering his best performance to date as a character who may be the most captivating of the year. Ramsay’s clever staging and misdirection drives the electrically charged narrative forward, her confident storytelling coupling with Jonny Greenwood’s dissonant score to create a jittery atmosphere perfect for this film. I couldn’t get this out of my head for weeks after watching.

 

Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest is a beautiful ode to the families we choose, rather than the ones we are born into. Winner of this year’s Palme D’Or in Cannes, the narrative follows a tight-knit family who are forced to shoplift in order to survive their life of extreme poverty. To tell much more than that here would be unfair, as this is a subtly complex story which deserves to be experienced by an audience going in blind. All I’ll do is reserve special praise for Kore-eda and his stellar cast, with the younger members in particular stealing the show.

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, Rodney Pothman)

Hot take: this is the best comic-book movie ever made. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is chiefly a love letter addressed to the turbulent history of its titular hero as well as the array of creatives who have brought his stories to life both on the page and onscreen. It’s a brilliantly silly caper full of heart and whip-smart humour, and the gorgeously varied visual palette can be held up as an A+ example of what animation as a form can achieve. This was the most fun film of the year for me. The late Stan Lee would undoubtedly have been proud.

 

Surprise of the Year

Blockers (Kay Cannon)

I didn’t expect much at all from this inversion of the typical teen sex comedy. The trailers and inconspicuous title did the film no favours in marketing, serving to disguise the surprisingly sweet and refreshingly open-minded story buried beneath the dick jokes. The film is hilarious when it wants to be and touching when it needs to be, smartly exploring the teen angst of sexual exploration and the parental fear of growing apart with your children. It has well-drawn characters with highly effective individual arcs and deserves real credit for representing minorities in a way that doesn’t feel tacked on. And John Cena is outstanding, announcing himself as a seriously funny comedic talent. Wow, I never thought I’d say that.

 

Christmas Turkey

Peterloo (Mike Leigh)

Alfred Hitchcock famously once said that “drama is life with the dull bits cut out”. Peterloo is based on real-life events, but writer/director Mike Leigh has left in the the dull parts and forgotten to add any excitement. Whatsoever. Stuffy, bloated and outstandingly boring. I love Christmas Turkey, but I hated Peterloo.

 

Most Anticipated 2019

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent) / Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)

The Nightingale – Jennifer Kent’s long awaited second feature following 2014’s acclaimed The Babadook – was my personal favourite at this year’s Venice Film Festival. It is a brutally violent, intensely provoking and unflinchingly honest revenge story guaranteed to polarise audiences upon releasing next year. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, meanwhile, is an unapologetically funny anti-war film. The story follows lonely and confused young German boy Jojo, whose only goal in life is to become the best Nazi the world has ever seen. In order to achieve this aim, he calls upon the help of his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler – goofily played by the half-Jewish, half-Maori Waititi. The filmmaker has proudly stated that his latest is going to “piss off a lot of racists.” It’s also going to be a strong awards contender this time next year.

 


Sean Dooley 

Deadpool 2 (David Leitch)

I thought Infinity War would have been my favourite movie of the year for sheer size alone but Deadpool 2 lived up to the high standards from the first movie and blew it out of the park. Ryan Reynolds can do no wrong and just keeps getting better and better with the likes of Deadpool (we don’t mention Green Lantern) my personal favourite of the year.

 

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

The must-see movie of the year for not just Marvel fans but everyone. A huge collaboration of the Marvel universe finally coming to fruition, one of the biggest and best Marvel movies.

 

A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper)

Another man that can do no wrong it seems is Bradley Cooper, one of my favourite actors, and he plays a famous junkie. Lady Gaga is a revelation and was probably a surprise to everyone how well she could act. We all knew Cooper’s acting skills but I was blown away by his musical ability and vice versa with Gaga and her acting ability. A fantastic version of the movie that brings you in and pulls on your emotions to the end.

 

Christopher Robin (Marc Forster)

A feel-good family movie that appeals to all ages. Taps into a nostalgia but beyond that never fails to pull on your heart strings.

 

Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird)

Another nostalgic throwback for everyone, this one had been long awaited by myself and I am sure millions of others still wondering what happened at the end of the first movie with the Underminer. A relief that we finally got the movie, and not just get it, but live up to the standards of the first, which most sequels find extremely hard to do.



Richard Drumm

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
It’s difficult to put into words what this film is or how deeply under your skin it can get. A thoroughly affecting exploration of PTSD, violence and the darkest concerns of the soul. You couldn’t call it a fun watch but everything from the editing, sound design and cinematography   to a highly impressively crafted and suffocating atmosphere of dread.

 

Assassination Nation (Sam Levinson)

 

One of the most intense horror sequences of the year, a superb score, believable lead characters and some of the most satisfyingly righteous anger to emerge so far in the post #MeToo era.

 

Cam (Daniel Goldhaber)

 

Another film to add to the growing list of impressive Netflix originals. Gorgeously shot and anchored by a great central performance, it’s a clever, sex positive horror that’s an unsettling mirror to our digital lives.

 

Upgrade (Leigh Whannell)

 

Aka Good Venom. A tightly constructed, inventive and thoroughly satisfying low-budget action thriller that’s able to see its concept through to its logical conclusion.

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

 

For all intents and purposes, this year’s Fury Road. We can argue all day if it’s a good thing to let Cruise have this much good will given his, ahem, affiliations, or if maybe its too long, but those concerns largely melt away given the sheer quality of the staging of the nearly 100% practical stunt work on display. Staggering that no one was killed making it.

 

Best-Worst:

 

Final Score

 

Or as it’s more affectionately known; ‘Die Hard at a Football Match’. Stupid beyond words, it’s a film clearly made by Brits with an eye for the American market so includes every football stereotype imaginable. Evil Soviet types take a stadium hostage in order to capture Pierce Brosnan where the day is ultimately saved by racism and not Dave Bautista ramping his motorbike over a still happening football game. Grade-A shite.

 


Ilsa Flynn

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

Surrealism at its finest. This film is a landmark. It is not only a statement on racism in the US, it is a statement on capitalism and how it is consuming us beyond comprehension. There are no words to encompass this film accurately. It is completely bizarre but oh so brilliant. You must see this film before you die.

 

Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)

It’s a raw, yet ironic look at the life of an introverted girl who comes to accept herself for who she is. I was touched by how on the nose this movie is. It doesn’t idealise or pretend. It contains the gritty details of early adolescence with care and brute honesty. I honestly couldn’t love this film more

 

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

A heartwarming story to the core. Wes Anderson puts an interesting spin on his style with his first original stop motion picture. A trust is formed and justice is sought. There is a beautiful look at barriers and comprehension. This ultimately is a very human and heartwarming story. Beautiful in aesthetic and story.

 

Hereditary (Ari Aster)

This film is unsettling to say the least. The originality was astounding and the story took turns no one could have foreseen. Slow moving, and ominous for a spine-chilling first act with a jolt into the second act that shocks you until the end and continues to build to unforeseen heights. I was terrified in the true sense of the word. This is honestly the most terrifying film I have ever seen.

 

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

The most anticipated film of the year did not disappoint. Many entered the theatres like myself, unaware of what to expect and whatever expectation we did have was risen with this action packed, hilarious, yet somehow devastating instalment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Irish Film

Cellar Door

Small budget independent that blew me away. You will be disillusioned but engrossed from the first second. This film is magnificently written and put together. The story of a young mother who is brought to a mother and baby home quickly becomes a psychological thriller on a level of pure brilliance.  


Shauna Fox 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer)

An amazing film with, obviously, the best soundtrack. This is an absolute job to watch, capturing the highs and lows of Freddie Mercury’s career. Rami Malek is a revelation; and the last twenty minutes of the film…it’s a kind of magic.

 

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

I am total Marvel nerd, and this was the holy grail of Marvel films! The acting, the CGI, the action, the soundtrack, the cinematography all just everything came together to make this the most ambitious Marvel film yet. And if you haven’t checked out the new trailer for Avengers: Endgame…where have you been hiding?!

 

Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)

Slick, stylish, and modern, Black Panther was everything that was hinted for us when we first met T’Challa in Civil War. This was one of Marvel’s more contemporary feeling films.

 

Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu)

Hilarious and romantic, this is a film about finding the strength to love. Great costumes, fantastic soundtrack; this was the comedy of the year for me.

 

Deadpool 2

Violent, gory, and hilarious! Everything that is expected of the Deadpool franchise. Perfection!

 

Notable mentions:

A Star is BornAnt-man & the Wasp Mamma Mia 2

 


Cian Geoghegan

The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles)

Orson Welles’ phantom masterpiece finally sees the light of day, and reaches it gargantuan potential. A daring film, serving chiefly to deconstruct the cult of personality around Welles, and demolish the church of the iconoclast film director.

 

Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

At once the most wholesome and tragic film of the year, chronicling a family bonded not by blood but by illegal living space. Its beauty is neat and subtle. Its heart is gigantic.

 

BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)

Bounding with immediacy and passion. Spike Lee has made the most mainstream-friendly film of his career, while still holding nothing back.

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

Impeccably plotted, staged, shot, scored. The action highlight of the year. Pure functional filmmaking at its best.

 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

A collage of stories ranging from the farcical to the melancholic, all of which sink their teeth into the mind of the viewer. Tom Waits as a lonely prospector is the most beautiful sequence of the year.

 


Liam Hanlon 

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Everything from the remarkable Vicky Krieps performance to Lesley Manville’s cutting glances help make Daniel Day-Lewis’s ‘final’ performance a standout. Paul Thomas Anderson helms a film, much like Reynolds Woodcock’s dressmaking, that is elegant, refined, and has an alluring sense of mystery, intrigue, enchantment. I loved it.

 

120 BPM (Robin Campillo)

This film offers an exploration of Parisian Act Up activists in the early ‘90s and offers hope despite some of the activists inevitably surrendering to AIDS. There is such a joie de vivre here, especially in nightclub sequences with the incredible Arnaud Rebotini soundtrack, and there is life in these characters, despite what lies ahead for them. The film is packed with emotion and the final act is powerful. It was also released on the same week as Love, Simon; a great week for queer cinema.

 

Lean On Pete (Andrew Haigh)

I adored 45 Years and was eagerly-anticipating Andrew Haigh’s next film. Lean On Pete makes the ordinary extraordinary and Charlie Plummer’s performance is captivating. Haigh possesses a deft touch at capturing relationships and interactions on-screen and I can’t wait for what he has in store next.

 

Lucky (John Carroll Lynch)

Harry Dean Stanton, in one of his final roles, is mesmerising as Lucky. It’s a film about one man’s daily routine and sounds lifeless on paper. Yet, one accident forces him to consider his own mortality and the film ironically becomes full of life. The sequence with Lucky singing at a Spanish birthday party is truly beautiful and then there’s David Lynch’s character who laments his runaway tortoise called President Roosevelt. What’s not to love?

 

Michael Inside (Frank Berry)

This film had elements of Loachian social realism and is a moving piece of cinema. Dafhyd Flynn as Michael is one of the performances of the year and Michael is a character you can support and sympathise with. It’s a film that deserves much more acclaim and Berry and Flynn will undoubtedly further assist in the promising future of Irish cinema.

 

Honourable Mentions

 Dublin Oldschool, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Love, Simon, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, BlacKkKlansman, Brad’s Status, Widows

 

Turkey of the Year

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I feel sorry for J.A Bayona for putting his name to a mishandled franchise reboot like this. He deserves better and the few good things about this are all Bayona-influenced. Not Trevorrow/Connolly.

 


Dakota Hevron

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While leaving something to be desired as a sequel to the highly successful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the film is a solid second installment in the series, visually marvellous and brilliantly acted.

 

Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)

Black Panther is a phenomenal film, fast-paced and enthralling, a worthy installment in the Marvel film franchise with incredible performances from the cast.

 

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

Absolutely worth all of its hype, the film is more than successful in its ambitious task of bringing so many heroes and storylines together, one of the must-sees of the year.

 

BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)

A hard-hitting must-see. BlacKkKlansman is a vastly entertaining and utterly unapologetic film, one that is unfortunately still all too relevant today.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer)

The brilliantly-told story of a legend, an entertaining and poignant biopic with an award-worthy performance by Rami Malek.


Niall James Holohan 

Filmworker

Filmworker (Tony Zierra)

I was lucky enough to see Tony Zierra’s Filmworker alongside Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon on the same weekend this summer as The Lighthouse cinema in Dublin made the ingenious decision to screen several Kubrick films key in Filmworker’s narrative the same weekend that the documentary was released. This meant seeing Leon Vitali at both ends of the burning candle, as it were. First, as Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon, a performance which seemed set to propel him into a long and illustrious career as a character actor and then as the man obsessed with being Kubrick’s assistant, at the end of the road which Vitali chose instead. On the face of it, this might seem like a movie for Kubrick enthusiasts only but in fact, it tells a profound heart-wrenching story of unerring commitment to a mentor and their work which demystifies the filmmaking process and, as a result, resonates far beyond the unending conceptualization and conspiracy theories which usually accompany any discussion on Stanley.

 

24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami)

Also originally released in Iran in 2017 but distributed throughout Europe in 2018, this experimental film by Abbas Kiarostami was his last before he passed away in 2016. Essentially, 24 Frames is series of shots holding for 270 seconds on what first appear to be still images, photographs, and paintings which slowly come to life. It’s an experience which is highly diminished through its description but its uncompromising dedication to the power of the arresting image makes it a film which I would highly recommend to any fellow cinéaste.

 

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

The parallels with Taxi Driver and to a lesser extent, Tony Scott’s Man On Fire, notwithstanding, this was probably the best experience I’ve had in a cinema this year. Lynne Ramsay’s films to date could be described as pure cinema in that there is often little overly said but so much going on by way of the art of visual storytelling. Amazing performances all around, typically sensitive direction from Lynne Ramsay and a shoo-in for Best Sound Mixing at the Oscars in March (I am a PTSD survivor and some of the soundscapes shook me to my very core), You Were Never Really Here is highly likely to be the 2018 film that stays with us the longest.

 

BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)

When Trump was elected, I sat with an American friend in London and searching for something positive to say, I suggested that maybe, just maybe we might see the best of America in response to Trump’s warped vision of the world. BlacKkKlansman, for my money, is the finest artistic response we’ve had yet from a visionary auteur who is sliding smoothly toward becoming one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time, and arguably the one that matters most. Not a masterpiece but a timely slice of entertainment acting as a Trojan horse for big ideas and so, a unique film in 2018.

 

Generation Wealth (Lauren Greenfield)

Lauren Greenfield may not be a household name, but for the past 25 years, she has found a unique artistic voice in analyzing significant cultural shifts with a fine-tooth comb. It is a key conceit of her new film, Generation Wealth, that all of these explorations, however diverse, have led to one monolithic phenomenon: wealth culture. In Generation Wealth, Greenfield presents the best of her previous work to create an entertaining fable about the wealthiest social class in human history, almost as if told from the point of view of a historian detailing the follies that inevitably precede the fall of every ill-conceived empire. It gave me vertigo. See it.

 

Worst Films of the Year

American statesman and 26th President of the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt once famously said “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”. Still, The 15:17 to Paris, Death WishSherlock Gnomes and sadly, A Wrinkle in Time left me wondering WTF.

 


Michael Lee

 

First Reformed (Paul Shrader)

Paul Shrader fearlessly stares eternal spiritual questions straight in the face and doesn’t so much as blink, and Ethan Hawke gives the performance of his career.

 

The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Yorgos Lanthimos offers us his opus, a  biting period satire told through a wildly absurdist lens akin to Beckett.

 

Hereditary (Ari Aster)

A horror that elevates itself above the genre, it’s classic and fresh at the same time,  writer/director Ari Aster richly captures the intensity of a disintegrating family as they step closer and closer to damnation,  and Toni Collette’s manic performance is nothing short of electric.

 

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

Boots Riley made the bestest, weirdest, wackiest satire since Putney Swope or Candy.

 

Phantom Thread (P.T Anderson)

P.T Anderson’s period drama hypnotizes with befitting decorum.


John McGarr 

buster scrubs
 
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

 

The best film of the year. It’s beautifully shot, spans a wide range of genres and emotions and doesn’t have a single weak performance.

 
 

 Climax (Gaspar Noé)

 

The closest thing there is to a waking nightmare. Includes some of the best cinematography of the year.
 
 

Hereditary (Ari Aster)

 

A subtly terrifying film; Toni Colette gives the performance of the year. The modern version of The Shining.

 
 

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

 

Aesthetically pleasing with some fantastic character designs, set designs and music.

 
 

Annihilation (Alex Garland)

 

A complex film that’s a slow burn on the viewer. The final 30 minutes are outstanding with one of my favourite endings to a film.

 


Conor McMahon

One Cut of the Dead (Shinichirou Uedaone)

 

This Japanese low-budget hit was made for 27,000 and has grossed 27 million. It’s hard to talk about this film without spoiling the really clever premise. It’s enough to say it starts with a 35 minute one-take zombie scene, before the film takes a sharp twist. It’s a film that leaves you with a feeling of pure joy for the making of low-budget horror.

 

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)

 

One of the most tense and clever horror films for a long time. And if nothing else it got people to shut up talking in the cinema.

 

8th Grade (Bo Burnham)

 

Elsie Fisher gives an amazing and awkward central performance of what feels like a very authentic portrayal of life as an 8th Grader. Directed by YouTube star Bo Burnham

 

Hereditary (Ari Aster)

 

Sold as the scariest film since The Exorcist, this film has some genuinely shocking moments and a great performance by Toni Colette. Also stars Gabriel Byrne.

 

Halloween (David Gordon Green)

 

Made as a sequel to the original Halloween, I thought this film set the right tone of horror diffused with some very funny moments. It re-established Michael Myers as someone to be feared. A new score by John Carpenter and with Jamie Lee Curtis back in the lead role made for a 77 million dollar opening weekend. The film clearly hitting the mark with fans.

 


Jack O’Dwyer 

eight grade

Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)

YouTube star Bo Burnham’s debut feature-length film is perhaps the only coming-of-age film in recent years which accurately depicts the milieu in which adolescents are growing up in the late-2010s. Burnham brilliantly captures the ways in which the joys, heartbreaks, jealousies and paranoias of teenage life have been displaced from the physical world to the virtual world of Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. Unlike most films of its type which are largely out-of-touch in their efforts to portray social media etiquette, Burnham is meticulous in his rendering of the digital age; a clear reflection of his 12-year long spell as an internet celebrity. In addition to this well-needed timeliness, the film features an emotional central performance by Elsie Fisher as the painfully awkward and pessimistic Kayla Day, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader attempting to cope with the loneliness and pressures of high school life.

 

Utoya: 22 July (Erik Poppe)

Erik Poppe’s Utøya July 22, through the precise co-ordination of its actors and the sheer ambition of its cinematographic acrobatics, asserts itself as perhaps the most visceral and affecting film ever made about mass murder or terrorism. While the specific characters at its centre are developed effectively, the unbroken long take which presents this film also acquires its own sense of agency, which plunges the viewer into the horror of the situation in the most totalizing way possible. The killer’s presence is established through adept sound design and restrained glimpses, in a way which creates a sustained sense of fear without glorifying or legitimizing his hateful actions. The film’s structure is skilfully mapped onto the actual events of the 2011 Norwegian tragedy, with this verisimilitude leading to a palpable sense of time ticking agonizingly by throughout the shooting’s seventy-two minutes. This harrowing yet respectful depiction of a modern European tragedy is one of the year’s best films.

Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)

A unique assemblage of allegory, fable, fantasy and dream, Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro deserves praise and recognition for its temporal undulations, strange internal logic, and abstract approach towards important themes such as class, modernity and nostalgia. Through the timeless, saintly figure of Lazzaro, the film raises powerful questions relating to the place of absolute goodness in a world which is built perpetually on inequality and exploitation. The film does well to remain consistent both tonally and logically despite the loose and often shocking events which constitute its plot, most notably the daring mid-film pivot which entirely refocuses the script’s direction and context. While the film may be accused of losing focus and devolving into predictability during its second half, it must be admired for stubbornly maintaining its own unique vision. Its dual portrayal of a Europe which is beset by lasting societal issues renders the film essential viewing for fans of art-house cinema.   

Puzzle (Marc Turtletaub)

Marc Turtletaub’s Puzzle is one of the year’s most emotionally powerful films. Deceptively simple, it centres on a shy, middle-aged housewife, Agnes, who finds solace in the activity of solving jigsaw puzzles. Upon meeting a partner in her new hobby, Robert, with whom she enters a puzzle-solving competition, Agnes begins to lead a secret life away from her family, which crumbles the bedrock of her mundane, submissive existence. This is a film with much conflict but no villains; each argument is so fairly written that every character onscreen becomes equally deserving of viewer sympathy. Above all, the film proves that anyone’s life can be transformed at any time, and often in the unlikeliest of ways.

Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz)

Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot is a film which succeeds on every level. The film’s thematic density is subtly enriched throughout by its elegant yet disorientating three-piece structure. The film ranges in tone from a distant and surreal examination of war’s absurdity to an intensely claustrophobic portrayal of how a family copes with sudden grief, yet each tonal and temporal shift satisfyingly reinforces the film’s structural integrity. Its complex portrayal of the role of causality and chance within the realm of war is particularly powerful, both on a human level and in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during which it takes place. While the film often feels numb on the surface, as viewers we can infer a great deal of emotional and thematic heft which goes far beyond the boundaries of the script. It is varied yet controlled, reserved yet inventive; for these reasons, Foxtrot is a masterpiece.


Sean O’Rourke

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

Director Lynne Ramsey again proves herself an expert at forcing her viewer into a mind split apart by trauma. Her direction and Joaquin Phoenix’s central performance lead us through a world so dark that the empathy and hope we find there is utterly unexpected and all the more captivating.

 

The Silver Branch (Katrina Costello)

The Silver Branch is a moving tribute to the interlocking, mutually generative forces of art and the natural world. That the film is able to blend these concepts so well, exploring life in The Burren in such a way that shows the concepts to be intertwined and, perhaps, inextricable, speaks to the amazing craft on display.

 

Hereditary (Ari Aster)

Though I could imagine Hereditary being near unwatchable for many people for many reasons, the film was completely compelling to me. It was not easy going and watching it often felt like being a dog having his face pushed into a recently-soiled carpet, but its insightfulness about collective family trauma, its exploration of the isolation caused by that collective trauma, and its eye for the visceral and the uncanny brought me through every torturous (in the best possible way) minute.

 

Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)

Cold War is, at its core, the story of a fundamentally destructive relationship. The tale, which spans both sides of the Iron Curtain, sees love, hate, art, and politics merge, piling more and more pressure on this already flawed relationship, tearing it slowly at its seams. The film examines in detail the resulting ugly and beautiful atrophy that these characters unavoidably bring on each other.

 

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

A kind of Taxi Driver for the age of climate change, First Reformed centres on a pastor who comes to find a horrifying purpose in response to the apathy and outright malevolence of his fellow man. Much like You Were Never Really Here, the film has a beautiful and unsettling way of combining a grimy, cynical vision of the world with empathy for those people who do or plan to do rather terrible things. On a more personal, selfish note, you should also see First Reformed because I need more people to discuss its ending with – it is gorgeous and baffling in equal measure.

 


James Phelan 

you-were-never really here

Just to clarify the criteria I apply to this list, I deliberately exclude the year’s crop of Oscar contenders. Regardless of their actual release date; spiritually and contextually they already feel like the previous year’s films.

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

Here we have a brutal rumbling beast of a film. At once harrowing in its’ depiction of revenge but also curiously subtle in where the camera doesn’t venture. Yet it grows all the more devastating and graphic for its’ relative restraint.  The plot sits on ostensibly clichéd ground but Lynne Ramsey churns it all up and finds fresh blood and visuals to stain our memories with. The mesmeric audio is award worthy too.

 

A Simple Favour (Paul Feig)

I’m so far out on a limb here that I can barely see the tree of critical consensus anymore. No one else seemed to react to this zesty, zany thriller comedy but it provided one of precious few real surprises at the cinema this year. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are the beating heart of a hybrid that elicited gasps and giggles at intoxicatingly invigorating levels.

 

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)

It’s sign of the times stuff when A Quiet Place feels like a small over-achieving film. Yet among the dull bombast of incessant blockbusters, it did feel like a stealthy skilful intruder. Apparently a whole ‘War of Worlds’ first act was jettisoned so there were excellent instincts at play here on the writing side. It was similarly assured in its’ direction. Reducing human pain down to a nail on the stairs continues to evoke more wincing empathy in audiences than entire cities falling over.

 

Tully (Diablo Cody)

I should be breaching my Oscar rule for this but Charlize Theron was not on any shortlist for this sweet, sharp and sour take on motherhood. But heck, super tired mums don’t expect any recognition. The film’s own internal identity crisis makes sense by the end as Diablo Cody’s fairytale unravelled into achingly poignant reality.

 

Teen Titans Go To The Movies/Into the Spider-Verse

Yup I know. Trying to be cool to ingratiate myself to the arthouse crowd again. While also sneaking in a sixth film. Sue me. Animation revenue is propping up the movies and we should acknowledge it once in a while.

Teen Titans was the best superhero satire of the year, expertly extending its episodic madness to a really pleasing, really funny feature. Spider-Verse proved yet again that the application of imagination and humour can enliven even a franchise that is being served up to us with what should be boredom inducing frequency.

 

Underrated

I have love in my heart for Thoroughbreds. Its’ theatrical trappings poke through too much in the finale but in the main, it’s an icily performed if imperfect thriller. BlacKkKlansman is rightly receiving plenty of praise. However for me, it’s more an important film than a good film. Perhaps following the vagaries of actual fact hurts it, because it never fulfilled the promise of its giddy and gripping trailer. This opinion may suggest it belongs in the overrated category but I merely hope this film is underrated by just me and will blossom on further viewings.

 

Overrated

When a critical tide sweeps in behind certain films, it seems that all film reviewers worldwide have entered an omerta pact. We all know the type of film that gets universal five star status upon release and three months later, it all gets dialled back to its’ true rating.  This herd mentality leads to films as deeply flawed as Hereditary, Widows and Incredibles 2 being anointed as instant classics.

For the record, the second Incredibles got some bounce from moving Elastigirl centrally but thereafter – it’s the same film as the first. Like the exact same. With an ending randomly set on a boat that rouses long dormant memories of Speed 2.

Widows also has virtues but by god, it has plenty of problems too. It did achieve the impossible by feeling simultaneously too fast moving and too slow in its storytelling. It’s not a dead loss but in my opinion, it is all awfully unconvincing.

Hereditary also has powerful emotive sequences and honourable ambition but rather than concentrate on being one thing, it tried to do everything. And in doing so, diffused its potency. As the story piled on a myriad of motivations, the plot turned into a game of buckaroo. By the time narcoleptic arson was mentioned, my arse was out the door.

 

TURKEY OF THE YEAR

Red Sparrow

There were probably plenty of inferior films than this alleged ‘spy’ alleged ‘yarn’. I don’t even particularly hate it. In fact it was often accidentally entertaining as the two worst spies in cinematic history insisted on cavorting and conducting their secretive spy craft in front of room-height unobscured windows. They clearly missed the class on how the intelligent deployment of curtains and blinds might enhance the chances of their espionage endeavours remaining you know….. secret.  


Stephen Porzio

mission impossible fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

A sixth entry in a franchise has no right being this good. That said, most franchises don’t have a lead who seems willing to die for people’s entertainment. With a deliberately stripped back but sharp script, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie chose wisely not to focus too heavily on plot, devoting all his energy to action. At nearly 150 minutes, Fallout is like a berserk Asian action film à la The Night Comes for Us (narrowly missing my top five), featuring bone-crunching violence and mind-blowing set pieces that just keep topping themselves in terms of OTT glory. Early on, the movie shows Tom Cruise literally jumping out of a plane at 25,000 feet and that isn’t even the most exhilarating moment.

However, what makes Fallout feel like a classic blockbuster is the mega-wattage charisma of Cruise, backed by an unbelievable supporting cast including Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris and Vanessa Kirby as well as a never better Henry Cavill.  On top of all this, the film’s more haunted and doomed tone than previous entries in the franchise feels timely and the central theme of Cruise’s agent petrified that his heroism will end up destroying everybody he loves, manages to tie the franchise together in a way that makes even its predecessors look better. Thus, my mission (and I chose to accept it) is to put this as my number one movie of the year.

 

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

Narrowly missing the top spot for me is You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a former FBI agent/soldier and victim of child abuse turned hitman. He is tasked with rescuing a young girl from prostitution.

Not a single frame is wasted in this 90-minute masterpiece, which plunges viewers into Joe’s past through trauma-induced memory shards which jarringly jut into his present. Director Lynne Ramsey and editor Joe Bini create an unbelievably evocative portrayal of extreme PTSD and how trauma can impact our lives as we go forward. As Joe is asked by tourists to take a photo, he is immediately back to when he discovered a warehouse full of drowned illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, one frame of Joe’s dad wielding a hammer makes viewers understand why it’s now the hitman’s weapon of choice.

However, despite the grimness of the story, Ramsey makes You Were Never Really Here ultimately hopeful. All violence is shown off-screen, with viewers only seeing the aftermath. The relationship between Joe and his elderly mother is oddly sweet and the final moments, which see two victims of abuse coming together to help each other through the darkness, is utterly beautiful.

 

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Ethan Hawke excels as a grieving reverend whose counselling of a radical-environmentalist leads him on a path of self-destruction. A renowned scholar in religious cinema, writer-director Paul Schrader remixes Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light with his Taxi Driver script in this haunting, quietly angry drama about life in the 21st century. In many ways it feels like the film his career (featuring other Scorsese collaborations The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead) was leading up to. In making it, he has created his best work in nearly 20 years.

 

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Early in 2018, came the deliciously fiendish latest from Paul Thomas Anderson. Set in 1950s London, Daniel Day Lewis stars as a genius if fiercely controlling fashion designer who starts a relationship with a mysterious muse (a bewitching Vicky Krieps).

Beginning as a story featuring the common trope of the creative genius and the woman who stands by his side, Phantom Thread mutates as it goes into something unbelievably exciting. Part romance, part Gothic psychological thriller – the drama comedically lampoons the notion that one must be a jerk to be creative. While it does so, Anderson crafts a film so luscious, so sartorially elegant even the obsessive fashionista at its centre would be proud.

 

Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)/Revenge (Coralie Fargeat)

2018 gave us two phenomenally original takes on the vengeance genre and I can’t pick between the two.

Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge is a fiercely stylish stripped back thriller about a woman named Jen left for dead in the desert. Bolstered by mesmerizing visuals – which both feel realistic but also ultra-stylised, one must admire the clean, tight script. It begins with its central character being sexualised by her eventual attackers (with Fargeat queasily mimicking the male gazes with her camera), before her reincarnation as unkillable destroyer of toxic masculinity. Revenge then ends with a showdown for the ages, in which previously established roles are reversed as Jen chases her nude male oppressor around a house wielding a shotgun.

Where Mandy fails in clear narrative storytelling, it more than makes up for with its crazed LSD trip atmosphere which manages the impossible task of being on the same mental wave length as Nicolas Cage. The screen legend stars as quiet logger in the Shadow Mountains whose life falls apart when his wife (Andrea Riseborough) is kidnapped by a hallucinogenic loving hippie cult. Ingesting many drugs, the husband launches a one-man war on the gang. Writer-director Panos Cosmatos makes literally every frame of Mandy a work of art, drenching the movie in neon and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson menacing, eclectic score.

While the events which occur in Revenge and Mandy often defy realism, both masterfully create their own distinct worlds and feature elements which tie them to reality. In Mandy, it’s Cage’s raw, incredibly dialled in performance (his bathroom breakdown scene would get the actor an Oscar in a more conventional movie). Meanwhile, in Revenge, it’s Fargeat’s unfiltered onslaught against misogyny.


David Prendeville 

 in-fabric

In Fabric (Peter Strickland)

Peter Strickland wowed me once more with this incredibly seductive mesh of Walerian Borowczyk, 70s Euro-horror, and kitchen-sink drama. A film obsessed with objects and sounds, it also sees Strickland branch out into a new realm of off-the-wall humour that has shades of Luis Bunuel and Chris Morris. Features a superb central turn by Marianne Jean-Baptiste.

 

The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier)

I know I’m in the minority on this but I found it to be an extraordinarily visceral and scathing genre deconstruction, as well as a hugely imaginative and satirical summation/self-critique of von Trier’s work. Matt Dillon has never been better, in what is a uniformly excellent cast.

 

First Reformed  (Paul Schrader)

What a surprise this was. After spending the last number of years stuck in below standard fare, Paul Schrader returned to triumphant form with this autumnal masterpiece. The influences of Bergman and Bresson loom large but this retains its own singular, distinctly Schraderian quality. By turns austere, bleak, playful and moving. Powered by a supreme central performance from Ethan Hawke.

 

Climax (Gaspar Noe)

Another surprise, in the sense that Gaspar Noe has here made a film that didn’t prove divisive, this being almost universally admired. Noe again showcases his formidable command of the medium to create an overwhelming experience. Anchored by a great Sofia Boutella and a relentless, pulsating soundtrack.

 

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

No surprise to see Lynne Ramsay deliver yet another directorial masterclass here. Her formal audacity and imagination elevates the pulpy source material to a higher plane. There isn’t a single shot wasted in the film’s remarkably concise 89 minutes. Features another terrific performance by Joaquin Phoenix.

 

Honourable Mentions

 Loveless, The Favourite, The Square, Zama, Phantom Thread, Hereditary, The Wild Pear Tree.

 


Brian Quinn

First Reformed  (Paul Schrader)

For all First Reformed’s quiet fury it’s the perforated moments of intimate wonder which gnaw against our subconscious, a divine sweetness blossoming between bruises.

 

Faces Places (Agnès Varda, JR)

Varda’s charming curiosity is as infectious as ever in this documentary. Through a road trip full of giddy joys we’re left with a thoughtful self portrait of the artist herself. Faces Places is all kinds of lovely.

 

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

As if one of Woodcock’s own creations come to life, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is sleek, soft and delectably sophisticated from start to finish.

 

Michael Inside (Frank Berry)

Michael Inside shrugs off sentiment at every turn and manages to sidestep cliches with a potent simplicity.

 

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

Stunning animation, wonderful voice acting, and my one weakness: Talking dogs.

 

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

A collaboration between Ramsay and Phoenix was always going to be an affair to remember. Phoenix’s physical acting style blossoms like a beast under Ramsay’s direction, it’s shocking to think it’s been 7 years since her last feature.

 

Hereditary (Ari Aster)

My favourite horror since The Witch (2015), Hereditary couples strong performances with a menacing visual style.

 

Jeune Femme (Léonor Serraille)

In what might be my favourite performance of the year, Laetitia Dosch is a refreshing screen presence, dangerous and daft in equal measure she carries this film to dizzying heights.

 

Zama (Lucrecia Martel)

Zama is a delicate brew, one which Martel stirs into a cosmic cocktail inviting our senses to unfurl in ways both delirious and delightful.

 

Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Zvyagintsev’s follow up to Leviathan (2014) is truly suffocating. Its overwhelming atmosphere of dread never gives its audience a chance to catch their breath. It may not be subtle in its attack but is expertly crafted from the outset.


Gabrielle Ulubay 

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

Boots Riley’s directorial debut is worth all the hype and more. It’s true that this film is an important commentary on race, class, capitalism, and protest culture in America–but it’s also hilarious. Additionally, the film is spectacularly made, with shots, camera movement, and attention to detail that comprise any film buff’s dream. I was stunned by the sound design (Riley’s previous work on film soundtracks is quite evident) and clever dialogue, but was perhaps most impressed by the film’s immediacy: For a surrealist film, Sorry to Bother You’s themes, visuals, and events were startlingly familiar.

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)

This film did not get the attention or the positive reviews that it deserves. Not only is it timely and important, but it is beautifully filmed, with well-composed shots that convey its physical and temporal setting. Director Desiree Akhavan also uses sound and music in a memorable way, while her nuanced, artistic visual depiction of intimacy and sexuality underscores our need for more female directors. This film is heartbreaking, poignant, and even funny at times, and I highly recommend it.

 

Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov)

It’s been nearly a month, and still I remain captivated by Kirill Serebrennikov’s Leto, a depiction of Leningrad’s punk rock scene during the early 1980s. Leto’s plot summary claims that it is about a love triangle, but this is an infinitesimally small aspect of the film compared to its meditation on authority, freedom, rebellion, and youth. Nothing particularly sad happens during the main narrative, yet its soundtrack still summons feelings of melancholy–a deep sense of loss over old friends, lost innocence, and time passed.

 

Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)

Alice Rohrwacher’s latest film beautifully integrates folktale storytelling traditions with contemporary socio-political observation. The film is a journey through the undercurrents of modern Italian society, with dreamlike audiovisual characteristics that come back to mind with incredible clarity.

 

Burning (Lee Chang-dong)

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is a mysterious exploration of not only a love triangle, but of the rattled psyche of its protagonist, Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in). I was utterly engrossed by this film from start to finish, as it escalated from a relatively straightforward narrative to an ethereal web that left me questioning the line between reality and hallucination.

 


 

 

Irish Films of 2018

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Irish Films of 2018

It has been a great year for Irish film. Black 47 took over €1 million in the Irish box office making it the highest grossing Irish film of the year reimagining Irish history in a Western-style, action-packed revenge thriller. Dublin Old School took us back to the not-so-distant past, where the older ravers among us could relive those drug-taking days to the visceral soundtrack of their youth. We were brought bang up-to-date with Paddy Breathnach’s emotionally-charged Rosie, a feature reflecting on the human fall-out from our current housing crisis. That left Aoife McArdle to haunt our dreams, with her hallucinatory representation of the journey from teen to adult; Kissing Candice was a confident debut from a talented filmmaker that we look forward to seeing more of.

Documentary continued to shine a light on a variety of subjects close to Irish hearts, such as Katrina Costello’s The Silver Branch, which expressed a romantic and beautiful declaration of love for nature and Ireland’s rich historical connection to the land. Land was also at the heart of The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, a fascinating study of one man’s fight against the state for his land. Ross Whittaker’s Katie takes off the gloves and delivers an emotional, honest retelling of one of our countries biggest success stories to date – the phoenix that is Katie Taylor. Meanwhile Donal Foreman’s The Image You Missed was a deeply personal exploration of documentarist Arthur MacCaig, Foreman’s deceased father. And there was Sinead O’Shea’s gripping film A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot, an absorbing study of a post-peace-process Derry

 

Features

Rosie

” timely, well executed and – more than anything else – important.” 

Review


Michael Inside

“Dafhyd Flynn delivers an understated, emotional performance as Michael. Quiet and contemplative, his vulnerability is made evident as his incarceration looms.”

(Loretta Goff)

Review 


Dublin OldSchool

” will have you sucking on your soother necklace.”

(Gemma Creagh)

Review


Black 47

 “a rollicking western with fantastic action and excellent performances”

(Sarah Cullen)

Review


Kissing Candice

 “a visual thrill”

Stephen Porzio

Review


Documentaries

The Silver Branch

“a testament to patience, determination and love of a place.”

(Ruth McNally )

Review


The Image You Missed

“engaging and evocative in both form and content.”

(Siomha McQuinn)

Review


Katie

“a beautiful, complex piece of cinema, as nuanced and fascinating as the superstar herself.”

(Gemma Creagh)

Review


The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

“a rebel with a cause”


A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot

“compelling, challenging and at times chilling.”

(Siomha McQuinn)

Review

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Capital Irish Film Festival: Chairman, Paddy Meskell & Director, Pat Reilly

 

John Collins spoke to Chairman of the Capital Irish Film Festival, Paddy Meskell and Festival Director Pat Reilly about the origins and evolution of the festival, the importance of an Irish film festival in Washington and the challenges the festival faces.

The Capital Irish Film Festival celebrates annually the best of new Irish features, documentaries, shorts and animation, and particularly welcomes Irish language films.

 

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

 

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Garry Miley: How We Made ‘The Island Of Evenings’

The Island Of Evenings tell the story of a man whose depression is so crippling he can barely function. But a chance meeting with a therapist (with unconventional methods) on the internet sets his life off in a direction he wasn’t expecting.

Writer/Director Garry Miley takes us behind the camera.

I had just finished editing a short film and was impatient to have a go at another project. I wanted to test myself on a feature-length piece but I didn’t have a budget for it – or for anything at all. So, I started out with a simple plan and that was to make a feature film for no money whatsoever. I initially took this to mean that the story involved only one character and that this character was confined to one location. Given these parameters, the only way I could imagine a scenario taking shape was if the character was alone in his own house, struggling with depression and facing possible death. 

Once I realized that the theme was depression, it occurred to me that it was a topic I already had views about – opinions I had tried out with friends over a drink but had never bothered to explore. But now the opportunity presented itself. The first idea I developed was the notion – not mine, there’s a long tradition of debate on it – that people brought up in the Catholic tradition aren’t cut out for life in a capitalist world. Capitalism and Calvinism are philosophically aligned. Capitalism and Catholicism, in a certain way and with certain individuals, grate against one another. It occurred to me that this circumstance might be the cause of a type of distress I’d noticed in myself and in some of the people around me. So the first half of the script was about a man brought up with a strong Catholic sense of conscience, struggling to get by in a cut-throat world and, as a result, depressed.  

Once I had established the character’s dilemma, I had to decide how to get him out of it. This was something I had previously thought about as well. It seemed to me that, in the context of finding a way out of a depressed state, there might be something worthwhile to be explored in the philosophical notion of Genius Loci – roughly translated as ‘sense of place’. It’s a complex idea but I’ll try to put it simply: we all know that Ireland – not all of it and not all the time – has a certain magical quality which derives from a mix of its climate, history, geology and geographic location. Well, it occurred to me that maybe this magical quality is something we should examine a little more closely: what if, instead of considering it as something useful for attracting tourists, it might actually contain within it a possible explanation for the very meaning of life? What if all of us who live in Ireland, instead of getting caught up in the rat race, allowed ourselves get high on the magical qualities to be found in Irish nature?  Might this be a valid way to find satisfaction in life? 

I wrote the script in about three weeks. After two weeks of writing, I admitted some additional characters into the story. I couldn’t avoid introducing some extra locations as well but, in reality, almost everything was shot in or around my own home in County Clare. We worked long hours and filmed around peoples’ schedules. Cast and crew stayed in my house. My wife kept us all fed. After thirteen days of filming all the equipment had to be returned its owners. I was left to make the film with whatever footage I’d shot, I didn’t have any say in the matter.

Given how little money we had, you might imagine it to be one of those films you feel obliged to like because of all the pain and anguish that went into the making of it. But it’s not like that at all. It’s actually a good film. 

 

 

The Island Of Evenings premiered in Waterford at Garter Lane on 28th November 2019 and will be screened elsewhere around the country in the new year.

 

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Capital Irish Film Festival: Editor, Tony Cranstoun

John Collins spoke to Tony Cranstoun, editor of A Date for Mad Mary and The Farthest, which closed this year’s Capital Irish Film Festival in Washington D.C. John was good enough to send us on his recording of their conversation.

The Farthest chronicles NASA’s 1977 launch of twin space probes, sent to capture images of remote planets and bear messages from Earth.
 

The Farthest screened on 4th March 2018 as part of the Capital Irish Film Festival

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

 

InConversation: Tony Cranstoun

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