CAST: Dakota Fanning, Kunal Nayyar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
CAST: Dakota Fanning, Kunal Nayyar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah)
Seán Crosson took in a selection of documentary shorts at this year’s Fleadh, featuring works from both established and debut directors, showcasing the best of Irish talent.
A key component of the Galway Film Fleadh’s focus on new and emerging talent is the series of short programmes featured across the festival. In total there were nine sessions dedicated to shorts at the Fleadh, covering documentary, fiction, and animation and as always the organisers deserve great credit for the focus and space they allocate to young Irish filmmakers in the programme.
The films included in the first programme covered a wide range of topics from reflections on Irishness, to profile pieces, and considerations of aspects of the natural world.
The programme began with the visually stunning and evocative El Hor directed by Dianne Lucille Campbell. Inspired by the beautiful Saluki dog, the film combines mythology, nature imagery, and dynamic cinematography, with otherworldly musical accompaniment. In the surreal landscapes and images created, the film is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s work, but also in its imagining of the world from the perspective of the animals featured, the work of Stan Brakhage. Overall Campbell has produced an extraordinary cacophony of sound and image, impossible to categorise but rather oddly included in a section dedicated to short documentaries; this was a work much closer in form to experimental film.
More in keeping with documentary form was Eoin Harnett’s Our Land, an impressively realised reflection on what makes Ireland distinctive. Featuring seven contributors, each of whom provide engaging, humorous and at times insightful commentary on the topic, the documentary was excellently paced, moving effectively between its contributors and supporting footage from the streets of Galway.
The subsequent films Recommend Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey) and Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) (Gerard Walsh) each provided profiles of intriguing characters from Galway. Recommend Rapper focuses on would-be rapper Danny Rock from Kinvara in Galway and his efforts to produce his first music video. While generally well produced, there is an uneasy tension (never entirely resolved) evident in this work between the director’s concern to sympathetically portray the subject and Rock becoming himself a figure of fun. Farmer Michael concerns the man (Steven Timothy) behind the comic character in the film’s title who has achieved a considerable following in recent years for his entertaining and idiosyncratic YouTube videos. This is an entertaining and at times moving account of the challenges Timothy has faced in his life. However, it is also a somewhat unbalanced piece that would have benefited from either a longer profile to accommodate the tonal changes apparent or a more focused production.
Squared Circle is an interesting chronicle of a group of wrestlers setting up and performing on Waterford promenade, accompanied by an evocative commentary of the events concerned, written by Dublin-based wrestling promoter Simon Rochford, and recited by actor Ger Carey. In its day-in-a-life structure, the documentary is an informative account of the wrestlers featured and the effort involved in the events they organise and participate in.
Big Tom McBride was a legendary figure in Irish country music, above all for people from his native Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan. Táine King and Lorraine Higgins’ Making Tom is a sensitively produced study of the making of a statue to commemorate the country and Irish legend, and the impact of its unveiling on residents of his home town.
Pigeons of Discontent
The final documentary featured in this programme was Paddy Cahill’s Pigeons of Discontent – this was amongst the strongest works featured in this section, imaginatively engaging with the divided opinions among local residents of Stoneybatter in Dublin city towards the large number of pigeons that gather in the area. Cahill rightly chooses to focus his camera almost entirely on the pigeons themselves and the, at times, striking and beautiful shapes they create in flight, accompanied by comments (both positive and negative) from those who share Stoneybatter with them.
Siomha McQuinn gives up her seat for Shelly Love’s A Bump Along the Way.
A Bump Along the Way, a product of an all-female creative team and winner of Best Irish First Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, is about the tumultuous relationship between happy-go-lucky Pamela and her 15-year-old daughter, Allegra, who does not shy away from scolding her mother’s behaviour. Picture a modern-day Gilmore Girls but the relationship between the Lorelei and Rory is more hostile, Rory is a vegan and Stars Hollow is now a gossipy town in Derry.
After a night of lacklustre romance with a younger man, Pamela is baffled to find herself pregnant. Her situation is far from ideal as the father wants nothing to do with her and she can barely make ends meet in her current situation. The news puts further strains on her relationship with Allegra and the pair must learn to navigate their reality as they prepare for the arrival of their newest family member.
Many of the ideas in this film are already well-trodden paths such as the mother/daughter role-reversal and the absent father. However, both Pamela and Allegra are given narratives that are separate to the central relationship and this makes the world of the film richer.
The role of Allegra is played by Lola Petticrew, who won the Bingham Ray New Talent Award for her performance. She switches seamlessly between being a callous and bitter teenage daughter and a shy, artistic student who falls prey to some of her classmates. Her acting style is very natural as she creates a character who is quietly brave. The way she treats her mother initially seems disproportionately cold and unfair but with the realisation that Allegra is having a difficult time in school, and the knowledge that Pamela’s pregnancy will only act as fuel for her bully’s taunts, it is easier to empathise with a teenager who is doing her best to survive a tough time in her life.
Bronagh Gallagher, who plays Pamela with big-eyed lovability, is clueless to Allegra’s bullying. She is well-meaning but vulnerable, which makes the growth of her character even more pleasing. A party-girl by nature, she is restless during her pregnancy and it is endearing to watch the pure torture that it is for her stay at home and rest, made worse by Allegra’s increasingly busy social calendar.
Apart from Pamela’s delightful baker boss and Allegra’s kind teacher, men are painted in an almost entirely negative light; from the father of Pamela’s unborn child, who is fiercely unkind when discovering the pregnancy, to Allegra’s father who kicks up a fuss when asked to contribute financially. Their characters lack much intricacy, but this is easily forgiven as A Bump Along the Way is a film that champions women and delves into their complexities, making a slight dent into the massive backlog of films that represent women through flimsily constructed characters. These typical toxic male characters are there to aid the narrative. Pamela realises that she needs to stand up to the negative men in her life if her daughter is ever to respect her.
A Bump Along the Way is a sweet and uplifting film about female relationships, the difficulties of life in a small town and the power of standing up for yourself. Despite engaging with difficult topics like bullying and misogyny it remains light and upbeat. It is satisfying and fun and suggests a bright future for the women involved in its production.
A Bump Along the Way screened 13th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).
From left to right Katie McNeice, Tom Speers, Maya Derrington, Gemma Creagh and Roisín Geraghty
In this podcast, we welcome three filmmakers whose works are screening at this year’s GAZE International LGBT Film Festival (1 – 5 August). Maya Derrington, Katie McNeice and Tom Speers join Gemma Creagh to talk about their films and filmmaking.
Plus festival director Roisín Geraghty pops in to give us a quick look at this year’s programme.
Frida Think (Maya Derrington)
A woman walks into a party dressed as Frida Kahlo, only to find that her version of unique has mass appeal.
In Orbit (Katie McNeice)
A hypnotic and beautiful love story between two women that crosses both time and space.
Boy Saint (Tom Speers)
A sumptuous short film of friendship and adoration between boys, based on a poem by Peter LaBerge.
The GAZE International LGBT Film Festival runs from 1 – 5 August 2019.
Full programme & tickets here.
Film Ireland Podcasts
In his short film Buoy, a young man throws himself off a lighthouse to end it all, but it’s only the beginning. Ahead of the film’s screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, writer/director David Magnier tells Film Ireland how his short film came to surface.
Buoy screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 2, Fiction programme on Thursday, 11th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.
Documentaries were always something that I enjoyed watching but I never thought I would make one. Feature films have been my goal for over ten years and after directing 3 I decided why not! Let’s give it a go.
I have always been interested in telling people’s stories through small profile pieces and just putting them online so I was really going into the documentary blindfolded. Learning each day.
In between work and personal projects I enjoy asking interesting people that I encounter if I can document their story or talents and just put it out there. It helped me with my filmmaking and storytelling and I would always learn something new.
I still don’t know if it’s a selfless or selfish thing to do because I enjoy taking a peek into other people’s lives. The goal for me is always to help the subject with some sort of release or maybe just help them show off their talents.
I started this with a YouTube channel over 5 years ago called “LIVESETS” at the time. I would contact bands and singer/songwriters and just shoot one-take live performances. But after a while I wanted to do profiles on people from all walks of life. From barbers and sportspeople to comedians and grieving mothers.
Eventually I was approached by Stevo (Farmer Michael). I had worked with him a few years back on a promo video for a pub in Galway and after that, asked him to play a small part in my film South, so there was a bit of a relationship there.
He was looking for someone to create a short video about him and his life so I agreed. When I sat down to interview him I really wasn’t expecting him to tell me the things he did. I felt Immediately torn on how to tell his story.
On one hand, it is a story of success, redemption and prevailing through art. I think that’s the story he wanted me to focus on originally. But on the other hand, it’s a story about a terrible tragedy and something that could change a lot of people’s’ minds on how they feel about Stevo as a real person and not just his character.
After the first interview I realized that the story was bigger than I originally thought so I decided to spend more time exploring his life. I shot more days over the course of a year and wanted to see different sides of Stevo. I wanted an ending, I wanted some sort of redemption. For me, redemption needs to be shown over the course of time, it needs to be earned and I wanted that to come across in film.
If I’m being honest I was just looking for an honest way to tell the story and I’m not 100 percent sure I found it. The cut of the film as it stands has an ending, I think it works the way I indented it too, for now, but I would eventually like to explore the idea of a longer film, hopefully we can acquire some funding for a feature-length version.
I always had a the goal of letting the viewer decide how they feel at the end and not forcing my own opinion on them. I could have easily sugar-coated Stevo’s story and tied it up in a nice little bow but there is no way I would. I have laid out as much as I could and I think that’s my responsibility as a storyteller.
If people are expecting to see a film based on a comedian and his hilarious exploits, they may be in for a bit of a surprise with this film. It is a story about a comedian, but also a story about a man with an extraordinary past.
I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions and views after they see the film, I could be over-thinking everything and it’s entirely possible that I may have my head up my hole with my analysis of the film. But let’s see how it gets on.
Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 1, Documentary Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction programme on Wednesday, 10th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 12:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.
The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.
Tristan Heanue gives us an insight into Ciúnas, his Irish language short film, which is screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. Tristan is also nominated for The Bingham Ray New Talent Award at this year’s festival.
What can you tell us about Ciunas?
It follows a couple as they drive to the city to collect their daughter, they are in the middle of a family crisis. It focuses mainly on the parents and how they cope with the situation.
How did the idea come about?
I was visiting someone in a psychiatric hospital a few years ago and I saw a middle-aged couple sitting at the table next to me in the waiting area. They weren’t speaking and just sitting there in silence.
A few minutes later their daughter arrived, I had no idea why she was there and nothing was addressed when they met. They just proceeded to make small talk even though they both looked like they had a million things they wanted to say to her and ask her. It just stuck in my head, that old Irish thing of not being able to express your feelings or say what you feel. I started to imagine their morning before they came to the hospital and that was where the main story came from.
A few years later I submitted the idea in a paragraph to the Físín Script competition run by the Dingle Film Festival and it was shortlisted and eventually went on to win the award which came with €5000 funding and €2000 equipment rental to make the film.
You’ve a fantastic cast, including Hazel Doupe, who was staggeringly good in Float Like a Butterfly. Can you tell us about finding your 3 leads and working with them.
I saw Hazel in Michael Inside at the Fleadh a couple of years ago, she only had one scene but I was blown away by the emotion and how real she was. I contacted Frank Berry and he put us in touch, I sent her the script and thankfully she liked it. She’s a really special talent, and takes her work very seriously, I’ve no doubt that she will have an incredible career.
Gary Lydon I have been a fan of for years, we did a film together last August and on the last day I asked him how his Irish was and if he would like to read the script. Again I was delighted he liked it and came on board, we worked very closely on his character and spoke at length in the months preceding the shoot and I think that shows in his performance.
Ally Ní Chairáin I had met through a friend and I instantly knew I wanted to work with her. She was the first person to be cast and again we spoke at length regarding her character and we worked out many ideas and subplots, none of which you see on screen but they gave her layers to her character and performance.
On set it was a dream really, the work we had done individually really showed and everyone hit the ground running. We didn’t rehearse really, apart from a few reads of it the night before we shot.
Does your background as an actor feed in to your directing?
Definitely, I love working with actors, it’s one of, if not my favourite part of the directing process. You just have a better understanding of how they think and what they may need to hear when you’ve acted yourself. You are more sensitive to their needs and can be quite protective of them.
I see you’re working with Narayan [Van Maele, cinematographer] again alongside you – what does he bring to the project and maybe tell us a little bit about working with him.
Narayan’s incredible, we have a wonderful collaborative relationship. He brings so much knowledge with him and always has so many ideas and suggestions. We usually do our location recce together and plan the shot list after. But we like to keep it kind of loose so if something isn’t working or locations change we can work together to find solutions or a better way to do it. I’m looking forward to making many more films with him.
Also you have the brilliant Michael Fleming composing the music…
Yeah, we had worked together on my previous film and I loved the experience. We agreed that this project needed a very subtle score. We decided early on that too many notes over such a delicate piece felt contrived so we set about finding sound textures that reflected the mood instead.
You were also nominated for The Bingham Ray New Talent Award at this year’s festival – what does that mean for you?
It was a real shock to be honest, they had never nominated a short filmmaker before so I really didn’t expect it. I’m hugely honoured and so happy that they liked the film and connected with it. Win or lose it’s a great boost and hopefully it helps bring the film to the attention of some more festivals and helps it on its journey. Things like this can really make a difference with an independent film.
Ciúnas screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction programme on Saturday, 13th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.
The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.
The GAZE LGBT Film Festival officially launched the programme for the 27th festival last night at The Dock and was attended by special guests and filmmakers.
The GAZE LGBT Film Festival announced a packed line-up of International and Irish films and guest filmmakers taking part in the festival which runs from 1st – 5th August 2019 at Light House Cinema, Smithfield. Numerous filmmakers will be discussing their work and meeting audiences during Q&As after screenings of films that explore a diverse range of subjects, styles and stories.
Chairperson of the Board of GAZE, Sarah Williams, welcomed guests by saying “We’re thrilled to launch this very ambitious festival programme with our audiences and friends tonight, particularly our valued lead sponsors Accenture. We share the belief that equality is non-negotiable and sharing the power of our LGBT stories is what GAZE is all about. GAZE is about visibility, advocacy, remembrance and sharing a vision for the future. We are passionate about providing a platform for new international and Irish LGBT film and look forward to welcoming a broad audience to this year’s event.”
GAZE programmer Roisín Geraghty said “This year’s programme is intersectional, intergenerational, and as always, international. We really hope that audiences will come to support the festival and enjoy the selection of films and discussions on offer. This year marks my fifth and final GAZE programme, and I want to say thanks to colleagues, sponsors and audiences alike for their support.”
Major titles announced include the opening gala screening, Deep in Vogue, a riotous look at the Manchester vogue scene; Mapplethorpe, which chronicles the volatile life and astounding art of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe; along with the closing film starring Laure Dern, JT Leroy, where director Justin Kelly brings the completely bonkers true story of JT to the screen for the first time in fiction form, capturing the human drama behind the headlines of ‘the literary hoax of our generation”.
A spotlight on Latin American LGBT films will showcase five features from countries including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, along with numerous short films represented across the shorts programmes in the festival. These bring together vastly different story forms, narrative styles and emotional responses.
The GAZE Film Festival is also partnering with the IFI’s Education Department and BeLonG To Youth Services on a special 15 – 18s screening of Handsome Devil, including a Q&A with writer / director John Butler.
Screenings form a key part of the GAZE 2019 Film Festival programme, which will show the very best in contemporary LGBT films, but will also include discussions and special events including a special Queer Family Event on Monday 5th August, which is tailored to appeal to all families. This will include a special screening of The Little Mermaid, and Drag Queen Story Time at The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar.
Full details of all the events are available at www.gaze.ie , where tickets are also on sale.
The GAZE 2019 Film Festival takes place at Light House Cinema, Smithfield, from August 1st – 5th 2019 with some of the programme also taking place in the IFI and The Gutter Bookshop.