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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

The Dream Report

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

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

  

Streets of Fury

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

THEM

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

A Quack Too Far

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

     

Dorothy

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

   

Legend Has It

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

Wear and Tear

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

 

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

        

 

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

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

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

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

Limbo

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

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

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


Run

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

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


Void

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

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

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

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

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


Halo

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

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

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

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


Starry Night

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

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

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

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


The Blizzards – Behind the Music

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary 

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.

El Hor

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.

Our Land

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.

Recommend Rapper

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

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.

Making Tom

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. 

Seán Crosson

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary programme screened 10th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

 

 

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GAZE International LGBT Film Festival Roundtable

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. 

The Irish Shorts programme screens at  6:30pm at the Light House cinema on Sunday, 4th August.

Full programme & tickets here.

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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Tristan Heanue, Writer/Director of ‘Ciúnas’

 

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 914 July 2019.

 

Preview of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2019

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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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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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