Prisoners of the Moon – Johnny Gogan, Director & Nick Snow, Writer

Image used with kind permission from the IFI

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to director Johnny Gogan and writer Nick Snow at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon at the IFI.  The film tells the story of Arthur Rudolph, a scientist who played a key role in NASA’s historic 1969 moon landing. Rudolph was one of over 100 Nazi V-2 rocket engineers secretly brought to America in 1945 to work on the Cold War missile programme. He became a key figure in NASA’s space race, but was arrested in Toronto in 1990 on suspicion of being a war criminal. The dramatised trial (featuring Jim Norton and Cathy Belton) animates this revelatory documentary which uses archive material, expert witness interviews, and the testimony of Jean Michel, a slave labour survivor of the subterranean wartime V-2 Rocket.

https://www.prisonersofthemoon.com/events

This podcast was recorded at the IFI on Monday, 1st July 2019 at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon.

 

 

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Erik Nelson, Director of ‘The Cold Blue’

The Cold Blue is a new feature-length film, digitally restored, constructed from the material of 34 reels of raw, colour, footage shot during bombing missions in Germany.

Captured by William Wyler, it was originally shot for the 1944 documentary The Memphis Belle: A story of a Flying Fortress. This extraordinary, never-before-seen colour footage puts you 30,000 feet over Nazi Germany, battling killer flak, enemy fighters, and minus 60-degree temperatures. 

Director Erik Nelson, who was in Dublin recently, talked to Paul Farren about the making of the documentary. 

 

How did this project come about?

It came from a long-term passion of mine for World War II history and aviation and I had a friend who worked with Paul Allen, the reclusive billionaire, who also shared a passion for World War II aviation. They gave me some money to go and look for colour footage of WWII airplanes just because it would be interesting for historical purposes. That’s when we discovered William Wyler’s outtakes – and intakes actually – from Memphis Belle and the moment I saw that collection I realised that there was a feature film in here and pretty much this whole project crystallized instantly.

It’s a very beautiful, very sombre depiction of the B-17 bomber crews coming from England to Germany at the end of the war. How would you describe it?

The film is, in essence,  a time portal that immerses you in the world of 1943 and the men who flew over Germany from England and the strategic bombing campaign.  It catapults the viewer into a B-17, 25,000 feet over Germany with flak enemy fighters in unbelievable cold and strenuous conditions.

The transformation job on the footage was astounding.  I couldn’t get over the beauty of it.

Originally I thought of this as an art film, not an historical documentary, maybe influenced by my work with Werner Herzog.  So I tried to create something that wasn’t a traditional documentary but which was much more of an immersive experience, not unlike the Peter Jackson film [They Shall Not Grow Old, 2018] or Apollo 11 [Todd Douglas, 2019].

It’s interesting seeing this kind of restoration because it does have a most unusual and emotional impact, it certainly did for me.  Some people might find it controversial in the way that it touches on certain aspects of the violence of the war and where people might see the voice it gives. But I thought it more profound than that because you did talk about the effect the war had on the citizens of Germany and the whole madness of that and so the story is there for people to go and check for themselves.

That’s it. This points you…  it opens up the door if you want to walk into it and learn more. But you can’t tell the story without discussing the people on the ground. They often get dismissed in traditional World War II documentaries. It’s very much an unflinching, cold-blooded presentation of the realities of the time and viewers can find in it what they want.

I agree. It was a story is a bunch of 20-year-old men who were put in a terrible situation and made the best of it.

Terrified 20-year-old boys really, who were following the moral dictates of the time and found themselves in this insane position, day after day, mission after mission.

You were very lucky in being able to have anyone left to be able to talk to and give you that narrative. Tell me about that process going about meeting all these 90 year old men who’d been part of that.

We cast them – we worked with someone who knew who the survivors were and we created a composite crew: one guy for each section and we drove cross-country myself and the producer got in a car and paid house calls because that’s where you’ll find them – you go to them; they don’t go to you – and we spent an hour an hour and a half with each of them across the country: 9 guys, 9 different places. I knew they had to speak to the footage. I knew what was in the footage so I focused the interviews to compliment the footage I knew I had.

It was a highly charged emotional thing for these guys to look at themselves after all these years. 

Yes. This  trauma has never left them and this film opened up that door again for them and my questions opened it up for them, so it was a kind of therapy for them in some ways.

 

What were the biggest challenges for you once the project really heated up and began.  Technically it must have been huge.

No, it pretty much went together very simply. There’s probably 7 active creative participants, 2 people on restoration, 1 person, David Hughes, whose previous film was Black Panther, on sound design, and Richard Thompson, who composed the extraordinary soundtrack.

It was an amazing soundtrack – very evocative and it crept up on you in terms of how it dealt with the emotional moments and how it tried not to be over-melodramatic, I suppose avoiding a propaganda-esque feel.

Exactly. It’s melancholy. That’s something about Richard’s music. He’s always had that kind of melancholy streak, very realistic, cynical streak. I’ve worked with him in the past – he scored my film Grizzly Man and a couple of other films with me. 

What was his way into it? How did you discuss it with him?

He did what he wanted. I’d given him a copy of the finished film with what I thought were the appropriate music choices and he pretty much threw out my choices and did what he wanted, which is  kind of what I was expecting him to do. And he made it far better than I could have dreamed.

Which is part of the joy of that collaborative process when you meet somebody you totally trust.

I do 

And the sound design deserves extra mention as well because that is a huge task to do justice to do something that…  not that it was a case of guessing what it was like, but more to evoke that memory. 

Well the good news is that we didn’t have to guess because  we had access to a real B-17 and state-of-the-art audio recording and we knew where the cameras were placed because we had the footage – so it was probably the opposite of guesswork; it was more duplicate, it was more put the microphone at the right angle and record it exactly how it was. We had to create the sounds of Flak. I worked with the veterans who described what Flak sounded like so we did our best to duplicate that sound.

 

How’s the response been so far at the screenings for the piece?

It’s been terrific. It  seems to be really striking a chord in people. With the success of the Jackson film and  Apollo 11 and now my film, there seems to be a real interest in immersive bigscreen history and for some reason people are looking to escape into “the past”.

I couldn’t get over how huge the missions were from England.

Literally thousands of planes. That will never happen again. You’ll never see 1,000 airplanes in the sky at one time ever again in human history – that was once in human history and William Wyler happened to capture those images in colour film in 1943 and the raw footage that  he captured has managed to survive for 75 years so that’s pretty extraordinary all around.

The work is phenomenal. Just to say again, I’ve never felt such an emotional touchstone to that time and place, in as much as you can have –  it’s a bit of a time machine. 

Thank you – that was the intention, to connect you to the past through the footage of men who were there.

 

In cinemas one night only July 4th http://www.mycineplace.com/thecoldblue

Dublin screening at IFI

 

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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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Irish Film Review: Prisoners of the Moon

DIR: Johnny Gogan • WRI: Johnny Gogan, Nick Snow • DOP: Eoin McLoughlin • DOP: Johnny Gogan, Fionn Rodgers • ED: Patrick O’Rourke • PRO: Johnny Gogan  • MUS: Steve Wickham • CAST: Jim Norton, Cathy Belton, Marian Quinn, Alan Devine

The human and environmental cost of technological progress is a spectre which haunts history, from medical trials without informed consent to conflict minerals in smartphones. It’s a difficult subject to grapple with, especially when a now mainstream technology or an historical feat of technological achievement has a murky past. 

In Johnny Gogan’s Prisoners of the Moon, we hear the words of Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp survivor, Jean Michel: ‘It was at Dora I realised how the pyramids were built’. It was in the underground tunnels of Dora that the German army’s V-1 and V-2 rockets were manufactured using slave labour. The book that Michel would go on to write about his time at Dora would eventually lead by chance to one of the V-1 and V-2’s chief engineers, Arthur Rudolph, being forced to leave the United States despite being given citizenship while working on the American space program.

After World War II, several engineers and rocket scientists who were based at Dora, including Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, were hired by the US government as part of Operation Paperclip. This docudrama examines this era, when US authorities decided to look the other way when considering the moral implications of recruiting former Nazi party members to work on their project to send a man to the moon. 

It takes as its focus Rudolph, whose work on the V-1 and V-2 rockets contributed to the success of Saturn V and the Apollo 11 launch. Using a mix of archive footage, interviews, and dramatic re-enactment, the film follows Rudolph’s early career in Germany, his time in Dora, his immigration to the US and work on the space program, his return to Germany by ‘mutual agreement’ after questions were raised in the ’80s, to his detention when attempting to enter Canada in the ’90s and the subsequent immigration hearing there. The film explores Rudolph’s culpability, what he may have seen or not seen at Dora, and speculates on the man and his conscience.

The re-enactment segments are where the film wavers. While well cast, there are some scenes that may have been better served by a documentary style rather than a dramatic one. The wealth of detail in the film, from archive footage to written and verbal accounts and expert analysis, suggests there would’ve been ample material to tell this story in documentary mode alone. Those elements of this deftly researched docudrama are its strongest and most engaging, raising challenging questions about the role of Nazi scientists in the achievement of the first human space flight.

Cathy Butler

75′ 29″
12A (see IFCO for details)
Prisoners of the Moon is released 28th June 2019

Prisoners of the Moon – Official Website

 

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Jaro Waldeck, Cinematographer

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to Jaro Waldeck about filmmaking and her career in cinematography. Jaro talks about learning her craft, training opportunities and getting into the industry.

Jaro is a DOP with Master of Arts in Cinematography from FAMU Prague and a Bachelor of Arts in Cinematography from Columbia College Chicago. She interned with Academy Award nominee Phedon Papamichael, ASC, and won several Best Cinematography Awards in Ireland and Scotland. Jaro has worked on projects ranging from short narrative and documentary films to music videos, TV documentaries and commercials and promos. She is a member of Czech Society of Cinematographers and a board member of Women in Film and Television Ireland.

As well as focusing on lighting and camera operating, Jaro has four years combined experience teaching cinematography and supervising student film-shoots. Her skills and experience involve working with all modern digital semi-pro and fully professional cameras and workflows, 35mm and 16mm film stocks and cameras, lighting and camera support equipment, colour corrections, location scouting, technical script analysis, storyboarding and shot list creation.

More information on her website www.jarowaldeck.com

 

 

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Review: The Cold Blue

Erik Nelson’s documentary film tells the story of the B17 bomber crews during the last two years of World War II. Working from fifteen hours of footage originally shot in 1943 under the guidance of legendary director William Wyler for his propaganda documentary ‘Memphis Belle,’ a moral piece telling the story of the most famous of the American B-17 bombers to see action in World War II.  

The footage, which languished for a long time in the archives, has been restored with astonishing results, similar to Peter Jackson’s recent World War I documentary, They Shall Not Grow OldCold Blue, rich with colour, spectacle and detail is an evocative reminder of a terrible time in world history, beautiful, tragic, mundane, terrifying and terribly human. 

Nelson tells his story using interviews with surviving veterans who flew those planes from England to Germany to drop bombs. These former boy soldiers, now in their nineties remember their day to day routines, what they did and what they suffered as well as remembering albeit in an abstract fashion, the suffering they caused to hundreds of thousands of German civilians. This is powerful filmmaking, it does not pass judgement on anyone, it just quietly unrolls its chapter-filled story structure with reminiscences, powerful imagery and a most beautiful score by Richard Thompson that is full of emotion and absent of melodrama. 

Nelson has described the piece as a Koyaanisqatsi-style film about these young men in war, presenting the story rather than commenting on it, leaving judgement for the audience. For anyone truly becoming immersed in the narrative and imagery the film can achieve a great deal. though all might not agree with the results. It is at the very least a way of opening a door to learning more about this terrible time in human history. It should be noted that Nelson’s next film will depict the German perspective, using discovered Nazi propaganda footage that was used to tell the German people their side of the story.  

This HBO produced film is screening for one night only in the IFI this Thursday and comes highly recommended. 

Paul Farren

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Review: Yesterday

DIR: Danny Boyle • WRI: Jack Barth, Richard Curtis • DOP: Christopher Ross • ED: Jon Harris • PRO: Bernard Bellew, Tim Bevan, Danny Boyle, Richard Curtis, Eric Fellner, Matthew James Wilkinson • DES: Patrick Rolfe • MUS: Daniel Pemberton • CAST: Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Himesh Patel

Love Actually is, in my opinion, one of the greatest films of the romance genre to ever be created. So, upon hearing that Richard Curtis wrote the screenplay for Yesterday, I had to get myself to the cinema to see it. I really believe that films that fall into the romance category don’t get the recognition that some of them (definitely not all) deserve; some reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are calling this film ‘dumb’ and ‘corny’. Others claim the film is just an advertisement for The Beatles. If this is the case are we to call Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman advertisements for Queen and Elton John? Maybe they’re right, but they are brilliant, entertaining movies with an incredible soundtrack. Yesterday, containing The Beatles music, has a soundtrack just as good. However, I cannot help but compare Yesterday to Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman considering all three are centred around the music of legends, and it does not stand up to them equally. That’s not to say that it’s crap, far from it, but just don’t expect it to be on a par with them. 

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling musician, attempting to make something of himself. His best friend Ellie (Lily James) acts as his driver, roadie, and manager, hauling Jack, and his kit, to his various gigs, and trying to book places for him to play. But after multiple lack-lustre gigs, Jack is beginning to think it might be time to throw in the towel. However, that night, as Jack is cycling home, all the electricity goes out, across the globe, leaving the world in darkness for twelve seconds. It is enough time for Jack to be invisible to a bus, which hits him. This collision does something though, Jack can remember things that existed before the blackout that other people cannot. Coca-Cola, Harry Potter, and The Beatles; nobody knows what they are, they no longer exist. Jack is the only one with the knowledge. This knowledge allows him to take The Beatles music as his own, making him the greatest musician of his time; but it’s not without its struggles. For one, Jack has to remember all the lyrics to every Beatles song, which is a tall order; one scene shows him visualising what happens in the song Eleanor Rigby as he tries to remember the lyrics, which I particularly appreciated. He also struggles to get the respect from people that these songs deserve. Eventually Jack makes it big time, thanks to Ed Sheeran (who plays himself) hiring Jack as his supporting act, which then puts him in contact with his agent Deborah (Kate McKinnon). Through his journey, Jack does not always choose the right path; the course of fame never did run smooth.

Yesterday shows great respect for The Beatles’ music, not destroying it with silly gimmicks (except for Ed Sheeran’s suggestion to title Hey Jude, Hey Dude). Himesh Patel does justice to the songs, his voice is so easy to listen to and enjoy. It is a joyous celebration of their music, allowing audiences to enjoy their most well-known songs. That’s what is so good about this film, it doesn’t isolate viewers who aren’t so well up on Beatles music, because many will recognise the songs played, whether they are Beatles fans or not. As I said earlier, with Richard Curtis writing the script you can easily rely on him to include a romance, and Yesterday is no different. James and Patel work well together onscreen, their awkward sexual tension is suited to their characters’ relationship. Of course, there is a grand romantic gesture, one very reminiscent of a scene in Love Actually; you’ll know what I mean when you see it because you’ll recognise the song. Ed Sheeran just comes across as completely himself on the big screen, and really suited the naturalistic feel to this film; and it’s always nice to hear a few of his songs put into the soundtrack. Kate McKinnon is great as always; I could watch her all day; there is just a charisma she exudes that makes her so entertaining to watch. 

This is an easy-going, enjoyable watch, with great music that will have you dancing in your seat. Yesterday demonstrates the importance of music to people’s lives; so let’s keep singing about Jude and Eleanor Rigby, let’s keep singing about Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, because there might not be music like that created again to make people Come Together. 

Shauna Fox

116′ 10″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Yesterday is released 28th June 2019

Yesterday  – Official Website

 

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Review: Brightburn

DIR: David Yarovesky • WRI: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn • DOP: Michael Dallatorre • ED: Andrew S. Eisen, Peter Gvozdas • PRO: James Gunn, Kenneth Huang • DES: Patrick M. Sullivan Jr. • MUS:Tim Williams • CAST: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones

What if Superman came down to Earth but was evil is one of the most ingenious ideas for a film in recent memory. In fact, it’s such a great premise that even when the James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) produced Brightburn doesn’t maximise on it fully, it remains an impressive piece of work as both a horror and superhero flick.

In all but name, the figure at the centre of the movie is Superman. Brightburn opens with married couple Kyle (David Denman) and Tori (Elizabeth Banks) about to have sex. Books scattered across their house reveal they are having trouble conceiving. Suddenly, a meteorite falls from the sky, landing outside their window in the title town in Kansas. Approaching it further, the two discover a small spaceship housing a human-looking alien baby boy. Naming him Brandon, they decide to raise him as their own – telling people, including their new son, he was adopted.

We then cut forward about 12 years later. Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is now an awkward teenager. He’s not mature enough to process his feelings for a girl in his class and is struggling with a nagging feeling that he is different. At night, meanwhile, the teen finds himself caught in trances – ones which lure him to an ominous red glowing object locked in his family’s barn. Soon after these occurrences, Brandon discovers he has super-human strength. Coupled with his already blossoming teen resentment, the realisation his parents lied to him about his origins leads him on the path to evil.

The film is a game of two halves. The first is strong. Director David Yarovesky effectively mimics the idyllic looking Americana heartland of Zach Snyder’s first and best Superman adaptation Man of Steel. The script by James Gunn’s cousins Brian and Mark Gunn during this portion is well-observed, capturing the awkwardness of adolescence. It also manages to mask exposition within natural sounding conversations between Kyle, Tori and Brandon, pushing the plot forward while giving viewers a chance to enjoy the central family at their happiest.

It’s down to this section that when things start getting creepy, it is very exciting and tense because we like the characters. The great score by Timothy Williams – blending classic superhero-like orchestral music with darker synth sounds – grows more menacing. The sound mixing – emphasising at key moments scraping metal and strange alien whispers – heightens in intensity.

What’s also particularly great about the first half is how it links Brandon’s experiences of puberty with his superpowers. After all, every person’s body changes as they become a teenager. During this time, plenty think they are truly different and misunderstood. Plus, if Superman discovered as a bullied teen with various complexes that he was capable of flinging a lawnmower over 100 yards or could shoot lasers out of his eyes, it would probably warp his mind.

For instance, Kyle and Tori find a bunch of lad mags hidden under Brandon’s bed. Joking about it, they flick through them and are shocked to come across medical photos of bodies cut open – as if their child was studying human anatomy. Believing it to be a weird teen thing, Kyle decides to give his alien kid ‘the talk’, resulting in an awkward pitch-black father and son scene for the ages.

That said, as the film heads into its second half, a significant plot-point reveals Brandon is actually being manipulated into embracing his darker side. As such, much of the movie’s emphasis on the difficulties of adolescence falls by the wayside. From that point on, Brightburn essentially downgrades into a slasher flick – complete with supporting characters making dumb decisions – but with young Superman instead of Michael Myers.

This section is still good. Dunn as the lead is effectively creepy delivering villainous threats – which he can totally deliver on – but in an unbroken, unconfident 12-year-old voice. Yarovesky and the Gunn’s keep Brandon’s powers vague so that when the kills do come, they surprise. During these stylish stalking sequences, the director uses red as a motif – Brandon’s eyes which change colour when he’s angry, car lights on a dark road or most impressively the point of view of a character who’s had one eye punctured with glass – the blood effecting her vision.

At the same time, you are still emotionally invested in Kyle and Tori. As the bodies pile up, a schism occurs between them. Tori defends her son, tragically believing him incapable of the murders. However, Kyle grows more and more terrified of his child, with Denman giving a great anxiety-drenched performance.

Brightburn will probably draw comparisons to other darker superhero flicks like Chronicle or Split. However, the movie it most reminded me of was The Belko Experiment, another film which James Gunn helped gestate but did not make. Like that horror, Brightburn takes a cool premise and executes it in a blackly fun but nihilistic manner. That said, you can tell why Gunn didn’t direct both himself. The two – while solid – don’t fully capitalise on their premises, ones which after being established can only lead to one end.

Stephen Porzio

@StephenPorzio 

90′ 12″
16 (see IFCO for details)
Brightburn is released 21st June 2019

Brightburn – Official Website

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Preview of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2019

As the good weather starts to kick in we take a look at the goodies on offer at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.  Always a fabulous festival. Hope to see you there. 

The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs Tuesday 9th to Sunday 14th July 2019

 

Irish Talent: New Shorts 1 – Documentary

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 12:00

Features works from both established and debut directors, showcasing the best of Irish talent.

Tickets


Cumar – A Galway Rhapsody

DIR:  Aodh Ó Coileáin

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 14:00 

Through the eyes of six Galway artists this is an art film exploring the confluences which have shaped Galway and Connemara’s unique cultural fabric.

Featured artists include writer Mike McCormack, poet Rita Ann Higgins, singer Róisín Seoighe, street theatre director Noeline Kavanagh, visual artist Pádraic Reaney and musician Máirtín O’Connor. Comedian Tommy Tiernan also adds his distinctive voice to Cumar.

CAST: Mike McCormack, Rita Ann Higgins, Róisín Seoighe, Noeline Kavanagh, Pádraic Reaney, Tommy Tiernan, Máirtín O’Connor

Q+A with director Aodh Ó Coileáin

Tickets


Glimpses of Galway

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 16:00

 

The Irish Film Institute returns with a new programme of archival films made in and about Galway and its environs. The programme includes both amateur and professional footage, dating from the 1920s to the 1970s, and will cover such a broad range of people and places that you may well see yourself or someone you know on screen. The silent films in the programme will be accompanied by Aran Island fiddler Deirdre Ní Chonghaile.

Tickets


Supervized

DIR:  Steve Barron • WRI: Andy Briggs, John Niven

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 19:45

An elderly group of international superheroes have retired to a nursing home in Ireland. Heroic adventures have been swopped for bingo and blanket baths. When one of the group dies after having his superpowers ‘downwardly managed’ for the safety of others, one of them suspects foul play.

Ray, the once world renowned ‘Maximum Justice’, decides to investigate. The rest of the gang are not so convinced, and Ray finds himself not only battling against his enemies, but the stigma and restrictions of old age.

CAST: Tom Berenger, Beau Bridges, Fionnula Flanagan, Louis Gossett Jr., Fiona Glascott, Ned Dennehy

Q+A with Fionnula Flanagan


Irish Talent: New Shorts 2 – Fiction

Thurs 11 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

 

This series of live action shorts features a mix of traditional narrative and experimental storytelling. With an exciting programme of premieres and competition winners from Little Cinema’s ‘48 Hour Challenge’ & Offline Film Festival.


Irish Talent: New Shorts 3 – Fiction

Thurs 11 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45

 

This third programme of live action shorts explores the parallel problems of escapism from a variety of settings: judgement, troubled pasts and unhappy status quos. Featuring student work and work from established directors.

Tickets


Finky

DIR: Dathaí Keane • WRI: Dathaí Keane, Diarmuid de Faoite

Thurs 11 July | Town Hall Theatre | 18:00

A musician and puppeteer seeking to escape his past steals an envelope full of cash and escapes to Scotland with his childhood friend Tom to start a new life. On their first night in Glasgow, Finky has an accident and is left paralysed from the waist down. He hits rock bottom, but is given a chance at redemption when he is recruited by Carnival Chaotica, an avant-garde circus troupe. As his journey becomes increasingly hellish and surreal he realises that he must confront his tormented past if he is ever to find peace.

CAST: Dara Devaney, Ned Dennehy, Diarmuid De Faoite, Fionnuala Gygax, Eoin Geoghegan

Q+A with cast and crew


Irish Talent: New Shorts 4: Fiction

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

 

This programme of Irish Premieres explores love stories from the past, the present and everywhere in between. Screening work from both debut and established filmmakers.

Tickets


This selection of shorts celebrates the cinematic convergence of individual art forms. This programme features student film and work from established filmmakers. Loneliness and freedom are key themes throughout.

Tickets


Gaza

DIR:  Garry Keane, Andrew Mcconnell

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 13:45

 

It’s hard to imagine anybody living a normal life in the Gaza Strip. Frequently labeled as the world’s largest open-air prison, this is a beautiful portrait of everyday Gazan citizens, leading meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial conflict.

Gaza depicts a people plagued by conflict but not defined by it, painting a tender portrait of a beleaguered humanity.

CAST: Manal Khalafawi, Karma Khaial, Ahmed Abu Alqoraan

Q+A with directors Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell

Tickets


Bruno

DIR/WRI: Karl Golden
Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 16:00

 

Daniel is a man without a home. Following a personal tragedy, he left his wife and job and drifted into a life on the streets of London. Living in the shadows and surviving on the margins has taken its toll. He desperately wants to find a way back to his former life. But guilt and shame are insurmountable obstacles. Instead, he watches his wife from a distance, as she goes about her daily life. She is so close and yet belongs to another world. A world that he once shared with her.

Daniel’s only companion is a dog called Bruno. They are inseparable. But after he is assaulted one night, Bruno goes missing. As Daniel searches the city for Bruno, he comes across a young boy hiding alone in a dark playground. They search for Bruno, forming an emotional bond in the face of danger. Each step of their journey taking them closer to home and offers the possibility of redemption.

CAST: Diarmaid Murtagh, Woody Norman, Seun Shote, Scarlett Alice Johnson

Q+A with director Karl Golden and cast

Breaking Out

DIR/WRI: Michael McCormack

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 18:30 

 

Filmed over 10 years and covering a lifetime, Breaking Out is the story of singer and musician Fergus O’Farrell, an artist whose unique talent inspired a generation of songwriters and touched thousands of lives, even as his own was slipping away. Its pace matches the remarkable energy of its central character, a man whose pursuit of perfection, gift for friendship and capacity for love captivated all who met him.

CAST: Fergus O’Farrell, Meng Li O’Farrell, Glen Hansard, Jeremy Irons, Vincent O’Farrell, Maureen O’Farrell, Steve Wall, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Liam Ó Maonlaí

Q+A with director Michael McCormack and cast

Tickets


Animals

DIR: Sophie Hyde • WRI: Emma Jane Unsworth

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 20:30

2 best friends and drinking buddies’ hedonistic existence falls under the threat of responsibility and adulthood when Laura gets engaged to Jim – a devilishly handsome and ambitious pianist. As their relationship intensifies, Laura’s friendship with Tyler comes under pressure.

As the fabric of their friendship begins to fray, the bond between these two siren soulmates starts to implode. Finding themselves at a crossroads as their old lives start to slip away, both begin to encounter new opportunities that might carry them beyond their past hedonism. This film, set in Dublin, is a very funny, insightful celebration of female friendship and the choices we make.

CAST: Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat Fra Fee, Dermot Murphy

Q+A with cast and crew

A Dog Called Money

DIR:  Seamus Murphy

Fri 12 July | Pálás Screen 3 | 21:00 

As imaginative as the creative process it documents, this is a uniquely intimate journey through the inspiration, writing and recording of a PJ Harvey record.

Q+A with producer Katie Holly

Tickets


Irish Talent: New Shorts 6 – Fiction

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

This programme of live action shorts explores themes of avoidance and escapism. Featuring films from both new and established directors. A programme hosting home-grown Irish talent and international co-productions from the United Kingdom and United States.


Irish Talent: New Shorts 7 – Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45

Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland (FÉ/SI) is proud to present the World Premiere of an exciting selection of new Irish short films funded under the agency’s Frameworks and Short Stories schemes. The Frameworks projects included in this line-up are co-funded by FÉ/SI and RTÉ.

Tickets


Best Before Death

DIR: Paul Duane

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 13:30 | Documentary

Following artist Bill Drummond over two years of his 12-year World Tour.

CAST:  Bill Drummond, Tracey Moberly

Q+A with director Paul Duane, cinematographer Robbie Ryan and producer Robert Gordon

Tickets


Bojayá: Caught In The Crossfire

DIR: Oisin Kearney

Sat 13 July | Pálás Screen 1 | 13:45

 

The 2002 Bojayá massacre was and remains one of the worst mass atrocities in Colombia’s 50-year-long conflict. The victims were never to be properly identified. As a result, Leyner, a community leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, decided to become a lawyer to fight for his people’s rights.

Through capturing Leyner’s obstacle-filled quest in real time, a fascinating perspective emerges on the unfolding history of Colombia.

CAST: Leyner Palacios

Q+A with director Oisín Kearney

Tickets


Jihad Jane

DIR: Ciaran Cassidy

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 15:30 

 

In March 2010, two American women, including one called ‘jihad Jane’, were caught in a number of high-profile arrests, which were trumpeted by the US attorney’s office as ‘the new face on terror’.

Facing huge jail sentences, the two women pleaded guilty but now for the first time ever, with unprecedented access, Jihad Jane tells the story of the most absurd terror cell ever to come together.

Q+A with director Ciaran Cassidy

Tickets


A Bump Along The Way

DIR:  Shelly Love • WRI: Tess Mcgowan

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 17:45

 

Fifteen-year-old Allegra is constantly embarrassed by her mother’s immaturity, her dead-end job at the bakery and her lifestyle, encouraged by fast-talking best friend Aisling. But Pamela’s fed up too, having put her life on hold to raise her disapproving daughter.

When Pamela becomes unexpectedly pregnant, the relationship between mother and daughter is tested as the two navigate the upheavals of pregnancy and teenage hormones, driving Pamela and Allegra to a new understanding and appreciation of each other along the way.

CAST: Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew, Mary Moulds, Dan Gordan, Andy Doherty, Gerard Jordan, Paddy C. Courtney

Q+A with cast and crew

Extra Ordinary

DIR/WRI: Enda Loughman, Mike Ahern

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 20.00|

 

A driving instructor must use her supernatural gifts to save a lonely man’s daughter from an aging rockstar looking to use her for satanic sacrifice.

CAST: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte


Heyday: The Mic Christopher Story

DIR: Alan Leonard • WRI:  Níall Carver, Alan Leonard

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 22:30

One of Ireland’s great musical talents finds his body shattered by a road accident. After a miraculous recovery, he is reborn, transformed, and in his last year inspires his friends onto greatness. Mic Christopher was an enormous musical talent who since his death in 2001, remains largely unknown outside of Ireland.
This story charts Mic Christopher’s rise, fall, rebirth, and legacy – how he leads his wide circle of friends (an entire generation of Irish musicians ) onto fame, success and new artistic highs.

CAST:  Mic Christopher, Glen Hansard, Sharon Horgan, Rónán Ó’Snodaigh, Bronagh Gallagher, Mike Scott, Lisa Hannigan, Colm Mac Con Iomaire

Q+A with director Alan Leonard and cast

Tickets


Irish Talent: New Shorts 8- Documentaries

Sun 14 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

This strand showcases a diverse range of short documentary films. We explore different themes surrounding present-day social and global issues in a variety of styles. Showcasing work from debut filmmakers and more established directors from Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Tickets


A Girl From Mogadishu

DIR/WRI: Mary McGuckian

Sun 14 July | Pálás Screen 3 | 12:00

 

A true story based on the testimony of Ifrah Ahmed, an Irish-Somali activist. In this female empowerment film, Ahmed escapes war-torn Somalia as a teenager. With the help of a human trafficker, she finds refuge in Ireland where she vows to devote her life to stopping the practice of female genital mutilation.

CAST: Aja Naomi King, Barkhad Abdi, Martha Canga Antonio, Maryam Mursal

Q+A with director Mary McGuckian


Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation

Sun 14 July | Town Hall Theatre | 12:00

This strand of shorts celebrates the creative cornerstone of Irish film: the animation industry. We showcase the latest work from established directors and the best in new Irish animation from the country’s recent graduates of Ballyfermot CFE, IADT, Limerick Institute of Technology and Coláiste Dhúlaigh.

Tickets


Never Grow Old (Closing Night Gala)

DIR/WRI: Ivan Kavanagh

Sun 14 July | Town Hall Theatre | 9.30

 

An Irish undertaker initially profits when outlaws take over a peaceful American frontier town, but his family come under threat as the death toll rises. Don’t miss this exciting fast-paced action movie set on the infamous California trail during the 1849 gold rush, where loyalties spin like the barrel of a gun

CAST: Emile Hirsch, John Cusack, Déborah François

Visit galwayfilmfleadh.com for the full programme

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GAZE LGBT Film Festival Launches 2019 Programme

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.

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Review: Child’s Play

DIR: Lars Klevberg • WRI: Tyler Burton Smith • DOP:  DOP: Brendan Uegama • ED: Tom Elkins, Julia Wong • PRO: Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg • DES: Dan Hermansen • MUS: Bear McCreary • CAST: T Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman

Every Halloween you will always see the same costumes from horror movies. Ghostface will be requesting a song to the DJ dressed as Michael Myers. Freddy Krueger  will be scrambling for change to get his coat in the cloakroom. Pennywise will be tearing it up on the dancefloor. One thing that all of these characters have it common is that they come from big recognisable films. One guy who shows up to every Halloween party in Chucky. There will always be someone donning dungarees and a cheap ginger wig. Despite all his appearances, every Halloween Chucky’s movies never seem to receive the same degree as love as the other horror icons. Chucky is left out in the cold while everyone else are film stars. It’s not for the want of trying; he has been in 7 films before this reboot. Chucky has always been waiting for that movie to shoot him into the VIP section of horror. With It (2017) and Halloween (2018) blowing fans away with their fresh takes on old-school horror, it seems fitting that Chucky gets an opportunity to garner new fans. Child’s Play (2019) gives the doll a chance to prove to the world that he deserves his annual place at the party. 

Child’s Play (2019) tells the story of Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman), a 13-year-old, who, following a move to a new city, is left with no friends. In a bid to try and give her son some happiness for a change his mother (Aubrey Plaza) decides to give him a doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) for his birthday. With his new buddy Chucky by his side, Andy strives in the world. His grades improve in school, he makes new lifelong friends and Chucky scores the winning touchdown in the big game. Wait, this isn’t the feel-good indie film of the year? Andy’s doll Chucky is a murderous doll who rejects his programming in favour of becoming evil. After 7 films it would have been nice for Andy to catch a break for once. The film arrives at a time where horror has become staler than ever before. Every single month we get the same horror movie filled with the same lifeless characters and beat for beat jump scares. The film is surprisingly different to your average run of the mill horror film. The narrative could have easily been one where Chucky is evil for no reason from the get-go. In this film you can understand why Chucky picks up his trusted knife. Chucky is a good friend who just wants what’s best for Andy. The opening act details the rise of their friendship in a natural manner. From Andy’s reluctance, to their eventual bond, the friendship feels honest. When Chucky sees Andy being mistreated by his Mother’s boyfriend (David Lewis) and the family cat, Chucky seeks justice for Andy. Unfortunately, Chucky’s version of justice isn’t exactly legal. What follows is a second and third act that is more conventional than its first. The difference here is that we are invested in the characters. Nothing feels forced. Too often in horror films’ the villain goes full villain mode for no real reason. It’s refreshing to get a slasher film that cares about its characters. 

Child’s Play made an ingenious decision in casting Mark Hamill as the menacing doll. Hamill is obviously most known for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker. While most actors would have decided to stick to blockbusters after leading the most successful series ever. Hamill took a different path. Hamill decides to become the best vocal performer in the world. If you are unaware of his voice performances check out his portrayal of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. Hamill is arguably the finest Joker ever. In Child’s Play Hamill gives a voice to Chucky. The original Chucky, Brad Dourif, gave the character a gruff voice which was clearly evil, that’s not an insult – his performances were terrific. Hamill decides to give Chucky a child-like voice that is eerily off-putting. Even when he goes down a villainous route Chucky’s voice never changes. Hamill’s performance of “The Buddi Song”  will leave you with Goosebumps. The character is let down by its design, which belongs in a cheap parody film. How they greenlit a design of Chucky that resembles a CPR doll is beyond me. Hamill’s performance deserved to come out of a menacing figure not a cheap SNL prop. 

Having a teenager as your leading character is always a risky move. Especially in horror where the teen characters are usually whiny and unrelatable. Gabriel Bateman does a decent job as Andy. Bateman is no stranger to horror, having previously appeared in Lights Out. Bateman is likable as the kid who can’t catch a break. It’s easy to forget that Hamill wasn’t there when filming was taking place, Bateman was literally acting with a doll. Despite this, he still manages to create chemistry with Chucky.  Bateman is a talented young man who I’m sure we’ll see more of very soon. Once Andy makes friends the movie falters. Ty Consiglio plays Pugg in a performance that wouldn’t have landed him a part on Nickelodeon. Beatrice Kitos does better as Pugg’s sister Falyn, but they take the film off course with teen angst. Had Andy been written like his friends the film would have been a complete disaster.  Aubrey Plaza is as entertaining as always as Andy’s mother Karen. Plaza uses her comedic experience to land solid laughs. It’s a shame that she disappeared for chunks of the film because she is always a hoot when on screen. Without a doubt the standout human character in the film is Detective Mike, played by Bryan Tyree Henry. Henry is one of the most consistent actors around today and shows yet again what he has to offer. Henry brings charm and liability to a character that in any other movie would be one note. If Hollywood doesn’t cast Henry and Plaza in a romantic comedy in the next year I will riot. 

There’s been an air of controversy surrounding the creation of this film. This is the first ever film featuring Chucky that has not been written by creator Don Mancini. Mancini has distanced himself from Child’s Play (2019) after MGM didn’t want him on board. It’s never nice to see a creator being pushed away from his own creation and leaves a sour vibe around the film. Lars Klevberg is the director of this Chucky reboot. Klevberg’s only other feature to date is another 2019 movie called Polaroid. The direction he chooses to take this film  was wise. Turning Chucky into an Alexa-type gadget was wise. The scares may not be intense, but you can’t deny they are creative. Klevberg does fall victim to clogging his last act with unnecessary jump scares. The script, by first-time movie writer Tyler Burton Smith, is filled with clever gags.  Smith doesn’t quite figure out how to write teenagers or how to finish the movie neatly. For a first-time writer there is a lot to be admired. For 2 guys who are new on the movie scene, Klevberg and Smith managed to make one of the year’s surprisingly enjoyable films. 

Child’s Play (2019) is the best Chucky movie to date. It’s not that this is a masterpiece. For starters the other 7 aren’t that good, besides Chucky himself.  Everyone expected this to be a dud. All the pieces seemed to come from different boxes, yet they all fitted together. Hamill is riveting as the villain. Bateman delivers one of the better leading teen performances. Aubrey Plaza and Bryan Tyree Henry are both too likeable to dislike. You’ll come out of the theatre with an odd feeling. Seldom do you walk out of a horror film thinking of the characters instead of the horror. Yet Child’s Play (2019) is that movie. Roll on October when we will finally have a reason for so many people to dress up as Chucky. I might just join them.

Liam De Brùn

@liamjoeireland 

90′ 4″
16 (see IFCO for details)
Child’s Play is released 21st June 2019

Child’s Play – Official Website

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Review: Toy Story 4

DIR: Josh Cooley • WRI: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom • ED: Axel Geddes • PRO: Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera • DES: Bob Pauley • MUS: Randy Newman • CAST: Tom Hanks, Patricia Arquette, Tim Allen, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, 

It’s hard to review Toy Story 4 without taking the entire franchise into consideration.  The original was a true phenomenon, the first feature-length computer animation, it ranks up there with Snow White as a groundbreaking moment in film history; yeah I know Snow White wasn’t the first animated feature, that’s not the point. Both films knocked the naysayers for six and helped form an inspiring legacy within the film industry.  Its sequels, 2 and 3, managed to keep up the quality in story telling and cinematic thrills, some would argue, even surpassing the one that started it all. Not to be a purist but I think the one that started it will always be the true gem of the franchise, it’s stating the obvious but without it the others would have nothing to build from. Of course they were quite brilliant and Toy Story 3 seemed to be the perfect ending to the trilogy.

Now some 24 years on and nine years after Toy Story 3 a fourth, some might say unnecessary, sequel has arrived. The original film, as most of you know, was about jealousy and fear of obsolescence in the form of Woody’s old-school cowboy being rankled by the new toy in town the deluded astronaut Buzz Lightyear, the toy who didn’t know he was a toy. This has been a constant thematic source throughout the franchise albeit in different forms and has evolved as the films have unveiled more and more aspects of the magical world of talking toys.  Now Woody faces the possibility in a whole new way, as his fate in his duty conflicts with his fear of not being needed anymore.

Toy Story 4 opens with a prologue explaining how Bo Peep was moved on from the lives of the other toys. A poignant sequence that reaffirms Woody’s feelings for Bo Peep and his loyalty to Andy.  Skip forward nine years to life with new owner Bonnie and the gang are in the familiar mode of waiting for that moment that makes a toys life worthwhile, being played with. Woody, as ever the organiser and consoler of worried toys, is not doing so well in these stakes but hey, his is not to reason why, he’s a toy and his job is to make sure Bonnie gets through childhood as best as a toy can do that kind of job. 

In a delusional moment of overzealous worry for Bonnie he sneaks into her bag and goes with her to her first day at school; in his own mind he think’s he might be useful. It’s not said explicitly but our Woody seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The pressures of doing the best for Bonnie and the fear of being left in the cupboard are getting to him. Despite his odd choice, Woody returns home successfully and introduces the gang to Bonnie’s new toy, one she has made at school. Part plastic fork, glued eyes, blu tack, lollipop sticks for feet and baring the name Forky, as one does when named by a five-year old. Unfortunately Forky, played by Tony Hale with the same quirky quality he brought to Buster in Arrested Development, is having a full-on existential crisis and would rather be in the in the trash basket than be Bonnie’s toy. 

Woody now has a new mission and reason to be; he is determined to get Forky to take on this new responsibility no matter what it takes. The job mostly involves keeping Forky out of the trash. Finally, Forky jumps from the family RV during a road trip in what can only be seen as a toy/trash suicide attempt. After a contrived bit of banter about how he can meet the gang at an RV rest stop further down the road and Woody goes off on the requisite rescue mission. 

That’s only the beginning; coincidences and contrivances come at an alarming rate even for an animated film as Bo Peep is met and further rescues and high suspense follow as well as the meeting of a whole slew of new toys that, for the most part, are as entertaining and endearing as expected from this franchise.

This round is a Woody-heavy affair, relegating most of the other old co-stars to the background in favour of the sheriff and some new characters; only Buzz really figures strongly in the tale and even he feels like just a supporting character with a pointless subplot involving his ‘inner voice’, which attempts to play off the deluded Buzz persona of the past.  

Some fun new characters are on board though; Polly Pocket and, the stunt bike toy inspired by Evel Knievel are given homage and a boost in toy sales, in the form of Officer Giggle McDimples, Bo Peep’s sidekick and Duke Caboom, a Canadian motorbike stunt toy who couldn’t live up to the television advertising, losing his disappointed kid after only one Christmas day.  Also on hand are two cheap Funfair prizes, Bunny and Ducky who have a run-in with Buzz and provide creepy advice at the worst moments.

The tragic villain of the piece is Gabby Gabby, a doll from Woody’s era who has never known the love of a child, who adds some interesting dimensions to the proceedings; her minions, a trio of ventriloquist dummies, bring an extra element of horror to the mix which might have the smaller audience members dragging their parents to the cinema exits.  Ventriloquist dummies are up there with clowns on a lot of people’s heebie jeebie lists.

Though the film seems like an unnecessary addition to the franchise (Toy Story 3 was also a hard act to follow) there is no doubting its ability to entertain. The franchise is starting to creak under the logic of its own world building but at least this one has a worthwhile ending or at least an end to this particular era at the very least, that just manages to survive the shenanigans. It is certainly the oddest of the bunch and has a few more than usual philosophical questions amidst the mayhem and ends on a final musing from Forky that will certainly keep some of the brighter children awake at night.

Paul Farren

@PaulFarrenA 

99′ 58″
G (see IFCO for details)
Toy Story 4 is released 21st June 2019

Toy Story 4  – Official Website

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Review: Men in Black: International

DIR: F. Gary Gray • WRI: Matt Holloway, Art Marcum • DOP: Stuart Dryburgh • ED: Zene Baker, Christian Wagner, Matt Willard • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes • DES: Charles Woo • MUS: Chris Bacon, Danny Elfman • CAST: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson

How dare you have Frank on the poster and only have him in 1 scene?

Men in Black has always been an oddity to me. It’s a film series that you need to remind yourself that there’s already been a trilogy.  When you think of trilogies your brain would normally turn to Lord of The Rings, Batman or The Godfather. Granted these are sublime series. I just find it odd that you don’t see the Men in Black trilogy in many DVD shops. Maybe there’s a reason for this? What if this beloved series isn’t all that good? When you think of these films your brain will automatically respond with memories of Will Smith, Frank the talking dog and Tommy Lee Jones’ deadpan expressions.  Do you remember these films? The first instalment of Men in Black is terrific even today. The ’90s aura suits the campy style of the film. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ chemistry make it a film that will forever be remembered. The sequels on the other hand are a different story all together. Men in Black 2 is a disaster. Filled with offensive jokes and a lifeless plot, it may be one of the worst sequels of all time. Men in Black 3 is a step up from 2 thanks to a great Josh Brolin performance. It still never comes close to hitting the heights of the first film. On the whole, it’s hard to find why there ever needed to be a sequel to Men in Black in the first place. Men in Black: International arrives with the task of trying to convince the world that this is the first sequel of the series that isn’t a cash grab.

Men in Black: International tells the story of Agent M (Tessa Thompson), a new addition to the Men in Black (MIB). Paired with the experienced but impulsive Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), the 2 of them must travel the world to defeat a global threat. If that wasn’t bad enough there’s a mole in the MIB. Can Agent M and Agent H overcome their differences? Or will the plot make things up as it goes along? The MIB movies have never been known for their magnificent plot structure. MIB: International takes the cake when it comes to messy storytelling. It’s a film that’s trying to juggle too many balls at the same time without ever attempting juggling before. The film wants to tell the story of rookie Agent M. The film also wants to give Agent H a redemption arc. These two desires clash and end up cancelling each other out. One moment Agent H is showing Agent M the ropes, the next moment Agent H becomes inept for no reason leading Agent M to become the more level-headed of the two. An odd couple pairing can only work if the film chooses distinct roles for each of the couple. By making them switch every 5 minutes it makes the film unbelievable.

MIB: International doesn’t know what it wants its main threat to be either. Is it the twin aliens (Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) who are causing havoc in cities? Is it Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), Agent H’s ex-girlfriend turned intergalactic arms dealer? Or is it the mole inside the MIB? Every single one of these villains is underdeveloped. The twins don’t have any dialogue to give them personality or motive.  Riza is only in the film for 20 minutes. The mole is so painfully obvious that when the film decides to switch to it in the last 20 minutes you can’t help but wonder what the point of it all is. Thankfully, the film is saved thanks to its dedicated cast.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are no where to be see this time around. This leaves big shoes to fill. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth through sheer hard work manage to get these shoes to fit. We all know how good these two were in Thor: Ragnarok. Their chemistry was no fluke. Once again Thompson and Hemsworth bounce off each other with ease. Thompson brings a sense of awe and wonder to her character. You can see how blown away she is by the world by looking at her eyes widen. Agent M is undermined at times by a script that falls flat in its attempts to dig into the sexism of the past films. Thompson’s likability makes it impossible for these moments to derail the film.

Agent H is the more obvious comedic foil of the two. Hemsworth has shown time and time again that he’s hysterical when given a platform to showcase his comedy skills.  Hemsworth can sell even the poorest joke. When Thompson and Hemsworth get the opportunity to bounce off each other for lengthy periods it makes you forget about the mess of a movie they are in. It’s weird because their characters’ arcs are written so poorly, but you don’t notice because of how good the performances are. Without these two leads the film would have been a disaster. What could have been one of the worst films of the season becomes a solid one thanks to Thompson and Hemsworth. If these two keep it up they can become one of film’s great pairings.

The rest of the cast are a mixed bad. Kumail Nanjaini threatens to steal the film with his character Pawny. Pawny is an alien who joins forces with Agent H and Agent M in the second half of the film. Nanjani uses his comedy experience to turn what could have been an irritating character into a memorable one. If you haven’t seen Nanjani in The Big Sick change that now. This guy is going places. Rebecca Ferguson’s character design is the only impressive thing about her character Riza. The arms dealer is given no time to leave a lasting impression after being hyped up for so much of the film. Laurent and Larry Bourgeois are commonly known as French dance group Les Twins. It’s hard to figure out why they were chosen to be the main alien villains. They don’t get to act or dance. They needed to do something. Hell, I would have taken a dance sequence set to the Will Smith theme. The other MIB agents don’t get much to do either. Emma Thompson shines in her 5 minutes of screen time in her return to the series. Underusing her should be considered a criminal offence. Yet the MIB films have done it twice now. Agent C (Rafe Spall) is irritating in every single scene he’s in. Unfortunately, not in the intended way.  The sooner Hollywood learns how to use Spall right the better. High T (Liam Neeson) is the head honcho of the London MIB branch. Neeson does a solid job at reminding audiences that he’s good at talking when he’s not giving interviews. For a 2-hour film it’s bizarre that every single character feels underutilized.

MIB: International is the first MIB film not to be directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. With that comes an opportunity for a new director to take a stab at adding a new dimension to the series. F. Gary Gray is the man at the helm this time around. Gray is certainly an established director with Straight Outta Compton being one of the best films of 2015. Since then Gray’s gone on to direct Fast & Furious 8. Rather then making more dramas the director has decided to go down the big-budget action root. Gray’s direction for the most part is solid. The action scenes aren’t ground-breaking but there is enough to keep you invested. A scene involving a hover bike is an enthralling set piece. The problem is that this film feels like more of the same. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen in a MIB movie before. The same guns. The same action sequences. The same amount of alien’s explosions. It doesn’t feel like anything new was brought to the table to enhance the world. Which is shame considering the possibilities of a world filled with aliens. Gray is a talented director, but it doesn’t feel like he was given an opportunity to express himself. The root of all the film’s problems comes from the script. Written by Matt Holloway and Ant Marcum the script is a dud. These guys wrote Iron Man and now they seem to have forgotten how to write. The plot is predictable and jumps from A to Z at any given moment. The jokes fell almost entirely flat. I was the only person in the cinema who had the slightest giggle from them. For a film set in an alien world there are few aliens to be found. It’s the third film of this summer that attempts and fails to display feminism. These blockbusters really need to look at Hereditary, Roma or The Favourite. Blockbuster movies seemed adamant to point out how they are all for having female characters and it needs to stop. It’s your own fault that you excluded them for year so please quit the pandering.

Men in Black International isn’t the abomination that many critics are making it out to be. Hemsworth and Thompson bring enough fun that you’ll have a good time. The problem with the film is that it’s very lazy. It’s another film in this series that feels like it’s only doing it for money. Not one of these sequels has felt honest. Each one feels like a movie has already been written and they decided to slap Men in Black on it to sell it.  The first film is filled with heart and to see it exploited is a travesty. In 7 years, we’ll see another MIB reboot. This one will star of the Stranger Things kids and Jaden Smith.  At the end of the day this isn’t a series of a films. This is a series of marketing exercises led by Sony. Marketing in Black will return to feed off nostalgia in 2025.

Liam De Brùn

@liamjoeireland 

114′ 49″
12A (see IFCO for details)
Men in Black: International is released 14th June 2019

Men in Black: International – Official Website


 

 

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31st Galway Film Fleadh Programme

Extra Ordinary 

Galway Film Fleadh has announced their 2019 programme which includes 95 International and Irish feature films. This year’s programme features films from 36 countries including 10 World Premieres. 30 films are feature directorial debuts and over 40% of films are by female filmmakers. 

This year’s programme includes a programme of New Irish Cinema, featuring a number of World Premieres from talented Irish directors. This home-grown programme includes dramatic and comedic features in addition to a range of documentaries which cover a range of topics across politics, the arts, culinary innovation and human rights.

New Irish Cinema Highlights include, Jihad Jane, a debut documentary from emerging Irish filmmaker Ciaran Cassidy which paints an intriguing portrait of the online post-9/11 world. Finky, directed by Dathaí Keane (An Klondike), is an Irish-language drama about a musician and puppeteer who finds his way into a hellish circus troupe. Breaking Out, a documentary filmed over 10 years about the larger-than-life musician Fergus O’Farrell who, undaunted by his diagnosis with muscular dystrophy, continued to tour and compose music for the Oscar® winning film, Once. The doc has a special connection to the Film Fleadh, as the festival to give Once its World Premiere in 2006. Bruno, directed by Karl Golden and starring Diarmuid Murtagh, is a drama about a homeless Irishman in London. Animals (Sophie Hyde) is based on the acclaimed novel by Emma Jane Unsworth which tells the hedonistic female-driven story of two thirty-something party-mad friends who wreak havoc on the streets of Dublin.

Speaking at the programme launch, Director of Programming Will Fitzgerald talked about the line-up by relating a story about watching Agnès Varda’s last film, which plays on the closing day of the Fleadh: “This year’s Fleadh is as much about celebrating cinematic accomplishments as discovering new talent. Inspired by the Gleaner herself, I’d been taking a trip down cinema lane, gleaning some of the highlights. This year’s Fleadh has got tributes to Varda, cinematographer Robby Müller, an animated biopic of Luis Buñuel, documentaries on the composer Scott Walker and the making of Alien, and more.”

Other festival highlights include Never Grow Old, the festival’s closing film from Irish director Ivan Kavanagh and starring Emile Hirsch and John Cusack, a dark Western tale about an Irish undertaker on the American frontier. Sing me Back Home, the festival’s opening film, is French actress Sandrine Dumas’ (Let the Sunshine In) directorial debut. Bait, Mark Jenkin’s film shot on a 1976 Bolex 16mm camera and processed by hand tells the story of a northern English fisherman without a boat.

A Bread Factory, a film in two parts is Patrick Wang’s newest film after 2015’s The Grief of Others, a small-town comedy drama starring Tyne Dale (Cagney & Lacey).

Rounding out the premieres and Q+A’s are a range of event screenings, panel discussions and public interviews which include a dog-friendly screening of the documentary Buddy about the bond between guide dogs and their owners, a special Singalong version of the Disney classic The Little Mermaid and Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody, a portrait of Galway’s artistic community, including author Mike McCormack, comedian Tommy Tiernan, poet Rita Ann Higgins, Macnas and many more. 

The 2019 Film Fleadh features a culinary cinema strand including the World Premiere of Stage: The Culinary Internship, exposing the reliance of Michelin star restaurants on unpaid internships, among other films including The Heat: A Kitchen (R )evolution, championing the work of female chefs in the restaurant industry.

The festival will present a series of political documentaries in a section titled The Film Fleadh Goes to Washington, featuring insight and archive footage. These include Watergate – Or: How We Learned to Stop an Out of Control President which is presented in two parts plus Active Measures, an well researched look at Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and Dark Money, which follows the money trail behind U.S. poltics and a  fly-on-the-wall portrait of Steve Bannon called The Brink.

The programme also brings back its selection of music-related films including opening night late film Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love about the late Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen. This strand will also feature Once AuroraEvery Night’s a Saturday Night and Heyday: The Mic Christopher Story, spotlighting artists AURORA, Rolling Stones’ sax player Bobby Keys and the late Irish singer/songwriter Mic Christopher respectively.

On the closing night is the Film Fleadh Awards Ceremony, which includes the Bingham Ray New Talent Award, for which five filmmakers across the fields of directing, producing and acting have been nominated. The 2019 nominees are directors Mike Ahern  (Extra Ordinary), Enda Loughman (Extra Ordinary), actor Lola Petticrew (A Bump Along the Way), actor Lauryn Canny (Darlin’) and director Tristan Heanue (Ciúnas (Silence)).

The 31stGalway Film Fleadh takes place from 9th-14thJuly in the Town Hall Theatre and Pálás cinema, Galway. 

Full list of films here

Tickets and further information for all films and events are now available at www.galwayfilmfleadh.com

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Reel Horror Show: Episode 12

Otto Lehtonen

 

Our grotesque gathering of ghouls and goblins return to spread mischief in the latest episode of the Reel Horror Show. Ali Doyle, Conor Dowling, Conor McMahon and Mark Sheridan are all chained at the ankle to a pipe and will only be set free by discussing horror for over an hour – will they succeed and be freed or will they fail and be handed a hacksaw by their evil editor. 

Films that come under the horror hammer include Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,  Escape Room, The Silence, Us,  The Twilight Zone, Mom and Dad, Insidious IV, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Victor Crowley, The Cure for Wellness, Unfriended: Dark Web, Slenderman, Possum – “it’s a guy, with a bag, with a spider in it…”, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, Necromancer, Patchwork, May, Pet Sematary.


 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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Review: Diego Maradona

DIR: Asif Kapadia 

“Football is a game of deceit” –  Diego Maradona

A dancer, a chancer, a renegade romancer, whether it was on the field or in the streets, Diego Maradona zigged and zagged through opposition, pulling the wool over our eyes and the ball from under their noses. In a career built upon a catalogue of bluffs and outrageous talent, his stardom stretched beyond the pitch, converting stadiums into cathedrals brimming with the hymns of “Olé, Olé, Olé”. Though chaos trailed him with every dizzying run, tackles sliding in from tabloids and addiction nipping at his heels, the iconic number 10 sidestepped a doomed fate, surviving to tell the tale long after the final whistle blew.

The ultimate trickster, cheating death is what separates Maradona from Asif Kapadia’s previous subjects in Amy (2015) and Senna (2010). The director’s interest, however, is in what these gifted people had in common, and what emerges is an intimate triptych exploring the burdens of god-given genius.

Nowhere is this theme more starkly apparent than in the film’s immersive opening scenes: following his record-breaking transfer from FC Barcelona, a convoy of squealing Fiats drags us through the bursting streets of Naples, down into a feverishly packed Stadio San Paolo for Maradona’s unveiling. It’s a suffocating introduction that would look a riot if taken out of context but instead we’re left feeling the trappings of talent closing in around us.

Like with his previous aforementioned documentaries, here Kapadia employs his trademark mosaic method in turning the screen into a palette of archival snippets. From cheesy late night chat show clips to fuzzy home videos, the audience sift through mounds of memory in order to salvage the hidden truths buried beneath. It’s an intoxicating formula which has yet to lose its appeal and with it we sense a keen interplay between subject and form, where the clattering of spliced imagery echo the giddy erraticism of the two-footed wunderkind.

It comes as a slight disappointment then that the story we carve out struggles to find any refreshing insight into the myth of Maradona, preferring instead to stick to well trodden narratives of the ‘tortured genius’. The film leans heavily on the internal conflict between ‘Diego’, the humble boy from the slums and ‘Maradona’, the self-destructive demigod. For a figure globally renowned for his daring instincts on the pitch, Diego Maradona (2019) feels content with cautiously playing the ball out from the back.

Kapadia’s astuteness is rather how he shuffles recorded memories while still managing to evoke an overpowering sense of time and place. By focusing on the star’s turbulent Napoli years and allowing flashbacks to slip in naturally, we forego the stale rhythms of the ‘cradle to grave’ approach while still engaging with the crucial context surrounding the story. A big part of that backdrop is the question of national identity, something Kapadia touched on with Senna. Here it’s foregrounded, political, social, and consistently compelling.  

A life spent on the run inevitably takes its toll. In its final moments, the film reaches a sombre conclusion in weighing up the heavy price of greatness – no doubt encouraging some viewers to roll their eyes considering Maradona’s recent conduct. A saint and a sinner, the man has made a career from polarising opinion. They say every good story needs a hero and a villain, Maradona played both. However, it’s Kapadia, in an earnest attempt to dig beneath tabloid tattle, who finds the boy caught in the middle.

Brian Quinn

129 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Maradona is released 14th June 2019

 

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It Goes to Eleven Distribution Launches

 It Goes to Eleven today launches a brand new international sales and distribution company, specialising in independent feature films and theatrical documentaries.

For its first feature, It Goes to Eleven Distribution partnered with Snackbox Films (Older Than Ireland) to distribute their award-winning feature documentary Under The Clock. The feature was shown at cinemas across Ireland and festivals around the world earlier in the year and will be airing on RTÉ ONE on Monday 17th June at 9.35pm for its TV premiere.

Offering full Irish, British and international distribution and sales capabilities, I It Goes to Eleven Distribution aims to provide filmmakers with the best platform to reach the right audience each and every time.

With decades of experience working across production, distribution, exhibition, marketing and PR for some of the world’s biggest film and broadcasting companies, the team are in a unique position to support independent film and filmmakers, whilst providing a personal, fresh and collaborative approach to film distribution.

George Fields,  It Goes to Eleven Distribution, Director of Technical Management & Theatrical Sales, said: “A lot of time, effort and resource goes into making a film so it’s our commitment to make their film work hard for them at the distribution stage, giving their project the best possible exposure and opportunity for critical and commercial success.”

James Elms,  It Goes to Eleven Distribution, Director of Marketing, Publicity & Theatrical Sales, said: “We’re in a unique position to combine our industry-leading expertise across all areas of film distribution with a personal and collaborative approach to become a true and loyal partner for filmmakers.”

Garry Walsh,  It Goes to Eleven Distribution, Director of Group Distribution & Theatrical Sales, said: “Our aim is to support independent film and filmmakers, giving them the right distribution so their film can find an audience. Now, we’re welcoming filmmakers to get in touch with us and see how we can work together for a successful film launch”

Colm Nicell, Director of Under The Clock, said: “As filmmakers, it’s important for our distribution partner to connect with the type of films we make and who we’re making them for. With some larger distribution companies. you hand over your film and it gets lost in a slate of other distribution content that that company happens to be releasing at the same time. It Goes to Eleven Distribution is the ideal fit for us as they are as passionate and committed to our content as we are and this ensures that we get our films in front of our target audience each and every time. They understand the filmmaking business but more importantly they get the business of filmmaking. 

Award-winning documentary Under The Clock premieres on RTÉ ONE on Monday 17th June at 9.35pm

All filmmakers are encouraged to contact It Goes to Eleven Distribution, at hello@itgoestoeleven.ie

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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: DIFF Shorts #4

David Deignan takes in a “vibrant shorts programme” at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival.


This vibrant shorts programme, the fourth out of five screened as part of the Dublin International Film Festival, was diverse in terms of theme, tone and form. Programmer Si Edwards deserves props for his keen sense of pacing, with the eclectic selection of films complementing each other well. There were eight shorts screened in total, so here we’ll list some brief notes on each one.

Mother – Director: Natasha Waugh, Producer: Sharon Cronin (Ireland)

 

This absurdist comedy follows hard-working mum Grace, whose perfectly happy home family is suddenly disrupted when her husband arrives home one day with a brand new kitchen appliance – and she slowly starts to realize there may not be room for both of them in the house.

Mother is a wonderfully weird little film, with the strangeness gradually escalating until its hilarious crescendo. Waugh’s direction is subtle but confident, and the film looks great thanks to excellent production design. The central performances are entertaining, with an especially enjoyable turn from Lochlann O’Mearáin as Grace’s husband. Special praise must go to Jonathan Hughes’ offbeat, original script.

This was a real crowd-pleaser, and the perfect way to open the programme.

Inanimate – Director: Lucia Bulgheroni, Producer: Lennard Ortmann (UK)


Inanimate is an accomplished animation produced by the students of NFTS. Its protagonist, Katrine,  is forced to try and piece her previously normal life back together when it starts to fall apart – literally!

The impressive short has done well on the festival circuit so far, even scooping two prizes at the prestigious Annecy Film Festival – Europe’s biggest animation film festival.

It’s wonderfully chaotic and, while it doesn’t do much new in terms of is narrative, it’s technically excellent and an enjoyable journey. Evidently Kaufman inspired, Inanimate is well worth watching.

The Egg and The Thieving Pie – Director: Lola Blanche Higgins, Producer: Reshma Makan (UK)


A smart and engaging short; this tells the story of Community Police Officer Shona, who finds herself battling the call of the ocean when investigating the theft of a precious egg.

This short seemed to have the highest production value of the bunch and it showed on screen. The off-kilter diegesis is full of intrigue and drives this mystery thriller onwards. It takes its time telling it’s story and it works, with a twist ending which will leave audiences asking questions. Features a surprising star turn which I won’t spoil here.

No Place – Director: Laura Kavanagh, Producer: Laura Kavanagh (UK)


No Place is a drama focusing on single mother Angela after she, along with her two young kids, have been evicted from their home. The audience accompanies her as she struggles to maintain a sense of normality as an increasingly desperate situation unfolds.

This is a well put together short for the most part, and props must go to Laura Kavanagh for writing, directing and producing, Michelle McMahon gives a good performance as Grace, in a film which benefits from its subject matter being so pertinent in the midst of the current housing crisis.

That being said, it suffers in comparison to other recent works such as Paddy Breathnach’s drama Rosie, which covers all of the same ground, and short documentaries such as Luke Daly and Nathan Fagan’s Through the Cracks. At just 7 minutes long, this short doesn’t have time to tell the story it wants to tell and, as a result, comes off a little melodramatic.

Child – Director: Joren Molter, Producer: Floor Onrust (Netherlands)


This pensive film follows Ella who, upon visiting a museum with her daughter and the child of a colleague, suddenly becomes aware a hidden side of herself.

The cinematography and production design really stand out in this sleek short, and Sophie van Winden is compelling in the lead role.

That being said, it features a polarising, thoroughly uncomfortable ending which will undoubtedly make or break the film for audiences. It didn’t sit totally well with me, but a significant portion of those in attendance felt differently.

Stigma – Director: Helen Warner, Producer: Marie McDonald (Northern Ireland)


A string of confessions unveil an intense tale of religious guilt, sin and redemption in this experimental drama set against the dramatic and rugged Northern Irish countryside.

Stigma is a poetic, provoking short with an intriguing vision which stood out among the programme. Narratively, I struggled to engage with the film but this was softened by the technical assuredness of the film and an admiration for the team’s alternative style of storytelling.

El Hor – Director: Dianne Lucille Campbell, Producer: Brian J. Falconer (Northern Ireland)


El Hor is a sometimes meditative, other times discombobulating observation of one of the most ancient and highly honoured dog breeds, the Saluki. They guide us in love, prepare us for death and transform us in life.

This is another experimental, boundary-pushing short film. It’s absolutely gorgeous looking, stunningly shot in black and white. This short is the one that has stayed with me weeks after the screening, and director Dianne Lucille Campbell was a worthy winner of the Dublin Film Critics Circle’s Michael Dwyer Discovery Award for her work.

Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect my Brain – Director: Oonagh Kearney, Producer: Roisín Geraghty (Ireland)


Easily the best titled film of the programme, Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect my Brain (I couldn’t resist writing that again) is based on the poem of the same name by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. It depicts the journey of first-year medical student Viv, whose first encounter with a cadaver in the anatomy room sends her on a soul-searching quest into the nature of what it means to be alive.

Director Oonagh Kearney was the winner of the Best Irish Short Director at last year’s Cork Film Festival and it’s not hard to see why. This is a beautiful short, refreshingly original and undoubtedly emotional. Venetia Bowe shines as Viv while special praise must be reserved for Irene Buckley’s haunting score and Cara Holmes’ nuanced editing.

 

DIFF Shorts #4 screened on Tuesday,  26th February 2019 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival. 

 

 

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Review: Late Night

DIR: Nisha Ganatra • WRI: Mindy Kaling Music: Lesley Barber • DOP: Matthew Clark • ED: Eleanor Infante • PRO : Ben Browning, Jessie Henderson, Mindy Kaling, Howard Klein  • CAST: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Ike Barinholtz, Hugh Dancy

Late Night, written and produced by Mindy Kaling achieves something not many films do – it discusses pertinent cultural issues yet is underlined with the uplifting positivity of a romantic comedy. The film, which stars Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, can be viewed as a conversation opener. It paves the way for subjects such as gender and race to come to the fore. It’s worth celebrating that these topics are raised and also handled with a degree of insight and transparency – and not forgetting a healthy dose of clever humour.

Structurally this film contains many recognisable romantic comedy aspects; it contains heaps of self-realisation and roadblocks that are overcome with dramatic flair. However, one crucial element of the romantic comedy is muted and replaced with a new focus – it showcases women that are pursuing their careers rather than an irresistibly charming man. Both Thompson and Kaling shine in their roles; Thompson as revered comedy talk show host Katherine Newbury and Kaling as Molly – the naïve, overly enthusiastic yet charming new comedy writer on Newbury’s talk show writing team. As the jaded romantic narrative is omitted in this film it highlights instead two women overcoming the various obstacles that they face in the world of TV. The plot centres on Katherine Newbury scrabbling to carry on as the host of her talk show aided by Molly’s interventions and ideas.

As the title of this film would suggest, it explores the present state of talk-shows and where their popularity falls within the ever-changing landscape of the media. In terms of entertainment this film questions both what do people want to hear and who do they want to hear it from. The film commences with the self-possessed, sophisticated and undeniably smart, talk-show host Katherine Newbury accepting what we are soon to learn is just one of the many awards she has won throughout her career. This beginning is a stark contrast with what follows – the long concealed news that her show’s numbers have been dropping for years and her position and power are shaky.

With her show slipping away, Katherine must entirely re-question her style if she is to compete in the fast-paced, short-attention-spanned world of today’s social media and Youtube culture. The film reveals that media is changing – Katherine’s experience, intellect and sharp wit have been replaced with seemingly mindless teens and videos of online animals. Despite her awards and success, the film takes a realistic stand point in highlighting that she must incorporate popular tastes, gags and internet celebrities in order to keep her viewers engaged. This film does not shy away from revealing the decline in popularity for shows such as Katherine’s and effectively depicts dog-Youtubers and teenage vampire actresses as the silly yet scary threats to the legacy she has built. It calls into question media as we know it and begs the question if talk shows can remain relevant in modern society and if so how.  

While Emma Thompson excellently embodies the infamous Katherine Newbury, Kaling’s performance as Molly is equally engaging and culturally relevant. While it is made clear in this film what kind of content is now necessary to keep audience’s attention the film also shows who we are now interested in – what voices in society need to be heard. Katherine hires Molly not based on her experience but rather because she needs to fill a hole in her comedy writing team – a woman. The film takes issues of race and background head on, with it being revealed to Molly that she’s not there on merit but rather as a “diversity hire”. It is clear that the world of this office is one of the white, seemingly privileged male and Molly is only there to make sure a different voice is represented on this team. The inherent acceptance that Molly, based on her Indian heritage and female gender, is not welcome in the writer’s room is reflected when the other male writers presume she is an office administrator rather than a writer. Molly’s initial earnestness to succeed is quickly crushed by her peers. Although in rom-com fashion she does overcome these challenges, her experiences highlight successfully how far she must go to be accepted in this role on the basis of her race and gender.

As this comedy focuses on women who are committed to their careers, this provides an insight to the trials women must face to be accepted in their roles and stay relevant and on top of their game. While Katherine Newbury is represented as legendary within the world of comedy her position is still threatened by the next unimaginative and vaguely sexist young male comedian that comes along. The ratio of men to women in the writers group is 7:1 meaning that in this world only a certain portion of voices and opinions are being heard. For example, Katherine Newbury chooses to shy away from women’s issues which aren’t often discussed such as menopause and contraceptive choices. The world of TV painted in this film shows one where even a powerful woman, regarded as being accomplished, still needs to fight to retain her position.

Overall Late Night is an extremely enjoyable watch with serious subjects raised but with a smart joke around every corner. It courageously says what might not always be said and to that effect it raises questions that need to be asked and changes that need to be made. Emma Thompson encapsulates the star that gets a reality check and fights to the end to remain the star that she is- all whilst showcasing a dazzling collection of power suits. Mindy Kaling has written an excellent film which illustrates the difficulties which can be in a working gal’s way and shows us how to overcome them with equal doses of strength and comedy.

Irene Falvey

101 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Late Night  is released 7th June 2019

Late Night  – Official Website


 

 

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In Production: ‘My Other Suit is Human’

Andrew Paul Montague’s short film My Other Suit is Human is about dealing with grief in an unconventional way.

A bereaved mother, Zoe, struggles to overcome the death of her young son, Noah. Inspired by his favourite TV show, she decides to make and dress in a robot suit to keep the reminders of the sadness of her world out. Something her husband, Stephen, doesn’t understand thinking she is having a breakdown. Her actions drive a wedge further between them and alienates them as a couple even more. My Other Suit is Human is a short film about loss, grief and ultimately, love.

Written and to be directed by Bray native, Andrew Paul Montague and produced by Kira Fitzpatrick from Santry, My Other Suit is Human is the MA graduation film for Andrew from the London Film School, one of the top film schools in the world (Variety 2019). Already an award-winning script, the film will be supported by Genera Films, a company in the UK that invests in short films. Andrew and Kira have also attached several professional members of crew including Zeta Spyraki, an award winning DP and runner up of the Panalux award for cinematography in 2017. The film is to be shot in Kent at the end of July with a view to submitting to major short film festivals from the end of August.

Their Kickstarter can be found here: http://kck.st/2QmeoT4

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Review: Framing John DeLorean

James Bartlett gets behind the wheel of Framing John DeLorean.

Even if you’re not a petrol head, you definitely know the car he designed. Stainless steel silver, gull-wing doors, and it travels through time when it reaches 88 mph…

Okay, that last bit isn’t true, but you know I’m talking about the DeLorean DMC-12, the amazing-looking sports car that took Marty and Doc flying Back to the Future in the 1985 movie and its two sequels.

What fewer people know is that John DeLorean was arrested in an FBI sting at a Los Angeles hotel and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine in 1982 – yes, several years before the car became a movie icon. The factory had been in production for barely a year or so, but his glamorous image, model wife and celebrity endorsements didn’t look like it was going to be enough to save it from closure. Those 55 pounds of cocaine were apparently his desperate attempt to get some big money – fast.   

That factory? It was in a suburb of Belfast. Yes, the DeLorean cars were all made in Belfast, during some of the worst days of “The Troubles.” And a huge chunk of the money invested in DeLorean’s venture had come from the British government. But on that night in 1982, the party was over.

DeLorean was acquitted on the drugs charge, but questions about many missing millions never went away, and what you could call the Tesla of its day seemed destined to be a quirky museum exhibit.

A superstar automotive executive, a dream to start a new economical and environmentally-conscious car company, millions of dollars, drugs, sectarian violence, disgrace, and Hollywood magic.  How has this story not been filmed before?

It’s a question that opens Framing John DeLorean, a documentary that’s slightly different in that it talks to the actors playing the roles in the reenactment sequences.  It also talks to a number of people who were involved in the whole escapade: designers, engineers, still-disappointed factory workers, lawyers, the FBI agent, the informer who drew DeLorean into the sting, and others.

Was DeLorean a visionary undone by bad luck, or a con man on the make?

The most interesting moments – which, like the reenactments, you wish there were more of – see Baldwin talking off-camera (usually in the make-up chair) about how he approached the role, and what he thinks DeLorean must have felt as his dream crumbled about him.

Those reenactments – often matching shot-for-shot directly from archive footage – really bring the story to life, though it’s of course the interviews with the actual people (and especially DeLorean’s children), that bring the story home.

DeLorean’s fame – and then infamy – clearly crushed his son and daughter. Their parents divorced immediately after the court verdict, and they suffered jokes and media attention all their young lives. More than that, their father was actively looking to bring his car company back right up until his own death in 2005, and it seems they often felt they came second or third in his affections.

DeLorean the company still lives, by the way.  Liverpudlian Stephen Wynne bought all the remaining parts in a bankruptcy sale in 1997, and his repair facilities in several US cities are always booked up months in advance. He’s waiting for government approval to go back into limited production, and has improved everything under the bonnet and elsewhere for a 21st century version.

There are still rabid fans and collectors across the world as well, and strong reviews for Framing John DeLorean at Tribeca led to the news that George Clooney’s Smokehouse Productions is planning a project, with Clooney directing and maybe starring.

Also, 2018’s Driven, which was directed by Belfast’s own Nick Hamm and looked at the relationship between DeLorean and that confidential informant, has just been picked up for North American distribution.

Wherever John Z. DeLorean is now, he’s surely happy about it all.

 

Framing John DeLorean is released on VOD 7th  June 7 2019


 

 

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John Butler, Writer/Director Papi Chulo

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, Papi Chulo tells of a down-on-his-luck weatherman (Matt Bomer) who is shaken by the end of a relationship. He has an on-air meltdown, prompting concerned bosses to persuade him to take some time out. To fill his days, he employs a Latino migrant worker (Alejandro Patiño) to paint his home but also to keep him company. Despite their cultural, age and language differences, they connect.

Paul Farren sat down with writer/director John Butler to talk about creating his comedy/drama,  the themes of empathy and unlikely friendship, the talents of Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patiño and working with DOP Cathal Watters and composer John McPhillips.


Papi Chulo is in cinemas from 7th June 2019

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Irish Film Review: Papi Chulo

DIR/WRI John Butler • DOP: Cathal Watters • ED: John O’Connor • PRO: Rebecca O’Flanagan, Robert Walpole • DES: Susannah Honey • MUS: John McPhillips • CAST: Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patiño, Elena Campbell-Martinez

John Butler, director of Handsome Devil (2016) and The Stag (2013), has proven his ability to explore the poignancy, volatility, and ultimate realness of human connections in his films. Papi Chulo, starring Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patiño, is certainly no exception. The film follows Sean (Bomer), a TV weatherman who finds himself struggling with loneliness and isolation in the sweltering urban landscape of Los Angeles. In an effort to combat this loneliness, Sean hires migrant worker Ernesto (Patiño), under the guise of requiring his labor, but it becomes apparent very quickly that Sean is not looking for an employee so much as he is looking for a friend.

The two certainly make an unlikely pair. Sean is young, white, gay, and apparently wealthy. Ernesto is middle-aged, Mexican, married with a wife and children, and doing everything he can to make ends meet. Through these characters, human differences and their ultimate limitations becomes one of the film’s main points of exploration. Sean and Ernesto clearly have very little in common, and their relationship is even more strained by the distinct language barrier between them. However, the two men manage to find ways around it, and the film reveals through its progression that what is truly important is the act of communication itself, the connection that forms between two people simply from being heard and acknowledged.

Barriers between people undoubtedly exist; barriers of race, class, age, and language. Butler skillfully demonstrates these barriers not only through the characters’ dialogue, but also through a clever motif of glass doors and windows. An early scene in the film, for instance, has Sean taking refuge behind the window of his car door in an effort to avoid a conversation with his coworker Susan (D’Arcy Carden). This motif also serves to initially separate Sean and Ernesto, as Sean is frequently shown viewing the older man through his car window or the glass door of his deck. These separations create tensions between characters, which in turn create opportunities for the film’s wry sense of humor. Butler perfectly captures the universal human experience of awkwardness, whether it comes from stretches of silence between two characters that lasts just a little too long for comfort, or from a character trying, and failing, to keep his composure under the scrutiny of his peers.

Papi Chulo is ultimately a film about human connections, about the shared experiences of loneliness, loss, and unlikely friendships. It is brilliantly acted, with wonderfully astute and down-to-earth performances by Bomer and Patiño, backed by Wendi McLendon-Covey, D’Arcy Carden, and Elena Campbell-Martinez. The urban setting of Los Angeles is particularly well-suited to the narrative, as Sean and Ernesto form an unlikely friendship in a city where genuine human connections can prove shallow more often than not, and where time can seem to stand still under an always-shining sun.

 Dakota Heveron

98 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Papi Chulo is released 7th June 2019

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Review: X-Men: Dark Phoenix

DIR: Simon Kinberg • WRI:John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Simon Kinberg DOP: Mauro Fiore • ED: Lee Smith • PRO: Todd Hallowell, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner • DES: Claude Paré • MUS: Hans Zimmer • CAST: Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patiño, Elena Campbell-Martinez

It never bodes well when a film gets a press screening the day before it is to be unleashed on the public, being optimistic I thought maybe it’s some kind of bluff. Then I saw the rest of my press-screening invite telling me that all comments and reviews were embargoed until 7am on the day of the film’s unleashing. A double bluff, I optimistically thought.  No such luck I’m afraid.

Dark Phoenix arrives with less than a whimper; the much delayed and rumoured-to-be-a troubled production, fails on nearly all fronts as a piece of glossy summer entertainment. With the best of goodwill from the most ardent fan it might work but for everyone else it is going to be a proverbial damp squib.

The plot concerns itself with the justly famous Dark Phoenix saga presented in the pages of X-Men back in the seventies, courtesy of comic legends Chris Claremont and John Byrne in the days before Watchmen came along and inadvertently turned things upside down. The only similarity between this film and its source material is Jean Gray’s struggle with a newfound omnipotent power and rival aliens fighting for said power.  All the original space-opera glory of the comic book only gets a brief nod when the X-Men go into space (not outer jut the bit outside the ozone layer), to save some astronauts from the space anomaly that is going to be the source of Jean’s and everyone else’s woes.

Set in 1992 to no good effect whatsoever, Charles Xavier’s X-people are media darlings and on the presidential hotline and yes, it does involve a bat phone type scenario, albeit without the humour; humour is very thin on the ground and when attempted falls squarely on its arse. Charles Xavier is seen to be losing the run of himself, a man verging on the pompous and thinking he knows better than everyone else using his protégés as his propaganda machine to maintain the love for mutant kind. The emotional heart of the story concerns Xavier doing what he thinks is best for Jean without concern for his right to do so when he suppresses a bad memory or two.  One anomaly later and Jean is all powerful and losing the run of herself, meanwhile aliens have come to earth to gain the said power – you get the picture.

The bulk of the story sits on Jean’s shoulders relegating everyone else to perfunctory supporting roles and character development that would be shameful in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The whole thing is remnant of a seventies television show that knows it has a good formula that doesn’t need changing; that is until it does. The set pieces offer very little excitement or originality, except for the first scene in space, elsewhere it is a strong feeling of déjà vu featuring telepathic battles, upturned cars, an attack on a train and my favourite, trying to cross the road… not a word of a lie.

So many lost opportunities are apparent watching the hamster-wheel mentality unfold. The cinema sins on show are so obvious it seems surprising that no one saw any of the issues with the story at a much earlier stage. At the helm of this trainwreck – that also features a trainwreck – is writer, director Simon Kinberg,  a man who has been part of the franchises lesser works including co-writer on X-Men: Last Stand, the original attempt at adapting the Dark Phoenix storyline, the mind boggles.

Paul Farren

113 minutes
12A (see IFCO for details)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is released 5th June 2019

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – Official Website

 

 

 

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‘Misty Button’ New York City Premiere

Misty Button will be making its New York City premiere at the Soho International Film Festival later this month. This is fresh off taking home an award for “Best Feature Film” at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival in California last March.

 

The screening is on Saturday, June 22nd at 6:30 p.m at the Village East Cinemas on Second Avenue.

 

Misty Button was written and directed by Kerryman, Seanie Sugrue. A native of Tralee who currently resides in Los Angeles. The film was also produced by another Traleeman, Bertie Brosnan.

 

It stars Corkmen, Cillian O’Sullivan (Vikings, Taken Down) and Shaun Kennedy (American Ripper, Monsters Inside Me) and also stars John Keating (Boardwalk Empire, Ray Donovan) from Tipperary.

 

The film also co-stars Irish-Americans, Kevin Breznahan (Billions, Superbad), Gerard McNamee (The Following, The Get Down) and Julia Nightingale who can now be seen on Broadway’s The Ferryman, directed by Sam Mendes. Bret Lada, fresh off the set of Orange is the New Black also stars in the film.

 

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Screening Ireland in Rome: The Irish Film Festa, Twelfth Edition

Áine O’Healy reports from the Twelfth Edition of The Irish Film Festa in Rome, which ran from March 27th to 31st 2019.

In late March a cohort of Irish actors, directors and producers arrived in Rome as guests of the Irish Film Festa, which ran from March 27 to March 31.  Now in its twelfth iteration, the festival has expanded to a five-day programme of screenings, workshops, panels, and other events. Taking place annually at the prestigious Casa del Cinema—a stone’s throw from the Via Veneto and the resonances of the dolce vita that this location evokes—it showcases the best of recent filmmaking from both sides of Ireland’s north-south divide. Under the creative direction of Susanna Pellis since its inception, it has found increasing popularity with Roman filmgoers, drawing full houses over the entire course of the festival. The audience is for the most part Italian (the films are subtitled and all other events are facilitated through interpreters) with a sprinkling of Irish and other English-speaking expats also in attendance.

Although festivals of Irish cinema are beginning to proliferate across the planet—some of the invited guests at the Rome event had just attended the recently established Moscow Irish film festival—Rome’s Festa has distinctive characteristics that set it apart from the others thanks to the vision and acumen of Susanna Pellis, whose specialized knowledge, passion and dedication have shaped its unique profile since 2007. It remains a relatively intimate and remarkably dynamic event that offers multiple opportunities for Irish filmmakers (both well-established and up-and-coming) to interact with each other and with local audiences.

The programming is thus never simply an assortment of new releases from Ireland. Rather, it reveals Pellis’ keen awareness of ongoing developments in Irish filmmaking—not only with respect to mainstream releases, but also making room for more quirky, independent features, documentaries, shorts, and experimental productions. More importantly, it is shaped by her capacity to facilitate reflection on the larger implications of these developments through many opportunities for conversation and interaction. The screenings are accompanied by a stimulating range of presentations, interviews, workshops, and question and answer sessions, involving directors, actors and other industry professionals.

Short Film Winners Paul Horan & Mia Mullarkey 

Since 2010, the Festa has included a competition of short films. Sixteen of the films submitted this year were selected as finalists and screened at the 2019 festival, with the two winners announced and then re-screened on the closing night. With its incisive exposé of the events surrounding the discovery of the remains of almost 800 children in a sewer adjacent to the former Bon Secours Home in Tuam in 2017, Mia Mullarkey’s Mother & Baby won the documentary award. It includes archival material as well as interviews with several aging former residents of the notorious Mother and Baby Homes and with the self-trained historian, Catherine Corless, who spent years uncovering evidence of the horrific neglect and undocumented deaths of an astonishing number of children at the nearby convent. This is an impressive work that pays particular attention to the effects of traumatic memory and to the courage of the extraordinarily modest woman who singlehandedly unveiled the scandal and now quietly dedicates her life to supporting the survivors’ ongoing quest for justice.  

The film that won the Best Drama Short award, Paul Horan’s Bless me Father, also broaches the issue of the excessive power of the Catholic Church in Ireland. A two-hander set entirely within the confines of a confessional, the film dramatizes the revenge of a terminally ill man against a priest who had psychologically tyrannized his parishioners with a demoralizing rhetoric of fear and guilt. Like Mother & Baby, it portrays Irish society as an insular world paralyzed by secrets and shame, where Catholic clergy and other religious figures occupy a far too dominant role. Although the power of religious institutions is clearly on the wane in Irish society at present, filmmakers may be exercising a cathartic role in bringing to light the lingering effects of still unspoken wounds.

The festival’s opening feature this year was Nick Kelly’s well-received The Drummer and a Keeper, which reprises the well-worn trope of unlikely friendship between mismatched individuals. From the initial, explosive encounter between an institutionalized autistic teenager and a gifted, though temperamental drummer in his twenties who suffers psychotic episodes, it traces the ups and downs of a relationship that is fraught with pain and defensive cruelty. For the most part, the film is infused with psychological drama and suspense, yet it achieves a heart-warming resolution that seems as improbable as it is unexpected. Despite the upbeat ending, a sense of worry may linger for the viewer long after the film’s conclusion, as the storyline has so vividly exposed the fragility of human connections based on the recognition of mutual of pain and isolation. Yet Kelly’s film is more than just another iteration of the “odd couple” movie. Rather, it seems to be part of a growing trend in Irish filmmaking that broaches the pressing question of mental health in contemporary Irish society.

Moe Dunford & Frank Berry discuss Michael Inside  

Frank Berry’s Michael Inside also looks at a difficult social issue, in this case the limited prospects and ever-present risks for young people growing up in depressed urban areas, many of whom are almost inevitably destined for incarceration. The film is a prison drama that transcends the genre at many levels. Although the action unfolds for the large part “inside”, the violence it depicts is principally psychological. Dafhyd Flynn plays the vulnerable 18-year old Michael, who lives with his grandfather on a rough housing estate in Dublin. The old man hopes his grandson will escape the vicious circle of repeated convictions and incarcerations to which many youths in the neighborhood have succumbed, and Michael, too, seems intent on avoiding the routine drug dealing practiced by his circle of acquaintances. Pressured by a friend to hide a stash of drugs in his grandfather’s home, he ends up in prison. Though neither a buyer nor a dealer, he is too intimidated to reveal the source of the stash he was forced to hide. Little by little, Michael is acculturated to hierarchies of prison life and to the moral compromises that prisoners adopt to cope with the conditions of incarceration. The power plays in which he becomes entangled while in prison pursue him even after his release, so he ends up back inside, just like his father. Berry’s direction is assured, drawing fine performances from the cast, which include both professionals, such as Moe Dunford and Lalor Roddy, and non-professionals. Several minor roles are performed by former prisoners with real-life experience of the narrative context. The result is a splendid film of consistent psychological tension tempered by a persistent melancholy. The screening was followed by a panel discussion and question and answer session with Berry and Dunford, which helped to cast light on Berry’s creative process, careful research, and his history of creative collaboration with former prisoners and residents of the blighted social environments that the film evokes.

Every year the Festa includes the screening of at least one “classic” film of Irish cinema. This year’s selection was Colin Gregg’s Lamb (1985), featuring Liam Neeson as Michael Lamb, a novice on the staff of an industrial school run by a religious order, and Hugh O’Conor as Owen, the epileptic ten-year-old he takes under his wing and eventually whisks off to England in an attempt to spare the boy the everyday cruelties of the institution. Foreshadowing a critique that emerged with greater force in several subsequent Irish films, Lamb hints at the troubling underpinnings of the religious institutions that had shaped Irish identity since the creation of the state. As an oppositional figure, Michael seems at first sympathetic, even heroic, in his desire to save the boy from institutional brutality. Yet in the long run he reveals himself to be tragically immature and self-deluding. Neeson’s powerful performance gives coherence and credibility to a role that may have been a great deal less convincing in less capable hands.  

Hugh O’Conor in conversation

Following the screening of Lamb, Hugh O’Conor was invited to share his memories of working on the film with Neeson at the age of ten. A multi-talented artist, O’Conor is one of those rare individuals to have made a successful transition from child performer to adult actor (his most widely seen childhood role was as the young Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot in 1989).  This year O’Conor came to the Festa principally as a director. His debut feature—a particularly popular film with the Rome audience—was Metal Heart.  This upbeat coming of age comedy (the only film in the festival with a female lead) hinges on the rivalry between a pair of 17-year old twin sisters with contrasting interests and personalities. With their parents away on a long overseas holiday, tensions and conflicts flare up between the mismatched pair. Unfolding in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the Leaving Cert results, the story conveys the excitement, uncertainty and worry felt by a substantial cohort of Irish teenagers at a crucial moment of transition. Though the film favours the perspective of Emma, the “goth” sister (Jordanne Jones), over her more conventional and supposedly prettier twin, Chantal (Leah McNamara), both characters are drawn with sympathy and affection, making their eventual reconciliation less than a surprise. Playing Emma’s creative partner, Seán Doyle pulls off a strong performance as teenage musician struggling to withstand parental pressures to conform to middle-class expectations. Meanwhile, Moe Dunford exerts his seductive charm as the wayward son of an aging neighbor, who partly but not fully succeeds in breaking the protagonist’s heart. Despite the specificity of some of its social and cultural references and the limitations of its production budget, Metal Heart is obviously intended to speak to audiences not only in Ireland but also abroad, and the festival viewers responded with genuine enthusiasm to its appeal, as became evident in the discussion and subsequent question and answer session.

Dara Devaney, well known to Irish audiences for his early, recurring presence in the Irish language soap Ros na Rún and for many subsequent film roles, was one of the guests of the Festa this year. A native speaker of Irish, he is the star of the Irish-language docudrama, Murdair Mhám Trasna, which he presented at the Festa. Devaney plays the tragic figure of Myles Joyce (also known as Maolra Seoighe) who was hanged in a miscarriage of justice at Galway Gaol in 1882 for a crime he did not commit. This brilliantly executed film directed by Colm Bairéad and produced by ROSG for TG4 provides a dramatic reconstruction of the brutal murder of an extended family in remote Connemara, followed by the arrest, trial and execution of the suspects. The film underlines the fact that several of the accused, most notably the entirely innocent Myles Joyce, spoke Irish only, but the trial was conducted in Dublin entirely in English. Dramatic recreations of these well-documented historical events are interspersed with commentary by various contemporary personalities, including historian Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh of NUIG and President Michael D. Higgins, who granted Joyce a posthumous pardon around the time of the film’s release. Issues of colonial abuse and the silencing of subaltern subjects are vividly dramatized in this film, which, despite its remote historical context, has clear lessons for our neoliberal and neocolonial times.

One of the revelations of this year’s Festa was the increasingly creative and often hybrid use of the documentary form by Irish filmmakers. Apart from Murdair Mhám Trasna, three other powerful feature-length explorations of specific historical and contemporary realities of Irish life appeared on the programme. Feargal Ward’s The Lonely Passion of Thomas Reid offers a quirky combination of standard documentary approaches and dramatic reconstruction. The film tells the powerful story of one man’s battle against the forces of global neoliberalism. Reid, the man in question, is an independent-minded Co. Kildare farmer who refused to relinquish his ancestral land in the face of the IDA’s strong-arm efforts to force him to sell it with the aim of enabling the occupant of the adjacent property, the multinational corporation Intel, to expand its premises and, supposedly, create hundreds of new jobs. Reid’s story is a parable of the ongoing struggle between those lingering elements in Irish society that cling to values and traditions of the past and the indomitable advance of corporate modernity. The stakes of this struggle are beautifully captured by Ward’s patient, painstaking exposé.

Seán Murray

The Festa also offered two excellent documentaries from Northern Ireland, each of them focused in distinctive ways on the Troubles. The first was Seán Murray’s Unquiet Graves, detailing the collaboration between the RUC and the Ulster Defence Regiment in the murder of over 120 civilians in a campaign conducted across a broad swath of Co. Armagh and Co. Tyrone from July 1972 to the end of 1978, but also encompassing the bombings in Monaghan and Dublin in May 1974. Using archival material, reconstructions, and contemporary interviews—including a riveting conversation with whistleblower John Weir, a former member of the RUC and a convicted murderer–the film is a stunning indictment of state organized violence and startling abuses of power that are still unacknowledged at the official level.

Unquiet Graves was followed by Brendan Byrne’s Hear my Voice, which is structured as an audio-visual engagement with painter Colin Davidson’s large-scale portraits of eighteen victims and survivors of the Troubles. The film alternates between images of Davidson’s mute but haunting portraits (collectively titled ‘Silent Testimony’) and interviews with survivors and relatives of those killed in various attacks over a period of several years. Though sectarian issues are not mentioned in these testimonies, it becomes clear that Byrne’s interlocutors are living with the effects of atrocities committed by both Republican and Loyalist factions. With its quiet, poetic force, the film provides a searing reminder of the traumatic legacies of a violent conflict years after its purported conclusion.

Isle of Docs panel

In recognition of the recent flourishing of the documentary form among Irish filmmakers, a panel titled ‘Isle of Docs’ followed the screening of these films, featuring Frank Berry and Seán Murray in discussion with Susanna Pellis. Berry has made an award-winning documentary (Ballymun Lullaby) in addition to two feature films, all of which are grounded in social realities of the economically deprived communities around Dublin with which he is familiar. Murray, a self-described activist filmmaker, is based by contrast in Belfast. He has focused on making documentaries and shorts dedicated to issues specific to the people of Northern Ireland—particularly with regard to the legacy of the Troubles, and he sees his films as having the power to disturb and challenge the status quo. Since they each work in different jurisdictions and different production environments, some of the discussion concentrated precisely on the differences in funding opportunities and institutional support for documentary filmmaking north and south of the Border. The fact that both Berry and Murray have produced work of such conceptual rigour and professionalism augurs well for the future of the documentary on the island of Ireland.        

John Lynch Interview

The festival frequently offers masterclasses run by notable Irish actors. This year it was the turn of veteran actor John Lynch, guest of honour at the Festa, to take on the role of workshop leader. Lynch was in fact already a well-known face to audiences of the IFF, which over the years has screened several films in which he has played a prominent role. Pellis conducted a substantial, wide-ranging interview with Lynch on the day following the workshop, exploring the full arc of his acting career and his ancestral ties to Italy, or more specifically to his mother’s birthplace in the region of Molise. He discussed his early involvement in Irish language theatre while in school in Northern Ireland, his move to England and development in professional theatre, the many film roles he was offered that centred on the Troubles of Northern Ireland, and his more recent work in serial television. Although inevitably associated with Northern Ireland, Lynch is a truly transnational figure, as he now lives in southern France, has learned to speak French, and has even performed in French. He also discussed his development as a writer—a pursuit adopted in mid-life—and announced that he has completed his third novel. Following the interview, the festival audience had the opportunity to watch one of Lynch’s characteristically intense performances in the Australian feature Angel Baby (Michael Rymer, 1995), in which he plays a psychiatrically disturbed young man teetering on the edge of self-destruction.

The Dig‘s Lorcan Cranitch, RyanTohill and Moe Dunford with Susanna Pellis

A few years ago, the IFF screened Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon, 2014), a film that introduced the festival audience to the considerable talent of Moe Dunford, then a rising star of Irish cinema and now an established presence. Dunford was one of the guests of this year’s Festa and appeared in no less than four of the films on the programme. Cast in supporting roles in Michael Inside, Metal Heart, and Black ’47, he plays the lead in The Dig, the first feature film directed by Ryan and Andy Tohill. Here Dunford gives an astonishing performance as Calahan, whom we first encounter as he arrives home to his boarded-up cottage in Co. Antrim after completing a fifteen-year sentence for killing his girlfriend. Since the body had never been found and Calahan has no recollection of the crime—admitting to state of drunken oblivion at the time of the murder—his conviction was based entirely on DNA evidence. Yet he does not claim to be innocent. Discovering that his neighbour, the girl’s father (Lorcan Cranitch), has been digging up the vast bogland on Calahan’s property for years in a still futile attempt to unearth the body, he tries to get the intruder off his land. When he fails to achieve this, Calahan begins to dig alongside the man who understandably hates him, while both of them are carefully observed by a threatening local policeman who dominates everyone and everything in the area as though he were the law itself.  With little dialogue, most of the film is shot outdoors in the eerie winter light, as both men struggle with the hard labor of digging and with the ups and downs of their psychological tug-of-war. The scenes set in this stark, elemental landscape are mostly without dialogue, with the actors relying on movement and facial expression to communicate acute pain, anger, and frustration. Eventually, however, the men’s relationship becomes more complex and complicit. This psychological drama is overlaid by resonances of the western, which mark the story as a familiar, intensely masculine contest played out between and among men—the returned convict, the farmer seeking justice or revenge, and the man of the law. Although the farmer’s surviving daughter has a more important role in the narrative resolution than we might have expected, the film’s conclusion affirms that the story belongs fundamentally to the men, as is true of the classic western. Despite a hurried, disappointingly underwritten third act, the powerful effects of the cinematography and performances remain with the viewer long after The Dig comes to an end. Clearly a film that struck the festival audience with particular force, it was followed by a lively discussion with co-director Ryan Tohill, Dunford, and Cranitch and elicited one of the most engaged question and answer sessions over the course of the Festa.

Black ’47 (Lance Daly, 2018) is the only feature film produced to date to take on the subject of the Great Famine. This is not, however, a conventional period drama. Instead, the filmmaker has given us a revenge thriller with strong influences of the western. These elements make for engrossing viewing, despite the predominant use of the Irish language (subtitled in English and, for the Festa, in Italian), the bleak colour palette, and the vision of a frozen Connemara landscape inhabited by a starving population. This desolate spectacle of famine and injustice is witnessed through the eyes of Connemara native, Martin Feeney (James Frecheville), upon his return from the war in Afghanistan where he had fought for the Crown as a member of the Connaught Rangers. Finding that his closest family members are either dead or homeless, Feeney realizes that he is witnessing a social order as depraved as that of any colonial outpost, and begins to seek revenge. What the film makes clear is that the Great Famine was no natural disaster. Though the potato crop has failed, food is not lacking even in remote Connemara. The local landlord (Jim Broadbent) is in possession of huge store of grain that he refuses to concede to the starving locals, and thus becomes one of the targets of Feeney’s avenging mission. The dramatic tension intensifies when Hannah, an IRC officer with whom Feeney had served in Afghanistan, is sent by Dublin Castle to track down and eliminate the avenging Irishman. What the authorities do not know is that Hannah owes Feeney a debt of honour, and the Englishman makes good that debt first by urging Feeney to escape with his life, and when he refuses, by aiding him in his final act of vengeance. Although the ultimate narrative resolution has elements of the formulaic, the film functions as a kind of popular history lesson. It certainly had this effect in Rome, where few of the viewers seemed aware of the events of that fatal year remembered in the collective consciousness of Irish people as ‘black ’47’.

Pellis generously includes in the Festa elements rarely seen at film festivals—usually literary and musical events—that connect filmmaking with other related art forms. In this way, she invites Italians to appreciate many dimensions of Ireland’s rich cultural output. This year we were treated to twenty brilliant photographic portraits of Irish artists captured beautifully by the Irish actor and director Hugh O’Conor.

Karl Geary with Simona Pellis

The literary spotlight of this year’s Festa was on Karl Geary’s novel, Montpelier Parade, recently translated into Italian. Geary—also an actor—was at the festival specifically to discuss his work as a fiction writer. Simona Pellis presented the novel to the assembled audience and conducted a thoughtful interview with the author. Predominantly a coming of age story, the novel is narrated in the second person, a detail that intrigued several of those who participated in the lively question and answer session that followed the interview. Geary expressed gratitude that so many of those present had read his work with close attention. Prior to writing the novel, Geary had been for the most part involved in screenwriting and performance, and some audience members may well have remembered his work in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall.  

Prof. Aine O’Healy with Dara Devaney

In addition to a literary event, almost every edition of the IFF has included at least one live musical performance. This year the musical spotlight fell on actor Dara Devaney, who performed two plaintive songs in the sean nós tradition as a prelude to the screening Black ’47. One of these, the mysteriously worded ‘Johnny Seoighe’, is the only known Irish song that refers explicitly to the Great Famine.

The Irish Film Festa thus underscores the multiplicity of talents that characterize many of those who are active in the Irish filmmaking community and it offers Italian audiences a general sense of the high level of contemporary cultural production in Ireland.  As an annual festival dedicated to Irish cinema, it is unparalleled in its scope and vision, providing much more than simply a selection of recent films that happen to be made in Ireland.

 

Áine O’Healy teaches film and Italian studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is author of Migrant Anxieties: Italian Cinema in a Transnational Frame (Indiana University Press, 2019).

 

Visit www.irishfilmfesta.org

 

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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Shooting the Mafia

Sarah Cullen takes a look at Kim Longinotto’s powerful documentary which strips back the glamorous image of the Sicilian Mafia, showing the harsh reality of life, death and business at the hands of those who wield it.

After being bowled over last year by Sicilian Ghost Story, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s haunting fictional rendering of the real-life mafia kidnapping and murder of Giuseppe di Matteo, the son of a mafia informant, my interest was piqued when I heard about the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival’s showing of Shooting the Mafia. Kim Longinotto’s documentary examines the work of photographer Letizia Battaglia who has spent decades capturing the crimes of the Sicilian mafia. Guiseppe’s unimaginable ordeal is not mentioned, which says far more about the bloody history of the notorious crime syndicate than it does about the documentary: as demonstrated by Battaglia’s haunting photography, there have been countless Giuseppes since she began recording their violence since the 1970s.

The first female photographer to be employed by an Italian newspaper as well as the first Italian photojournalist to document the mafia’s violence, Battaglia’s life and work are both explored throughout. At the age of only sixteen she entered into a constricting marriage to escape from her controlling father. After her divorce she took up photojournalism. Using her camera she took over 600,000 photos recording the death and destruction wrought across Sicily by mob violence. Shooting the mafia, in Battaglia’s case, frequently meant recording the aftermath of their actions: inert bodies in their own blood, funerals, the destruction of vehicles. Inevitably, her life is part of the wider fabric of Sicily: she became a target of threats from the mafia and relates her own grief at the deaths of other resistors against the regime. Through it all the photographs she never took, she observes, are the ones that haunt her the most.

Longinotto’s ambitions to push at the boundaries of the documentary form are highlighted early on: as she highlighted in the Q&A afterwards, alongside photography and other archived recordings, Battaglia’s life is illustrated with footage from early Italian cinema. Drawing comparison between the men who attempted to prevent Battaglia’s creative freedom as a young woman and the mafia which circumscribed the freedoms of Sicily, Longinotto draws a line between the importance of personal creativity and the self-determination of an entire community. In its many uses of multimedia, Shooting the Mafia explores the possibilities of art as a tool for challenging violence.

Coming out of Shooting the Mafia, I felt like I had more questions than answers. In a certain sense, it’s difficult to know for sure what the focus of Longinotto’s chronicle is: Battaglia’s life, her photography, or the struggles of Sicily. But then again, this may be appropriate considering the multiple meanings of focus in a filmed recording of a rumination on the possibilities of photography. Like Battaglia’s own photography, which approaches its subject matter in an oblique manner, Shooting the Mafia approaches Battaglia in an oblique manner, through her romantic relationships, her photography, and her political career. One suspects there is much that Battaglia is keeping from the viewer: moreover, one suspects that is the intention of an individual who approaches the world from behind the camera.

 

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

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Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

DIR: Michael Dougherty • WRI Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields • DOP: Lawrence Sher • ED: Roger Barton, Bob Ducsay, Richard Pearson • PRO: Alex Garcia, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, Thomas Tull • DES: Katie Byron • MUS: Bear McCreary • CAST: Millie Bobby Brown, Lexi Rabe, Sally Hawkins

Warner brothers Monsterverse franchise is back in full swing with their third entry and second Godzilla movie, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Things are heating up for the big bout expected next year: Godzilla Versus Kong.

Picking up from the end of Godzilla, in an oddly similar vein to Justice League, we find Monarch scientists (that secret group that have been monster-watching all this time), Emma, Mark and their daughter Madison searching the rubble of San Francisco for their lost son, Andrew, as Godzilla prepares for his final encounter with the rival monsters from that film.

Five years later,  daughter and mother are in Brazil where Emma is continuing her work with Monarch. Mark has retired, after finding it hard to work for an organisation that has involvement with the large creature that inadvertently killed his son. Emma is on the cusp of a breakthrough in communicating with the creatures thanks to a device known as Orca and, would you believe it, only one of these devices exists.

Enter Captain Jonah, an  eco-terrorist psychopath and his motley crew, just as Emma is putting the Orca device to good use on Mothra who has just emerged from her cocoon. One carnage of Monarch personnel, kidnapping and trip to yet another Monarch base in Antarctica and things are looking bad for humankind. The eco-terrorists plan is to awaken Titans (posh scientific term for monsters) all over the world in the name of saving the planet, give or take a few billion people I’m guessing. Things get out of hand, I kid you not, the idea of setting Titans loose wasn’t a bad idea to the perpetrators until Ghidorah, three-headed rival to the big G is let loose as part of this well thought-out master plan. It turns out Ghidorah ain’t from around here and has titanic plans of his own.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters has one of the most bonkers premises I’ve seen in a while. The slaughter-filled plan to save the planet is up there with the most abominable plans of past dictators give or take a titan or two. But because of this bonkers premise rather than despite it, the film flies along with its sincere bonkerness in the best possible way.

The actors do their best despite getting landed with the most God(zilla)-awful dialogue and spending most of the time having terrible ensemble chats, jammed to the cloisters with exposition and on-the-money plot information. At least some of them seem to know they are in a monster movie, which adds to the fun. Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe reprise their roles from the first film as well-meaning Monarch scientists. Ken fares the best of the two and finally gets to be up close and personal with Godzilla. Poor Sally does not fare as well. Hero duties fall mostly to Kyle Chandler who many will remember from Peter Jackson’s King Kong – pure coincidence I’m sure that he is back fighting monsters and looks to be around when Kong returns next year. Millie Bobby Brown fares well as Madison, the conflicted daughter of Emma and Mark. Underused and coming out the best of all is Charles Dance as Captain Jonah Alan, who  gets to be the real beast of the film; when not slaughtering innocents he pontificates about what terrible creatures humans are.

Despite the bonkers premise and stilted human moments, Godzilla is a blast. If like me you love a good old monster-bashing, city-trashing piece of action, then your in for a treat. The film does not let up once the action starts, the filmmakers have certainly taken the time to understand the kaiju gold mine they are excavating. It feels like a genuine nod to sixties and seventies Godzilla and is filled with easter eggs for die hard fans … I’m sure there must be others out there. But of course this is not going to get in the way of those who are just discovering kaiju in the last five years. The only possible danger with all these extra monsters is that it seems like too much of a good thing. Where can they go with the upcoming Godzilla, Kong bout when there are all these other titans vying for our attention…

Godzilla vs Jurassic Park anyone?

Paul Farren

131 minutes
12A (see IFCO for details)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is released 31st May 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters– Official Website

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Review: Booksmart

DIR: Olivia Wilde • WRI Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman • DOP: Jason McCormick • ED: Jamie Gross • PRO: Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison Katie Silberman • DES: Katie Byron • MUS: Dan Nakamura • CAST: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis

What can one hope for from a female coming-of-age comedy 2019? I for one went into Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart hoping that it would be this year’s Blockers (which was, in turn, the previous year’s Bad Neighbours 2). And reader, it did not disappoint.

Following the fortunes of two model students on their final day of high school, Amy (Kaitlyn Deever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have avoided parties and general tomfoolery in favour of study and intellectual rigour throughout their school careers to ensure success later in life. This backfires when they discover that the rest of their graduating class has also been accepted to Harvard and Yale. Looking to make up for lost time, the two girls set off on an odyssey of graduation parties. Yes, it is in many ways the female version of Superbad. And while in one way it’s sad that we have had to wait over a decade for such a film to appear, it’s perhaps also a very good thing that no one attempted a female version of Superbad ten years ago.

While it’s undeniably satisfying to see new films flipping the script on the assumptions Hollywood has made about American high school since the ’80s, the film does occasionally overplay its hand. Almost every character turns out to be something they’re not, which at times can be exhausting, particularly for characters that had barely any screen time in the first place. However, this isn’t to take away from the impressive supporting cast and the good intentions behind it all: it’s nice to see a diverse array of high school characters wherein everyone is treated as an individual, and long may the dismantling of the Hollywood hierarchy continue.

And for many reasons, Booksmart feels worth the wait, bringing together as it does two fantastic leads who have deserved more screen time for quite a while now: Kaitlyn Deever managed to be a kick-ass kid in television’s adult-focused Justified while Beanie Feldstein was the infinitely likeable best friend in Lady Bird (and should have been the focus of the movie, in this reviewer’s humble opinion). Together they bring a wonderful combined energy to the film, with lots of the comedy coming from their offbeat exchanges. Despite seeing each other daily, they take plenty of time to send each other constant encouragement, which is as sweet as it is bizarre. As a spiritual sequel to Blockers it also follows in that film’s progressive steps: Amy is out and, aside from her Christian parents (Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte) who are stepping over themselves to demonstrate their acceptance of their daughter, her sexuality doesn’t raise any eyebrows.  And indeed, if Molly fails to understand the nuances of her best friend’s sexuality at times, it’s her own misunderstanding of female sexuality that is the butt of the joke. “I have a secret for you.” she tells Amy: “I once tried to masturbate with an electric toothbrush, but I got a horrible UTI.”

Hopefully we will see more directing from Wilde and her all-female writing team, as they have succeeded in creating a laugh-out-loud comedy which explores the nuances of female friendship and permits its characters to make mistakes. Booksmart graduates with top marks (but doesn’t forget to have fun along the way).

Sarah Cullen

102 minutes
16 (see IFCO for details)
Booksmart is released 27th May 2019

Booksmart – Official Website

 

 

 

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Review: The Miami Showband Massacre

June Butler checks out the Netflix doc The Miami Showband Massacre directed by Stuart Sender recounting a horrific attack on 31st July 1975 by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Early one July morning in 1975, a group of musicians calling themselves The Miami Showband were returning to Dublin from a gig in Northern Ireland. In the distance, they could see the torches of soldiers flagging them down in what appeared to be an official forces checkpoint prior to crossing the border into Southern Ireland. Preoccupied by their earlier success and unaware of any danger, the driver pulled into a lay-by and the band members exited the van. They later recalled how the soldiers joked and bantered as their identification was verified. One member of the band murmured that they would be ‘away quickly’ because it was the British Army (Ulster Defence Regiment) who were conducting the check. Stephen Travers, the bass player with the Miami Showband, heard the van door slide open. Seconds later, a bomb exploded killing two of the soldiers. Travers was thrown into the adjoining field by the force of the blast. He and another surviving member, Des Lee, later recalled how the bantering soldiers turned on them and started firing indiscriminately into the thicket where both parties lay wounded. In the distance, Travers could hear Fran O’Toole, the lead singer with the band, begging for his life. Seconds later a shot rang out and O’Toole lay dead. When Des Lee, who was the only person still standing after the blast, returned to the roadside, all he could see was a river of blood and body parts strewn on the tarmac. Lee managed to raise the alarm and Travers was brought to hospital where he recovered physically but mental scars remained.  

In 2015, on the fortieth anniversary of the murders, and in the lead-up prior to this, Stephen Travers started investigating the events of that fateful night. Travers maintained that he owed it to the memory of his friends to properly examine the true nature of the affair. It transpired that the men who flagged them down were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force wearing uniforms representing the Ulster Defence Regiment. Two of the dead ‘soldiers’ from the bogus checkpoint were later confirmed as members of the illegal organisation. Both Travers and Lee have persistently argued that there was collusion between the armed forces and groups such as the UVF. Travers has always maintained that he heard a British accent from the commander of the checkpoint. Further investigation shows British Army personnel who agreed with Travers line of thinking and who also raised concerns with their commanding officers regarding complicity between the UVF and the British Army. It is clear that Stephen Travers is not a man to be thwarted and as he says himself, it takes a while for him to turn but when he does, he will not be deflected.

Stephen Travers is the central figure in this journey – Des Lee also plays a pivotal role but it is essentially Travers who relentlessly pursues the veracity of what really occurred. And while Travers is a haunted man, his passage to actuality has banished the darkness and allowed a life not authentically lived to bloom and flourish. The documentary is a must-see. It is horrific to hear the accounts of what happened but Travers accepts he is on a critical path – one that must not be diverted from regardless of what answers might come.

 

https://www.netflix.com/ie/title/80191046

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