IndieCork Roundtable Podcast

Rachel Smyth & Kerrie Costello 

In this Film Ireland podcast, ahead of the this year’s IndieCork (6 – 13 October), Gemma Creagh sat down with 2 filmmakers whose films are screening at the festival. Rachel Smyth’s film Pit Stop tells the story of one woman’s attempt to flee an abusive relationship. Kerrie Costello’s film Nina introduces us to Sarah as she returns to a house to pack up.

 

Pit Stop (Rachel Smyth)

Screens Saturday, 12th Oct Irish Shorts 4 Programme
11.30 @ The Gate

Pit Stop tells the story of one woman’s attempt to flee an abusive relationship. In a moment of need she is helped by a stranger at a petrol station.

Nina (Kerrie Costello & Julien Celin)
Screens Sunday 13th Oct  Irish Shorts 6 Programme
11.30 @ The Gate

Nina follows Sarah as she returns to a house to pack up.  But the house reveals some dark memories, and they quickly begin to force their way into her mind…


Directors:

Rachel Smyth is a recent graduate of TU Dublin’s film and broadcasting. With a love of telling stories and everything visual she has been DOP on four short films since 2018 with Pit Stop being her directing debut.’
Kerrie Costello & Julien Celin are Dublin based writer-directors working together under the moniker Colo Pictures. They met in the post-production team of Brown Bag Films, and initially set out as writing partners, but that soon developed into directing together too. Their first film ‘Pins and Needles’ was an animated short for children, commissioned by RTE, and which aired on Christmas Eve 2018.  Live action is their main focus however, and Nina is their second film together and their first foray into live action. They are currently developing their second third short film.

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Review: Joker

DIR: Todd Phillips • WRI: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver • DOP: Lawrence Sher • ED: Jeff Groth • DES: Mark Friedberg • PRO: Bradley Cooper, Todd Phillips, Emma Tillinger Koskoff • MUS: Hildur Guðnadóttir • CAST: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro

Why do the lonely quiet American boys find themselves drawn to violence? Beneath the mask of a film about one of the most iconic comic book villains, writer-director Todd Phillips has crafted a stark character study that deals with just that. Joker is a powerhouse cinematic odyssey, that descends into the inner psyche of failing comedian, Arthur Fleck. This is the kind of visceral, unfettered filmmaking, that induces states of near-paralysis, as it pushes forward, in a bold, desperate search for catharsis.

The year is 1980, or maybe 81. Arthur(Joaquin Phoenix) brushes white clown makeup on in careful strokes. His face is gaunt and sickly white, his hair, long and disheveled. He studies his face in the mirror and brandishes a smile. His lonely eyes radiate nothing but unsettling anxiety, none of which disappears after he’s viciously mugged on the streets of Gotham. Naturally, none of this helps Arthur’s mental health, which is in dire straits, but he can’t seem to stop laughing, “Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?” he says to his psychologist, but what can she even say.

Arthur lives in a derelict block in a cramped apartment with his mother ( Frances Conroy). She’s frail, withered, and her words are a tangle of hopeless delusions. She’s convinced would-be Mayor, Thomas Wayne, is going to help her and Arthur rise out of destitution. But when a colleague at work gives him a gun for protection, Arthur’s life quickly descends into hellish depths of tragedy. Threatened by a trio of businessmen on the subway he snaps, murdering them with a rain of gunfire. This act is hailed by some as justice for Gotham’s disenfranchised citizens, and riotous mobs gather in the streets, hailing the Clown killer a hero. This growing social unrest and newfound celebrity, only seem to propel Arthur’s prophetic transformation into Joker.

This is a career-defining performance, by one of the best character actors of his generation. Joaquin Phoenix never flinches, as he boldly risks everything to bring Arthur to life. His performance is a nuanced dance, that hovers through a netherworld, between humanity and psychosis to a state of virtuoso insanity.  Phoenix brings a sincerity and empathy to a man who goes over the cliff edge of his own sanity. The cast is rounded out with stellar supporting performances from Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Robert DeNiro, and Marc Maron.

Director Todd Phillips’ cinematic vision has a clear foundation in the language and style of ’70s cinema, owing a clear debt to Taxi Driver in particular. The harsh bleak realism of Joker is balanced with bursts of the surreal. The grit of the streets and back alleys is met with the fluorescent color of Jokers’ transcendent dances. Joker’s Gotham is a darkened landscape of oppressive shadows and tiering skyscrapers. The tightknit lighting and camera work comes courtesy of cinematographer Lawrence Sher.  But all this is elevated by Hildur Guonadottir’s menacing score, which seemingly ignites the embers raging within Arthur’s heart.  And none of this would have been possible, without the Trojan work of production designer Mark Friedberg, and Oscar-winning costume designer Mark Bridges, who both bring the world to life.

Ultimately, Joker is near Shakespearean in its tragic scope. It’s Macbeth for the comic book movie generation, and easily the most morally complex comic book film since The Dark Knight. This isn’t a black and white portrayal of a villain, the moral boundaries here are far more ambiguous. When you strip away all justice, fairness, and equality, and push a mentally sick person to the absolute limit, the result is never going to be a pretty picture. Ultimately, any discomfort or objections to the film will derive from the uncomfortable realization, that most people, given the right circumstances, are capable of some pretty terrible things. But at the end of the day, this is a film about how a monster is made, and what’s terrifying is his humanity, expecting anything less would just be a mistake. And when Joker finally hits his punchline, he gets the last laugh; and it’s electric to watch.

Michael Lee

121′ 38″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Joker is released 4th October 2019

Joker– Official Website

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Tom Burke, Director of ‘Losing Alaska’

In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Tom Burke, the director of Losing Alaska, which tells the story of a small community in Alaska called Newtok who are dealing with a slow-moving disaster. The 375 inhabitants of Newtok feel the winter storms grow more fierce each year and steal their coastline, they watch their homes disappear into rolling seas as the melting permafrost erodes the edges of their town. The plan is to abandon the town and start again 9 miles up the river on higher, more solid ground. The community is divided between those determined to stay, and those equally determined to move. They are fighting the weather, the indifference of state agencies and now, finally, each other.

As well as discussing the intricacies of the ways of life of the people of Newtok and the challenges they face, Tom talks about how the project came to be, telling a big story through the prism of a small situation, people trying to survive in a changing world, the nature of documentary, telling people’s stories, not taking sides, the joy of seagull eggs, screening the film in Newtok, the practicalities of filmmaking in such an environment, cameras and lenses, discovering a frozen-tripod-head panning technique, working with Gerry Horan on the soundtrack, creating a cinematic documentary and the onset of frostbite.

Losing Alaska is released in cinemas 4th October 2019.

Tom Burke will participate in a post-screening Q&A at the IFI on Thursday, 3rd October & the Light House cinema on Sunday, 6th October.

 

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Watch Irish Short Film: ‘The Flight to Memmingen’

 

Writer / Director Greg Corcoran takes us behind the camera and tells us how he made The Flight to Memmingen. The short is now available to watch online and below.

 

The brilliant Peter Jackson once said “The most honest form of filmmaking is to make a film for yourself”. And that’s as good a starting point as any when it comes to why and how I made this, my latest short film, The Flight to Memmingen. I had been working on lots of live TV at RTÉ and making music videos and promos on the side. I missed drama and pure filmmaking, ie working with talented, dedicated actors to tell a story. I wanted to make a film. Not just any film, not a film for festivals or broadcast, nor a film for funders, but a film for myself.

 

I had previously adapted a short story by the fine Icelandic writer Gyrðir Elíasson for a music video and was a big fan of his work. He sent me a collection of short stories called Stone Tree and I was immediately inspired by one of his strikingly dark yet charming stories about one man, his rise and his subsequent tragic demise. From there the spark was lit and this film, The Flight to Memmingen, was born. I set about adapting it with an Irish slant and based it on a fictional standup comedian called Dave Murphy –  he just wants some peace to write his famine sitcom, but at what price?

 
14 minutes long, the film stars two of Ireland’s finest comedians: the brilliant Ger Staunton in the lead role and Martin Angolo as a comedy club MC, both fresh from their hugely successful shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Shot in 4K on the Sony F5 by the very talented DoP Shane Caffrey, The Flight to Memmingen also features the superb Aoife Moore, Micheál Ó’Gruagáin and music from Ireland’s finest folk act Ye Vagabonds.
 

Story wise, The Flight to Memmingen is, at its heart, a naturalistic slice of domestic life. I really wanted to make it as a dark, challenging, character-driven film, a relationship drama that veered from comedy to tragedy, and that had strong characters and a spiralling arc, all in a mere 14 minutes. As a film, a narrative, it is quite unorthodox. It doesn’t have a conventional structure or a neatly resolved ending. It has played at festivals from Miami to Moscow but it’s a very Irish film and not necessarily an archetypal festival film. I’m fully aware that it mightn’t be for everybody but I knew that from the very first moment I read the short story it’s based on.
 

It’s worth noting that no comedians were harmed in the making of this film. One got very, very wet and extremely cold in the wintery Irish sea for a scene that was cut out but he’s not bitter, much. Ger, I owe ya pint.

 

All told, I was blown away by the generosity and dedication of everyone who got involved with the project and we had a blast making it. People went above and beyond to get it in the can and I’m truly grateful for that. So far, thankfully, it has received a very positive response and I’m just glad it’s now out there in the world for all to see.

 

 
Follow Greg Corcoran on Vimeo

 

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Review: Downton Abbey

DIR: Michael Engler • WRI: Julian Fellowes • DOP: Ben Smithard • ED: Mark Day • DES: Donal Woods • PRO: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge • MUS: John Lunn • CAST: Michelle Dockery, Tuppence Middleton, Maggie Smith

After fifty-two episodes, over six seasons, Downton Abbey left our television screens on Christmas Day 2015; while ending on a joyous high, the loss of such a beloved series was felt by fans. Not long after, rumours of Downton Abbey heading for the big screen were spreading; but that is all I viewed them as: rumours, and empty promises. Four years later creator Julian Fellowes made good on that promise, delivering a sumptuous adaptation that pays service to the fans who followed Downton and its residents for so long. Being a fan of the television series, I was very excited to see Downton Abbey one last time, but slightly apprehensive about how it would translate on film, and whether the story would be interesting enough to hold audiences attention for two hours. I clearly needn’t have worried. While Downton worked really well as a television series, there are details that can only be truly appreciated when seeing it in the cinema; such as the first shot of the house. This first look at the manor, after four years, along with the recognisable Downton theme tune playing, felt like coming home. The lavish interiors, and the costumes are even more beautiful on the cinema screen.

The movie is set in 1927, and King George V and Queen Mary are visiting Downton. A fuss ensues as the servants prepare the house for the visit, while the Lord’s and Lady’s worry about what to wear for the occasion. All the usual suspects are involved in the film: Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), Tom Branson (Allen Leech), Mr. and Mrs. Bates (Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt), Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) and, of course, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), who, as always, steals any scene she’s in. The wit and sharp tongue that fans have loved from Smith’s character has remained, and her scheming ways continue; the film acknowledges the importance of her character in a poignant, but appropriate way. 

What Downton has always been good at, is the equal attention to the stories and lives of those from different classes, audiences know just as much about a Lady’s maid as they do about the Lady, and the film picks up from where the series left off: we get to see Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) happy in her married life with husband Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), something which seemed unlikely for most of the series after she eventually became resigned to the fact that she would never find love; we see Anna and John Bates with their son; Lady Mary, who was pregnant at the series end, had a daughter with second husband Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode); romance brews for the widowed Branson; and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) are the quintessential old married couple. 

The movie deals with historical issues, such as the criminalising of homosexuality, and how this affects Barrow’s life; this had been dealt with in the series, and is continued in the film, the course which this storyline takes leaves some hope that romance might be possible for the character. Most interesting, from an Irish perspective, was the way they dealt with Branson, and his republican past, and what that meant in relation to the pending royal visit. As much as I like Branson, there was something in the way they used his character that left me somewhat miffed, as though they were demonstrating how the elite life can ‘reform’ the once radical Irish. 

Most of the humour throughout was, of course, courtesy of the Dowager’s and Isobel Crawley’s (Penelope Wilton) friendly bickering, but some also came from Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle), whose excitement at the opportunity to serve the King and Queen left him forgetful of the ‘proper etiquette’ of a servant. However, the power struggle between the servants of Downton, and the royal servants was rather entertaining as well.

This film is essentially fan service, allowing fans to revel in the grandeur of Downton and the lives of its characters one more time. The final shots of the characters and the last look at the manor will leave fans content with the knowledge that Downton Abbey has opened its doors to audiences for the last time.

Shauna Fox

122′ 16″
PG (see IFCO for details)

Downton Abbey is released 13th September 2019

Downton Abbey – Official Website

 

 

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Review: Ad Astra

DIR: James Gray • WRI: James Gray, Ethan Gross • DOP: Hoyte Van Hoytema • ED: John Axelrad, Lee Haugen • DES: Kevin Thompson • PRO: Dede Gardner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon Milchan, Yariv Milchan, Brad Pitt, Rodrigo Teixeira • MUS: Max Richter • CAST: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland

Space is a fascinating concept. Down here on earth we look up to the stars and dream of one day touching them. If we go high enough in our attempts to reach them, we will be greeted by an endless vacuum of darkness populated by planets that no human has ever graced. It’s hard to fathom that with all the technology that’s available to us we still haven’t fully explored the known universe. Imagine what may lie past our solar system. These incomprehensible visions of space have gifted audiences with some of the best films of all time. Kubrick gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nolan gave us Interstellar. Cuaron gave us Gravity. Chazelle gave us First Man.  Scott gave us The Martian. All these auteurs have attempted to capture the awe and wonder of space. These directors have taken on board ships to help us reach the stars. Ad Astra sees James Gray tackle the genre which is perhaps the hardest to master. Yet master is exactly what Gray does as this is a film that is not only the best of 2019 so far but is the film that should catapult Gray into superstardom. 

Ad Astra tells the story of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) an astronaut whose father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) helms The Lima project, the project focuses on finding out what wonders exist in our solar system. When Clifford stops reporting to base Roy must go on a monumental mission to Neptune to save both his strained relationship with his father and the world. Going into Ad Astra its best to know as little plot details as possible. The only film that compares to Ad Astra is Apocalypse Now. Except you have to swap the jungle for space, Michael Sheen for Brad Pitt and Marlon Brando with Tommy Lee Jones. This is an exploration into the heart of darkness of space and the human mind. 

Those expecting a huge blockbuster need to know that it is a drama, not an action film. That’s not to say that there is no action to be found. There are four to five enthralling sequences that are pulse-racing. Everything about the action feels real even if we can’t relate to what we are seeing on screen. The opening sequence that finds Roy hurtling to earth is astonishing. From the off, it’s clear that this film is giving the audience an experience that they have never had before. A space-buggy chase on the moon is science fiction at its best. When you think you’ve seen everything that the moon has to offer on film, Ad Astra gives you a chase sequence unlike any other. The film makes the brave decision of keeping the action to a minimum. A decision that elevates the film above 90% of science fiction. Ad Astra is an examination of the mind. Action is used as a means of testing the character’s emotional strength as much as their physicality. Every decision the characters make when dealing with a potential catastrophe matter. The world of Ad Astra is as unforgiving as the real world. 

Brad Pitt has been on a roll recently. Pitt is one of the final examples of the almost extinct concept of the A-lister. It’s easy to forget that there was a stage in Pitt’s career where he was unfairly mocked. Critics tended to write off Pitt as an actor who only took safe choices. As if his roles in Snatch, Fight Club and Twelve Monkeys never happened. The past decade has seen Pitt win the respect he deserves from critics. From Inglorious Bastards onwards Pitt received the rightful reputation as one of the best actors working today. 

Ad Astra may be the best work of the esteemed actor’s career to date. While not as flashy as the other characters that Pitt has played. Roy McBride is the most important. A stoic character who even though on the surface he’s a man whose heart rate has never exceeded 85 BPM, he’s suffering internally. Through a voiceover that plays Roy’s thoughts to the audience, we get an insight into a damaged mind. Pitt gives a nuanced performance that captures what it’s like to suffer mentally. As someone who suffers from severe depression, I appreciated how the film handles it. Even though on the outside we may act as if everything is okay, often on the inside we are suffering immense pain. As the film progresses Roy’s esteem sinks lower and lower. Pitt doesn’t change his performance. Outside of a single tear rolling down his cheek there is no extreme outburst of emotion. Yet, he is not emotionless. Pitt’s performance is one that must be seen by any aspiring actor. Less is often more. Thanks to his flawless subtle performance Pitt could be on the way to his first Oscar win. 

Obviously saying that Roy is the main character is an understatement, nevertheless Ad Astra would not work without the side characters who, while only having a few minutes of screentime, each add layers of depth to the story. Ireland’s own Ruth Negga on the back of her first Oscar nomination appears during an interval on Mars. Negga’s Helen is a similar character to Roy except for the way she’s able to control her sadness. It’s disappointing that Negga is only in one segment of the film, but it’s clear as day that the Irish native is a genuine star.

Donald Sutherland plays Colonel McBride, a veteran astronaut who serves as a reminder of the relationship that Roy could have had with his father. Sutherland is seldom seen on screen these days. Yet even in the latter stages of his career the actor gives a performance of a man who never left his prime. Tommy Lee Jones as Roy’s father is a character who is talked about more than actually seen. Following nearly the entirety of the film building up to his arrival it easily could have fallen flat. Jones knocks his performance out of the park, giving his best performance since No Country for Old Men. The payoff to the father-son relationship will have everyone in the theatre wanting to give their dad a hug when they arrive home. After all it’s the relationship we have with our parents that impact us the most as people.

James Gray is no stranger to ambitious films. His last feature, The Lost City of Z, took audiences on a journey through the Amazon. A journey which showed that Gray is not interested in taking the easy route. With Ad Astra Gray wants the audience to feel as if they themselves are going on an intergalactic quest. The direction of the film is brilliant. Never before has a space film felt this real. It would not be surprising to learn that he and Pitt went to space for a few months to film.  Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema treats the world to some of the most beautiful images of space to ever grace the screen. As a large portion of the film is spent solely with Roy traveling through space, there was a high chance that the film could have felt lifeless. However, the score from Max Richter is perfection. It almost feels as if the music is a character of its own. If you have no interest in seeing the film do yourself a favour and buy the soundtrack. Gray also makes the wise decision of not filling his film with unnecessary sentimentality. Interstellar would have been a perfect film if the plot wasn’t bogged down by a forced love story. Instead Gray leaves details of the romantic past between Roy and Eve (Liv Tyler) to our imagination. In an age where studio films suggest that the only way to be a man is to fight your way through every battle, Gray gives a healthy account of what masculinity should be. Gray wants the world to know that a hero does not have to be an emotionless machine who generates random quips. It’s okay for men to feel emotion. If anything, it makes you more of a man. 

Ad Astra is the film equivalent of a solar eclipse. A film of this quality may only arrive every couple of years; when it does arrive it truly is special. The performances, direction, score, cinematography, themes, and impact all fit together perfectly to make the finest film of the year. For all those times you looked up to the stars as a kid and wondered “what if I made it up there?”, Ad Astra gives you the answer. Many will write off the film for being slow, yet that is what the world needs right now. With all the horrors and monstrosities happening around us. Perhaps, it’s time to stop and reflect. Ask ourselves why are we allowing the world to be this way.  It’s time for change. Ad Astra is a sign of an important change in the industry. It’s about time. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

122′ 55″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Ad Astra is released 20th September 2019

Ad Astra – Official Website

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The IFI Documentary Festival Roundtable Podcast

L-R Paul Webster, Peter Kilmartin, Nodlag Houlihan

 

Ahead of the 2019 IFI Documentary Festival (25-29 September) Gemma Creagh talks to three filmmakers whose films feature in the Shorts Programme, which takes place on the 28th September. Nodlag Houlihan (Reality Baby ), Paul Webster (The Vasectomy Doctor ) and Peter Kilmartin (Sunny Side Up) join Gemma to talk about their films and what it takes to put together a documentary.

Reality Baby (Nodlag Houlihan)

A group of friends are given lifelike baby dolls to care for over twenty four hours, but how will they rise to the challenges of teenage motherhood?

The Vasectomy Doctor (Paul Webster)

Dr Andrew Rynne was the first doctor to perform vasectomies in Ireland, estimating that he has performed over 35,000. Persevering in the face of opposition from the Church and State in Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s, Dr Rynne continued to challenge the laws governing sexuality, eventually forcing the government to change policy.

Sunny Side Up (Peter Kilmartin)

 

Peter Pringle and Sunny Jacobs both served years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. After being exonerated, what are the chances they both met and fell in love?

The 2019 IFI Documentary Festival Shorts Programme takes place on Saturday, 28th September 2019 at 13.30

Tickets

 

Filmmakers’ Bios

Nodlag Houlihan is an Irish film director, producer and writer. Her short documentary Reality Baby premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and won Best Documentary at the Fastnet Film Festival 2019. She is the writer and producer of the RTE series My Trans Life (2018), nominated for the prestigious Prix Europa and the MIPCOM Diversity Award. She produced the feature documentary Broken Song and a number of Screen Ireland funded short films which have played at festivals around the world and won many prizes. Nodlag also teaches filmmaking at the School of Creative Arts, Trinity College Dublin and has facilitated numerous film projects for young people. She is currently working on The Francis St Photographer, an hour-long documentary for RTE about the work of Dublin photographer John Walsh.

www.zuccafilms.ie

Paul Webster is an award-winning producer, writer and director. He is a graduate of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and the MA program in Production and Direction at the John Huston School of Film and Media in Galway.  He went on to work in production for Element Pictures and later as a script editor on Fair City, he is now a regular writer on the popular soap. Paul was the winner of the Físín Pitching Award at the Dingle International Film Festival 2012 from which his film Stuama received its funding. He directed the drama which won Best Irish Film at The Cork Underground Film Festival 2013. Let Those Blues InPaul’s documentary about Irish Blues musician, Paddy Smith, was the winner of Best Short Documentary in association with RTE at The Sky Road Film Festival, Clifden, Co. Galway. He was one of the filmmakers chosen by Science Foundation Ireland and The Galway Film Centre as part of their Science On Screen documentary scheme. Written and directed by Paul, Mending Legends goes behind the scenes of Irish sport to explore the unseen drama caused by injuries for our top athletes. It screened on Tg4 in Autumn 2017 and was the third most-watched independent production for that year. Paul co-directed Borderland, a 26-minute documentary exploring the refugee crisis along Europe’s Borders. Under the 2018 Real Shorts scheme, Paul received €20,000 from the Irish Film Board for his docu-drama The Vasectomy Doctor, produced by Carbonated Comet Productions. The film premiered at the Cork Film Festival in November 2018 and went on to win the Audience Award for Best Short at the Dingle International Film Festival 2019, Best Short Film at The Still Voices Short Film Festival and Best Short Documentary at The Louth Film Festival.

Peter Kilmartin is from the Wild Wild West of county Roscommon in Ireland and is a recent graduate from the National Film School of Ireland . He has an avid interest in documentary filmmaking, alongside this he also runs his own successful award winning production company, Spicy Dog Media. This year he directed his debut short The Sunny Side Up, a short documentary about two exonerated prisoners finding love, hope and acceptance in each other.

www.facebook.com/spicydogmedia

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Bruno

Seán Crosson takes in Karl Golden’s Bruno, which follows an Irish homeless man who has drifted into a life on the streets of London.

Homelessness has been among the most prominent social challenges in recent years in Ireland, an issue the current administration has singularly failed to respond to effectively with the number of people classified as homeless crossing the 10,000 mark in recent months. This topic has already been addressed in Irish cinema, including Darragh Byrne’s Parked (2011) and more recently Paddy Breathnach’s and Roddy Doyle’s damning indictment of Irish society and the government’s response to homelessness, Rosie (2018). Karl Golden’s Bruno provides a further development to this theme by focusing on an Irish homeless man living in London, a city to which tens of thousands of Irish people have emigrated (with a considerable number there also ending on the streets). In his post screening Q&A, Golden talked about the background to Bruno as being inspired from his time living in London and encountering homeless people. The production provides a fictionalised and imaginative exploration of what might have happened in the life of one individual he witnessed to lead to their homelessness, as told through the story of Daniel, the central protagonist, brilliantly played by Diarmaid Murtagh.

We encounter Daniel first living with his dog Bruno in a garage lock-up from which he is evicted shortly thereafter. While seeking other accommodation, he witnesses a group of men trashing a local playground, with which we discover later he has a traumatic connection. When Daniel intervenes, he suffers a severe beating and ends up in hospital, losing his dog Bruno along the way. When he returns to the playground in an attempt to find Bruno, he encounters a young run-away boy called Izzy sleeping there. When Izzy insists on following Daniel around the city and helping him find Bruno, Daniel is forced to come to terms with a horrific moment of personal loss in his life. 

Woody Norman as Izzy provides the heart of the film and Norman’s revelatory and complex performance belies his young years – he was only nine when the film was shot. Izzy offers a focus for Daniel in coming to terms with his own deep trauma and eventually a way to reconnect with society and his family. 

The film is impressively shot by Jalaludin Trautmann, whose mostly handheld cinematography perfectly complements Daniel’s inner turmoil. As one audience member at the Galway premiere remarked, London, in all its greyness and glory, has rarely been captured as effectively on film. Golden reflected on the filming process following the Galway screening and described the process as almost guerrilla in nature – given the shoe-string budget available and the lack of permissions for some sequences (shot clandestinely).  

Bruno is marked often by a lack of dialogue or communication; indeed Daniel hardly speaks throughout the entire film (until forced to do so), but yet in his gait and expression he communicates a deeper trauma, only revealed much later in the work. While homelessness may be prominently featured here, Bruno is above all a moving and sensitively told excavation of personal loss.

Seán Crosson

Bruno screened 12th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

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