ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: The Farthest

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Jonathan Victory voyages to The Farthest, Emer Reynolds’ documentary on NASA’s Voyager mission.

Winning the Audience Award at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival this year says a lot about The Farthest. Many films were well-received at the festival, yet a science documentary is one that left the biggest impact on the audience. This is not only because of the mind-blowing implications of its subject matter; the story of the farthest man-made object from Earth. The assured direction of Emer Reynolds (http://filmireland.net/2017/02/19/podcast-interview-with-emer-reynolds-director-of-the-farthest/ ) presented the story with cinematic presence. When documentaries feature impressive visuals such as those here, it commands its place on the big screen.

The Farthest tells the story of the two Voyager spacecrafts, launched into space by NASA in 1977 and currently leaving the outer boundaries of our solar system. In marking the 40th anniversary, The Farthest gathers an impressive assortment of interviews from people closely involved in the Voyager program. The purpose of the project was to send two spacecraft on a reconnaissance mission of the solar system’s planets, transmitting new discoveries back to Earth before leaving the solar system and hurtling off into interstellar space forever. If not strictly “forever”, the spacecraft were designed to last for billions of years and could potentially outlast planet Earth itself and be the only trace that we ever existed.

Not one to miss the bigger picture, Carl Sagan realised the Voyager program had an entirely unique but time-sensitive opportunity; sending a time capsule of Earth’s civilisation into space. With only months to go before the launch, Sagan received NASA’s blessing to lead a team producing a Golden Record that would be stored onboard with visual instructions on how to play it. It is virtually impossible that Voyager will ever be intercepted by an alien civilisation but IF one discovers it, they could transfer frequencies on the record onto a screen and see 115 images of Earth. They would also hear a selection of the Earth’s noises and human languages as well as a 90-minute selection of music from across the world’s cultures. It is worth listening to the record’s contents online and reflecting on humanity’s presentation of itself in the 1970s.

Since the chances of its discovery by extra-terrestrials are miniscule, the Voyager Golden Record is primarily a statement for ourselves; a reflection of our higher values and an invaluable thought experiment on how we would present ourselves to a galaxy many have yearned to explore. It was created during a very specific sliver of time in the 1970s; the threat of environmental destruction loomed, the threat of nuclear holocaust persisted. The world was being torn in all sorts of directions amid an unprecedented technology boom yet it was beginning to be perceived as a global community facing common responsibilities. Sending a message in a bottle to outer space was a bold statement for the time, suggesting a species optimistic enough that it would triumph over its problems.

So fascinating are the implications of the Golden Record that it often gets the most focus over Voyager’s scientific team and their amazing discoveries about our solar system. Emer Reynolds weaves these threads together, each given equal weight to the Voyager’s physical journey of mind-blowing proportions and to the stories of the people who worked on this incredible project. Candour is drawn from a diverse range of people involved in this project and distilled into a two-hour running time packed full of information presented with clarity and momentum.

The thrill of discovery that scientists felt about each planet is conveyed with great impact. The long stretches of travel between planets are when the focus shifts to broader issues at play or the contents of the Golden Record, whose selection could justify a documentary of its own. This narrative structure allows The Farthest to take a broader view of the project and build chronologically towards the stunning realisation that objects made by human hands are now outside of our solar system.

As incredible as this story is, a lesser director would not have made the subject come alive as a cinematic experience. Emer Reynolds crafts a strong audio-visual sensibility to The Farthest. A soundscape of radio frequency noises and an eclectic soundtrack engage the viewer. Ray Harman’s poignant compositions complement music taken from the Voyager Golden Record’s collection. Other licensed tracks, apart from the closing song, all come from 1977 or earlier, grounding the film’s vibe in the era during which Voyager left Earth never to return. This imbues the Voyager with a character insofar as it can be but the visual sensibility on display here is anything but dated.

Opening shots of the sky are beautifully sharp compositions by cinematographer Kate McCullough. That McCullough has worked primarily in documentary before illustrates that strong visuals needn’t be absent from the form of documentary nor should they be. Visual effects are refreshingly alternated between CG shots of Voyager in space and close-up footage of paints, chemicals and dyes mixing together in fabulous galactic tableaus. The latter technique was pioneered by Douglas Trumbull for stunning sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Tree of Life.

A particularly jaw-dropping visual accompanies the approach to each planet by showing the actual approach to each planet. Black-and-white photos from Voyager during their long approach towards planets are edited into an enthralling montage as each grey world looms out of the immense darkness. There are so many surprises from Voyager’s images and from rich archive footage precisely selected to build the story’s momentum.

This is all edited together into a superb cinematic experience and one with a far more global consciousness than any Irish film to date. The cosmic perspective it instils makes threats to the environment seem inexcusably reckless and national boundaries seem petty. It also makes space exploration seem daunting yet utterly captivating for its possibilities. The Farthest has a profound impact on viewers such that it would make them appreciate these words of Carl Sagan, “How lucky we are to live in this time, the first moment in human history, where we are in fact visiting other worlds”.

The Farthest screened on Sunday 26th February 2017 at the Savoy as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

 

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: Notes on Rave in Dublin

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Kenny Hanlon gets his tracksuit on for James Redmond’s documentary on 30+ years of Dublin rave and club culture.

When examining the history of modern-day club culture, one will often find minorities and those on the fringes of society to be at the epicentre of many of the most notable and important parties and spaces, from New York’s The Loft, Chicago’s Muzik Box, right through to the most famous modern techno club, Berlin’s Berghain.

So it should possibly come as no surprise that a club called Flikkers, based out of the LGBT community centre, Hirschfield Centre in Temple Bar, is what Notes on Rave in Dublin marks as year zero in the city’s own clubbing history. Yet compared with many well-worn anecdotes of formative clubs such as Sides and The Ormonde Civic Centre – both of which feature heavily – Flikkers is a lesser told story, and its inclusion is one of the prime examples as to why this debut feature documentary by James Redmond, that premiered recently at the Dublin International Film Festival, is justified in being made. Up until now, there has been no such film documenting Dublin’s some 30 year history of – underground – clubbing.

Seen through the eyes of Djs, promoters and dancers, the film attempts to weave a narrative from the early days of Flikkers in the late ’80s, to the increasingly splintered nightlife of the late ’90s through to the illegal raves that took place in and around the city in the early to mid ’00s.

The film is at its most involving and coherent as it traverses those emerging years featuring the aforementioned clubs, amongst others. With standout contributions from DJs (and national treasure) Tonie Walsh and Liam Dollard, it isn’t all just tired cliches and one can properly sense the thrills and wonderment of the dawning of what would end up being a huge cultural – and eventually, commercial – movement. It isn’t all sweaty hugs though, with the Hirschfield centre being closed due to a fire that was possibly the result of an attack emanating from a still conservative, homophobic society.

Indeed, it’s how clubbing collides with an outside world that doesn’t know what to make of it that gives the film some of its best and most incisive moments. Be it the bizarro world raves in the Mansion House, and the Gardai’s – positive – reaction to a room full of pilled-up youngsters from all walks of life, or gangs starting to infiltrate clubs such as The Asylum and the resulting, heavy handed reaction from the Courts, we are reflecting on a generation as they clash head on with a country that is still in the throes of conservatism and the catholic church. The glint in the eye from the likes of DJ and promoter Francois Pitton as he regales similar stories lends the story humour and a broader appeal for those who weren’t there to witness these happenings at the time.

The film, unfortunately, becomes unstuck in the second half as it both veers away from talking directly about the clubs – moving on to the record shops, radio stations and music production that resulted from this first wave of clubbing – while also tries to keep track of an ever disparate club scene. The casual viewer would find it hard to keep track of who everyone is and what their part was in everything or how important it is and, for example the story of Power FM, Dublin’s most well known pirate station of the time, is probably best suited to its own film. There is still much of note to take in; the commercialisation of the culture, the big drinks branding which, due to the current state of clubbing, are still highly relevant topics. The innocence and, without sounding too twee, purity was gone and, for some of those interviewed, gone forever.

The illegal raves that the film ends on shows that some of those featured were more talking about the end of their own youth than anything else. The art of dancing in a darkened room all night is, for many, a pursuit of youth and it is still an important part of the fabric of Dublin city. One can make the argument that the fragmentation of the parties that is looked upon with regret in the film has helped to formulate a current environment that is positive in its disparity.

Dublin will never be associated with any defining sound compared with cities like Detroit or Berlin, making its history and narrative that little bit harder to gather under easily consumed sound bites, but Notes on Rave in Dublin is a solid – and at times fascinating – start.

Kenny Hanlon

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Notes on Rave in Dublin screened on Friday, 24th February 2017 and Sunday 26th February 2017 at the Light House Cinema as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: Maudie

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Niall McArdle looks into the frames of Aisling Walsh’s Maudie.

What is the most important thing for a painter? After all the arguments about colours and symbolism and composition have ended, what’s left is what the artist has included in a painting and what has been left out. In other words, the borders of the canvas are perhaps the most important parts. I say perhaps because painting long ago abandoned representation, and the exact position of a splotch of colour on a canvas is arguably unimportant. In film, however, framing and composition still matter and are vital clues to the filmmaker’s intent.

It is heartening, therefore, to see a biopic of a painter that pays close attention to the frame, for frames were of paramount important to Maud Lewis, the Canadian folk artist, and the subject of Aisling Walsh’s superbly crafted, marvellously acted, moving Maudie. Living for all her life in a tiny fishing village in Nova Scotia, Maud Dowley suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis from an early age, which makes her seemingly unfit for work or marriage. Limping, bent, shuffling Maud has a fierce will, however, and so when she sees an opportunity to work as a housekeeper and cook for Everett Lewis, a gruff local fish peddler, she seizes it.

Everett’s tiny shack is a dismal place, and Maud begins painting the walls to brighten it up, much to Everett’s anger. Then again, he is furious at her for almost every little thing and given to violent outbursts. Maud paints Christmas cards and helps Everett with his rounds (she’s better at keeping track of business than he is – one of the strong aspects of the script is it’s never explicit how illiterate Everett is). When one of his customers offers to buy one of Maud’s paintings, Everett’s resentment is clear, but five bucks is five bucks. Later she’ll become famous – another source of bitterness for a man who doesn’t much care for people tramping outside his house.

The two fall into a routine. He sells fish and does odd jobs, she keeps house and paints, and is happiest painting by the window because a window is “the whole world framed.” They share a bed only because the alternative is for her to sleep on the floor. Several weeks after moving in with him, they marry. Maudie is a love story with a moving narrative arc covering several decades, with a heartbreaking secret at its centre.

Maudie is an intimate, almost claustrophobic film. Many of the scenes are interior, yet it never feels stagey or a cheap television production that somehow wound up in cinema. Walsh frames her actors under low slanted ceilings and in small doorways (including one shot of Everett that seems a deliberate echo of John Ford’s ending of The Searchers). By the film’s end, there isn’t a surface in the Lewis house that isn’t painted with bright, colourful scenes.

There is much to admire in the film’s look and feel, but it is the performances that will stick with the viewer. As Maud, Sally Hawkins gives an outstanding physical performance matched by a quiet resolve and a somewhat mischievous sense of humour. She’s in almost every scene and it’s easy to see why there is already awards buzz for her performance: she doesn’t demand sympathy or take the role as an excuse for some damp-eyed Oscar baiting, yet she’s unforgettable.

Ethan Hawke brings intensity of a different sort to the taciturn Everett. The impoverished rural working-class male is a character that the cinema has all but forgotten or doesn’t know how to represent, but Hawke has captured something authentic here (even if his Maritimes accent roams a fair bit). He mumbles and grunts a lot. When he speaks, it’s in short declarative statements, mostly to complain. Physically, he retreats into himself. This is a performance worlds away from the Hawke we’re accustomed to seeing. Even his button eyes, usually so bright, have dimmed.

Maudie is a quiet triumph for Aisling Walsh, and for Irish cinema. The Irish-Canadian co-production was the gala presentation on the opening night of the Audi Dublin Film Festival, and when this fantastic film is on release in Irish cinemas, be sure to see it as it is undoubtedly one of the year’s best Irish films. Bring tissues.

 

Maudie screened on Thursday, 16th February 2017 at Savoy 1 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival

 

 

 

 

 

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: The 4th Act

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Gordon Brennan views Turlough O’Kelly’s story of the €1bn regeneration of Ballymun. 

 

The 4th Act tells the story of the €1bn regeneration of Ballymun, the well known high-rise working-class community on the northside of Dublin, through the eyes of the community itself by drawing on several hours of local and personally archived footage collated over the past thirty years. Directed by Turlough O’Kelly, the film explores themes of loss, community, hope and defiance as the residents of Ballymun watch their familiar landscape and way of living vanish over the course of two decades.

Being a lifelong northside resident, I was somewhat familiar with the subject matter. Having said that, I was unaware of the modus operandi of the government bodies involved. I was curious as to how the operation was carried out, where the funding came from, and what the social and economic situation was within the confines of the community at the time.

The intention of the documentary it feels, is to illuminate and expose the injustices of the Ballymun rehousing project as inflicted by a government backed organisation in Ballymun Regeneration Limited. Throughout the film the audience is repeatedly exposed to testimony from government appointed B.R.L. members and aggrieved Ballymun community leaders alike. These interviews are juxtaposed with images of abandoned tower blocks and the same buildings being abruptly demolished. The film’s score is made up of a series of spooky sounding, and often harrowing sections of ghoulish synthesizers, in what feels like an attempt to lend an evil or at least eerie atmosphere to the on-screen proceedings.

After watching The 4th Act, I felt better informed about the rehousing project but it would be unfair to say that it altered my opinion of the operation. This is mostly due to the fact that I could not help but shake the feeling of being presented information that was almost entirely biased towards the Ballymun residents.

Documentaries by definition are the creative treatment of actuality. In this case it would appear that the the creators have treated it as a means to take aim at a government body that existed with the singular purpose of finding better homes for a community of people that had previously felt alienated and mistreated. At no point did it feel as though Ballymun Regeneration Limited failed to live up to their end of the bargain. The residents of the tower buildings were re-homed into modern and urban dwellings conveniently located across the road. And all at the same price; entirely free. Paid for with government money originally sourced from the salaries and wages of hard-working Irish citizens who strive to live in privately funded domiciles. For this reason it was difficult to sympathize with the residents’ circumstances and the efforts of the filmmakers alike.

The film’s opening title delivers us with the Dublin City Council motto; “Obedientia Civium Urbis Felicitas” which is translated to ‘’Happy is the city whose citizens obey’’. Honestly, this felt like a rather lazy attempt to villainize the efforts of a public body who had clearly strived to deliver the citizens of Ballymun with better suited living facilities. Also, quite annoyingly, the film never offers any sort of explanation for its cryptic title. To be honest, there is nothing earth-shattering about the revelations uncovered in this supposedly expository piece of film. The greatest crime committed by the BRL it would seem, is the lack of funding it contributed to an oral history project of the community. The filmmakers seemingly regard this as a despotic attempt to wipe the existence of the Ballymun community from memory by dismantling the indigenous narrative. Instead of instilling the audience with a taste of what this narrative was or could have been, the filmmakers have opted in its stead to vilify the public bodies tasked with the unenviable job of re-housing the community members.

If anything, The 4th Act serves only to further muddy the waters of what was undoubtedly a difficult transition.

The 4th Act screened Sat 25th Feb 2017 at Cineworld and Sun 26th Feb 2017 at the Light House Cinema as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: Unless

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Sarah Cullen looks at Alan Gilsenan’s Canadian/Irish co-production Unless, which screened at the 2017 Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Reta Winters (Catherine Keener) lives a contented life as a translator and author in the suburbs of Canada, with her three daughters and loving husband Tom (Matt Craven). That is, until one day her eldest daughter Norah (Hannah Gross) drops out of university and is found living on the streets of Toronto. Refusing to talk, Norah spends much of her day sitting in front of a large discount retail outlet, sporting a cardboard sign with the word single word “Goodness” where those passing by can see. Reta and Tom initially try to convince Norah to return home with them, but once they realise this attempt is futile, they do their best to support Norah in her unusual choice.

Told from the point of view of Reta, Unless is based upon the final novel from Pulitzer-winner Carol Shields. Keener is extremely relatable as the moral and emotional core of the film. Opening as the film does with an up-close, unvarnished shot of Reta checking her breast for lumps (perhaps a nod towards Shields herself, who died of breast cancer shortly after she published her final novel), Unless considers the experiences of motherhood in middle age.  Helmed by Irish director Alan Gilsenan, Torontos’s snow-scape provides both an element of chilly foreboding and a crisp beauty to the proceedings.

Unless works best as a commentary on the modern view of women’s writing which is, in many ways, still relegated to a less worthy sphere in the world of literature. Benjamin Ayres and Brendan Coyle are wonderfully hateable as Reta’s clueless new editor Arthur Springer and an intrusive journalist respectively, both of whom ignore Reta’s actual literary output in favour of gossip and scandal from her private life. After all, “It’s your inner life that comes out in your writing,” Springer helpfully informs Reta after inviting himself to dinner at her house.

Norah’s story is at its most compelling when she remains the enigmatic, silent cipher at the periphery of her own story. Doing so, Norah resists the many readings of her actions that both her family and the wider community try to inscribe on her. Is this just a phase, part of a lifestyle choice? Is she rebelling? Incompetent? Protesting? Hiding? Norah’s silence enables her to avoid being tied down to a single explanation, much in the way her Goodness sign rejects any definitive readings.

Unfortunately, however, this requires Norah (and by extension, Hannah Gross) to be the silent cipher at the periphery of her own story. The film’s self-awareness at the troubling nature of yet another heroine whose story is told through the interpretation of other, often masculine, voices, does not quite make up for this issue either. Furthermore, the film’s ultimate explanation for Norah’s homelessness creates far more problems for the narrative than it solves, and undermines much of the goodwill that the film had garnered up to that point.  At the risk of giving too much away, the eleventh hour reveal of a (far more interesting) character, who is key to the movie’s action, puts into question what the focus of the movie should have been. Gilsenan’s profound words during the Q and A afterwards, that “Homelessness isn’t an existential state,” get muffled somewhat in the film. As it goes, the conclusion to Unless is too cut-and-dry to offer any lasting commentary regarding homeless issues.

 

Unless screened Wednesday, 22nd February 2017 at 8:50pm at the Light House Cinema as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. 

 

 

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: Photo City

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Liam Hanlon looks through the lens at John Murphy and Traolach Ó Murchú’s Photo City, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Photo City is a new documentary by John Murphy and Traolach Ó Murchú, which was selected to feature at ADIFF 2017 as part of the Reel Art scheme. This documentary explores the concept of photography, especially its influence in the town of Rochester, New York. Home to Kodak, Rochester is “the image capital of the world” and Photo City closely examines how photography has shaped the lives of Rochester natives, as well as the negative influence of Kodak’s eventual decline as photography entered the digital age.

Murphy and Ó Murchú benefit from using multiple Rochester natives to discuss their personal relationship with photography, including a man using photography to capture his wife’s life with cancer, to an underprivileged teenager awarded a college scholarship with the assistance of community photography classes. Each participant has their own respective personal story to tell and they all share in the fact that each story is related to photography and how living in Rochester has formed that photography-related story. These stories become pivotal to the success of the documentary and contribute to a charming and poignant overall message.

It isn’t as simple as pressing a button and an image is captured; these individuals are obsessed with an art form that has captured the imagination of the Rochester population. The decline of Kodak is established as a main narrative feature, but becomes more and more irrelevant as the documentary progresses. This is due to the expertly-chosen individuals that grace the screen throughout Photo City’s running time. Photography is about the people who capture images and dedicate their lives to it, which is evident from those featured in the documentary. There are juxtapositions between older and younger participants using different photography devices, yet their passion for the medium is shared.

Kodak’s downfall in Rochester led to economic decline, which is highlighted in the documentary, but the directors have to be commended for not choosing to not solely explore Kodak. It’s reminiscent of Michael Moore’s Roger & Me, with the closure of General Motors plants in Flint, Michigan, but the two documentaries about two specific American cities are vastly different. Photo City’s overall tone is more positive, despite some of the participant’s backgrounds, and it offers more hope. Especially the female participant who suffered from domestic violence and homelessness, yet persevered and married another participant. Both are photography-obsessed and it was touching to see people progress in their lives despite setbacks. There is a sense of positivity in the Rochester air, in spite of the turbulent economic atmosphere, and Photo City beautifully captures that.

A special mention has to be awarded to Photo City’s director of photography Keith Walsh for portraying Rochester in an optimistic light, notably the final sequence involving a community photography event featuring the Kodak tower. The only minor negative of the documentary is that some participants don’t have the same effect as others who deserve more screen time, but it does highlight how far-reaching photography is in Rochester.

Overall, Photo City is an effective and fascinating documentary which deserved its Reel Art submission. Murphy and Ó Murchú treated Rochester and its residents with respect and Photo City is the perfect way to document that respect.

 

Photo City screened Tuesday, 21st February 2017 at 6pm at the Irish Film Institute as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. 

 

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: Tomato Red

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Cathy Butler takes a look at Juanita Wilson’s Tomato Red, which screened at this year’ s Audi Dublin International Film Festival and is on release from 3rd March.

Sammy Barlach is released from prison, with apparently nowhere to return to. As he bounces around unforgiving, disenfranchised, remote Midwest America, he chances upon brother and sister Jamalee and Jason Merridew. Living in a trailer in the nearby town of Venus Holler, the siblings attempt to taste a better life by breaking into the homes of the wealthy, making themselves comfortable, and maybe stealing their clothes. Sammy is pleased to find a friendly face, and sets up home with the Merridews in Venus Holler.

Jason and Jamalee dream of breaking out of the deprivation they have been born into, while their more pragmatic mother Bev works as a prostitute from the house across the way. Jamalee wants what the owners of the houses she breaks into have, but just stops short of meaningful attempts to better her situation. Sammy, in love with Jamalee but spurned by her, seeks solace in her mother, and becomes quite comfortable with the domestic situation. However, his impulsive nature and his blind love for Jamalee are the undoing of any possibility of a comfortable life for him, and cause him to set out on a sharp downward spiral.

The film is entwined around two core acts of violence, which are given spare treatment, allowing their full impact to come across. The cast are given the space to make the most of each scene, which they do ably. They are captured along the way by Piers McGrail’s captivating cinematography, along with the vast and expansive scenery.

You could view the film as a social issues piece, or ignore that altogether and look at it as a tragic love story. The classism of the ostensibly “well-to-do” in this film is blatant and shocking, with the characters being called white trash to their faces, amongst other disparagements. Jamalee wants the life they have, but continues to trespass, steal, or cause a scene at a country club. Sammy, on the other hand, seems together enough to not re-offend, and clearly wants a settled, quiet life. His feelings for Jamalee, however, ultimately bring him back into that world that he could have potentially escaped.

This is where the tragic love story kicks in; had he not been so besotted with Jamalee, it’s possible Sammy’s life could have gone a significantly better direction. Or maybe it wouldn’t have. Perhaps Tomato Red is both the social realist piece and the tragic romance.

 

Tomato Red screened on Saturday, 25th Feb 2017 at 8:45pm at the Light House Cinema as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. 

Tomato Red is released 3rd March 2017

 

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ADIFF 2017 Irish Film Review: In Loco Parentis

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Gemma Creagh goes back to school for Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s observational documentary that follows a year in the lives of two inspirational teachers in the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland.

Nestled in the romantic Kells landscape, Headfort School is the last remaining boarding primary-age education facility for children in Ireland. Lead by leftie headmaster and ex-pupil Dermot Dix, this 18th Century Georgian house and its grounds provide a vast rural setting for kids to both learn and play and remains a space so nostalgically wonderful it would make Enid Blyton characters seethe with jealousy over lashings of raspberry jam.

The film’s narrative is focused around the charming, eccentric teaching couple, Amanda and John Leyden and their relationship with three of their students. Warm and playful as an educator, Amanda loves the arts and has returned to teach after a hiatus brought on by health issues. While staging a play about people staging Hamlet, she dedicates her time to helping Ted, a cheeky and charismatic eleven-year-old suffering from severe dyslexia.

Meanwhile her husband, John, doles out dry, sarcastic pearls of wisdom while he manages this year’s band. The benefits of bashing out cheesy rock and Ellie Goulding covers prove to be undeniable for the kids, especially as an outlet for the shy, academic Eliza, and allows newcomer Florence a chance to finally settle in at Headfort. It’s clear from Amanda and John’s interactions with these students that teaching is the true focus of this couple’s life (well, teaching and some very pampered dogs). As John says himself, “If we don’t come here what would we do all day? Just sitting around getting more and more decrepit.”

From shooting in the dormitories at night to recording in the homes of teachers, filmmaker Neasa Ní Chianáin and her partner and co-director, David Rane, have really managed to get an all-access pass to the school. So much so, that even their own daughter, who attended Headfort as a day pupil during the two years it took them to film In Loco Parentis, features in a few of the band scenes.

While this closeness with the subjects elicits intimacy and openness in every scene, one can’t help but think that there must be some less palatable stories that hit the edit suite floor. Life in an insanely expensive boarding school filled with upper-middleclass children, ponies, loving teachers, and fiscal resources couldn’t have been all that perfect. Right? Real life isn’t all fabulous forts and rope swings. #Jealousy #RaspberryJam

If this film left you wanting more of the gorgeous Headfort landscape and heartfelt drama, then don’t worry – the In Loco Parentis team are currently in negotiations with RTÉ about extending the film into a series.

 

In Loco Parentis screened on Monday, 20th February and Thursday, 23rd February 2017 at the Light House Cinema as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

 

 

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