ADIFF Irish Film Review: Traders

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Colm Quinn exchanged punches with Traders, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

It’s tempting to call Traders an Irish Fight Club. And it wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But the truth is the stakes are much higher for the members of the trading world than they were for Fight Club’s. You weren’t allowed to talk about Fight Club. You’d be lucky to even get the chance to talk about trading.

And while Fight Club was about the emptiness and lack of fulfilment gained from rampant consumerism, Traders is about when the force behind that consumerism, rampant capitalism, goes wrong.

In the lead role is Love/Hate’s Killian Scott, playing Harry Fox. Supporting him as Vernon Stynes is Game of Thrones’ John Bradley. When their financial company goes bust after losing €13bn, the guys are out of jobs and anyone associated with their former company is considered toxically unemployable. Harry takes a job in data entry for nowhere near the money he needs to cover his mortgage repayments. Vernon, on the other hand, decides to start a business.

Vernon is full of stats, facts and figures including the depressing one that leads him to his new business idea. For every 1% the economy loses there’s a 0.8% increase in suicide.

After failing to get a web design company off the ground he comes up with the much darker idea of trading. Using the deep web, he creates a site where two Traders can connect. They agree to sell all their possessions and convert all money into cash. They then meet in a pub and from there head to a secluded spot where they dig a grave. Once that’s done, they fight to the death and whoever’s left breathing buries the other and goes home with all the cash. Vernon markets trading as better than killing yourself.

The story is tense and gripping and always keeps you guessing. You want to know what will happen in the end. Unfortunately, without spoiling anything, the film descends into farce towards the end. This got laughs from the audience at the Dublin premiere duringc but it wasn’t the best way to end things.

Bradley steals the show in his portrayal of Vernon. Most people know him from Game of Thrones where he plays the pleasant, honourable and ever-loyal Samwell Tarly. He is completely different in Traders. He is a weasel, a snake and bloody brilliant.

Killian Scott, along with starring in the lead role, also narrates. Narration is something that should only be in films if the makers are sure it adds something or that they can’t do without it. In Traders it adds nothing and they could have done without it.

Although it’s a serious film there are some funny parts and in particular, some fantastic one-liners. Another thing the writers and directors Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy did very well is pick the right locations. They reflect a depressing time in Irish history but look good and are great places for death fights. Traders go for fights in ghost estates, abandoned buildings and disused quarries. This is a film inspired by the crash and the desperation it caused, and is still causing, in some people even 8 years later.

All in all, Traders is a good film and one which could have broad appeal. Even though this is in English, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see an American remake within a few years.

 

Traders screened on 2oth February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (18 – 28 February)

 

 

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Interview: Aodh Ó Coileáin, director of ‘Fís Na Fuiseoige’

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Sean Finnan talks to filmmaker Aodh Ó Coileáin about his documentary, which explores the connection between people and place, as expressed in Irish poetry and local lore.

Fís Na Fuiseoige screens at the Light House Cinema on Wednesday, 24th February 2016 at 6:15PM as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 

 

Where did the idea of the documentary come from?

Well, the company Counterpoint Films was contemplating a film on sense of place. When I became involved, in March 2013, the canvas was extremely wide. We were looking at English language short stories, English language drama, English language poetry, Irish language poetry. After a number of processes we decided to place the focus on the literary tradition on this island, which is poetry through the medium of the Irish language, in that it can be traced right back to the early centuries – the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries; the monks writing poetry in places like Skellig and Glendalough. Of course the tradition is intact right up to the present day, as illustrated in the film, with some of our most brilliant Irish language poets… or just poets full stop. Paddy Bushe, Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Biddy Jenkinson, Jackie Mac Donncha and Louis de Paor.

At the start of the film you quote lines from the first century AD Irish poet Aimhirgin, who names the place before he steps foot on it. That idea that poets have the power to create a sense of identity with the landscape.

Yes. West Limerick poet Michael Hartnett said that the very act of poetry is a rebel act. And this idea of naming Patrick Kavanagh called the “love act”. There is a strong tradition of naming places in Ireland, like Úirchill an Chreagáin and Sliabh Geal gCua na Féile, and these place names being used in poetry as if to validate a place in the poet’s head.

It reminded me of Yeats and how he uses Irish language place names. These Irish words have a magic around them, whereas the English feels flat. Because of their authenticity they bring something else to his poetry.

I think the very sound of the words were attractive to Yeats. Also, he had a certain appreciation of the history and lore and poetry in itself attached to these place names. They had value in their own right to be included in their Irish form. Louis de Paor mentions in the film that the translation of these places was a translation into gibberish. That Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Tipperary have no meaning. They are Anglicisations of the Irish place name and that the project of the coloniser was to separate the people from the place by calling the place something else.

That runs through the whole documentary, that fracturing, that loss of identity. That it was the biggest act of  dispossession. Even more than the taking of the land physically was the taking of the identification of the land.

That is the central theme in the film. If you take John Montague’s poem A Lost Tradition, he speaks of:

All around, shards of a lost tradition:
From the Rough Field I went to school
In the Glen of the Hazels. Close by
Was the bishopric of the Golden Stone;
The cairn of Carleton’s homesick poem.

He goes on to say, and Professor Declan Kiberd quotes it in the film, that:

The whole landscape a manuscript
We had lost the skill to read,
A part of our past disinherited;
But fumbled, like a blind man,
Along the fingertips of instinct

and if these codes, this ability to read the landscape, was taken from the people then it wouldn’t be so difficult to control the people or to colonise the people.

The film takes on a further significance in the fact that we’re in the centenary of 1916.

When one considers that from 1890 onwards that there was a cultural revolution in the country and that it was people like Patrick Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, Joseph Plunkett and James Connolly, who were all poets. 4 out of 7 of the leaders of the Rising were poets. Much of their project was to retake or re-seize Ireland’s cultural heritage and to promote it. By the end of the day, of course, by 1915 and the following year they realise that they needed an armed uprising as well as a cultural uprising.

This film re-ascertains the Irish people’s connection with the land, the Irish people’s love of the land, and why these men thought it was worth going out and doing what they did… because what they did didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

And today?

The fact that we have put on the screen six very brilliant Irish language poets makes a statement in its own right – what if the field be lost; all is not lost. The tradition continues. While it is small, while maybe few enough people read the poetry in English, and even much fewer in Irish, at least it is there and these people still feel it is still worth writing in Irish.

On that point, I should mention that the support we got from TG4 and the BAI shows that there are still idealistic people around who believe in films like this because they are intrinsically good and are therefore worth making. That, in its own right, 100 years after the Rising, is evidence that the importance of the cultural is still very much alive in Ireland. 

Fís Na Fuiseoige screens at the Light House Cinema on Wednesday, 24th February 2016 at 6:15PM 

The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 

 

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Interview: Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future’

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Johnny Gogan’s new documentary Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future, traces Kilkenny essayist Hubert Butler’s journey through Stalinist Russia of the early 1930s, through pre­war Vienna, where he worked to smuggle Jews into Ireland, to his exposure of the hidden genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in World War2.

Using recently declassified documents, Gogan’s highly visual and expansive film explores why Butler “was fifty years ahead of his time” and “one of the great Irish writers”

Johnny Gogan told June Butler how the project came about.

 

I heard about Hubert Butler around the time he had been published in the late 1980s. I hadn’t read him. Three years ago I was in Belgrade and I attended a lecture by the poet and publisher Chris Agee. He was talking about Hubert’s writings on Archbishop Stepinac, the wartime Croatian Catholic Archbishop in Zagreb. Hubert wrote a lot about this period and about Stepinac as a central character – and he actually met Stepinac when he was subsequently imprisoned for treason and collaboration with the Ustaše regime. I was talking to Chris about this and a few lights started to go off my head.

Butler was very interested in the local world, the power of the local, and very much wary of that centralised phenomenon that you get in the western world and in big cities.  I myself have been based in North Leitrim for the last 20 years, so I kind of understood that aspect of his work. I had also touched on that in my film Mapmaker back in 2001, which is about the tensions in a border community in the years after the ceasefires. That was quite influenced by what had happened in the Balkans in the ’90s.

Hubert Butler had in many ways predicted what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s and saw the roots of its violence and the intensity of the violence in what happened in Croatia in the Second World War. You can see it for example in his essay ‘The Artukovitch File’ and in an unpublished essay I found called ‘The Trial’ – he talks about seeing how the seeds of future treason lay in what had happened in the Second World War, particularly in Croatia – and how that had been, in many ways, swept under the carpet.

He wrote exhaustively and very skilfully about that period. He was in the extraordinary position where he came in for criticism from both sides. Butler was obviously really critical of the Catholic Church’s role in the genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in Croatia during the Second World War. But he was also critical of Tito and the way the Communists were dealing with the aftermath of that. They didn’t deal with the guilt and the responsibility, the way that Germany had been confronted with it. So he writes that in 1946 I see the seeds of future treason in the way these crimes are being tried and dealt with.

And then in Ireland he’s also being criticized. He confronts Ireland at the time with what has happened in Croatia and nobody wants to hear. The State and the Church conspired to silence him. And then you have Peadar O’Donnell, one of Ireland’s foremost radicals, telling him to go easy on the Communists. Butler was a very brave, very moral, very informed man.

What I love about Butler, and what I’ve always felt strongly about, is that Ireland should have a much wider international vision for itself beyond obviously a relationship with Britain and the way we have subsumed our international vision into the EU. We hide behind the EU a lot. Butler was saying that Ireland has a role to play as a new nation, as a postcolonial nation, able to put forward a different view of the world and that was potentially shared by many other countries that got their independence and liberation around the same time. That is still very relevant. That vision he developed in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s is still very true and the kind of provincialism that Ireland was slipping  into at that time is still very true – obviously with some exceptions… but we like to think of ourselves as very cosmopolitan. But actually we are quite provincial and quite derivative in our thinking. This is why from an Irish perspective I wanted to make this film. I also found that I hadn’t read a lot or seen a lot about what he was writing about. There are sensations you have yourself but then you see someone articulate them and you just think wow.

 

Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future screens at the Light House Cinema on Monday, 22nd February 2016 at 8:30PM 

 

 

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The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 

 

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ADIFF Irish Film Review: The Truth Commissioner

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Alan Shalvey reports from Declan Recks’ The Truth Commissioner, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

The Truth Commissioner is a hard-hitting drama dealing with the dark history of Northern Ireland. Henry Stanfield (Roger Allam) stars as the title character, looking to bring justice to the families of loved ones who perished during the Troubles. Of particular interest is the case of Conor Roche, a young man killed by the IRA whose killer has remained unnamed. Threats and corruption ensue as Henry tries to unearth the identity of the murderer, and the film builds to a memorable climax.

The Truth Commissioner begins powerfully, showing the time leading up to Roche’s death, leaving a looming doubt over the audience as to who it was that pulled the trigger. What is most striking in the opening minutes is both the score and the cinematography. The minimalist approach taken by Niall Byrne for the film’s score brilliantly adds to the underlying tension that exists within the movie. This musical approach merges elegantly with the opening shots. Of particular note are the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror of the car bringing Conor to where we presume will be his death. The interesting use of religious imagery highlights the devastating effects religion had in Northern Ireland, taking decades for wounds to heal.

The movie is beautiful to look at, and also features stellar acting from the cast. Of particular note are the performances of Tom Goodman-Hill, playing Jake Marston, and Conleth Hill, whose performance as Johnny Rafferty oozes class. Goodman-Hill is arguably the star of the show however. His solid performance is central to the overall construction of the films atmosphere. Acting as the messenger between Henry and those who are threatening him should the truth come out, Jake makes it very clear to Harry the level of unwanted attention he is drawing to himself, and uses methods both fair and foul to detour him from his job.

The fleshing out of Henry’s backstory also helps add a degree of gravitas to the character, and the relationship between his daughter and Conor Roche’s sister (Simone Kirby) serves as an important motivation for his character. Having had a struggling relationship with his daughter most of his life, and being rather keen to make amends, it serves as the counterpoint to his offers from the men who want their involvement in the murder to remain unknown.

Overall, the film is a good production, with the opening period and final thirty minutes being particularly noteworthy. The writing is very solid and well crafted, and the finished product, while not being perfect, is well worth a watch. As the truth commission begins to tackle the case of Conor’s death, the tension and drama of the film reach new heights, and the scenes in which witnesses testify about Conor’s murder are arguably the best in the film. A powerful commentary on the devastation terrorist groups can leave on society, the film, despite perhaps being slightly week around the middle section, is well worth watching.

 

 

The Truth Commissioner screened on 21st February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (18 – 28 February)

 

 

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Competition: Win Tickets to ‘We Are Moving – Memories of Miss Moriarty’ @ ADIFF

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We Are Moving – Memories of Miss Moriarty is an intimate portrait of Joan Denise Moriarty, a visionary who overcame enormous odds by doggedly following her dream of bringing ballet to every corner of Ireland. A pioneer of early 20th century Irish dance, Joan Denise Moriarty dared to create a uniquely Irish form of ballet inspired by her love of nature and Irish folklore. Her life’s work has been largely overlooked since her death. A divisive figure, she was accused of fabricating her professional dance training and of misrepresenting herself as a vanguard of Irish ballet. Her personal life has also been subject to much scrutiny over the years and remains a contentious issue for those who knew her. Despite such controversies, Joan Denise Moriarty has left behind a remarkable legacy of dancers and dance lovers who may never have found ballet without her influence. This is a celebration of Joan Denise the artist, the dancer, and the woman who was best known, loathed, and loved as Miss Moriarty.

The screening is followed by a Q&A with director Claire Dix

We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to the screening at the IFI on Monday, 22nd February 2016 at 6:00PM . 

To be in with a chance of winning email filmireland@gmail.com with We Are Moving in the subject line. The winners will be announced at 5pm Sunday, 21st February. Please include a contact number in your email.

We Are Moving – Memories of Miss Moriarty was made through Reel Art, an Arts Council scheme designed to provide film artists with a unique opportunity to make highly creative, imaginative and experimental documentaries on an artistic theme.

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ADIFF Irish Film Review: Sing Street

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Ailbhe O’ Reilly sings along to John Carney’s Sing Street, which opened this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

You could be mistaken for thinking that John Carney’s latest film Sing Street is essentially pitched as High School Musical set in Dublin in the ’80s.  Not exactly the premise of a great film, but you would be wrong as the movie is a real gem.

Carney has already gotten some notice for the low budget Once and the more mainstream film Begin Again – both of which I liked, but I believe that Sing Street is his best yet. The cast of mainly unknowns – apart from the lead Cosmo’s parents played by Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy and his brother Jack Reynor (in a truly awful wig!) – rise to the task and give the film a naturalism that is rare in musicals.

The lead Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and his friend Eamon (Mark McKenna) are particularly strong as the film’s Lennon and McCarthy – with some beautiful song writing scenes that are becoming a staple in Carney’s films.

The story follows Cosmo as he is forced to move to an inner city school, Synge Street CBS, when his parents are experiencing money problems. As with all coming-of-age stories, there is of course a girl that Cosmo wants to impress, so he then naively decides to form a band with his school mates in order to woo her.

What makes Sing Street unique and gets the audience on side is that Carney doesn’t forget he is in Dublin in the ’80s, it is unpretentious and the director uses the Irish sense of humour to great effect. There are many laugh out loud moments poking fun at the decade’s style, the fickle lives of teenagers and the awkwardness of adolescent’s love lives.

The film is also more realistic than most musicals as the issues of school bullying, cruel teachers and family problems are all dealt with as part of teenage life.

The film’s soundtrack is brilliant and you will find yourself toe tapping throughout to both the original score and eighties hits.

Sing Street has a great pace and a fantastic climax that will find you leaving the cinema smiling after a truly excellent Irish film. Carney is going from strength to strength and Hollywood is beginning to take notice.

 

 

Sing Street screened on 18th February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 -28 February) 

Irish films at ADIFF

 

 

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Interview: Dave Tynan, writer/director of ‘The Cherishing’

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Steve Gunn talked to Dave Tynan about his short film The Cherishing, which is screening at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival as part of After ’16, a once-off shorts initiative to commemorate, celebrate and ruminate on 1916.

Commissioned by Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board, nine short films went into production in the summer of 2015. ADIFF is hosting the World Premieres of these nine new films.

 

Last year the Film Board said that instead of the usual short film funding scheme, they invited filmmakers to give their response to 1916.

Signatures is the normal scheme and last year’s signatures was After ’16 – it happened really fast. Obviously, I didn’t have Rising scripts lying about. The brief came out in February 2015. I went to Chapters and bought a lot of books on the subject to set things in motion. The fact that I didn’t know that much about the Rising was never going to stop me putting in for the scheme. You’ve got to make things. You are only as good as your momentum.

 

So you went off and read about 1916, wrote a script and then sent it to the Film Board, who gave you the green light. And you went and shot it.

That was basically within a year.

 

Tell us a bit about your take on the Rising.

It’s a story that hasn’t been told before. The idea for the film came from my research. I came across something that mentioned that the local sweet shops were the first to be looted when the Rising started – there was a lot of looting. I thought that was interesting.

There is a great book called Dublin Tenement Life by Kevin C. Kearns. It’s the most interesting non-fiction book I have read. It’s not an academic book. It’s interviews with survivors of the old Dublin tenements. Reading where people came from to where the Rising came into their lives was fascinating. These were hard times. Your average family might have 10 people in a room the size of a small bedroom. They were already at war. The husband could well be away fighting for the Brits in the Somme or wherever – it was a better paying job than working on the docks. Every mother lost at least one child. Mothers and kids were just left there to rot. One in three people in Dublin lived in a tenement. They became the subject of the film.

In the film, there’s a close-up of a sheep’s head boiling in a pot that I’m really happy we got in this film because that is what the diet was – dripping, stale bread and the like. So if you are used to all of that, of course, you go for the sweets.

 

It’s almost like a glorious coincidence in your life that your interest in history has met with an opportunity in film.

And very quickly because that script got written at the end of February last year. That is the quickest turnaround I’ve ever had. My previous short Rockmount took 3 years to put together from thinking about to making.

We’ve tried not to repeat ourselves from previous work. There’s not much dialogue in it. It’s trying to tell pictures. It’s made for cinemas.

 

 

The Cherishing screens as part of the  IFB After ’16 Shorts at the Light House Cinema, Sunday 21st February 2016 at 3:30PM

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The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 

Click here for a preview of Irish Film at ADIFF 2016

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Competition: Win Tickets to ‘Further Beyond’ @ ADIFF

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In Further Beyond, Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor take as their point of departure the compelling 18th Century figure, Ambrose O’Higgins, and attempt to retrace his remarkable journey from Ireland to Chile. Key locations in O’Higgins’ life – a lake in Sligo, a field in Meath, the port of Cadiz, the sea, and the edge of a snow-covered mountain in the Andes – are visited and reflected upon in the hope that something might be revealed, as if these very locations might contain clues.  Having long dreamt of making a biopic of O’Higgins, this wayward and wry documentary is the filmmakers’ attempt to realise this dream through a personal voyage into the idea of the cinematic location.  However, as they speculate on the idea of place and what O’Higgins embodies, the filmmakers continually get sidetracked by a competing story of immigration and displacement. Gradually, and not without humour, these intertwining narratives uncover ideas about the transformative powers of travelling, as looked at through the peculiar prism of the Irish experience. (Filmmakers’ statement).

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to the screening at the IFI on Friday 19th Feb 2016 at 6:00pm. 

To be in with a chance of winning email filmireland@gmail.com with Further Beyond in the subject line. The winners will be announced at 5pm Thursday, 18th February. Please include a contact number in your email.

Further Beyond was made through Reel Art, an Arts Council scheme designed to provide film artists with a unique opportunity to make highly creative, imaginative and experimental documentaries on an artistic theme.

 

Reel Art: Further Beyond (Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor) screens at IFI on Fri 19th Feb 2016 at 6:00PM

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