Northern Irish slasher film Braxton will receive its hometown premiere at this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The film plays at 8pm on Sunday 17th April at the Movie House on Dublin Road, as part of the fest’s “NI Independent” category.
Written ad directed by 21 year-old Belfast filmmaker Leo McGuigan, the film is described as “a fun throwback to the popular slasher films of the 80s and 90s”.
It was shot throughout Northern Ireland in the summer of 2014 by a then 19 year old McGuigan. The film had its US premiere in October of 2015, where it won the “Best Foreign Slasher Feature” prize at Night Film Fest in Louisville, Kentucky, one of America’s biggest horror festivals.
“We’re really pleased with the reception the film has received so far,” McGuigan, who co-produced the film alongside Margaret McGoldrick (RTE’s Farr) remarked, “and the idea of unveiling it to a homegrown audience is exciting and terrifying at the same time. The film was genuinely a labour of love in every respect, and that’ll hopefully come through on the screen.”
The film features an ensemble cast of Northern Irish talent including Shaun Blaney (RTE’s Farr, Halo: Nightfall, The Frankenstein Chronicles) and Diona Doherty (Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model) and tells the story of a serial killer, Tommy Miller, who returns to a small town on the anniversary of his initial spree, forcing the original survivor, now police officer, (Blaney) to seek him out before it’s too late.
This year’s Belfast Film Festival has offered a healthy selection of home-grown fare, with local films opening and closing proceedings. And they’ve squeezed in a star-studded gala event in the vast cavern of the Waterfront Hall for footballing feature Shooting for Socrates.
We’re fond of our image as underdogs, here in NI. We love the idea that we have to fight to get anywhere and when we’re beat we’re telling others that we tried. In that context comes the story of the 1986 Football World Cup squad from Northern Ireland – an unlikely collection of local lads making their mark, who defy expectation and find themselves in the finals and a legendary match against the unflappable Brazil.
If you’re one of us you’ll know the line before you know the story “We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland!” and you may have seen the slogan daubed over a mural or two. Even with my luddite knowledge of football I am familiar with the chant and the aspirational thrust of ‘We didn’t win the World Cup, but we got to play in the finals’. In the following 19 years this wee country has failed to replicate that near-success.
And so director James Erskine teamed up with local playwright Marie Jones to bring the tale to the big screen. Perhaps hoping for a Cool Runnings-type success, the narrative is presented as a broad comedy, gathering a group of boisterous footballers for an unlikely place on the global stage.
The audience at the premiere laughed haughtily, spurred on by the rousing on-stage prelude hosted by critic Brian Henry Martin, which saw several stars of the film, local broadcasting icon Jackie Fullerton and most of the surviving members of the 1986 Northern Irish World Cup squad hoisting aloft the actual World Cup – a privilege denied following their disastrous Mexican campaign. If one was to buy the hype of the evening, Shooting for Socrates is another smash hit. But the gathering together of so many football supporters and the first ever Irish appearance of the World Cup, the presence of some local legends, and overwhelming sense of national pride does tend to cloud judgement. Hype hides all manner of sins.
Jackie Fullerton reunited with most of the 1986 Northern Irish World Cup squad at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates.
Socrates gives us Northern Ireland in the 1980s. A desolate place, with rioting and army presence on the streets. The full force of the Troubles provides a contrast to the unification and peace of the football scenes. In this instance its unfortunate that Belfast has changed so much in the ensuing years. Some archive footage of the period is combined with contemporary scenes – scenes which lay bare the modern city – PVC doors, redeveloped streets, change murals, an empty and forlorn Harland and Wolff, a reshaped Belfast waterfront. To the outsider, fine (which of course director Erskine is), but to those of us from here, it lacks authenticity – as alien as the prospect of Northern Ireland achieving a World Cup win. Action moves between southern Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, New Mexico and Mexico. Frequent onscreen captions remind us just how confusing the action change is.
John Hannah plays Belfast-born manager Billy Bingham with Hannah’s Scottish accent. No attempt is made at veracity – he doesn’t look like or sound like him. So Bingham’s identification as a local lad throughout don’t fit (and even I as a non-football fan remember him and his strange hybrid tones and jolly appearance). One wonders if Erskine had somehow confused Bingham with Jack Charlton – the Englishman who managed the Republic of Ireland team during the same period?
The team themselves are played with a comedy shtick that wouldn’t go amiss in a lacklustre Britcom of the 1970s. When emotion threatens to step in, mirth and drinking seem to be the only solution: the sudden death of one player’s mother should offer a warm embrace, some team tenderness, instead it’s a pub session and no pay-off. There’s also two over-the-top fans who screech their way to Mexico – seemingly the only two Northern Irish fans to make the pilgrimage. Well, them and Jackie Fullerton…
Jackie Fullerton interviews Conleth Hill at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates
Conleth Hill channels Jackie Fullerton as an over-the-top, rather camp, object of ridicule. Fullerton’s presence at the screening does rather suggest he’s in on the act. But this is Fullerton as pantomime – ‘Jackie Full-of-himself’ as one wag suggests. He’s drinking, smoking, and helicopter-riding his way into every scene, becoming an intricate part of the Northern Irish propaganda wagon. Hill does steal all the laughs as the broadcaster, but the portrayal does suggest that maybe the rest of the cast needed to be more exaggerated too.
The titular Socrates, a player for Brazil, is a philosophical bundle of nonsense and good looks.
The action is confusing, particularly to those who have no knowledge of the story or of the game itself. The direction is hit and miss. The football scenes themselves lack any tension or drama. We see Bingham teaching his squad to keep the ball in play among themselves so if the Brazilians can’t get the ball, they can’t score – and yet then we see the ball being given away with ease during the actual matches – matches during which there is very little coverage of crowd extras.
In between the silliness a rather tender story is played out back in Belfast between a father (Richard Dormer) and his nine-year old son, Tommy (the promising newcomer Art Parkinson). It is a story of understanding the conflict in Northern Ireland and the power of sport, but also of growing up and family. They move through troubled East Belfast and the stark landscape of Harland and Wolff’s cranes Samson and Goliath. These sequences are superior, handled with care and attention and some fine photography. As Tommy watches the game and becomes emotionally entangled with the fate of the team, he represents us back home, and it’s here the film’s heart lies (as evidenced by use of Parkinson and Dormer on current advertising materials). But as lovely as their story and performances are, they belong to an entirely different film and are secondary to the football squad’s antics.
Women are under-represented in the film. Bronagh Gallagher gives a fine-but-brief turn as Tommy’s mother. Lorraine Sass is Billy Bingham’s wife – supporting and mentoring her husband, but a little cold. The other women barely get a line or two of dialogue each, with one Mexican football fan reduced to a position of not understanding the Northern Irish fans. It seems to be arguing a view of women in football – they don’t understand it (Bronagh Gallagher’s character can’t wait to get out of the house while her family watch it on TV, though she does save Tommy a place in a club so they can watch the final together).
Praise though for the contemporary score and soundtrack including music by Snow Patrol, Wonder Villains and A Plastic Rose. It is fresh and vibrant, giving poignancy and power which almost drive through the cracks in the film itself.
L to R: Conleth Hill, Paul Kennedy, Art Parkinson, Marie Jones, James Erskine at the Belfast premiere of Shooting for Socrates
It’s likely that those without a knowledge of football, or Northern Ireland, will really ‘get’ Shooting for Socrates. It is an indulgence in celebrating runner-up status – the team look so disappointed it becomes impossible to buy the sentiment that the joy of the game is what should be celebrated. It’s a fusion of talents and an idea of a story that ultimately don’t work. A failed attempt at embracing failure.
A poetic portrait of an enigmatic filmmaker, John T Davis; artist and musician from Holywood, County Down will screen at the Queens Film Theatre, Belfast on Thursday, 23 April 15 at 7:15pm as part of the Belfast Film Festival. Directed by Paul McParland, John T Davis – His Own Trail captures John performing his music and reflecting on his life and films.
Davis is one of Ireland’s most internationally respected documentary filmmakers, a reputation established with films such as Shellshock Rock, Route 66 and Hobo.
Born in Belfast in 1947, Davis’ first experience of filmmaking came via a chance encounter with DA Pennebaker. In 1966 the legendary filmmaker was on a Belfast street, camera on shoulder, filming Bob Dylan for the seminal documentary Don’t Look Back. This encounter was to have a profound effect on John’s life.
The film explores the director’s unique outlook on life and his talents as a musician. Interspersed throughout is footage of John travelling through America, traversing the landscape that inspires his dreams, fantasies and realities, as well as clips from a number of his documentaries.
Lensed in black and white, director Paul McParland captures John performing his music and reflecting on his life and films.
The 2014 Belfast Film Festival are currently calling on filmmakers to submit their short films – under the following criteria:
– Under 20 minutes duration
– Completed in the LAST year (i.e.between March 1st 2013-March 1st 2014)
– Made in Ireland
– Be submitted on DVD/online
– Be Available for screening in HD Quicktime/DCP/Beta SP
Closing date for submissions is 16th December 2013.
DVD screeners of your submission MUST be posted/delivered to
Belfast Film Festival, Short Film Competition , 3rd Floor 23 Donegall Street, Belfast, BT1 2FF BY THAT DATE.
Successful applicants will be notified by 7th February 2014
Successful applicants should deliver their SCREEN READY film to the festival office no later than FRIDAY MARCH 8th, 2013
Submission Fee payable of £10/15€ must also be paid by 16th December 2013.
Payment must be made – either by cash, cheque or by requesting online BACS details from firstname.lastname@example.org
If sending a sterling/euro cheque, PLEASE write your Film’s title on the back of the cheque.
The 13th Belfast Film Festival closes this Sunday with the premiere of the extraordinary film Final Cut.
Scenes from an array of famous movies from as far back as the early 1900s feature in the ‘ultimate love story’ that is Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi’s film.
Final Cut is entirely made up of clips from some of the most iconic films ever made.
The film took over three years to make. Palfi has collected scenes from more than 450 international films and assembled them into a narrative.
Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Kim Novak, Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot, Daniel Craig, Leonardo Di Caprio, Gary Oldman, Audrey Hepburn and Meryl Streep are only some of the movie stars that feature in this epic love story with a difference.
The film will be screened at 7pm on Sunday at Movie House Cinema, Dublin Road.
The festival’s closing weekend boasts an array of special screenings and fantastic film features to finish off the 11-day feast of celluloid.
Tonight (Friday, 19th April) the festivities will include the screening of multi-layered, deeply humorous thriller Crave in the Beanbag Cinema. It’s the story of a mentally unstable crime photographer who spirals into madness.
Also showing in the intimate setting of the Beanbag Cinema tonight is The Deflowering Of Eva Van End. In the film an ugly duckling has her life turned upside down by a handsome exchange student.
Terrance Dicks is in tonight’s festival line-up, too. He is presenting a talk at Waterstones in Belfast city centre. The scriptwriter, most famous for his long association with Doctor Who, will be discussing his many TV and film experiences.
The topic of motherhood is covered over the closing weekend with The Motherhood Manifesto, a powerful and engaging documentary about motherhood in America. This will be shown at the BFF Micro Cinema tomorrow and the theme continues into Sunday at the same venue with a debate and the documentary Motherhood By Choice.
Also on Saturday at the Micro Cinema, witty New York filmmaker Nina Davenport will introduce her film First Comes Love in which she documents her quest to have a baby alone when aged over 40.
The Evil Dead 2 is being screened outdoors in Belfast’s Ormeau Park the same night to a sell-out audience.
The Short Film Competition is taking place at the QFT over the weekend with four programmes, two on Saturday and another two on Sunday. Short films from an array of genres will be presented, from poetic documentaries to experimental film to drama.
The Man Who Loved Cinema is the story of Michael Open in his own words. He was the driving force behind the QFT from 1969 to 2004. The documentary short on the man who shone a much-needed cinematic light during the darkest days of The Troubles is followed by his own choice of classic film, Toto The Hero. The event takes place at the QFT on Saturday.
Wonderfully animated and heart-warming family film Ernest and Celestine will be shown on Sunday afternoon in the QFT.
Full information on the closing days of the festival is available through the 13th Belfast Film Festival Programme, distributed at key venues around the city, or online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org.
Tickets for the festival are still available online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org, by phoning the Festival Box Office on 028 9024 6609 or from the Belfast Welcome Centre at 47 Donegall Place, Belfast.
PIC: Writer Malachy Grant recreates a famous scene from The Evil Dead 2 to help promote this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The Evil Dead 2, whichis being shown on a big screen outdoors in the city’s Ormeau Park on 20th April, is among the 110-plus screenings in the festival. Further information is available at www.belfastfilmfestival.org.
The 13th Belfast Film Festival (11 – 21 April 2013)
The 13th Belfast Film Festival is set to kick off tomorrow with screenings and events coming thick and fast.
The organisers of the festival, which runs until Sunday 21st April, have lined up more than 110 screenings in a range of venues across the city as well as an eclectic mix of special events.
At the QFT on Friday, 12th April Tony Grisoni, screenwriter of Red Riding Trilogy and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, will be talking about his work.
And broadcaster and film critic Mark Kermode is at The Black Box on the opening night where he will be revealing his Desert Island Flicks.
Saturday’s big event is a screening of the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke and other prison-themed movies at Crumlin Road Gaol.
Spoof Or Die, which is showing at the QFT on Saturday night, features Northern Ireland actor Ryan McParland and BAFTA winner Monica Dolan. It’s a film about growing up in Belfast and an obsession with its bloody past.
The Wall, dubbed a contemporary female Robinson Crusoe story, is also on at the QFT on Saturday.
Much Ado About Nothing is showing at the QFT on Sunday night. Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.
On Monday at the same venue a poetic documentary by Mark Cousins about the nature of happiness called What Is This Film Called Love? is being shown.
Other on-screen highlights include Jack Black as a funeral director in Richard Link’s latest film, Bernie, which is showing at QFT on Tuesday.
Last Tango In Paris, a film which outraged the city fathers in 1970s Belfast, is being screened on Tuesday at the QFT as part of an event called Last Tango In Belfast. The film will be introduced by local writer Brian Henry Martin.
The QFT is also showing Like Someone In Love on Tuesday. Named after Ella Fitzgerald’s jazz standard, it’s a droll, elegant and playful film about a sociology student working as a high class escort.
On the same night there’s a celebration of Nina Simone, who is hailed as one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, at the Sunflower Bar.
Faraway, a story of intrigue and misadventure set in contemporary Northern Ireland, is being shown at the Movie House, Dublin Road, on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Marilyn Monroe Songbook is being presented at the Black Box by Katie and the Carnival. It’s an evening of clips and music to honour Monroe’s movie legacy and unique voice.
Looking towards the end of next week, writer and script editor Terrance Dicks, most famous for his long association with Doctor Who, will be giving a talk at Waterstone’s in the city centre on Friday. The previous night Doctor Who – The Mind Of Evil is being screened at the BFF microcinema.
The horror blockbuster The Evil Dead 2 will be screened in the city’s Ormeau Park on Saturday 20th April.
Full information on the 11-day extravaganza is now available through the 13thth Belfast Film Festival Programme, distributed at key venues around the city, or online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org
Tickets for the festival are available online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org, by phoning the Festival Box Office on 028 9024 6609 or from the Belfast Welcome Centre at 47 Donegall Place, Belfast.
Stars from the local and international entertainment industry will flock to the Ulster Hall tonight for the highly-anticipated World Premiere of Good Vibrations – the opening premiere of this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The film’s cast and crew will be joined by special guests such as Snow Patrol for a Gala red carpet evening.
Good Vibrations is the locally filmed biopic of record shop owner and godfather of Northern Ireland’s 70s punk music scene Terri Hooley. The film boasts an ensemble cast of local actors including Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley, Michael Colgan and Adrian Dunbar.
The film’s creative team also hails locally with husband and wife directors, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn; scriptwriters Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry and David Holmes who worked on the music selection and score. The film was largely shot in the shops and alley ways of North Street, Belfast, where the Good Vibrations Record Store was established.
Tickets for the World Premiere have been in such high demand that Belfast Film Festival has arranged an additional screening tonight at the Ulster Hall along with another at the Movie House, Belfast.
Commenting on the Gala Event and the opening screening of the Belfast Film Festival, Michele Devlin, Belfast Film Festival Director said –
“We are absolutely thrilled to be showcasing this landmark premiere on our opening night. Securing Good Vibrations is a real coup for the Belfast Film Festival and shows just how far the city has come. The global interest in this World Premiere is a real indication of the high profile Belfast Film Festival now enjoys and the film’s production demonstrates the world-class level of Northern Ireland’s Film Industry.”
The Belfast Film Festival is funded by Northern Ireland Screen supported by DCAL and by Belfast City Council. To view the full Festival Programme and to book tickets for the screenings and events visit www.belfastfilmfestival.org
(Michele Devlin and Terri Hooley at launch of the Belfast Film Festival)
This year’s annual Belfast Film Festival promises to be the best ever with a programme of 104 film screenings and events including premieres of three much anticipated locally based films.
Now in its 12th year, the film festival will run from 31st May to 10th June with events being held in 12 venues across the city.
This year’s festival curtain raiser will be the World Premiere of Good Vibrations, the locally filmed biopic of record shop owner and godfather of Northern Ireland’s 70s punk music scene Terri Hooley. Starring local actor Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley, the premiere will take place on Thursday 31st May in the Ulster Hall.
The UK and Ireland Premiere of Shadow Dancer written by ITV News Political Editor Tom Bradby and starring Gillian Anderson, Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen will take place on Wednesday 6th June in the Movie House Cinema, Dublin Road. Set in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles, this fast paced thriller charts the story of an IRA volunteer forced to become an informant by MI5.
The festival will culminate in the European Premiere of Oscar-winning Director Terry George’s latest film, Whole Lotta Sole, a comedy filmed locally, starring Brendan Fraser and Colm Meany with original screen score by Foy Vance. The Gala Premiere in the Waterfront Hall on Sunday 10th June will include a civic reception to mark Terry’s Oscar success earlier this year with The Shore’which had its World Premiere at last year’s Belfast Film Festival
Launching the Festival Programme, Michele Devlin, Director of the Belfast Film Festival said –
‘This is without doubt the most exciting year yet for the Belfast Film Festival and the quality and significance of the screenings and events that we are able to stage reflects the growing prominence of the economic and cultural contribution of the local film industry. We are delighted to be hosting the World Premiere of ‘Good Vibrations’ and the European Premiere of ‘Whole Lotta Sole’. David Holmes and Terry George are both Film Festival patrons and we are thrilled that two new fantastic pieces of their work will be book-ending the 12th Festival programme.
“104 screenings and events in 12 different venues and featuring film excellence from countries across the globe, this year’s Belfast Film Festival promises to be a veritable feast for local film lovers”
Other highlights of the 12th Belfast Film Festival Programme include –
Jump starring Marty McCann, Ciaran McMenamin and Lalor Roddy (Friday 8th June Movie House)
Toothbrush, starring Eileen Branagh and written and directed by Michael McNulty (Thursday 7th June, Queen’s Film Theatre)
The Film and the Law Programme, a series of legal dramas sponsored by Goldblatt McGuigan which will be screened in the Royal Courts of Justice including Witness for the Prosecution and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Stephen Reain conversation with BBC Arts Extra’s Marie-Louise Muir (Friday 1st June, Queen’s Film Theatre)
An Evening with James Ellis (Saturday 9th June, Europa Hotel)
The Belfast Film Festival is funded by Northern Ireland Screen supported by DCAL and by Belfast City Council.
TT street racing, despite its continuing controversies, is embedded into the sporting culture of Northern Ireland. Every year avid bike fans will come from all over the world to spectate, participate and experience in the legendary North West 200. Yet shamefully it’s not something I’ve personally ever been a huge fan of, mainly because I’ve never taken the time to really get to know the in’s and out’s the sport. So asking me to watch a documentary about the première event of the calender year, the Isle of Man TT could potentially be asking for trouble. Boy was I wrong…
The documentary, narrated by American actor and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman, Jared Leto centres mainly on the eccentric, maverick racer Guy Martin as he prepares in his own unique way for the biggest motorcycle event of the year. Through this the audience is taken through all the build up preparation, including the various backgrounds to each of the main racers including, John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson and Paul Dobbs.
The feature does a tremendous job of being accessible to people, such as myself, who have little knowledge of the sport in full detail. First time director Richard de Aragues should be applauded for stocking the film with tonnes of emotion and nerve-shattering tension as well. By the time the credits rolled I felt like I had been on a total roller-coaster with these men. These larger than life characters congregating together in probably the best sporting film I’ve seen since Zinedine Zidane kicked a football for nearly 90 minutes to the sounds of Mogwai.
Guy Martin was an intriguing character, more so because I probably needed subtitles to understand what it was, he was saying throughout most of the film. In a way he was a curious soul, an ultimate underdog, a universal fan favourite because of his outlandish personality. Yet also coming across as a difficult person to work with, on the racecourse, due to his unpredictable nature. Due to this he was the perfect person to create a genuine cinematic experience out of something which could have easily been just a bog standard, middle of the road, documentary.
The most publicised aspect of TT street racing is one of its darkest most harrowing aspects also, and to the film’s credit it never shys away from the harsh reality that these men essentially and willingly put their lives on the line every time they step onto that race track. Some of the images featured can be pretty hard hitting, such as seeing Guy Martin’s bike blow-up in a fiery blaze, or watching Ian Hutchinson have his leg torn to pieces or even quite tragically witnessing the death of Paul Dobbs on the racetrack during 2010’s event.
It’s hard sitting in the cinema watching something like this, reminding yourself there are no controlled explosions or choreographed stunts or acting involved. This is real life and the lives affected by these men’s reckless thrill seeking actions paint can quite a tragic picture. Yet the racers, when speaking about it, often remain philosophical about the risks. As Martin says in the closing moments, no one makes them do it, they want to do it and if you’re scared something might happen, you’re clearly in the wrong sport.
The film also does a great service of paying tribute to fallen heroes, such as one of the greatest sportsman to hail from my home country, the legendary Joey Dunlop who after achieving some amazing feats died in a charity race in July 2000. Which should be quite emotional scenes, along with the montage of his dearly departed brother, Robert – who suffered death on the race course a year later – for anyone local reading this review.
On a technical level TT3D was beautifully shot, and in most instances the 3D did largely work. My feelings have been made abundantly clear in past reviews of other films on the format but I think just the thought of the gimmick, this time round, might draw people in, who would never consider going to see this. And trust me when I say, you’ll be better off for the experience.
TT3D: Closer to the Edge offers more than what it simply says on the poster. An action packed, emotionally draining and ultimately very harrowing insight into one of Britain’s most controversial sports. Let yourself be taken on a ride with some truly likeable working-class sports stars, and you might even find yourself coming out as a fan because of it. I know I did.
TT3D was part of the 2011 Belfast Film Festival.
It should be released across the UK, in selected theatres, from April 22nd 2011.
Who says originality is dead in cinema? One of the higher concepts released this year comes B-movie thriller, Rubber from French director, Quentin Dupieux. There’s no other way to really explain this other than that the movie tells the tale of a sentient car tyre, seemingly hell bent on killing every living thing it sees, from humans to wildlife, in and around a bleak Californian backdrop.
All the while we inexplicably have an audience, resembling all the standard stereotypes you’d generally find in any typical cinema, who are watching as the chaos unfolds from the sidelines. As the film progresses, it’s made clear taht the only one who thinks this is some existential make-believe exercise is the mysterious cop who introduces the film, played by Stephen Spinella.
Though Rubber is inventive, stylish and pretty well filmed, even involving a visually pleasing stop motion effect for the tyre’s animation, it is perhaps just too nonsensical for its own good. It was like watching a nightmarish version of Albert Lamorisse’s excellent, The Red Balloon just y’know with a black tyre. It also wasn’t nearly as funny as it probably thought it was. One of my main problems however was the film felt a little patronising in parts – yes we get it, it’s not suppose to make any bloody sense. I doubt however any audience who will likely see this in the selected cinemas it’s released on would need t be reminded of this every five minutes.
It was clearly evident that the director has a huge passion for cinema, which is obviously an admirable quality for any young director, but I think the homages he was trying to pull off in Rubber made it more haphazard, proving almost detrimental to the film’s success. There were obvious nods to Spielberg’s works such as Jaws, little bit of the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men, even elements of The Twilight Zone. The main problem however being it felt more like an Aphex Twin music video than something that resembled engaging, clever, storytelling.
You can’t help but wonder after Rubber ends, where the last 90 minutes of your life went. Have you been on drugs? Did you have a little too much to drink? No, you just watched a complete mess of a film, which had no direction, no sense, no purpose and no comedic merit to back up those shortcomings. Originality is one thing, quality is completely another.
Andrew Moore on Terry George’s new short, The Shore, at the Belfast Film Festival 2011.
There was no better way to kick off the 2011 Belfast Film Festival, for myself, than the world première of, globally acclaimed Northern Irish film-maker, Terry George’s new short, The Shore. After years of striking big in Hollywood with such excellent releases as the Oscar-nominated, In The Name of The Father and Hotel Rwanda, George returns to his home country for a genuinely heart-warming comedy drama.
The story revolves around Irishman, Jim Mahon (Ciaran Hinds) who fled the country for the USA 25 years prior, after The Troubles kicked off in the province. Once he returns with his daughter by his side, he reunites with past friends and loved ones as well as facing various personal demons and moral dilemmas, which haunted him from the moment he left.
Terry George does a brilliant job of letting you really engage with these, eccentric and all-too-familiar characters in the brief 30 minute running time. However, I think with the central character especially, a lot of this almost magical wonder can be attributed to the deeply personal and down-to-earth performance of the brilliant Ciaran Hinds, a truly under-appreciated actor on the world stage today.
Furthermore, the film served as a brilliant demonstration of how the country has moved on in the past 30 years while still not forgetting its somewhat rich and chequered past that came before it. That said, never let history get in the way of a good story, and with The Shore it truly didn’t. From the moment the cameras rolled there was an element of intrigue and tension, but in keeping with the spirit of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. There was also a lot of knowing humour thrown into the mix, especially in a truly fantastic scene involving four of the characters running from a lady on a horse– who is mistaken for a dole officer – across a beach, which needs to be seen to be believed.
Despite George himself admitting as such in the Q&A which followed the film, you could instantly tell he invested a lot of himself and his own personal memories of the area into the film. This wasn’t just a movie set in Northern Ireland. This was a film about Northern Ireland by a man who understands the country and also understands that the majority of locals just live for having a bit of craic (the word ‘craic’, to any readers out of town, is our way of saying, ‘having a fun time’). Visually it was an extremely tidy feature, beautifully lush and extremely pleasurable to witness on screen.
Terry George returns home to give audiences a truly heart-warming tale of reuniting with past friends and loved ones, as well as facing up to personal woes and unfinished business before it’s too late. The only real complaint? It was too bloody short– yes, being a short film that is kind of the point, I know. This was the best Northern Irish film in a long time, once again demonstrating the immense amount of resources the country can give to cinema; outside of features simply based on the Troubles, and a ship which is famous for sinking on its maiden voyage. More please…
The 11th Belfast Film Festival was launched today by Belfast-born internationally acclaimed director and screen writer, Terry George. 130 films from 25 countries will be screened over the 16 days – commencing on 31st March with the premiere of Killing Bono, which stars another Northern Ireland born native, Marty McCann, who also helped launch the programme.
The Festival, which is supported by Northern Ireland Screen, Belfast City Council and Diageo, will showcase the best in local, national and international film-making in14 locations across the city. From a screening of Whiskey Galore on the River Lagan on 7th April, to the world premiere of George’s latest masterpiece, The Shore, at the QFT on Friday, 1st April, the extravaganza promises to be a sell-out.
Other highlights of the jam-packed programme – which attracted 16,000 visitors to the events last year – include the attendance of the cast and crew at the closing night premiere of Behold the Lamb at the Movie House on the Dublin Road on Thursday, 14th April. This is another local production by Dumbworld Productions and is co-directed by John McElduff, who has worked throughout Europe on various productions.
Two other gala screenings of Matching Jack and TT3D: Closer to the Edge also have a local resonance. James Nesbitt stars in the former as the devoted dad to his nine year old leukaemia ridden son, Jack (Tom Russell), and in the latter, the famous Isle of Mann TT is screened in stunning 3D – with Michael Dunlop featuring. Like most events at the Belfast Film Festival this one is worth sitting back and enjoying the ride!
It seems scarcely believable that Belfast Film Festival has achieved its tenth manifestation, but it continues to go from strength to strength, presenting over 100 events in 16 often-frenetic days from 15–30 April.
Opening the festival was Triage, the new film from Danis Tanovic, whose No Man’s Land caused such a stir a few years ago. Colin Farrell stars in the story of the horrors of an ugly modern war – on this occasion the Kurdish insurrection against Saddam Hussein’s despotic regime in Iraq at the end of the 1980s. Farrell plays an ambitious and gung-ho photojournalist, who seems to be oblivious of risk in his attempts to reveal the horrors of this murderous conflict. His sidekick, and friend, is far more reticent, and after a near miss, elects to return home alone. Eventually and inevitably he is injured and returns to Ireland where his girlfriend/wife recognises the onset of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and calls on her father (Christopher Lee, no less), a psychiatrist and former employee of the Nazis to try to find a route to serenity.
Farrell’s performance is excellent and Lee’s is extraordinary, and Tanovic is clearly a fine director, but the film lacks emotional clarity and the ‘mystery’, when it is revealed fails to shock as it should because we have been too desensitised by what has gone before.
The closing film, Tetro, by Francis Coppola, also, for me, fails to fully cohere. This visually impressive, largely black and white drama is set in Buenos Aires and stars Vincent Gallo as a would-be writer (the eponymous Tetro) who lives the life of a bohemian, installed in a small flat with his partner, and has stopped writing. He is visited by his half-brother, Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), whom he disowns. The film neatly reverses the normal cinematic convention and has flashbacks and memory in colour with ‘reality’ in black and white. It also has the courage to play with aspect ratios – as most of the colour scenes are presented in 5:3 while the rest of the film is in scope at 7:3.
Visually it is extremely impressive, especially the section in Patagonia, and one never doubts that the film is being made by a master of cinema, but, in spite of fine acting by the entire cast, the ‘drama’ fails to impress – or really cohere. What has occurred to me since the screening is that it looks for all the world as if it were written a decade and a half ago with the intention of casting De Niro, DiCaprio and Brando in the three main roles (Klaus-Maria Brandauer has the ostensible Brando role of the ageing father). As it is, we have a film that aspires to the operatic, but struggles to be dramatic.
Of course, why seek to be operatic or dramatic…much better to be cinematic! And, whether by accident or inspired design, there were two films in the main festival programme that had close affinities with the opening and closing films and were both exceptionally cinematic. Staying in Argentina, I was close to knocked out by The Tango Singer by Diego Martinez Vignatti. Usually films that are embroiled in ethno-musicology leave me cold, but here we have so much more than music. Indeed, it is not about music at all. At the centre of the film is Helena, a beautiful but vulnerable tango singer. She sings magnificently poetic tango songs in an unremarkable provincial club. As the film commences, she is about to discover that her lover is unfaithful and her affair is doomed. The film, and her music, takes her to an acceptance of her new status in a life-enhancing and totally cinematic way.
It is difficult to capture the poetry of the film in words. Watching the film, it is the work of Antonioni that first comes to mind (The Red Desert would seem to be the most obvious reference point). Visual textures merge and contrast to give an unerringly resonant, impressionistic, view of Helena’s mental turmoil. Barren seascapes, rooms dominated by blood-red décor, misty landscapes – these all paint a vivid and beautifully layered picture of her pain. But there is wonder in the narrative and dramatic structure as well, especially when she goes to visit her brother in Northern France. Vignatti, the film’s director, started his career as a cinematographer, and he has not forgotten how the loudest words in the cinema are spoken by the camera. I’m not sure it merits the term masterpiece, but I am sure that is was the finest film that I saw in this year’s festival. I do so hope that it will find a wider audience.
Triage, too, had it’s ‘equivalent’ – Lebanon – fresh from its success in carrying off the Golden Lion in Venice. Like Triage, Lebanon, a (largely) Israeli film by Samuel Moaz, is set within the environment of a bloody war in the 1980s – here the Israeli incursion into Lebanon. Moaz hit on the idea of filming ‘the war’ from the inside of a tank. Not only is it cheaper, but also the oppressive claustrophobia of the confinement adds immensely to the dramatic tension. Here the tank crew have a new recruit, and are detailed to clean up after the bombing and shelling of a border town suspected of being a centre of Hamas belligerence. Through the driver’s porthole and the gunner’s sight we see both the atrocities handed out by the invading forces and those suffered by them, cruelty and compassion.
It will not persuade anyone of the rightness or wrongness of any cause in the Middle East, but it doesn’t seek to. We may, however, become rather more aware of the moral and psychological pressures on those whom we may in the past have assumed to be unfeeling killers. There is little poetry here, but the human condition, or part of it, is well illuminated by a powerful and somewhat painful spotlight.
Nestling alongside Lebanon in the main section of the Festival were three films about political power – Vincere – about a little-known aspect of Mussolini’s early political life, Moloch Tropical set in the dying days of a corrupt dictatorship in Haiti, and Tsar which clearly shows why Tsar Ivan was called ‘the Terrible’. Vincere was the creation of Marco Bellocchio, an Italian auteur of some reputation, who sprang to prominence with Fists in the Pockets in 1965. Covering, the period between 1914 and the mid ’30s, it chronicles the tragic story of a love affair and marriage between Mussolini and a wealthy woman, who bankrolls his political ambitions. As potted history, the film is fair enough, but it pretends also to be a love story, and here it noticeably fails. We get no real sense of what is suggested as a smouldering romance, nor do we get any sense of why Benito dumped her so suddenly. Where it excels is in its depiction of the change in Italian society and its sense of creeping corruption and violence.
Moloch Tropical is even less impressive, the corrupt president seems to be living in a dream world, but the visual plan of the film is uniformly flat. The film is directed by Raoul Peck, who was culture minister in the country in the late ’90s. Its over-riding impression is of a chamber piece illustrating the descent into madness of someone whose life has become disjoint from reality.
The connection between madness and power is totally central to Tsar. Without even the slightest nod to Eisenstein’s monumental diptych about Russia’s 16th century ruler, Tsar is impressive enough as a glimpse of medieval tyranny. As the film starts, the already ageing Tsar calls for an Orthodox bishop to be summoned from the far reaches of his empire as his ‘metropolitan’ – some sort of spiritual leader. But Ivan has lived by torture and fear, surrounding himself with an entourage of madmen and sadists, and the bishop is minded to oppose the Tsars cruel excesses. What is lacking is any sense of logic or meaning, but as a bloodletting ride, it has its moments.
Early in the Festival we were treated to two excellent and entertaining works with very similar themes. Adrift, by Heitor Dhalia, is an excellent multi-faceted coming-of-age drama. Laura Neiva is impressive going on stunning as Filipa, a mid-teenage daughter of a novelist father (Vincent Cassell). It is the long summer vacation near the glorious beaches of Brazil’s northern coast. Her parents are clearly unhappy in their marriage and Filipa flirts provocatively with one of her male companions. Into this melting pot comes a sophisticated foreign woman. When Filipa discovers that her father is having an affair with the interloper, major family crisis ensues in which we discover that all is not as it seems.
Director Dahlia has a keen eye for visual detail and the ability to extract wholly authentic performances from his cast. Particularly impressive was a climactic scene in which Filipa runs away along the cliff-top in the almost pitch black night and all we can see is the starlight occasionally glinting off her dress. It is a very fine film from a very promising talent.
Coincidentally, or not, the higher-profile Lymelife, by newcomer Derick Martini, presents us with a very similar situation. Set in the rural northeast of the USA in the early ’70s, Rory Culkin stars impressively as Scott, the 15-year-old son of property developer Mickey (Alec Baldwin). Scott is secretly in love with the beautiful Adrianna, daughter of his father’s business partner Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), who in turn is saddled with a husband suffering from Lyme’s Disease. When Scott realises that Mickey and Melissa are having an affair, events take a dramatic course.
What elevates this above the average potboiling melodrama is its unforced humour and unwillingness to present its characters as stereotypes. The festival programme compared it with The Ice Storm, which is somewhat flattering, but it is still a very fine work.
In a festival so jammed with events, one is bound to miss out on some and I much regret not having seen Leaving (directed by Catherine Corsini and featuring a highly praised performance by Kristin Scott Thomas) and Greenberg (directed by Noah Baumbach, and starring Ben Stiller). This latter particularly rankles as instead I opted for Guy & Madeleine on a Park Bench – a film which seems to admire the style of John Cassavetes, but makes the mistake of imagining that he simply brought his cast and crew together and asked them to make up action and dialogue as they went along. What emerges is, with the exception of a few song and dance numbers, irrelevant, tedious, unstructured junk. There were other disappointments as well, most notably Bluebeard from Catherine Breillat which wasn’t believable at even a rudimentary level.
Irish cinema was mainly represented with Five Day Shelter and The Eclipse. Neither film greatly impressed, but The Eclipse had its moments. Ciaran Hinds, who was in Belfast to collect a ‘Sink’ – the festival’s small ceramic trophy given to those deserving of it. The Eclipse will not, I suspect, go down as one of the actor’s finest performances. He plays a widower bringing up his two small children, while helping out at the local literary festival in Cobh. Visitors to the festival include a priapic novelist Nicholas (Aidan Quinn) and one of his literary conquests – Lena (Iben Hjejle). The results are not unexpected, but the genteel yet prickly atmosphere of such events are well caught. Hjejle, best known for her role in High Fidelity , acts everyone else off the screen.
Two ambitious European films greatly impressed: Protektor is Czech and tackles the difficult question of the rights and wrongs of collaborating with corrupt regimes. Emil is a journalist who loves his beautiful film star wife Hana in her late 30s , even though she may not be entirely faithful. With the Nazi take-over, the main newsreader on the radio finds the propagandist messages too unpalatable and quits, leaving an opportunity for Emil. In spite of his distaste for the Nazi philosophy, Emil collaborates as he thinks that this will allow him to save Hana, who is Jewish, from the Nazi death camps. It is an interesting moral dilemma brilliantly presented in an exciting and original visual style, and funny too in a rueful sort of way, from time to time.
Finally, for this section, there was a very challenging work that finally won me over. Un Lac is the latest from Philippe Grandrieux. In spite of being described as ‘challenging’ it was also presented as being the filmmaker’s most accessible work. I would not be in a hurry to see some of the less accessible ones. The single word that comes to mind for this remarkable, but difficult work is ‘earthy’. In some unspecified era and place, a poor family live by a lake adjacent to a huge pine forest. They live by woodcutting. There is a young teenage son (Alexi) who has severe epilepsy, and a slightly older daughter (Liv) who is clearly in need of male company. A stranger appears and, after helping a bit with the woodcutting, seduces Liv, and takes her away with him. There is very little dialogue; in spite of largely Russian-named characters it is in French. The landscape resembles northern Canada more than any other place I can think of (though it was shot in the Rhone Alps), but the strangest thing about the film is its style. Footage by Brakhage edited by Bresson from a script written by Bergman in the early fifties is the nearest I can come to a description. It is tough to watch, especially the first 35 minutes, which is largely shaky hand-held images of nothing very certain, but patience is rewarded and it moves from bizarre to enigmatic and finally poetic. It is one of the few films of this year that I am really anxious to see again.
Alongside the festival’s main section there is a documentary competition. I chose just two of the films in it – both having as their subject American visionaries of the late 20th Century who died young. American: The Bill Hicks Story is British, and uses photo-animation to give a sense of the American stand-up comic’s early life which augments extracts from filmed sections of his stand-up routines. Hicks died of cancer in 1994, but not before he had become the most outspoken and original American comic of his generation. This is a great primer for anyone unfamiliar with his humour.
The generation before Hicks was the flower power generation, and Tom DiCillo in When You’re Strange makes a convincing case that The Doors, and specifically that Jim Morrison was the defining contributor to the youth culture phenomenon which flowered between 1966 and 1970. Johnny Depp narrates, using the accounts of other members of the band and eyewitness testimonies to fill in the gaps to demonstrate the ‘genius’ and destructive power of Morrison’s drug- and alcohol-induced psychosis during the meteoric rise of the band. Morrison’s baby-like stare is a haunting image that, as he wreaks havoc in his friends and colleagues, sends shivers down the spine.
I always like to see as many short films as I can in the festival, as any new talent is often evident amid what is, perhaps inevitably, mainly dross. Short fiction is a genre in itself, and originality is not difficult to see. Winner of the Short Film Competition was Andrew Legge’s The Chronoscope – a very well-made mockmentary about a fictional Irish female physicist in the early 20th Century who invented a cine camera which could look into the past. Legge uses similar technology to that Woody Allen used in Zelig. Playful and clever in a non-pejorative sense, it is an audacious film that has the courage of its convictions. The Chronoscope is a very professional film, but nowhere near so compared with Through the Night, by Lee Cronin. This is a brilliant psychodrama set in a somewhat futuristic room in an un-named city. A couple go to bed for the night, but the man soon realises that something is not quite right. Thematically there is nothing here, but the sheer film-craft of wordlessly communicating the sense of unease and finally panic is better than I can remember having seen for many a year. If this doesn’t get Cronin a ticket to a major feature in Los Angeles or London, I will be much surprised and disappointed.
The main sin of the worst shorts in the programme was excessive earnestness, usually in an attempt to be meaningful. However, the most thought-provoking film in the section, for me, was also the funniest. Tufty by Jason and Brendan Butler was a joy to behold. A small boy, entranced by a teddy bear in a store, hypothesizes where they come from. This is teddy bears’ picnic meets The Deerhunter, hilarious and totally original – a joy to behold.
Good though each of these three films were, they paled in my view next to Blood Coloured Moon. Early in the morning on Good Friday in 1967, a cheerful and romantic young man arrives by car at an isolated rural pub in search of a drink. With excellent characterisation and beautifully expressive visuals, director Marc-Ivan O’Gorman has crafted an exquisite little parable about love, poetry and optimism.
Finally, it was evident that many of the shorts used child actors. There was an element of tweeness in much of this, but one film really managed to turn this on its head. The film was Tara, by Joe McStravick, in which a husband leaves his wife and child for another woman. This sounds for all the world like cliché, but it refreshingly escapes it as the mother, instead of victim, becomes villain and the child develops a murderous strategy to get her father back.
The short film The Crush has been selected to screen at the Chicago Irish Film Festival and also at the Belfast Film Festival. The Crush, which tells the story of an 8-year-old schoolboy with a ‘deadly’ infatuation with his teacher, premiered at the Kerry Film Festival and went on to win Best Irish Short at Foyle last year. Written and directed by first-timer Michael Creagh, it was produced by Damon Quinn.