Interview with Miwako van Weyenberg

Gabrielle Ulubay introduces Belgium filmmaker Miwako van Weyenberg and talks to her about her film Summer Rain, which screened at the 2018 Cork Film Festival.

Miwako van Weyenberg is a filmmaker from Belgium who has so far produced three masterful shorts: Hitorikko (2014), Il Faisait Noir (2015), and Zomerregen (2017). Her protagonists find themselves in emotionally challenging situations which often lead to personal growth, greater emotional intelligence, or an altered sense of identity. Having grown up at the crux of multiple cultures, van Weyenberg has a particularly astute sensitivity to these issues and to the minute details of life that often change our relationships, our outlooks, and even the way we see ourselves. Hitorikko (or Only Child) , for instance, gives audiences insight into the psyche of a young boy who discovers that his divorced father has since taken up a new girlfriend, re-situating the boy as an older brother rather than the only child he has always been. Il Faisait Noir (or It Was Still Dark), on the other hand, explores the world of two twin brothers, along with the psychological effects on one twin when tragedy strikes them.

Zomerregen (Summer Rain), van Weyenberg’s most recent film, focuses on a ten-day period of time in which a young boy with mixed-race identity stays with his grandparents. The grandfather is faced with his own prejudices, and this tension heightens when the two are left alone for a length of the child’s stay. After seeing this film at the Cork International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with van Weyenberg about her film.

 

Your film Summer Rain addresses all sorts of relevant issues like prejudice, multiculturalism within families, and diversity. Could you talk about your process in making the film.

So first of all, while I wouldn’t say Summer Rain is an autobiographical film, of course many elements of it come from a personal space – like the main character, I am half Japanese and half Belgian myself. I wanted to make something that’s really personal, but I also think that the subject is something that’s really universal.”

 

Would you be able to expand on that subject?

The subject is identity, and the search for identity in many different ways. I think that on one hand, it’s in a family, but on the other hand it’s in the idea of double nationality, where people have this ideas about what you are and what you should be.I think that’s something that can complicate the search for identity, and the search for identity in a family is complicated anyway. You have your father and your mother, and you came out of those two people, but you always look for yourself in that mix. I think when you also have that aspect of culture, that also complicates the search.

 

 

Speaking of the parents, and the idea that each of us are half of each, a choice in the film that I found really interesting is that the audience never sees the parents. We hear the father’s voice, but there isn’t much elaborated on in terms of the mother and father. I appreciated that detail, and have my own thoughts about why that’s a fitting and appropriate choice, but could you expand on what your intentions were in leaving those characters so vague?

For me, the story is just about the relationship between the child and his grandfather, so that is what I focused on. I think that in short film, it’s tempting to want to say everything, but it’s impossible because it’s a short film. So I really wanted to focus on that relationship. Also, he’s dropped there for ten days, nearly two weeks, so he doesn’t have access to his parents. His mom is in Japan, so he can only talk to her on the phone, but then there is still a time difference. So he’s really isolated in this countryside environment in Belgium, which he’s not used to because he’s from Brussels. I wanted him to be really out of his comfort zone, and I think that his parents are the comfort that he has, so I wanted to eliminate that. The grandmother is also a source of comfort, but then she ends up being taken out of the picture. So I really wanted to focus on the relationship between the grandfather and the grandson, and what happens when they are forced to live together and have no other option.

 

I appreciated that, and I also really enjoyed how you used the claustrophobic, isolated space of the home, along with the symbolism of planes in the film. I am glad that there were planes chosen specifically in the film for the child to fold, because there’s that stereotype around Japanese children that they will be folding paper cranes.

[laughs]

 

I think the choice of planes really subverts those problematic expectations. On the one hand, the little boy also likes planes because that’s a very normal thing for a child to be preoccupied with, but I also think that in the context of Summer Rain, the planes symbolize freedom. Could you talk about the choice of using planes in the film, and what that symbol meant to you?


It started from a point of planes being an obsession of a typical little boy, but it has more meaning when he finds himself stuck in a really isolated place. Also, his grandfather being a retired pilot, and discovering that connection, adds symbolism. So for me, the planes have a lot of meaning in a lot of different ways, but it starts from a really innocent obsession with things on wheels, and can fly, and go fast.

 

Right, and I feel like we go on that journey as we’re watching the film: It starts out as an adorable obsession of a little boy, and then the grandmother says, ‘look, he likes planes just like his grandfather,” and it becomes loaded with all this familial significance. It’s not just a plane, just this thing that flies and goes fast, anymore.

It’s not just the object anymore, by the end. I think the plane is the symbol of that relationship between the child and his grandfather.

 

I definitely appreciated that. Could you also talk about the process of casting the film? The little boy was excellent, and it can be very difficult to find child actors, yet you discovered this young boy who demonstrates such depth. Children are inclined to pantomime rather dramatically when they think of acting, but his performance was marked by incredible subtlety.

Right. I always work with children as main characters – this is my third short with children as main characters. For me, the acting process for a child is something that I’m used to. I did casting in Belgium, and I prefer working with children that have no acting experience at all. I did castings for half Japanese, half Belgian kids, and it was a difficult process because they needed to be able to speak Japanese but also French or Dutch, or they needed to at least be bilingual. But the boy, whose name is Kazuki, walked into the room and I knew after one second that he was the boy. And I did second rounds and the whole casting process to be sure, but I was convinced from the moment I saw him. It was an interesting process, because he brought so much to the character, and he became the character.

 

He really did. Did he understand the issues that the film was touching on? Because I think that children are exposed to those daily microaggressions and understand that they are being treated differently on a certain level, but on the other hand, you and I were talking earlier about how children who experience discrimination don’t necessarily understand why they are being treated badly or differently. So did that prompt any conversations with the boy? How do you think his age impacted the language and behavior used around these issues on set?

I think that children don’t really understand discrimination, because it makes no sense, but they do understand that it happens. They understand the concept of it, and of course him being half Japanese, and living in Brussels -that’s how I grow up. A lot of the scenes and the comments made in the film are also things that he gets on a daily basis, because I worked based on what I experienced. He’s an incredibly smart kid, and I never had to explain anything. Actually, I never give the screenplay to actors in advance. We just do it on set. But I read the screenplay together with him, we talked about the story, but we didn’t read the entire script as a dialogue. So we talked about the subject and how he experiences living in Belgium as a half-Japanese kid, but I didn’t have to explain anything. He felt a bit like a small version of myself, wherein he just understood what I wanted to say. He’s an amazing kid.

 

Yes, I can tell. That’s something that we can see an as audience: He embodies this duality between innocence and quiet, knowing observation. Every time someone is subject to discrimination or some microaggression, it’s like the incident is noted and filed away. It adds to this bank of somewhat unfortunate wisdom, and we can see this happening with the child in Summer Rain. Considering the rise of right-wingism, particularly in Western Europe, and the idea of being able to say whatever one wants to minorities without those words mattering, what has the reception been like for the film so far?

It’s really interesting, and a huge compliment, that what I hear a lot is that this film is something we need right now, and that this film needed to be made right now. Obviously it’s a compliment, but it’s not just something that’s needed right now. It’s been my story for my entire life, and it’s been other people’s story for their entire lives. So I think it feels more universal at this point, because people can relate it to what’s happening in the world right now.

 

Right, because it’s just that right now there’s a lot of visibility around those issues.

Yes. There’s more of a clear link between the film and things that are happening right now. It’s nice to hear that people link the story to themselves or things that they’ve heard, because it’s such a personal story for me and it’s nice to hear that such a personal story has resonated. It’s a personal story, but a universal impact.

 

I like the way you put that. I mean, there was a really interesting moment in the beginning when his grandparents think they’re doing something nice by giving him a pair of chopsticks. It was a great moment, because it’s so relatable. As a Latina, I can relate that to people presenting me with something like maracas and saying, ‘Here you go. This is your thing, isn’t it?’ And when the boy asks for a fork instead of chopsticks, the parents clearly think he’s being rude or ungrateful, though in reality it’s just that they don’t understand. So yes, it’s a film that we need now, but that’s because we’ve always needed it.

Yes, exactly.

 

So what made you use chopsticks for that moment in the film? It was such a subtle, poignant image.

Yes, because I think that the moments when I experienced that strangely naive racism – because I do like to call it naive racism – I get it through those small moments. It’s not people screaming at me on the streets like, ‘You’re Asian,’ it’s more like, ‘Here are some chopsticks. I’m sorry we don’t have rice. Is it okay if you have bread?’ [laughs], It’s more of those subtle things that are so naively racist, because it’s such a misconception but so funny at the same time. It’s just absurd, and to them it’s a nice gesture, even though it makes no sense. That’s why I chose the chopsticks, because it’s so racist yet so funny at the same time.

 

I also like that about the film, because it’s not too serious all of the time. That’s not to say that serious films are invalid, because in truth they can be excellent, but sometimes films about racism can be so heart-wrenching and emotionally traumatic that they’re largely inaccessible. This film, on the other hand, has comedy built into it, and it’s also very touching and hopeful, whereas many shorts tend to end violently.”

Yes, yes.

 

There’s also that movement within the filmmaking community that happy endings in films are overrated, but I like that Summer Rain ends on a note of hope. Of course it’s not that traditional, classical Hollywood, Singin’ in the Rain type of ending, but it’s still a positive one. What led you to end the film in that the way?

For me, it was important to have some kind of closure, because those two weeks at his grandparents’ house do something to him, of course. But I also didn’t want to make a full circle, and for me it was important for the audience to know that this was the end of those two weeks at house, but it was the beginning of a whole new relationship with his grandfather that would be even more complex. Then, of course, the hospitalization of the grandmother isn’t explained, and you know that will be a big part of his life from that point on. So, for me it was important to end on the beginning of a new thing.

 

Right, because there was a moment I really liked with the actress who played the grandmother, in which the child asks if she’s going to be home soon and she says yes, but there’s a hesitation in her voice that adults can certainly pick up on. And then the doctor is so kind to the child, but then asks the grandfather to step outside. It’s very jarring for a child to be in a hospital and see tubes spilling out of someone he cares for, but the grandmother tries her best to comfort him very subtly. Is that someone that you directed the actress to do?

 

Yes, for me, in the script and in the way I directed it, it’s very clear that it’s not going well with the grandmother in the film, and I think that’s the habit of adults trying to save a child from the truth. But a child is smart, and they sense these things.

 

Right. I love the line where he says, ‘I’m not stupid.’

Yes [laughs]. I think it’s just that adults like to believe they know more than children, and they may have more knowledge but children sense things in a purer way than adults, I think, because they’re not relying on all of the facts and information. They just sense what’s happening.

 

Exactly. So to start to wrap things up, I think that the medium of short film is overlooked within the realm of film-going. Filmmakers often seem to appreciate and seek out shorts, because they’ve often made them before, but shorts are not promulgated to the rest of society to the same degree that feature are. So, having made three short films, could you talk about the medium of short film and why you find it valuable and more appropriate for certain stories? It’d be great if you could talk about that within the context of your past work and any projects you’re working on moving forward.

I love the short film medium. I think that you can be very direct and that you can get to the point in shorts, because you don’t have the time to go around the story. You just show what’s happening, and you have all the backstory that you need within those 15 minutes.

 

Right, it needs to be very tight.

Yes, and that’s what I love about short films. But of course, like I said, I want to believe that I am make very personal and intimate stories that can reach a universal audience, and to reach a universal audience, short film is a difficult medium. That is why now I’m writing my first feature film, and I feel that it’s just a different form of art, so it doesn’t feel like a feature film is a long short film and short film is a short feature film. It’s just two different things and two different ways of expressing something.

 

It’s like the difference between a novel and a short story – completely different mediums and ways of telling stories. People accept that, but I do think it’s an indication that audiences have yet to fully take film art seriously. Film has been considered art for a long time, of course, but I think many people are stuck in the mindset that films are mindless entertainment, as opposed to writing. So people are less inclined to see divisions within the medium of film art, and are more likely to see shorts and features simply as variations of each other.”

Yes, exactly.

 

Finally, what’s the common thread that runs through your work? What do you tend to focus on?

For me, it’s the search for identity, in many different ways. Of course, they are all coming of age, but I don’t really like the term ‘coming of age,’ because I don’t think it fits. In a way, the search for identity is a coming of age story, but I think that a search for identity can happen in so many different ways, and then it will just so happen to be the story of a child, or a child who grew up in different cultures. I do keep coming back to those search for identity stories.


Summer Rain (Zomerregen)
Miwako Van Weyenberg / Belgium / 2017 / 20 mins / Subtitled
Keita, an 8-year-old boy from a Belgian-Japanese family, has a difficult relationship with his grandfather.
Producer: Antonino Lombardo


Summer Rain screened on 12th November, 2018 as part of the International Shorts 3 programme at the Cork Film Festival.

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: One Million American Dreams

Loretta Goff discovers the secrets of New York’s mass graves in Brendan Byrne’s One Million American Dreams.

Brendan Byrne’s One Million American Dreams brings into focus the often unnoticed Hart Island, a small New York City island that is used as a burial ground for the city’s unclaimed dead, and for those whose families cannot afford burial expenses. Byrne’s documentary takes a personal approach to the subject matter, following the stories of four families with members buried here. In doing so, he removes the anonymity of the Hart Island cemetery, reinscribing it with the narratives of these individuals and providing a sort of commemoration for them that is not fully offered on the island itself.

Introducing the film at the 63rd Cork Film Festival, Byrne commented on his own relationship with New York City, from his first visit at age 17, when he was in complete awe, to his multiple returns that have also revealed the city’s tougher edge. When he was made aware of a two-minute recorded news piece on Hart Island he realised it deserved more attention and that he could make a whole film about it. This led to One Million American Dreams, which he describes as “a difficult love letter to the place I’ve had a longstanding love affair with” that takes a “deeper look into the soul” of the city.

Several animated segments in the documentary, along with narration by Sam Rockwell, provide viewers with the necessary historical details of Hart Island, which are expanded upon in interviews with scholars, journalists and politicians. We learn that burials began there in 1869, with over one million individuals laid to rest on the island to date, that it was also used as a Union Civil War camp (amongst other things) and that it is currently run by the Department of Correction, with inmates employed to bury the bodies and no access to the general public. These details are made more visceral with the striking animations that accompany them. One of these, in particular, stands out; it shows layers upon layers of nameless coffins piling up below the island, forming it, but also giving shape to a human head, reminding us that each coffin contains an individual that had a part to play in the story of New York City, and that those who are marginalised should not be forgotten or cast away.

Our attention is turned to some of these marginalised individuals through the stories of the families affected by loved ones’ burials on Hart Island. We meet an African-American Vietnam War Vet whose baby daughter was buried there while he was away, a Cuban family whose father died alone with dementia in the city, a Puerto Rican woman whose stillborn child was due to be buried on Hart Island and the family of a man suffering from drug and alcohol addiction who ultimately ended up there without his family’s knowledge. Through their stories, not only is Hart Island personalised, but we are confronted with the deeper underlying issues affecting New York City and contemporary American culture more broadly—racism, immigration, substance abuse and poverty.

Commenting on his film in a Q&A after the screening, Byrne noted that he used the cemetery on Hart Island, and the stories that emerged from it, as a “frame to confront issues that still face America”, which are threaded throughout the film. We see this in the stories of the individuals that the documentary follows, but also through the film’s carefully crafted cinematography. This captures the beauty of New York City—in the bright lights of Time’s Square, the skyline and diverse groups of people—but also its struggles and darker sides, focusing attention on the homeless sitting overlooked on busy streets and those that exist in the fringes. A particularly striking image follows the ferry travelling out to Hart Island as it, and the island are engulfed in fog. This offers a skillful visual depiction of the islands shrouded nature, cast into the shadows of the dazzling city.

Discussing the process of making the film, Byrne noted that the project as a whole took between three and four years (with 18 months of filming). He commented that it was a process to get the stories of the individuals, but that “without their stories we wouldn’t have the film”. It is the honesty of these that resonates with the audience, offering the documentary’s powerful social commentary.

One Million American Dreams is a timely, well-crafted, poignantly shot and animated documentary that speaks to a number of contemporary social issues neatly encapsulated by Hart Island—the story of which is remarkable in itself.

 

One Million American Dreams screened on Saturday, 17th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival   (9 – 18 November)

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: The Belly of the Whale

Cian Griffin enters The Belly of the Whale which screened at this year’s Cork Film Festival.

The Belly of the Whale is the debut film from Irish director Morgan Bushe and stars veteran Irish comedy star Pat Shortt and up-and-coming Scottish actor Lewis McDougall. The film tells the story of recovering alcoholic Ronald (Shortt) and his relationship with young misfit Joe Moody (McDougall) as they plot to steal from local politician Gits Hegarty.

The main strengths of the film are its characters and the performances. The two main characters are extremely relatable but tragically flawed at the same time. Both Shortt and McDougall turn in great performances that make you laugh out loud while also pulling at your heartstrings. Shortt’s performance is especially moving as he departs from his typical over-the-top comedic roots and delivers a surprisingly nuanced and layered performance as a man struggling to come to terms with the blows that life has dealt him. Michael Smiley (known for his work in Luther, The Lobster and Rogue One) also turns in a memorable performance as local politician Gits Hegarty. He is extremely menacing and threatening while also chewing the scenery in every single scene, providing most of the laughs in the film. The cast as a whole are great with strong supporting performances from Game of Thrones star Art Parkinson and young Irish actress Lauren Kinsella as Moody’s friends Lanks and Sinead.

However, the film suffers a bit from some pacing issues. The film takes too long to get to the actual plot, spending the majority of the runtime setting up the characters and their circumstances and at times drags, spending a lot of time wallowing in the misery of the characters. In contrast then, the ending of the film is a bit rushed and clumsy, culminating in a finale that lacks the emotional payoff we have been building up to throughout the film.

In saying that, for a first-time director, Bushe (who also co-wrote the script) manages to find a great balance between humour and tragedy to make a film that is bursting with heart. On top of this, he makes some great artistic choices and the film is quite beautiful, creating a vivid and realistic picture of rural Ireland. Based on his first film, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Overall, The Belly of the Whale is a charming and endearing film that tells a poignant and at times, heartbreaking story of two flawed characters coming to terms with the challenges in their lives. It’s a touching story of love, loss and friendship bolstered by a great director and strong performances and while it’s not perfect, it is sure to delight audiences while also making them cry.

 

The Belly of the Whale screened on Friday, 16th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival    (9 – 18 November)

Opens in Irish cinemas 7th December 2018.

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: Maeve

Jack O’Dwyer gets caught up in the fractured narrative of Pat Murphy’s seminal Irish film Maeve, which screened at this year’s Cork Film Festival.

 

In an attempt to describe her state of mind as an artist during the appalling years of the Irish troubles, feminist filmmaker Pat Murphy has posited that the North suffered primarily from everyone trying to shoehorn it to fit snugly into their own system of beliefs. This is a clear starting point in an analysis of her seminal 1981 film Maeve, co-directed with John Davies, which depicts the problematic ways in which personal and political beliefs can coexist within a troubled nation, often leading to layers of conflict which act as further barriers to peaceful resolution. At its core the film portrays a sort of uprising through inaction, a tentative method by which an individual may behave if they feel that they are excluded from the promised land which lays at the end of the revolutionary road. Through its radical aesthetics and characterisation, the film offers a unique perspective on one of the darkest periods in the island’s turbulent history.

The driving force of Murphy’s film is the titular Maeve, seen in both present day 1981 and also in recurring flashbacks to unspecified times in the past. In the present day, she returns home to Belfast from bohemian London, fully embodying the stringent lifestyle of a feminist ideologue. In the past, with these nascent ideals starting to take shape in her mind, she is seen as a young adult who vows to escape from the hostile community which stifles her. Maeve, played with skilful restraint by Mary Jackson, is often a difficult character for the audience to relate to, likely a reflection of Murphy’s acknowledged debt to Bertolt Brecht and the so-called ‘’distancing effect’’ which he utilized in his theatre. Much of her dialogue is heady and intellectual, delivered as a series of feminist mantras which refer to metaphysical ‘’Woman’’ rather than earthly, anecdotal ‘’women’’. Traditional womanhood, devout Catholicism, revolutionary insurrection; Maeve chooses to shun all of these potential paths in an effort to gain her own autonomy and identity. In one scene, Maeve and her schoolmates are being forced to rote-learn a religious commemoration to the victims of the local conflict. Maeve instead stares out the window, demonstrating a conscious decision to shun the milieu in which her peers are enmeshed.

Acting as a traditional counterpoint to Maeve’s personal protest is her sister, Roisin, played by Brid Brennan. One masterful aspect of Murphy’s screenplay is the heightened importance placed upon storytelling, particularly in relation to how it enlightens the characters who take up the role of storyteller. Roisin tells a number of stories throughout the film, usually depicting some form of tyranny inflicted upon the population by the armed British guards who patrol the streets. One such story implies that Roisin and her friend were the victims of an attempted rape by an intruding soldier, but the nonchalance and humour with which it is told does little to convey the potential severity of the situation. Moments such as these subtly paint Roisin as a character who is caught in the flux, unwilling to critically examine her role as a traditional, oppressed, catholic woman. Despite her sister’s warning that marriage ‘’only keeps woman down’’, there is never the suggestion that she will follow in Maeve’s non-committal footsteps. Even further alienated from Maeve is their mother, Eileen, played by Trudy Kelly. A quiet well of frustration with little dialogue in the film, she is a helpless bystander to the rampaging tide of patriarchal nationalism in her nation, serving as the outdated archetype to which Maeve internally revolts. Perhaps the film’s most emotional scene takes place in a room filled with religious relics, designed by Eileen as a place devoted to her daughter’s future courting. Such a traditional fantasy comes off as absurd given the nature of Maeve’s character, with the scene soon devolving into a heart-breaking monologue from mother to daughter recounting the first time that Maeve boarded the plane as she left to London – ‘’You never looked back once to say goodbye’’. Tragically, this marks the only point in the film at which Eileen is given an extended opportunity to speak, with each word driving a further nail into the coffin that is their incompatible relationship.

The most articulate challenger to Maeve’s unique vision of nationalism comes in the form of her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, Liam, played by John Keegan. Murphy has expressed the importance within feminist fiction of creating authentic, coherent male characters so as to create an equal playing field of debate. In this regard, the character of Liam is a triumph. A committed republican, he matches Maeve both in the strength of his personal convictions and the fierceness of his debate. The film’s philosophical assertions are founded upon a masterful series of scenes in which the two debate each other in various locations, their rival viewpoints clashing together in a captivating stream of insights and insults. Murphy’s idea for these scenes was that the two would cease to be characters for the duration of these debates, instead transforming into unfiltered mouthpieces for their espoused ideologies; a clear admission of her Brechtian and Godardian influences. The first of their debates happens upon Cave Hill, as they gaze upon a deceptively serene-looking Belfast in the distance. Maeve is first triggered into stating her defiant viewpoint as a response to Liam’s praise of lifelong nationalists, those passionate men who have ‘’been able to keep that image together through all the madness’’. Her issue lies in the fact that the romantic image of Ireland which has guided nationalism thus far excludes her as a woman, it leaves no space for her, she is ‘’remembered out of existence’’ as part of its clause. Next, in her rented apartment in London, Maeve speaks of her decision to ‘’withdraw from it’’, to distance herself from the ‘’country’s neuroses’’. To this, an apoplectic Liam castigates the cowardliness of her actions, pointing to the fact that those who have fought and died for the cause have not had the luxury of her aloofness and free speech, warning that ‘’you’re going to have to come back’’. Virtually every line of their gripping debates could and should be isolated and unpacked by viewers of the film; rarely has such a testament to the efficacy of the Socratic method appeared on screen.  Their intellectual sparring culminates near the film’s end as they saunter gloomily through Clifton Street Cemetery, mutually accusing each other of copping out of their ideals. At the argument’s climax, Maeve compares Britain’s treatment of Ireland to man’s treatment of woman, warning that, if Liam and his counterparts should someday be successful in their struggles, then women will ‘’recognize you as the next stage in their struggle’’. In a film which thrives upon exploring the intersection between nationalism and feminism, this stands as perhaps its most radical political expression.

The film’s challenging subject matter is reflected in the austere visual style which Murphy and director of photography Robert Smith choose to adopt. Considering that the film is set in an environment which features constant, often unexpected intrusions into the daily life of Belfast’s citizens, the cagey 4:3 aspect ratio feels suitably oppressive when viewed on a large screen, as if the characters must struggle in order to escape beyond the borders of the frame. This is further enhanced by the usage of a number of internal framing devices, often doorways, which further squash the characters in to fit their surroundings.  During the tense night-time scenes, the camera creeps behind characters or flits about from left to right, suggestive of the widespread paranoia which haunts the streets. Maeve’s increasingly disillusioned father, Martin, played by Mark Mulholland, returns in a series of scenes throughout the film during which he generally tells a story involving the local population, and these are among the film’s most intriguing moments from a visual perspective. In the first such instance, the camera suddenly wheels around to Martin as he interrupts his wife during a story, and frames him in the middle of the boxy screen staring directly into the camera as he completes a long, thickly-accented monologue. These scenes which feature Martin staring into the camera increasingly come to feel as if he is breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly. The subtle increase in intensity each time this occurs reinforces a sense of desperation and fear which has creeped into his character, culminating in the heart-breaking, quietly fearful words which he tells himself at the film’s closure. The film therefore arises from the lineage of European modernist cinema not only in its bold subject matter, but also in the way it creatively manipulates the filmic tools to give rise to new modes of artistic expression.

Maeve is comparable to Seamus Heaney’s famous ‘’bog poems’’ in the sense that it holds an abstract mirror up to this unspeakable Irish tragedy in a way which seems to shed cognitive and emotional light upon the subject without offering any form of trite solution to what is an endlessly thorny situation. The film is a whirlpool of ideas, of narratives, of memories, described by Murphy as a ‘’political document rather than a film’’. It feels like a political document not only during the war of words and ideologies at its core, but also in its harrowing evocation of a city where children play in the presence of armed soldiers, and searchlights cut through the dark streets like knives. One of the nation’s finest films, Maeve is a brave, important film, whose intellectual honesty and defiant spirit ought to inspire generations of Irish filmmakers.

 

 

Maeve screened on Thursday, 15th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival (9 – 18 November)

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: Town of Strangers

 

Loretta Goff meet the locals in the County Galway town of Gort, in Treasa O’Brien’s Town of Strangers, with a diverse cast, including young Irish Travellers, English New Age hippies, Brazilian factory workers and Syrian refugees.

 

Before the screening of Treasa O’Brien’s new documentary, Town of Strangers, at the 63rd Cork Film Festival, her short The Blow-In (2016) was played. Both feature the town of Gort in County Galway, and those newer residents to the town, considered “blow-ins” or “strangers”. The Blow In is narrated by a French woman who we meet at the start of the film, cleverly framed with an uprooted tree by O’Brien. This woman’s voiceover explains that, as a result of moving around a lot during her youth, she often felt like an outsider and developed a habit of observing people through her windows. This is used as a thread throughout this short documentary as she “looks in” on the lives of several of Gort’s residents.

A narrative thread similarly runs through Town of Strangers, but this time it is the director herself, who interweaves elements of her own life with those of the individuals she interviews in the film, notably drawing together similarities between them. The premise behind this documentary was an open-call film audition O’Brien held in Gort, from which emerged several stories that she felt compelled to follow. In the Q&A following the film, the director explained that she initially had the idea of making an experimental film based off of a script she was working on located in Gort, tackling the subject of changing Ireland and what that meant to a small town. However, she was “very surprised and really moved” by the stories people shared and her experimental film turned into a documentary.

In Town of Strangers we meet individuals from around the world—Afghanistan, Brazil, England, Ireland and Syria—who have all come to call Gort home. As these individuals open up about their lives we are invited to learn about their different backgrounds and unique stories, but what stands out are the commonalities between them (and ourselves) at basic emotional levels. Answering questions about what “home” means to them, about their families and about their dreams, the participants in this documentary reveal their fears, insecurities, hopes and strengths both through what they say and what they don’t. O’Brien subtly catches the whole range of emotions in quiet moments where the camera lingers on individuals’ faces, allowing the audience to read, and connect with, them. Discussing the film, O’Brien said that she was “trying to show empathy in a cinematic way”, and she certainly does.

All of the individuals are presented as different types of “outsiders”—with immigrants, hippies and Travellers among them. However, what emerges throughout the film more than a sense of living between two cultures, though that is evident, is what O’Brien notes as “displacement from the family”. It is through O’Brien’s exploration of this, along with its associated loneliness, that she is able to connect her audience with these “strangers”. Portraying them with empathy and understanding, rather than looking away from difficult stories, reveals just how familiar these individuals really are.

Speaking after the screening, O’Brien said that she “wanted to make a film for our times”. She went on to note the rise in right-wing politics and the fear that is developed by not fully understanding large events, explaining that, with this film, she wanted to bring things back to the personal and focus on connection. Ultimately, she hopes that this documentary contributes to a “shift in your consciousness [in terms of] how you might perceive people”.

Town of Strangers visually challenges perceptions—juxtaposing shots of the Gort Show (agricultural, baking and animal events) with rappers and dancers and Brazilian shops—in order to open up our understanding of rural Ireland, and reinforces this with its interwoven narrative of deeply moving, personal stories. All in all, the documentary offers a sensitive and engaging depiction of human connection, with all its fragilities, and, in doing so, beautifully reflects on contemporary rural Ireland.

 

Town of Strangers screened on Tuesday, 13th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival (9 – 18 November)

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: The Curious Works of Roger Doyle

 

Loretta Goff goes on a journey through The Curious Works of Roger Doyle, Brian Lally’s documentary about Roger Doyle who, over the course of five decades, has created an impressive body of work ranging from minimalist piano and electronic pieces to orchestral works.

Preceding the screening of The Curious Works of Roger Doyle at the 63rd Cork Film Festival, Roger Doyle himself performed live on the piano. Doyle synched this performance with footage of himself in concert in Beijing six years earlier (in 2012), material that was cut from the documentary. As the onscreen Doyle plays, he is superimposed with images of and from a moving train, visually mirroring the motion of his fast-paced music. This synchronicity was echoed through Doyle’s live performance, creating a synergy between the digital and the human, as well as the old and the new—something that pervades both Doyle’s work and Brian Lally’s documentary about the composer.

The Curious Works of Roger Doyle is framed around Doyle’s 2016 electronic opera, “Heresy”, performed at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre, but covers five decades of his career. This intertwining of the current and the previous reflects Doyle’s style as a composer, bringing together classical forms and instruments (e.g. opera and the piano) with electronic technology to create his own style. Interspersed with footage of his opera—from the early stages of its approval and rehearsals to its live performances—are interviews with Doyle’s collaborators over the years, archival footage and several of his past performances. Though dubbed the “Godfather of Irish Electronica”, Doyle’s music has taken him across the world and we see that in the film.

Lally gives space to the music in this documentary, setting aside several sections for Doyle’s performances to play out onscreen. These are often combined with corresponding images that help tell the story of the songs to the audience. For instance, as Doyle plays his song “Chalant” in Paris, shots of the city and its people at night populate the screen. As new faces appear with each beat, a whimsical portrait of the city unfolds. While this shapes our perspective of the song, each musical break in the documentary primarily focuses on the music itself, allowing the audience to become immersed in it and reflect. Doyle’s music invites its listeners to take part in an experience and Lally’s documentary allows for this.

At the same time, we learn about the methods and motives behind the music from both Doyle and his collaborators. Doyle describes the influences behind several of his songs and his use of technology, explaining: “I revise, that’s my process”. Olwen Fouéré, who formed Operating Theatre with him, describes his music as “from the mothership”, noting how their unique styles connected in such a way that allowed them to create musical theatre pieces together for several years.

Equally, several of Ireland’s prominent filmmakers in the 1970s were drawn to Doyle’s music. In fact, Bob Quinn, who collaborated with Doyle several times, also used the composer as a subject of a 1978 documentary for RTÉ. Joe Comerford, who grew up with Doyle, explains that they worked in parallel on the short experimental film Emptigon, simultaneously developing a language of film and composition. A similar sentiment is expressed by Cathal Black, who explains that music creates “a sort of invisible story” in film and Doyle’s was able to perfectly match the film’s narrative in Pigs.

In Lally’s impressive documentary, the story of the music is much more visible and, during the Q&A following the screening, the director expressed that, though he did most of the work on the film, he had Windmill Lane work on the sound mix as that was “quite important” for this project. Equally it was Doyle’s music that inspired the project. Lally became aware of Doyle’s work in the early 1990s but started the documentary in 2005 when he saw Doyle playing goldfish bowls at Whelan’s in Dublin and thought: “this is remarkable, someone should be filming this.”

Describing Doyle as an “avant-garde” composer, Lally explained: “the more I delved into it, the more fascinated I became”, noting that, particularly when he struggled to find funding for the project, “there were certainly points when the music kept me going.” Screen Ireland funding eventually saw the documentary through to completion and the result is a thoughtful exploration of Roger Doyle’s music and career. As Doyle expressed in the Q&A: “I am constantly curious and constantly looking for new ways of doing things.” The Curious Works of Roger Doyle expresses just that, bringing the audience along for the journey.

 

The Curious Works of Roger Doyle screened on Sunday, 11th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival (9 – 18 November)

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: Sooner or Later

 

Jack O’Dwyer finds much to like in Sooner or Later, Luke Morgan’s no-budget feature from Galway filmmaking collective Project Spatula.

 

Luke Morgan, standing before a full crowd in the Gate cinema, proclaims that, in years to come, ‘’we’re gonna remember this day when our little film screened in Cork.’’ He is there to introduce his feature-length debut, entitled Sooner or Later, the latest project by an artistic collective from Galway known as ‘’Project Spatula’’, described by Morgan as a ‘’rock band, except for films’’, which is loosely comprised of 30-40 members who move fluidly from film to film, churning out shorts, features and other projects in spite of the complete absence of any solid budget or sponsorship. This film should rightfully mark the point at which Morgan and his band of dedicated players move from obscurity to celebrity; for while the film may be self-described by Morgan as ‘’rough around the edges’’, it is also brave, exuberant and comedically potent throughout the majority of its 95-minute runtime.

At the core of the film are Thaddeus and Sally, two strikingly original Irish characters played brilliantly by real-life husband and wife pairing Aeneas and Anna O’Donnell. Thaddeus is a truly ineffable character, part folkloric hero in the vein of Oisín and part cantankerous lout in the vein of Father Jack Hackett, with a spindly gait like Nosferatu and a leathered face like Mick Jagger. Matching his eccentricity perfectly is Sally, scatter-brained and prone to getting caught up in fads, yet wholly capable of delivering razor-sharp wit in a way reminiscent of the late Carrie Fisher. As an elderly pair who yearn to escape the confines of their retirement home and elope to Kerry in order to commit suicide on their own terms, the couple’s seasoned chemistry bursts off the screen from the first frame. Indeed, the film’s opening scene is an absurdly comedic bathtub sequence, lit primarily by candlelight, depicting an intimate moment between the two lovers being rudely interrupted by a Nurse Ratched-like member of staff at the care home. Featuring full-frontal nudity, hysterical one-liners, and a Lynchian debate about the spelling of a suicide note, the film’s opening is a stunning introduction to a film fuelled by exuberant, darkly comedic brilliance.

Acting as the foil to the mischievous duo is Alice, Thaddeus’s granddaughter, played by Muireann NÍ Raghaillach. She cares deeply for her erratic grandfather, and has remained weary of Sally’s role in his life for the duration of the couple’s six-month long relationship. It is her care and concern for Thaddeus which leads to her being duped into driving the pair to the old family home in Kerry, despite the fact that the residents have no permission to leave the care facility. Once at the family home, Alice discovers the pair’s suicide pact after a commemorative urn is delivered three days early to the house – just one example of how the film’s plot is structured upon well-executed dark comedy set-pieces. From this point in the film, Alice has a troubled scowl upon her face, not aided by the arrival of her hapless ex-boyfriend Nigel, a man ‘’easier to push over than a cereal box’’, played by co-writer Peter Shine. Alice as a character is not as memorable or engaging as Thaddeus or Sally, which is understandable given the difficulty of playing it straight in a world defined by comedic madness. The relative weakness of Alice’s scenes within the film does not reflect upon the talents of Ní Raghaillach, who performs capably in a challenging, emotional role.

Morgan, as well as engaging in all aspects of filmmaking, is also a poet and novelist, noting in the past the similarities between writing a poem and writing a screenplay, due to the exactitude and economy of language that is needed to be effective in both. The script, written by Conor Quinlan and Peter Shine, is infused with this ethos, with great attention paid to the clever turn-of-phrase and cutting, precise punchline. This is particularly relevant in the case of Thaddeus, who speaks in a sort of impactful lilt, sometimes humorous and sometimes empathetic; each line of dialogue, no matter how inane or bizarre, falls from his lips in natural, poetic fashion, which is testament to the quality of the script. After the film’s screening, Morgan explained the unique way in which the script was assembled. The director provided the actors with certain situations and told them to improvise based on their own knowledge of their characters. These interactions were livestreamed to a team of ten or so writers in a different room, who listened intently and took down the most memorable phrases, working them into future drafts of the script. This approach leads to an abundance of memorable lines. “Last time I met my girlfriend’s family, the Soviet Union was still going strong”, “I want to remain a human…not drugged up to me eyeballs in a care home’’, and Thaddeus’s oft-repeated insult “shut up bonehead!”. In addition to such quotable lines, the script contains numerous self-contained scenes of well-plotted, escalating humour. The hilarity reaches its peak during a night-time scene which somehow brings together a daddy long legs, an erection, and a misinterpreted suicide attempt to form a feat of sustained comic brilliance which compelled the entire Cork audience to uproarious laughter. 

As Morgan himself admirably admits, the film is slightly bumpy from a technical perspective. It is far too easy to dwell upon unavoidable faults which plague the film such as inconsistent lighting, uneven sound design, and a conventional mischievous soundtrack which repeats awkwardly throughout the film’s first act. Given the virtual absence of any budget at all, these are easily ignored, especially in light of the inarguable directorial vision and ambition which pervade the film. Morgan’s compositions often convey the tone of a scene before any words are spoken. This is the case in a gloriously mundane scene between Sally and Nigel, wherein the actors’ postures communicate their mutual discomfort more effectively than words ever could. Similarly, a tragicomic shot of a melancholy Thaddeus sitting among party decorations (which he himself had put up in celebration of his own death) is perhaps the most affecting in the entire film. The film’s rural Kerry setting, which also includes locations shot in Galway and West Cork, is evoked vividly throughout the film, especially during two poignant scenes between Thaddeus and Alice that take place on a beach which plays a symbolic role in the family’s identity.

Redolent of Dylan Thomas’s famous poem ‘’Do not go gentle into that good night’’, the film is a courageous portrayal of dying on one’s own terms rather than simply fading away in conventional fashion. This mature subject matter is, in Morgan’s own words, Project Spatula’s latest attempt ‘’to shout as loud as we can’’ until the industry takes notice. If the standard set by Sooner or Later is maintained or surpassed with future efforts, then it cannot be long until the Galway collective’s calls are heard; the film is a sparkling paean to life, death, and all the love and hardships in between.

 

 

Sooner or Later screened on Saturday, 10th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival (9 – 18 November)

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: Float Like a Butterfly

Loretta Goff finds a voice to the voiceless in Carmel Winters’ film Float Like a Butterfly, which opened the 63rd Cork Film Festival.

The second feature-film of writer-director Carmel Winters, Float Like a Butterfly was the Opening Gala of the 63rd Cork Film Festival and screened again the following day, with packed out audiences at both showings. Introducing the second screening of the film, the Festival’s Programme Director, Michael Hayden, described it as “highly intelligent” and “full of humanity”. This proved to be true as audiences connected with the story unfolding onscreen over the next hour and forty minutes, laughing, gasping, clapping and crying along the way.

Float Like a Butterfly, set in rural Ireland in the 1960s, follows the story of Frances (Hazel Doupe), a fifteen-year-old Irish Traveller, as she comes of age amidst turmoil and fights back against societal expectations. The film opens with a young Frances sharing a happy moment with her family—boxing with her father and listening to her mother sing. This is quickly shattered with the arrival of Guards demanding that Frances be brought to school. Trying to take the child leads to an altercation that results in the tragic death of Frances’ mother, who is pushed by a Guard, and the arrest of her father, who fights back.

Several years later, we see Frances carrying on her father’s fighting spirit while channelling her hero, Muhammad Ali. She stands strong against the discrimination and vitriol she and her family face, reminding herself that they are “the greatest” (like Ali), and resists prescribed gender roles, focusing on boxing rather than the marriage she is continuously pushed towards. However, when her father, Michael (Dara Devaney) returns from prison as a broken man struggling with alcoholism, Frances’ strength is put to the test as she tries to hold her family together.

Tensions boil over when Michael takes Frances and her younger brother on the road. As the trio begin their journey, they come to a split in the path and, after pausing for a moment, Michael comments that “there’s no wrong way” and allows the horse to choose their direction. This neatly reflects the overall position of the film—that it is OK to follow your own path—and acknowledges the many directions one’s life might take. However, Michael does not seem to follow his own philosophy for most of the film, undermining his daughter’s passion for boxing and her more “masculine” strengths, while scolding his young son for being too “soft”.

The acting in this film is strong across the board, but Hazel Doupe stands out, expressing great emotional depth and variety throughout the film. Several shots focus on Doupe’s face, allowing it to guide the audience through both her character’s experiences and their own emotional responses to the film. Through Doupe’s subtle and nuanced performance, Frances becomes both a strong, determined individual and representative of humanity (and our fears, struggles, hopes and successes) more broadly. The audience connects with her, feels her pain and roots for her. In the Q&A following the film, Winters explained that the “character of Frances drove this… she had a story to tell and she didn’t let me go until I told it.”

Locating this film in the past gives it a mythological quality that softens and romanticises some of the tough issues the film addresses, but these remain affecting and the audience can easily relate to them. In the Q&A, Winters stated: “What I really want is everyone to open their hearts” and expressed that she hoped the film allows audiences to connect with their pain, but also find beauty. She explained: “That’s where I come from as an artist … how can I serve, whatever that might be … I want to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Float Like a Butterfly is a standout film that tells a unique story while simultaneously tackling a myriad of topical social issues relevant not only in Ireland, but across the world. It captures humanity at its best and worst, offering a message of hope throughout.

 

Float Like a Butterfly screened on Friday. 9th & Saturday, 10th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival

 

 

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Irish Film Review @ Cork Film Festival: The Favourite

 

Charline Fernandez takes a break from duck racing and pineapple eating to send us this review of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite from the Cork Film Festival.

 

Royal satire The Favourite is a brilliant dark comedy, shattering notions of aristocratic decency with glee. Screening as part of Cork Film Festival, Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest had its audience at the Everyman Theatre on Saturday in howls of laughter.

Set in the early 18th century, England and France are at war. However, the real battle is taking place in the Royal Palace. Two cousins are fighting for the attention of the childish and ill Queen Anne (Olivia Colman – The Iron Lady, The Lobster). Her closest friend is Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz – Youth, Disobedience), a strong, determined woman with a sharp tongue. Sarah’s distant cousin Abigail (Emma Stone – La La Land) is a former noble fallen on hard times attempting to social climb.

Although one could expect a formal atmosphere stressing a rigid and romanticized type of life, The Favourite subverts all expectations of typical historical drama, feeling like a breath of fresh air. Oscillating between tense and grotesque moments, the narrative keeps surprising the viewer. A recurrent element playing on these contrasts is the presence of tamed ducks – who race for the court’s pleasure – punctuating the conversations with their quacks.

Breaking the stereotype of the old princess movies, one scene shows new servant Abigail in a wood picking up plant medicine. Suddenly, a charismatic young man appears on his horse looking at the beautiful seemingly innocent person. However, the tables are soon turned when the lady bites the lip of the noble in her bedroom and literally kicks his ass during a twisted sort of role play in the same forest.

The subversion even extends into the editing as The Favourite is happy playing with the codes of filmmaking. Scenes fade in on one another resulting in a corny superimposition of images, which creates a dissonance between old-school historical drama and Lanthimos’ use of more provocative elements of modern filmmaking. Divided into several acts, the titles are often taken from a character’s venomous line.

Some of the humour even dares to cross the line of historical inaccuracies. Sofia Coppola had already challenged the conventional ballroom scene in Marie-Antoinette, having its central royal figures dancing to punk-rock band Siouxsie and The Banshees. Here, Lanthimos takes it further with a dance between Lady Sarah and a noble that starts old-school but quickly switches hilariously into more contemporary choreography with break dance and hip-hop movements.

The script is just one verbal swordplay after another, particularly the scenes involving Nicholas Hoult’s Robert Harley, a master manipulator campaigning for lower taxes. While its three central women shine throughout, the X-Men actor has his fair share of the screenplay’s provocative lines. When Abigail asks him for a favour, he dryly replies: “Favour is a breeze that shifts direction all the time. Then in an instant you’re back to sleeping with a bunch of scabrous whores.”

The cinematography from Robbie Ryan adds to the non-conformity of the film. Fish-eye lenses are strategically placed in the corner of the enormous rooms while low-angle shots breeze through endless corridors. These two combined elements create a sense of distorted reality. The same goes for the soundtrack announcing the tone from the beginning. Although it is a classical score in the opening scene, the long silences in the melody create some dissonance. As the film continues, electronic notes become more discordant.

While The Favourite is hysterically funny, Lanthimos’ does not skirt over the darkness of the story he is telling, leaving it to linger heavily in the last act. The decadence of the members of the court leads to a tragic ending where all protagonists are prisoners – for better or worse – of their own condition despite all their efforts to escape.

In Lanthimos’ satire, power corrupts. Yet, to his credit he never forgets the people caught in the power plays.

 

The Favourite screened on Saturday, 10th November 2018 as part of the Cork Film Festival

 

 

 

 

 

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Natasha Waugh, Director of ‘Mother’

Natasha Waugh’s latest short film, Mother, screens at this year’s Cork Film Festival. In the film, hardworking mam Grace, played by Hilary Rose, has the perfect happy family: a loving husband and two wonderful children. But when her husband arrives home one day with a brand new kitchen appliance, she slowly starts to realize that there might not be room for both of them in this house.

Gemma Creagh sat down with Natasha to find out more about her quirky short, her journey into film and her IFTA-nominated 2016 film Terminal.

 

 

Mother screens at Cork Film Festival 2018 as part of Irish Shorts 2 – Flesh and Blood at 14:45 on 11th November 2018 at The Gate Cinema.

 

Tickets

 

 

Terminal

 

Natasha Waugh co-founded Fight Back Films in 2013, and has, to date, directed four short films (Food Fight, Running Commentary, Lag, and Terminal) and co-directed another (The Betrayal) with filmmaker Kamila Dydyna. The films have enjoyed success on the festival circuit.

Terminal, inspired by the women affected by the 8th amendment, has gone on to critical acclaim, winning Best Short Film at Indie Cork 2016, Director’s Choice Short Film at the 2017 Irish Film Festival, Boston, the Writers Guild of Ireland Zebbie Award for Best Short Film Script, 2017, and Best Irish Short Film at the 2017 Dub Web Fest.

Terminal has received other nominations for Best Short Film at the Dublin Feminist Film Festival, Irish Film Festival London, Fort Worth Indie Showcase, and played in competition at Manchester International Film Festival 2017. Terminal picked up other prestigious nominations for Best Short film at the 37th London Film Critics’ Circle Awards, and at the 2017 Irish Film & Television Academy Awards (IFTAs).

Natasha’s latest film, Mother, premiered at the 30th Galway Film Fleadh 2018 and screens at Cork Film Festival 2018.

 

Running Commentary

 

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/10/18/irish-film-preview-2018-cork-film-festival/

 

 

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Treasa O’Brien, Writer/Director of ‘Town of Strangers’ 

Writer/Director Treasa O’Brien takes us behind the story of Town of Strangers, a film about a stranger who comes to make a film in the small town of Gort in the West of Ireland, and the people she meets when she holds auditions. Together, they go on a cinematic journey to explore their waking and dreaming lives. Featuring a cast of migrant workers, hippies, Travellers, blow-ins and newly arrived refugees, we are ushered into the private worlds of people living between two cultures, sharing their desires of longing and belonging.

 

When I started making Town of Strangers, the town of Gort boasted two remarkable statistics: it was the town with the most nationalities in Ireland, relative to its small population; and it was the town ‘worst hit by austerity’. I had been visiting Gort with the idea to make a film there when the Goethe Institute, after seeing my film Eat Your Children, commissioned me to make a short film based on the theme of home.  The project Europoly matched filmmakers around Europe, and that is how I got to work with Catalan DoP Gina Ferrer.  It was a kind of blind date – she came and worked with me for a week-long shoot that became the short film called The Blow-in.  I used a day of the shooting schedule and budget for that film to shoot auditions for Town of Strangers, a film script I was developing. I did not yet know what form that film would take, but I knew it would not be a ‘straight’ documentary nor a fiction.  I was searching for a cinematic language that would transcend the binary of documentary and fiction and find a way to express the lived experiences of people with hybrid cultural identities.  I wanted to incorporate stories from the town and potentially cast first-time actors as themselves.

The auditions, however, irrevocably changed the course of the film, due to the particularity of the encounters that occurred. I was astonished and honoured by the stories divulged to me.  People showed me their strengths and vulnerabilities in a way that moved me. The more I got to know the people from the auditions, the more I adapted and improvised the film.  I soon left the script far behind and together with some of the people I met, we went on a cinematic journey to explore their waking and dreaming lives.

I asked people in the auditions to tell me ‘a dream, a lie, a memory, a story or a piece of gossip”. The resulting scenes are not re-enactments, but rather performative enactments improvised together. By inviting the participants to enact their dreams or memories, I was documenting the process of this imagining, rather than trying to create a product based on the content of the story itself.  Sometimes it is the making-of the scenes that were more interesting than the scenes themselves and these form part of the film’s story.

I was doing a PhD in Film Practice at the same time, with Joshua Oppenheimer, director of The Act of Killing, as my supervisor. Joshua has developed a way of working that has expanded the documentary genre that includes filming the process of making scenes with protagonists acting as themselves.  Joshua became my chief mentor and creative advisor on the process of making Town of Strangers over the three years of its making.  I made a first cut and a trailer with Julian Triandafyllou, a London filmmaker, mainly using the audition material and some extra material I had shot.  Martha O’Neill of Wildfire Films came on board as a co-producer based on that cut. We kept developing the film, even though we had no budget, and we invested our own funds and a lot of time.  Later, the Arts Council of Ireland came on board and supported the main production with a Project Award.  We also got some smaller funds from Clare County Council and Faroe Islands supported a sound designer to work on the post.  I worked on and off for over a year with editor Mirjam Strugalla, to build the narrative arc of the film, filming more material with people in between editing sessions.  Gina Ferrer came back for two more shoots and I shot a lot of the footage on my own, gaining confidence as a cinematographer as well as a director. The editing process was an intense collaboration as we tried out several different structures before we decided how the interlocking stories and characters could resonate and have the feeling of a developing narrative.

I constructed a character loosely based on myself, and performed by me, whom I call T, who appears alongside the other characters in the film. She is living in her van, and trying to find a place to live in the town.  She is seen in the van, parked up by a petrol station, sleeping, reading, making breakfast, doing yoga.  My own emplacement as director is semi-fictionalised within the film, inventing a poetic truth of my engagement with the people and place in the film, that is nevertheless based on my real lived experiences.

On another level, Town of Strangers is a human rights film about migration and identity in our times.  It is a cinematic and philosophical exploration of the lived experiences of ‘the other’, people who make their home in a small town in the west of Ireland, in the age of austerity politics, the refugee ‘crisis’, and the rise of nationalism and right-wing politics in Europe and the USA.  I spent time working in refugee camps in Greece while making this film, where I made several short films about the journeys people were making, working with them as co-makers. Town of Strangers explores the aftermath – the shifting sand between our shared human experiences of longing for home, and our search for belonging.

 

Town of Strangers screens at Cork Film Festival 2018 at 14:45 on Tuesday, 13th November 2018 at Triskel Arts Centre.

Tickets here

Town of Strangers premiered at Galway Film Fleadh in July 2018 and is nominated for Best Cinematic Documentary at Cork Film Festival. 

 

 

Town of Strangers – Official Website

Written and directed by Treasa O’Brien

Executive Producer: Joshua Oppenheimer

Producers: Martha O’Neill and Treasa O’Brien

Cinematography: Gina Ferrer & Treasa O’Brien

Editor: Mirjam Strugalla

 

Town of Strangers – Facebook Page

Director’s Website

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/10/18/irish-film-preview-2018-cork-film-festival/

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Roisin Kearney, Producer of ‘Prodigy’

 

Producer Roisin Kearney tells Film Ireland about Prodigy, in which a young boy begins to suspect his new neighbour is a world-famous pianist who has been missing for over twenty years.

The making of Prodigy was a dive into the collective madness that is indie filmmaking. While shooting another short together Naomi Sheridan [Writer/Director] got the news that the legendary pianist John O’Conor would like to play the part of Sebastian in a script she had sent him called Prodigy.

Not only was he willing to play the part but he had a suggestion as to who could play Gabe, the young boy in the film, his student and up-and-coming talent, Joe O’Grady.

John, who was in virtually every scene was available for 5 half days – he was working in the Royal Irish Academy of Music in the mornings. It was insane, but we did it anyway. There were numerous locations, crew changes, and an incredible amount of goodwill and advice, but most of all help, from too many people to mention. But I would like to give a special shout out to Filmbase and its staff, there is no way we could have done it without their help and advice.

And now here we are, in the Cork Film Festival for our Irish premiere. It’s been a long road to get here but worth the wait and I have no doubt the sleepless nights of Neil Horner, who looked after almost all of the post-production after picture lock. We had one or two of them ourselves, but it’s kind of like childbirth, you forget the pain and only see the result, a result that I hope will bring plenty of joy to those who see it. We feel it captures a moment in time, a permanent record of two of the greatest pianists in the world, together on screen in a little Irish indie film called Prodigy.

 

Prodigy screens at Cork Film Festival 2018 as part of Irish Shorts 1 at 14:00 on Saturday, 10th November, 2018 at The Gate Cinema

 

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/10/18/irish-film-preview-2018-cork-film-festival/

 

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Cork Film Festival Industry Days

Are you going to the Cork Film Festival later this month? Here are a few important dates for your calendar.

On top of a fantastic line-up, the Cork Film Festival’s designated ‘Industry Days’ really knocks it out of the park when it comes to getting the top names from the Irish film scene. Their First Take and Doc Day will be extended to include a new event, Focus: Filmmaker Forum. These Industry Days provide invaluable opportunities for established and emerging filmmakers to connect, and to explore all aspects of the film industry.

First Take – Thursday 15th November

First Take is a training and development event aimed specifically at newly established film professionals, emerging filmmakers, and film and media students. Case studies and panel discussions will promote fresh thinking amongst attendees and to inspire them to be proactive in promoting their own film work.

 

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Doc Day, In Partnership with Screen Ireland – Friday 16th November

Cork Film Festival’s annual documentary-focused Industry Day, Doc Day is a major event that engages and connects Irish and international documentary filmmakers and industry leaders, it provides a vital platform to promote Irish documentary film and filmmaking talent.

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Focus: Filmmaker Forum – Saturday 17th November

This new event compliments the Screen Ireland-supported Focus Shorts World Premiere programme at The Everyman. It will provide attending filmmakers with the opportunity to take part in informal networking and a series of roundtable sessions, which will help guide participants through the process of developing their first feature; from development and financing, through production, festival strategy and distribution.

Participants will sign up to partake in five 20 minute sessions, where key Irish and international film sector professionals will take their questions and advise on the vital components of making the transition from short to feature filmmaking, and explore strategies to efficiently produce and exploit their film.

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http://filmireland.net/2018/10/18/irish-film-preview-2018-cork-film-festival/

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Global Issues at the Fore for 63rd Cork Film Festival

The 63rd Cork Film Festival, running from 9-18 November, is to showcase Irish and international films with a focus on current global issues.

The 2018 programme for Ireland’s first and largest film festival, launched today (16 October), features films with themes centred on LGBT, mental health, child poverty, gender equality, and human rights. Over 250 Irish and international features and shorts will be screened across the Festival, with 90% being Irish premieres. For further details see corkfilmfest.org.

Speaking on today’s programme launch, Festival Producer and CEO Fiona Clark said: “Our mission is to bring people together through an outstanding programme of films and events and to create an unforgettable festival experience over 10 days in Cork.

“As a destination for great storytelling on film, this year’s programme includes numerous award-winners from the 2018 international festival circuit, alongside fresh new voices, together showcasing the latest and best independent cinema. For many films presented, this is the only opportunity to see them on the big screen in Cork and Ireland.”

Special presentations include a cine concert of the 1920s silent horror Nosferatu (13 November) at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, with a new score by Cork composers Irene and Linda Buckley. This year’s collaboration with the National Sculpture Factory is Alan Butler’s On Exactitude in Science (12 – 14 November) a work comprising Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1983) in synchronicity with Butler’s 2017 remake.

Speaking on the representation of Irish film in the Festival, Programme Director Michael Hayden stated: “It is fantastic that we can open the Festival with a film with such distinct Cork connections. Carmel Winters’ highly anticipated and award-winning second feature Float like a Butterfly is a special film that fiercely challenges patriarchy and stereotypes. Carmel, and many of the cast and crew, will be in attendance for this European premiere on 9 November.

“Selecting Float like a Butterfly as the Opening Gala is indicative of the Festival’s commitment to celebrating Irish film, and we have secured some of the most celebrated films of the year. These include the Irish premiere of Yorgos Lanthimos’ feminist comedy The Favourite on 10 November, produced by Element Pictures and starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; and The Dig, directed by Ryan and Andrew Tohill, starring Moe Dunford, which was awarded Best Irish Feature at Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year.”

The Closing Night Gala will also feature the work of an outstanding female director, with the Irish premiere of Nadine Labaki’s multi-award-winning Capernaum (18 November). This urgent and important film is on child poverty and the denial of an individual’s human rights. Other Irish premieres of international features include The Old Man and the Gun, starring Robert Redford as a septuagenarian bank robber; Peter Strickland’s sumptuous and spooky tale, In Fabric; and Wash Westmoreland’s period biopic, Colette, starring Keira Knightley.

The programme features 40 documentaries, with highlights to include veteran auteur Frederick Wiseman’s Monrovia, Indiana, and Werner Herzog’s Meeting Gorbachev, cementing Cork Film Festival as the destination festival for documentary in Ireland.

Illuminate, the Festival’s unique series of film and discussion events exploring mental health and wellbeing, is presented in association with Arts+Minds, the HSE Cork Mental Health Service and Irish Rail Iarnród Éireann. Screenings include Trauma is a Time MachineFor the Birds, and Ordinary People.

The fun-packed family strand will be screened throughout the Festival at The Gate Cinema. The programme includes the highly-anticipated family friendly animations, The Grinch (10 November) and The Overcoat (17 November), which features the voice of Cork actor Cillian Murphy.

In total, 117 world-class shorts will be presented across the 10 days and will be considered for either the Grand Prix Irish Short or the Grand Prix International Short Awards. The winners of both, announced at the Awards Ceremony on 18 November at the Triskel, will be automatically longlisted for the Oscars®.

 

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‘Float like a Butterfly’ Opens Cork Film Festival

 

The 63rd Cork Film Festival has announced that this year’s Opening Night Gala will be the award-winning Irish film, Float like a Butterfly. The European premiere, to be attended by the film’s writer and director Carmel Winters, takes place on 9 November at The Everyman.

Float Like a Butterfly is an inspirational coming-of-age story of an Irish girl from the Travelling community and the pursuit of her dream to be a boxer. It won the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) prize for the Discovery programme at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

This year’s Closing Night Gala is the Irish premiere of Nadine Labaki’s multi-award-winning film Capernaum, also at The Everyman on 18 November.

Capernaum, which took the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival, and Audience Awards at further international festivals, is set in Beirut and tells the courageous story of a 12-year-old boy who sues his parents for bringing him into a world of poverty.

Tickets for both films are now on sale at www.corkfilmfest.org. The much-anticipated full 10-day programme for Ireland’s largest film festival, which will showcase the very best in new cinema, will be announced on Tuesday, 16 October.

Festival Producer and CEO Fiona Clark said: “We are thrilled to be premiering these two significant films, directed by two outstanding female directors, in Cork. Their stories reflect and resonate with the times we live in – life on the margins of society seen through the eyes of a child; the reality of personal and social struggles; and the human need to achieve a sense of belonging. We are honoured to share these films with our audience at the 63rd Cork Film Festival.”

Speaking on the Opening Gala for the 63rd Cork Film Festival, Cork director Carmel Winters said: “I love the worlds that met in the making of this film. I am so proud that these worlds will come together again to celebrate our European premiere in Cork. I couldn’t wish for a better home-coming for Float Like A Butterfly.”

Cork Film Festival Programme Director Michael Hayden added: “We want Cork Film Festival to be a place of discovery and provide a platform for films that challenge perceptions and provoke debate. We are delighted to be able to celebrate these two outstanding new films as our Opening and Closing Galas. We look forward to sharing the full programme of Irish and international films at the launch on 16 October and to welcoming Festival goers to explore and discover 10 days of the best world cinema in November.”

Further announcements in the 2018 programme include the Festival’s Industry Days, on 15-17 November, comprising of First Take which explores all aspects of the Irish filmmaking landscape; Doc Day, Ireland’s premier Documentary Industry Day presented in partnership with Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland; along with a new event for emerging filmmakers. Cork Film Festival extends its successful partnership with the IFI Education Department to present a comprehensive Schools Programme in The Gate Cinemas in Cork City, Midleton and Mallow. Eight specially selected titles will be presented in support of Junior and Senior Cycle Second Level curricula.

 

 

Cork Film Festival runs from 9-18 November 2018

 

 

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/06/26/film-festivals-2018-here-abroad/

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Call For: Submissions for 2018 Cork Film Festival

The 63rd Cork Film Festival will take place from 9th -18th November 2018 and is now open for submissions.

The deadline for Early Bird submissions is 16th March 2018– Eary Bird entry fees are at a discounted rate of €10 for Cork Shorts, €15 for Shorts and €25 For Features and Documentary Features. After the Early Bird Deadline, the fee will increase to the Regular price of €20 for Cork Shorts, €25 for Shorts and €25 for Features and Documentary Features. The Regular deadline for submissions is 4th May 2018.

Filmmakers who cannot make either the Early Bird or Regular Deadline may submit until June 29th for an increased fee.

Further information and the link to submit via FilmFreeway can be found here: https://corkfilmfest.org/submissions/

 

http://filmireland.net/2017/12/24/festivals-funding-schemes-deadlines-2015/

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Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival: Michael Inside

Loretta Goff takes a look at Frank Berry’s tale of Michael, a luckless 18-year-old who is misfortunate to be sent to prison.  

Michael Inside takes a hard look at the ways that young people from disadvantaged communities can become caught in a cycle of crime that they have no desire to become a part of. The film follows 18-year-old Michael McCrea (Dafhyd Flynn), who lives with his grandfather Francis McCrea (Lalor Roddy) in a Dublin housing estate. Michael’s father is in prison, his mother died of a drug overdose when he was young, and he left school early, working odd jobs instead. However, he shows a desire to follow the “right path” and an interest in furthering his education on a social care course.

Unfortunately, Michael’s life derails simply because of a series of naïve mistakes, the result of both his youth and his environment. Though he is only on the side-lines of criminal activity, he is sent to prison for three months in an attempt by the judge to shock him into correcting his behaviour. The consequences of this decision are devastating.

Dafhyd Flynn delivers an understated, emotional performance as Michael. Quiet and contemplative, his vulnerability is made evident as his incarceration looms. This is subtly mirrored by the equally excellent performance of Lalor Roddy as his grandfather, who puts on a brave face and offers words of assurance, but again exposes hidden worry in quiet moments. The faces of both these actors do the work of revealing all that is left unsaid in the film, and they do it quite well, eliciting empathy from viewers.

Once inside, Michael is forced not only to grow up quickly, but also to harden. He is repeatedly told that he must fight back and, when he is taken under the wing of Moe Dunford’s character, this becomes inevitable. This character, with another strong performance from Dunford, appears to be on the precipice of violence at any given moment and holds a position of power within the prison, having been there for a while. Under his protection, Michael not only begins to develop a penchant for fighting back, but is also drawn in to the periphery of crime in much the same way as he was on the outside.

Dunford’s character warns Michael that “your sentence only starts when you’re released”, and this appears to hold some truth for Michael who, despite trying to turn his life around, is caught in a cycle of crime and incarceration. Director Frank Berry does an excellent job of framing Michael in such a way that he appears trapped both inside and outside of prison. This occurs not only through the repeated pressure to do favours for criminals in both places, but also with shots of Michael looking through grates on a bridge that mirror the grated windows of the prison and of shots from outside his house that look in on him, framed and trapped in the lit window, surrounded by the exterior darkness.

Authenticity was important to Berry, who also wrote this film, and in the Q&A following the screening at the Cork Film Festival he discussed the amount of research involved. He got the idea for it after making his last film in Tallaght (I Used to Live Here, in which Flynn also had a role), and knew he wanted to focus the narrative on a grandson and grandfather—a family dynamic seen a lot in disadvantaged areas. Berry had quite a few discussions with youth in these communities who did not want to become involved in crime, but were positioned there, and equally decided to reflect this in the film. He approached the Irish penal system with this idea and was set up with the prison rehabilitation service Pathways, which enabled him to interview a number of former prisoners about how being incarcerated changed their lives and ways of thinking.

Berry’s research and dedication to accurately representing the experiences of those he interviewed shows in his film. Michael Inside makes us feel for its titular character and, through the frustrating nature of the path his life takes, reveals the flaws in our systems. Dafhyd Flynn perhaps captured it best during the Q&A, saying that when he watches the film he “sees truth”.

Michael Inside, which won Best Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh, also won the Audience Award at the 62nd Cork Film Festival.

 

Michael Inside screened on 16th November 2017 as part of the 2017 Cork Film Festival (10 – 19 November)

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival: Writing Home

 

Jack O’Dwyer puts pen to paper about the romantic comedy Writing Home, made as part of the Filmbase Masters Course

Writing Home, though ostensibly a romantic comedy, tells that classic story of an ego being slowly stripped away in order to reveal the triumph of authenticity over artifice. Conor Scott’s script, under the direction of three Filmbase Masters’ students (Nagham Abboud, Alekson L. Dall’Armellina and Miriam Velasco) and guided by producers Mark Coffey and Jannik Ohlendieck, follows a well-worn cinematic path, with its concerns being particularly comparable to Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces, from 1970. Its rigid adherence to the tenets of feel-good cinematic romance deserves both condemnation and praise for, while it is cliché-ridden and predictable, it is also funny, satisfying and undeniably impressive given the inexperience of its cast and crew.

At its centre is Tony Kelly, in a swaggering performance as Daniel Doran, a hack writer who leaves the high-life of London to return to his rural Irish home of Darlingford, where he encounters his dying father, begrudging family, the former flame he suddenly abandoned and a young daughter that he has never met. Kelly’s confident performance brings a real vibrancy and immediacy to the film. His plastic, animated facial expressions reveal a smarmy, posturing fraud who, deep down, is ashamed of what he has become. The opening fifteen minutes or so, set in London, does just about everything it can to make Daniel a deeply unlikeable figure. Among other things, he snorts coke off of the cover of his newest bestseller, forgets the name of a Russian model he sleeps with, and replies ‘’good’’ when he learns of his father’s illness over the phone.

Upon his return to Darlingford, each scene serves one of two purposes. The first is to contribute to Daniel’s journey of self-discovery and moral retribution through acts of selflessness and honesty. The second is to show Daniel up for his arrogance and condescension, often in humorous ways. A key aspect of Daniel’s character is that, despite his overbearing self-seriousness, he is established from the start as a figure who is often the butt of the joke. He uses his wealth and large vocabulary as a weapon of self-defence, which frequently backfires. Particularly satisfying is a scene in which he is cajoled into attending a local Darlingford book club meeting, where he comes face to face with the same sort of self-important drivel that he himself peddles.

The ways in which Daniel successively negotiates the ills of his past, and the ultimate character arc that forms as a result, play out lucidly on screen, for the most part. Perhaps the most problematic scene is a conversation between Aoife (Caoimhe O’Malley), Daniel’s former girlfriend and the mother of his child, and her mother. Daniel is the subject of the conversation in spite of his absence, and there is a revelation from Aoife’s mother which suggests that Daniel has always been benevolent and generous, even before his return to Darlingford. The reveal comes from nowhere, and in light of the film as a whole it seems to dull the emotional impact of Daniel’s ultimate moral progression. Also, numerous scenes, including the film’s opening, make reference to the fact that Daniel is in fact a talented writer of serious fiction who merely became disenfranchised following the failure of his first book. However, rarely in the film do we get a glimpse of this Daniel; the talented artist beneath the showman’s veneer. In fact, Daniel’s writing is a sort of grey area throughout the entire film. The fact that such a large aspect of his life and background remains so far removed from the presentation of his character reduces somewhat the overall cogency of the film.

Shot in just five weeks, Writing Home is a fantastic achievement from up-and-coming Irish talent under the tutelage of Filmbase’s intensive Master’s programme. There is little indication of its limited budget and even when there is, it does little to distract from the verve in front of and behind the camera. All the familiar beats are there, and some of the music-heavy montage sequences are a bit too sickly sweet, but with snappy dialogue, touching performances and confident direction, Writing Home remains engaging throughout its 90-minute runtime.

 

Writing Home screened on 15th November 2017 as part of the Cork Film Festival (10 – 19 November)

 

Mark Coffey, Co-producer of ‘Writing Home’

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Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival: No Party for Billy Burns

Loretta Goff rides into town and checks out Padraig Conaty’s film about a shy and awkward, Wild West-obsessed Billy Burns, whose cheerful cowboy fixation masks the scars of a childhood tragedy.

Padraig Conaty’s directorial debut, No Party for Billy Burns, is very much an Irish Western. The film’s titular character, Billy Burns (Kevin McGahern), lives in rural Cavan, but imagines himself a cowboy from the Wild West. Shy and innocent, Billy leads a fairly lonely life with his grandfather (Shane Connaughton), not quite fitting in with the local lads in the pub. It is his imagination that sustains and entertains him.

Like Billy in his hometown, Cavan seems out of place as the setting for a Western. As a result, the film, which captures rural life in a very realistic way, also carries the feel of a fantasy. This is especially evident in its opening and closing sequences which intersperse Super 8 footage of old Westerns with home movies of Billy’s childhood, reflecting a filmic nostalgia. Conversely, Billy’s day-to-day life, and glimpses into the lives of other locals, encapsulate the isolation and frustration felt by many in small communities.

The pub forms the centre of this community as the place where everyone gathers, shares news and kills time. A group of men the same age as Billy seem to spend most of their days here, elucidating a lack of opportunity that perhaps leaves them without many other options. Among them is Ciarán (Charlie McGuinness), whose evident frustration with his circumstances grows throughout the film along with his volatility. Billy, however, remains on the fringes of this scene. He appears to go almost out of habit, ordering a pint and observing the scene, waiting for rare moments to join in.

Billy’s sense of isolation is made even more visceral at home, where the sound of loud, chilling wind often invades the scenes. Amidst this, Billy regularly sits alone in the only lit room of the house performing his own radio show for entertainment. Other than his grandfather, Billy’s only other real companionship comes in the form of Laura (Sonya O’Donoghue), his romantic interest. Unfortunately, Laura does not return his feelings and has been with Ciarán for a number of years, which only leads to complications.

Conaty, who also wrote the film, deals very empathetically with the character of Billy as he searches for his place in the world. In a Q&A following the film’s screening at the Cork Film Festival, the director explained that while the lead role was written for actor Kevin McGahern—who also inspired the character by being the only one to dress up for a Wild West Festival held in their local Cavan—he also drew inspiration from their local community. Equally, McGahern stated that he performed the role based on a number of people he knew growing up—described as “shy country lads” who would never leave the country.

Conaty and McGahern both spoke to the ways that the film reflects their local area, including the general “cowboy” attitude of many locals, who often speak and behave in ways that offer easy comparison to cowboy films. Between the development of characters that reflects this locality and the fact that the film was shot in their hometown in Cavan, No Party for Billy Burns carries an air of authenticity that viewers from rural communities will connect with. However, its themes of isolation and of feeling trapped in a certain life are also universal.

The film, which took six years to complete on a budget of between €7,000–8,000, is a personal project handled with care, showcasing both scenery and daily-life in Cavan through the lens of its shy, observant lead. While No Party for Billy Burns evokes a number of classic Westerns throughout, such as High Noon (1952) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), it also allows the space for Billy to create his own path in the narrative. Similarly, the film itself is able to avoid certain generic conventions by remaining very rooted in its rural Irish setting, developing its own category as a modern Irish Western.

 

No Party for Billy Burns screened on 13th November 2017 as part of the Cork Film Festival

 

 

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival: Local Films for Local People: Cork on Camera

Jack O’Dwyer was at the Cork Film Festival for Local Films for Local People: Cork on Camera, a programme of short films made in and about Cork from the collections of the IFI Irish Film Archive showing Cork city and country life from the 1900s to the 1970s. 

 

This selection of archival footage related to Cork, its history and its people has been compiled by the Irish Film Institute, and screened at the Triskel Arts Centre during the Cork Film Festival. This invaluable selection of footage allows a local and national audience to witness the history of Cork first-hand, and acquire unique insights which cannot be gained by walking its streets.

As an exploration of Cork’s representation on screen over the course of some seventy years, this archival compilation fittingly begins on Patrick’s Street, in 1900. The clip lasts about half a minute and, typical of the period, features a static, flickering image of horse-drawn carts, women in shawls and top-hatted men going about their daily routine, unaware of the camera’s presence. The usual realization that an audience has when viewing such footage – that all those on screen are long dead and perhaps forgotten – is all the more striking and hallucinatory here given the familiarity of the location to citizens of Cork and Ireland. We can remain distant from those in the Lumieres’ films of the period; they are alien to us in distance as well as time. The footage presented here, however, transforms Patrick’s street into a space for both the living and the dead, which is hard to ignore as a local viewer. Just as fascinating is the next piece of archival footage, which shows a crumbled, smouldering Cork in 1920, following widespread fire and destruction during the War of Independence. Disconcerted citizens wander amidst the rubble of more familiar locations such as City Hall and Carnegie library. The images of Cork presented here are almost comparable to World War two footage of levelled cities like Dresden and Coventry, which is shocking to today’s residents, many of whom, myself previously included, are no doubt unaware of this historical chaos in their city.

While these early clips lend an insider’s eye into Cork’s visual history, there are also two pieces featured which are produced by Pathé, whose newsreels were ubiquitous throughout 20th century Britain. The first of these pieces from across the pond focuses on Irish revolutionary icon Michael Collins. It is initially peculiar to observe Collins, one of the most revered yet controversial figures in Irish history, strolling around among the throngs, and engaging in stilted handshakes with camera-shy citizens. He appears almost normal until the second act of this carefully-crafted sequence, when the camera frames him from below as he rallies a sprawling crowd, in a way almost reminiscent of Lenin or Trotsky, his revolutionary contemporaries. Finally, after being depicted as both ordinary man and elevated saviour, Collins is shown as a mourner at the funeral of Arthur Griffith; a piece of film which is doubly poignant in light of it being the last-known footage of Collins, who was assassinated 10 days after Griffith’s death. While this newsreel can be called a sympathetic view of the Irish by Britain, then the other Pathé newsreel featured here – a colour film of Cork men playing road bowling in 1957 – pokes wry fun at their neighbours. The men performing the illegal game are portrayed as recalcitrant rogues, which leads to snide, tongue-in-cheek remarks from the narrator about the mischievous nature of the Irish character.

There are two films in this collection which provide a comprehensive visual account of Cork and its surrounding areas. The first, entitled The Irish Riviera, is a travelogue produced by the Irish Tourist Association in 1936. Featuring the nasally narrator’s voice and gloriously hyperbolic descriptions of similar British newsreels, this journey around Ireland’s south, said to be ’’thrusting jaggedly into the Atlantic Ocean’’, glosses over any blemishes while focusing on the area’s most Edenic features. Beginning in Mizen Head, the camera weaves its way in and around Cork, capturing Cobh’s cathedral and the Shandon Tower in endearingly laborious tilts and pans. As a touristic account of the area, the film is impressively exhaustive given its 14-minute runtime, making trips to Kinsale, Youghal and various coastlines, with each sight doused in saccharine music. At Glengarriff, windows and gates open languidly in a way which seems suited to a Hollywood melodrama, while the narrator enticingly remarks, ‘’the sun is at your window and the sea is at your door!’’. Rhapsody of a River, from 1965, is similar in concept to The Irish Riviera. However, the Louis Marcus-directed film decides to eschew narration in favour of striking visuals and rhythmic, precise cutting accompanied by grand orchestral music. In doing so, it emerges as a dynamic, visual ode to a city in the vein of Berlin: Symphony of a City, Man With a Movie Camera or Koyaanisqatsi, and undoubtedly the highlight of this collection of films for me. From early on, the film can be seen as a visual symphony, with a traffic conductor taking the place of a music conductor as he is intercut with whirring images of Cork city life. Unlike the unchanging music of The Irish Riviera, the music here underscores and magnifies the images with an affecting ferocity. The thunderous images of large industry and the gritty determination of the workers in the background are reminiscent of Humphrey Jennings’ powerful British wartime films such as Listen to Britain and Fires Were Started. There are also a number of fantastic contained sequences in the film. One features a series of Cork’s architectural highlights seen in grand scope from below, which brilliantly conveys their majesty. Another shows old etchings and paintings of Cork transforming into footage of their 1960’s locations, which is truly magical to observe. This wonderful orchestra of images ends with tranquil footage of Cork’s lakes paired with a sentimental ballad about the city; a poetic tribute evocative of Yeats’s ‘’Lake Isle of Innisfree’’.

With the first half of the archival footage having focused on the external features of Cork, the second half focuses more on the domestic life of Cork families. Adoption Day, a short documentary by the prolific Irish catholic production company Radharc, is a brave and charming film made in 1967 which, indicative of its release year, is a strange mix of the old-fashioned and the modern. It details the process by which a Cork family adopts a little girl from a catholic adoption home. Despite some humorously outdated comments from the interviewer – who questions the potentially ‘’unsavoury’’ background of many children put up for adoption – the film treats its subjects with real tenderness and warmth. Particularly touching is the scene in which the family meet their new member for the first time, with a static shot capturing the heart-warming moment with admirable sympathy and respect. The film concludes on a similarly warm note, as the narrator remarks that the baby, shown in close-up, will leave ‘’five broken hearts behind her’’ if she is ever to be reclaimed by her birth mother.

The collection finishes with an equally heart-warming fictional film from 1959 entitled Larry, which is an adaptation of Frank O’Connor’s famous short story ‘’My Oedipus Complex’’. Set in the hazy, working-class streets of Cork, this story of a young boy’s reaction to his father’s return from war and the birth of his sister is uproariously funny and subtly compassionate. Though firmly rooted in its God-fearing Irish catholic setting, the film presents universal truths about the stubborn naiveté of childhood and the carrot and stick nature of parenthood. For Fergal Stanley’s wonderfully spirited central performance alone, the film should be more widely available.

Collections like this are important because they help us to smooth out the rough edges of our perception and cast a fresh eye on the streets we walk every day. The films which reside in the rich, illuminating depths of the IFI film archive bring us closer to our local history and heritage with unique immediacy. That such a small selection of the films available can have such a sobering effect is testament to the continuing power and vitality of the visual archive.

 

 

Local Films for Local People: Cork on Camera screened on 12th November 2017 as part of the Cork Film Festival

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Cork Film Festival Announce 2017 Winners

Irish short film Wave (pictured) is in contention for an Oscar®, after being selected as the Grand Prix Irish Short winner at the Cork Film Festival 2017 Awards Ceremony. The award was presented ahead of the sold out Closing Gala screening of Downsizing at The Everyman.

Benjamin Cleary and TJ O’Grady Peyton’s winning short will now go on the longlist for the 90th Academy Awards® in the Live Action Short Film category. The award was presented by RTÉ Supporting the Arts, principal media partner of the Cork Film Festival and given by Colm Crowley, RTÉ Cork.

Wave tells the story of Gasper Rubicon, who wakes from a coma speaking a fully formed but unrecognisable language. Cleary’s 2015 short, Stutterer won the Oscar® for Best Live Action Short at the 88th Academy Awards®.

The winner of the Grand Prix International Short Award, Mahdi Fleifel’s A Drowning Man (Denmark, Greece, UK), will also automatically qualify for the Academy Awards® longlist.

Speaking at the Awards Ceremony, Cork Film Festival Producer and CEO Fiona Clark said: “Wave is a very deserving winner, and is a worthy inclusion on the Academy Awards’® longlist. The quality of shorts within this year’s Festival programme has been exceptional, highlighting creativity and diversity in both subject matter and form.

“The Cork Film Festival has a long-standing commitment to presenting and promoting such talent, further demonstrated this year through 17 short film programmes. We are delighted that, for the first time, selected Irish shorts from this year’s programme will feature on the RTÉ Player following the Festival. In addition, both Irish and international shorts from the Festival will be made available to the public beyond the Festival though our online library, AVA, accessed in Cork City Library.”

The Shorts Jury, chaired by BAFTA nominated producer Farah Abushwesha, also selected Linda Curtin’s Everything Alive is in Movement, as the winner of the Best Cork Short, while Best Documentary Short went to Mia Mullarkey’s Mother & Baby, a documentary on survivors of the Tuam mother and baby home, which had its world premiere as part of the Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board World Premiere Shorts programme.

Other prize winners announced at the closing ceremony included Untitled directed by Michael Glawogger and Monika Will, which won the Gradam Na Féile Do Scannáin Faisnéise / Award for Cinematic Documentary. The film was created two years after the sudden death of Michael Glawogger by editor Monika Willi who took footage produced during Michael’s filming in the Balkans, Italy, and Northwest and West Africa.

The Gradam Spiorad Na Féile / Spirit of The Festival Award, presented by The River Lee, principal accommodation partner, went to Rima Das’Village Rockstars. It follows a young village girl in northeast India who wants to start her own rock band. An honourable mention went to Dafydd Flynn for his performance in Frank Berry’s Michael Inside.

The Cork Film Festival Nomination for the 2018 European Short Film Awards was Sebastian Lang’s Container.

The Audience Award, presented by The Gate Cinema, principal venue partner, was won by Frank Berry’s acclaimed Michael Inside, telling the story of an 18-year-old living in Dublin who is sentenced to three months in prison after he is caught hiding drugs for his friend’s older brother.

The Cork Film Festival Youth Jury Award went to Last Man in Aleppo, directed by Feras Fayyad. The film allows the viewers to experience the rescue work of Syrian volunteers, The White Helmets.

Ms Clark added: “This year audiences had an opportunity to see 115 features, 34 documentaries and 116 shorts. For the majority of the films shown, this was the only chance to see them on the big screen in Cork.

“We were delighted to present Doc Day presented in partnership with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board and supported by Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Screen Training Ireland. Other highlights included Elaine Hoey’s The Ground Opened Up, presented in collaboration with the National Sculpture Factory, our Illuminate programme of films and discussions exploring mental health, presented in partnership with Arts +Minds / HSE, and a range of events in partnership with the Irish Film Institute.

“We are hugely appreciative to all our funders, sponsors, partners, patrons, friends, and industry colleagues who have ensured the success of the 62nd Cork Film Festival, and we are especially grateful to the large and loyal audiences who attended.”

The Cork Film Festival will return for its 63rd edition in November 2018.

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Steve Kenny, Writer/Director of ‘Time Traveller’

Steve Kenny turns back time with Film Ireland to chat about his short film.

Time Traveller is the story of a Back To The Future-obsessed 10 year-old named Martin, who is trying to build his very own DeLorean out of an old car and bits of scrap. When Martin’s family is told they are to be evicted from their halting site, Martin races against time to finish his project, creating tension between him and his father.

The story was the product of two separate ideas that had been brewing for a while. I had long wanted to tell a story set in the travelling community – in particular, one that showed a different, less sensationalist side of traveller life than what we’re used to seeing on screen. Martin’s family are a traveller family forced to deal with the specific problem of eviction, but, in a more general sense, they’re also just another Irish family trying to navigate their way through a difficult time, which I think most people can relate to on some level. The other less conventional aspect of the story comes from a more personal place. As a kid, I spent hours watching and rewatching my favourite movies, imagining what it would be like to live in the same worlds as the characters. Chief among those movies of course were the Back To The Future trilogy. I think every kid who grew up with those films longed to take a drive in Doc and Marty’s DeLorean. I thought the idea of a 10-year-old kid taking the initiative to build his own DeLorean was exciting, and Time Traveller allowed me to fulfil a childhood wish of my own, in a roundabout way.

I’ve done a lot of writing over the last few years. Every project is different and – though it’s certainly not always the way – the Time Traveller script came very quickly, and most of what was in the first draft closely resembles the finished film. I made my first short, the horror film Coil, with producer Collie McCarthy and we’ve been collaborating ever since. Collie is my first port of call with everything I write and, when I showed him Time Traveller, we agreed that it had the makings of a decent little film.

We submitted it to the Irish Film Board and were delighted when they selected us for funding as part of their inaugural Focus Shorts scheme. They were up front about the risk they felt they were taking in backing us as it was quite an ambitious project – involving child actors, car stunts and a lot of logistical obstacles. Ultimately though, they believed in the script and in our vision and their support and guidance was crucial to us being able to tell the story in the way that we wanted.

Our biggest concern in pre-production was finding the right boy to play the lead role of Martin. Given that he is in every scene, and drives all the action, we knew the film would succeed or fail based on the strength of his performance. We decided early on that it was important for us to cast a boy from the travelling community, and we spent months holding auditions until we found someone who we felt embodied the role. We saw a lot of talented kids, but when we found Tom we knew he was something special. Although he’d never acted before, Tom’s family, the Dorans, are no strangers to the limelight. His two older brothers, one of whom is also in the film, have both modelled for photographer Perry Ogden so the idea of being in front of a camera wasn’t totally alien to Tom. Beyond that, Tom has an intensity and intelligence that few adult actors could match. His performance really makes the film and I’ve no doubt in the bright acting future he has ahead of him.

We were also fortunate to have the very talented Barry Ward play the role of Martin’s father, John Paul. Barry is a tremendous actor, incredibly experienced and a very nice guy to work with in general. As this was my first time directing children, it was great to have someone with his experience and demeanour on set, to bounce ideas off and help mould Tom’s performance. The father-son relationship between John Paul and Tom is the core of our story and, thanks to Barry and Tom’s chemistry, I think that comes through powerfully in the film.

I had been an admirer of the cinematography of Piers McGrail for a long time and was delighted when he decided to come on board. We agreed on a naturalistic aesthetic for the majority of the film that occasionally gives way to something more heightened to reflect Martin’s excitement. This principle extended to our sound design and our Supervising Sound Editor, Niall Brady, put together something special for the seminal scene where John Paul tows Martin’s DeLorean around a field at top speed. Practically, this was the most challenging scene to shoot, with a lot of different elements needed to capture everything in the way we wanted. We had a stunt driver for the scenes where the car was moving around at high speeds, and we used a drone to get tracking shots. For the close-ups of the actors and of the car, we created a lot of the motion using a mix of clever camera movements, wind machines and a lot of bouncing up and down on the rear and front bumper! It was my first time using many of these filming techniques but, with the support of our experienced crew, I was able to shoot it almost exactly as planned and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Overall, the shoot was a great success. Thanks to Collie and our excellent production team, we put together an incredibly talented and dedicated crew, which made directing the film a real pleasure. Our post-production was also incredibly smooth as we did it all in-house at Screen Scene. Our editor, Colin Campbell, and myself spent just two weeks together cutting the film, after Colin’s initial assembly. In the edit, you often want to exhaust all the options with everything you’ve got before settling on something final, but Colin has such good instincts for choosing the right moments that we were able to work through most scenes quite quickly. This afforded more time for us to spend working out the trickier sequences until we were satisfied.

For the score, I knew I wanted something that evoked the same epic sound of the music from the family blockbusters of the ’80s… something that gave a nod to the famous Back To The Future theme but which was also distinctive and original. Composer Ray Harman did a fantastic job creating a theme that works perfectly in the big driving scene, as well as in the quieter and more sombre opening and closing of the film.

Working with such talent and experience meant we were able to deliver the film two months ahead of schedule. That made us the first completed short on the Film Board’s new Focus scheme, and they decided to pull forward our premiere screening to the Galway Film Fleadh in July. We were thrilled with the positive audience response it received and are delighted to be taking the film to Cork this weekend, and to Foyle the week after. The goal is to get as much recognition as we can on the festival circuit as we now take the step into feature films.

Up next for me is a horror feature I’ve been developing for a number of years about superstition and disappearances in a remote West of Ireland community that’s similar to my first short, Coil. Although different to Time Traveller in many respects, the motivation behind it is the same as it is with all my projects – to tell original, relevant and compelling Irish stories that audiences will enjoy.

 

Time Traveller screens as part of Irish Shorts 6 – Family Adventures at 13.30 on 18th November in the Gate at the Cork Film Festival (10 – 19 November)

 

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Paul Horan, Writer/Director of ‘Bless Me Father’

 

In a small Irish town where secrets are rare, a local man goes to church to confess his.

 

Film Ireland absolves writer / director Paul Horan ahead of Bless Me Father‘s screening at the Cork Film Festival.

 

How would you describe the film?
 
It’s a fairly dramatic piece, but with a healthy dose of dark humour and cynicism in there too. It takes place in the sort of small Irish town where everyone knows each other – and more importantly – each other’s business. One man with a bit of a chip on his shoulder uses the ritual of confession to rope the local priest into a very specific conversation on his own terms. Of course, it develops into a chat that could change both of their lives.
 
You wrote it yourself – how did it all come about?
 
I probably see myself as a writer first and foremost. After noodling around with a few feature scripts, I found that, at times ,I was writing too much plot, and not enough character, so this become something of a challenge to myself. To write something with limitations on the physical, where the story could only move forward and develop through the characters conversation. I also wanted to have something reasonably easy to shoot – though initially I intended to find someone else to do that. The script ended up doing fairly well with a few festival awards. So I ended up chatting to other filmmakers at those who gave me the kick up the arse I needed, and told me to just go do it myself. From there, the brilliant producers Dawn Mac Allister and Michael Donnelly were fantastic with helping me put all the pieces together.

It’s quite a theatrical script – can you tell us about your writing process?

Trial and error mostly! Given the set-up, it needed to be fairly theatrical in appearance anyway – two fella’s having a chat side by side. But I was very conscious of it developing into melodrama, which I really wanted to avoid. For the most part, at each stage of the story I just tried to empathize with the characters, put myself in their shoes, with their experiences, and see how it might naturally unfold. I’d often find myself driving somewhere, and think “ah Christ, no, Michael would never have done that!”, and have to stop and write a few notes in my phone before I forgot!

There are great central performances – how did you go about casting and end up getting Francis Magee, Phelim Drew, and Glynis Casson on board?

With so much riding on performance, we decided early on to be patient, and get the very best folks for the job. After looking around, Louise Kiely casting came on board. Eva-Jane Gaffney in particular did some brilliant work in tying everything up. Once we locked in on our targets, we approached the two lads on the same day, and thankfully they both said yes. Glynis came on board shortly after to complete the perfect trio.

 

It’s beautifully lit and makes the most of tight spaces – can you tell us about working with Eimear Ennis Graham and what she brought to the project?

Eimear was fantastic altogether. Particularly as it was my first project, I really wanted someone beside me who knew all the technical stuff that I didn’t. She made the whole process just so much easier than it could have been. First, in brainstorming as we traded reference images and nailed down exactly how we wanted it to look and feel. And then once we actually got to set, her confidence and ability meant everything was cool and calm and under control throughout. A special mention to Mike Fitzpatrick also, who built the confession box itself. The options and angles he planned for, with removable panels, allowed Eimear to get her camera wherever she needed to, to best capture the three performances.

 

You must be excited to be screening at Cork?

Yeah, absolutely… it’s 6 years ago now that I left Cork for Los Angeles, so it’s lovely to be screening my first film back home. It was only after I left that I got into writing professionally, so I’d never had any experience of production in Ireland. That made shooting back home all the more interesting – the familiar environment, but in a totally new context.

 

Delighted my family and friends, and as many of the crew as can make it, can see it on the big screen for the first time right along with me.

 

Bless Me Father screens as part of Irish Shorts 1 – It’s good to talk at 11:45am on 11th November in the Gate at the Cork Film Festival (10 – 19 November)

 

 

Programme: 
 
Bless Me Father

Paul Horan / Ireland / 2017 / 15 mins

In a small Irish town where secrets are rare, a local man goes to church to confess his.

Producer Dawn Mac Allister

 

The Wedding Speech

Joe McStravick / Ireland / 2017 / 8 mins

As the best man, Ed, doesn’t realise that his speech will be the most important that he will ever make.

Producer Joe McStravick

 

The Pike   C

Alicia Ní Ghráinne / Ireland / 2017 / 16 mins

An estranged grandmother and grandson are forced to live together for a brief period of time.

Producer Alicia Ní Ghráinne

 

Static

Daniel Holmes / Ireland / 2017 / 17 mins

An isolated conspiracy theorist learns how to re-enter the outside world with the help of a mysterious accomplice.

Producer Kevin Treacy

 

The Secret Market

Martina McGlynn / Ireland / 2017 / 23 mins

Chief surgeon Dr. Amy McCarthy has a near perfect life until her past comes back to haunt her.

Produers Garret Daly, Victoria Smurfit

 

Immaculate Heart

Jack Burke / Ireland / 2016 / 21 mins

Two thieves on the lam witness a phenomenon that may prove to be their salvation…or their doom.

Producer Jack Burke

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival

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Cork Film Festival to Open with Festive Treat

 The 62nd Cork Film Festival opens tomorrow night, Friday (November 10) with the Irish premiere of The Man Who Invented Christmas at The Everyman.

Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars as Charles Dickens in Bharat Nalluri’s comedy-drama, a creative spin on how the famed novel A Christmas Carol was created

Ireland’s first and largest film festival runs until November 19th, with 115 feature films, 34 documentaries and 116 shorts, while 50 countries are represented throughout the programme. The opening weekend will present premieres, thought-provoking documentaries, and fun family films. For full details of the programme and tickets, visit corkfilmfest.org.

The Irish premiere of American crime-drama film, Good Time, directed by celebrated filmmakers Ben and Josh Safdie, will also be screened on opening night, at 10.30pm at the Triskel Christchurch.  The film stars Robert Pattinson (Twilight) who is being tipped for an Oscar® nomination for his career-defining performance.

Several Irish films feature across the opening weekend including the Irish premiere of gothic horror, The Lodgers(November 12, The Everyman). Directed by Brian O’Malley, the film was largely filmed in Wexford and stars Bill Milner (X-Men: First Class) and Eugene Simon (Game of Thrones).

Also screening on November 12 at The Gate Cinema will be Gerry Gregg’s Condemned to Remember, a documentary that follows Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor living in Ireland on an epic journey to confront the past.; along with Maurice Fitzpatrick’s In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, a documentary narrated by Liam Neeson that tells the story of how John Hume harnessed Irish America to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

The opening weekend programme also includes Song of Granite (November 12, The Everyman), the biopic of Irish traditional singer Joe Heaney, directed by Pat Collins and starring musicians Lisa O’Neill and Damien Dempsey.

Other programme highlights include renowned documentarian Alex Gibney’s No Stone Unturned, which examines the Loughinisland massacre in County Down on June 18, 1994; and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, a deeply moving and unforgettably poignant look at childhood. Both will be screened on November 11 at The Everyman.

One of the biggest family-friendly films of the year, Paddington 2, will be screened this Saturday (November 11) at The Gate Cinema at 11.30am. This screening will be preceded by a Paddington family treasure hunt starting at 10am at The Gate Cinema. Prizes will be given for best wellingtons, bear and hat.

Speaking ahead of the Festival’s opening night, Festival Producer Fiona Clark said: “This year’s Festival opens with a wonderfully varied programme of world class films that we know will excite, engage and entertain audiences of all ages and interests. With 48 films over the opening weekend alone, the Festival is a not-to-be-missed destination of discovery for audiences to explore and enjoy.”

For full details of all films and bookings see corkfilmfest.org, call 021 4271711, or visit the Cork Film Festival Box Office at 119 Patrick Street, Cork

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival

 

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Diarmuid Doran, Director of ‘Boomerang’

 

 

Boomerang (2017) is a debut short film produced, filmed and directed by Diarmuid Doran. The film, which stars stars Mike Timms and Sofia Nilsson, takes the viewer into an unknown crisis which darkens the heart of a mysterious wreck.

Diarmuid Doran guides Film Ireland through his hypnotic trip.

 

What can you tell us about Boomerang?

It’s difficult to talk about the film without giving the story away so I don’t really discuss it with people until they have seen it, I just tell them it’s a love story, but a weird love story.

People need to draw their own conclusions and establish their own viewpoint, a film can mean different things to different people.

 

The trailer is quite mysterious…

I find film trailers give away too much of the story and you know whats going to happen before you see the film. It should be a mystery when you sit down to watch.

https://vimeo.com/238800226

 

Where did the idea for the film come from?

The original story came from a stills narrative I shot as a student photographer in 1999. I revisited the idea and adapted it for film, the story development took one full year and principal photography was a ten-month gestation on and off, kind of like childbirth, only more painful.

 

What was the budget?

There was no budget or funding, it was all paid for by the myself. Mike Timms, the principal actor, paid for his own flights to Paris though. Have you ever told your wife you’re flying to Paris without her, to make a film? She laughed, then I knew it was a good idea. In the end, the total spend on the film was two grand.

 

Where was Boomerang filmed?

As I wanted anyone to be able to relate to the story, I wanted the film to have an international context, I didn’t want location to get in the way. I achieved this by not using traditional establishing shots that, I find, detract from the viewers’ connection. Boomerang was shot in three amazingly special parts of the world Dublin, Paris and Bray.

But it’s more about an internal location.

 

Is it true there was no crew, you did everything yourself?

I did everything apart from acting, my cameo didn’t make the cut. It was written, filmed and directed entirely by myself with no other crew during shooting. I did everything –  lighting, camera, sound, organising locations, lunch, actors schedules, casting, carrying equipment, drying the tears, everything.

Shooting was way too heavy when I look back at it, I could have had more time to direct and get the best from the actors in relation to the story I had in my head. I had to remind myself not to neglect the actors, and they had to remind me to shoot stills. When I’d say that scene was finished Mike would shout “stills” stopping me in my tracks.

I even drew the storyboards myself which Sofia Nilsson thought were very funny. Though when I asked her did she understand them she said yes, so they worked. Sofia also laughed when recording the voices for the opening scene, I took that as a great sign because most people laugh when they come across something new, exciting or unique.

 

Where did you find the actors ?

I cast them myself, and it proved difficult, finding dedicated actors to commit to a project with zero budget is a hard sell, but in the end I found actors with dedication and unselfish commitment to the story. Again, I didn’t want distinctly looking ‘Irish’ actors, and I didn’t want to adhere to the norm. My mantra is always “cliches are the enemy”.

 

What was the strangest moment during filming?

By far carrying coffins downstairs in the local undertakers was strange and surreal. That scene didn’t end up in the film though because it seemed too much like spoon-feeding the audience.

 

Were there any major difficulties during the shoots?

Flight cancellations, lengthy battles with insurance companies, the stills photographer, Pierre, being caught up in the Paris terrorist attacks, soon followed by us witnessing a guy waving a gun on a Paris backstreet as we left a restaurant the night we shot the street scenes.

And I know without doubt the best shot in the film would never have happened if our first flights weren’t cancelled, we wouldn’t have been at the location at the right time.

 

Your background is photography, this is obvious in the cinematography.

Yes. I enjoyed this immensely, using light sources that would, by proper photographic norms, be called ‘wrong’.

I shot Boomerang on one camera I bought from Hong Kong for under 500 euro, one Nikon digital SLR and one lens. Lighting came by way of a DIY shop fluorescent light and a projector, but a lot of scenes made creative use of natural light and ambient environmental sources. The photography reflects the mood of each scene, going from natural ambient lighting to surreal dramatic intensity.

 

As a debut film, what was the biggest lesson you learned along the way?

The soundtrack. The soundtrack needs a lot more time than you think, months of work for sixteen minutes.

The soundtrack was written and recorded by myself during the principal photography and editing of the film. This was a a great lesson in being concise and minimalist by trying to let the pictures tell the story and not overpowering them, but also enhancing them at the same time. I’d been “almost finished the soundtrack” for months on end.

Also, film is a hard slog, it’s not red carpets and celebrity, it’s 6am on a cold beach, on your knees…

 

 

Boomerang screens in the Irish Shorts 3 Poetic Voices programme at 2pm on 15th November 2017 at the Cork Film Festival (10 – 19 November)

 

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Irish Shorts 3 Poetic Voices Full Programme

The Hidden People
Ronan Corrigan / Ireland, UK / 2017 / 7 mins
When a Yorkshire teenager discovers the potential remains of a fairy, his childlike beliefs clash with his older brother’s bleak reality.
Producer Lauren Bell

The Erlking
Christopher Whiteside, Madeline Graham / Ireland / 2017 / 16 mins
A young couple’s burgeoning love for each other grows into something darker when they face a malevolent entity.
Producers Christopher Whiteside, Madeline Graham

Boomerang
Diarmuid Doran / Ireland / 2016 / 16 mins
An unknown crisis darkens the heart of a mysterious wreck.
Producer Diarmuid Doran

Soil Engineers
Dominic Curran / Ireland / 5 / 2017 /
A Sisyphean fisherman is tied to the worms he fishes with, while carrying out his epilogue
Producer Bethany Sloan

Deposits
Trevor Courtney / Ireland / 2017 / 5 mins / Animation
Deposits concerns the connection of all the disappeared in Ireland.
Producer Michael Algar

Where is Eva Hipsey?
Orla Mc Hardy / Ireland / 2016 /9 mins / Animation
An intrepid, older women deals with the reality of aging in a poetically practical way.
Producer Nicky Gogan

Everything Alive is in Movement C
Linda Curtin / Ireland / 2017 / 10 mins
A film about the power of the female spirit to transcend and transform the human body.
Producer Paula Larkin

I’m Roger Casement
Dearbhla Walsh / Ireland / 2017 / 12 mins
A short film that dances with the queer bones of British knight, Irish rebel and international humanitarian, Roger Casement.
Producer Vanessa Gildea

Wave
Benjamin Cleary, T.J. O’Grady Peyton / Ireland / 14 mins
A man wakes from a coma speaking a fully formed but unrecognizable language, baffling linguistic experts from around the globe.
Best Short – Galway Film Fleadh, 2017
Producer Rebecca Bourke

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Cork Film Festival Unveils 2017 Programme

 

 

The 62nd Cork Film Festival launched its 2017 programme , showcasing the best in Irish and international film. Taking place across 10 days from November 10-19, this year’s festival will screen more than 200 films, with the majority being Irish premieres.

Over 16,000 people are expected to attend Ireland’s first and largest film festival, which generates €2.5 million in revenue locally. The programme includes 115 feature films, including 34 documentaries and 116 shorts, while 50 countries are represented. Screenings take place at The Everyman, Gate Cinema and Triskel Christchurch. For full details and tickets visit corkfilmfest.org

The Man Who Invented Christmas 

Opening the 2017 Cork Film Festival is the Irish premiere of Irish/Canadian co-production The Man Who Invented Christmas at The Everyman on Friday, November 10Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens assumes the role of Charles Dickens in Bharat Nalluri’s film, a festive romp that recounts how Dickens’ iconic A Christmas Carol was created

 The Irish premiere of Alexander Payne’s science-fiction road movie Downsizing at the Everyman will close the Festival on Sunday 19 November. It stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a husband and wife who decide to shrink themselves to simplify their lives, though things don’t go to plan. Other highlights include Ruben Östlund’s The Square, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and Documentary Gala, Promised Land, directed by Eugene Jurecki. The film looks at how America has changed since Elvis Presley died 40 years ago.

Celebrating the best of home-grown talent, some of the most celebrated Irish films of the year feature across the 10 days. The screening of Frank Berry’s acclaimed Michael Inside takes place on 16 November, telling the story of an 18-year-old living in Dublin who is sentenced to three months in prison after he is caught hiding drugs for his friend’s older brother. Following its successful screening at the Toronto Film Festival, the Irish premiere of gothic horror The Lodgers, takes place on November 12.

The Lodgers

The Festival will present the world premiere screening of short films produced under the Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board’s Focus Shorts and Real Shorts schemes. Over 50 Irish short films feature in the programme, and for the first time, a selection will be invited to feature on the RTÉ Player post-Festival, as part of RTÉ’s principal media partnership. Shorts submissions, both nationally and internationally, exceeded 3,200 and the Cork Film Festival is the only Irish festival to have two awards with Academy Awards® accreditation. The winner of the Grand Prix Irish Short, presented by RTÉ Supporting the Arts, and the winner of the Grand Prix International Short, will automatically qualify for the Academy Awards® longlist.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Cork Film Festival Producer Fiona Clark said: “The 2017 programme is a unique opportunity to see some of the best established and emerging talent working in film today.”

Guest Programme Director, Michael Hayden added: “This is truly a Festival for everyone, an opportunity to be challenged, inspired, surprised and entertained. From our Industry Days, to our popular Family and Schools programme, these 10 days in November offer the chance to enjoy films not otherwise available on the big screen in Cork.”

Illuminate will once again feature with a unique series of film and discussion events focusing on mental health. Presented in association with Arts+Minds and the HSE Cork Mental Health Services, screenings include 32 PillsMy Sister’s SuicideColo, and Keep the Change.

Ireland’s premier documentary industry event Doc Day, presented in partnership with the Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board, returns on November 17. It takes place at The Metropole Hotel, and brings together Irish and international industry leaders to explore the landscape in which projects are conceived, developed and distributed. Keynote guest is acclaimed double Academy Award® winning documentary producer Simon Chinn. Additionally, the First Take industry event on November 16, will offer newly established professionals and students the opportunity to explore all aspects of the Irish filmmaking landscape.

For a younger audience, an increased Schools and Family programme runs this year, presented in association with the Irish Film Institute Education Department. Films include Red DogTrue Blue, along with Buffalo Rider and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The Festival will also screen the 40th anniversary re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and there is a special event to mark the release of Paddington 2 on November 11 from 10am at the Gate Cinema, with an adventure around the city in celebration of the marmalade loving bear. A screening will follow at 11.30am. This year there is also a new family ticket pass priced at €25 for two adults and two children.

The Festival has announced the Gate Cinema as principal venue partner, with a packed programme over 10 days, together with sponsorship of the Gradam Spiorad na Féile (Spirit of the Festival Award) for feature filmmakers who push boundaries. The Festival’s Audience Award will once again be presented by principal accommodation partner, The River Lee hotel.

 

Full details at corkfilmfest.org/

 

 

 

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Mark Coffey, Co-producer of ‘Writing Home’

 

Producer Mark Coffey tells Film Ireland about romantic comedy Writing Home, made as part of the Filmbase Masters Course.

 

What can you tell us about Writing Home?
Writing Home is a romantic comedy and tells the story of Daniel Doran, the writer of a string of international bestsellers of dubious literary merit. He returns reluctantly to a small rural village in Ireland where he has to deal with family politics, the old flame he walked out on and the daughter he’s never met.

 

How does the Filmbase Masters programme prepare you for making a feature film?
The Masters programme sets you up well for making a feature film. In the first term the focus is on the academic side of filmmaking where we learned about each aspect of the filmmaking process with a few practical assignments. The second term concentrated much more on the practical side of things and the assignments allowed us to experience each department’s roles and responsibilities on set. Our final assignment was crewing the short film QED, which also premieres at Galway, and it allowed us to work alongside established cast and crew in the Irish film industry.

 

Cast & Crew

Did you enter the course knowing you wanted to be producer?
I entered the course knowing I wanted to be a filmmaker and was interested in writing, directing and producing. After graduating in science from Trinity, I moved to Los Angeles for a year and worked as a production assistant on a number of commercials and TV shows. It wasn’t in the Steven Spielberg league but I got a great variety of experience from reality TV to high-end drama. When I returned to Ireland, I worked on some films produced by Treasure Entertainment and believe the skills I picked up in the US and Ireland led me towards the producer role.

 

There were 3 directors on Writing Home – Nagham Abboud, Alekson L. Dall’Armellina and Miriam Velasco – how did that work?
It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. The toughest hurdle was between themselves in transforming three voices into one. Of course each of them brought their own skills and perspectives and they worked intensively as a team in pre-production to ensure a consistent vision for the film. I understood with having three directors that I needed to take a backseat in the creative process on this occasion.

 

What was it that attracted you to Conor Scott’s script?
It was a laugh reading through it and there’s plenty of funny moments that I hope the audience at Galway will enjoy. The main character, Daniel, has an interesting character arc and, although he is funny, he still has to face the consequences of his actions and learn from his experiences.

 

Can you tell us about some of the biggest challenges you faced and lessons you learned.
The first big challenge was finding a location for a rural Irish village. After unsuccessful scouts in Kildare and Wicklow, I hit upon the idea of setting the film in Carlingford, where I spent many happy childhood summers growing up. The locations were perfect and the people were very welcoming and generous but the only way we could have Carlingford as the setting was if I could find accommodation for about 20 members of cast and crew. The next problem was how to get everyone there when so few people could drive or had transport of their own – but we managed it and spent almost two weeks filming in the Cooley peninsula.

 

Another big challenge was the shoot in London. The crew of four, and the two actors that joined us, were fairly new to the city and, although we had done our research, we couldn’t be certain that our plans would go off without a hitch. Sadly, three days before we arrived, the London Bridge attack had taken place and the tension in the city was palpable. Despite that, we found people very helpful and we got most of the material we had been hoping for.

The most persistent challenge was the constant need to raise funds. We organised a crowdfunding page and I managed to get sponsorship from a number of businesses and Louth County Councillors but the budget was extremely tight and a constant worry.

Although the production was stressful at times, it was a great experience and the biggest lesson I learned is to be prepared for the unexpected.

 

 

Writing Home screens on Wednesday, 12th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 22:00 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh 2017
 

Writing Home screens on Wednesday, 15th November at The Gate Cinema at 18:45 as part of the Cork Film Festival
 
 

Masters Digital Feature Film Production

MSc at Filmbase

 

Dates: Starts September 2018

1 year full-time course

Filmbase offers a unique, industry-facing masters-level course aimed at preparing filmmakers for the reality of writing, developing, pitching, producing, shooting, editing, posting and distributing feature films in digital formats.

http://www.filmmasters.ie/

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Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival: Between Land and Sea

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Loretta Goff catches waves at Ross Whitaker’s documentary Between Land and Sea, which premiered at the Cork Film Festival.

 

Making its world premiere at the Cork Film Festival, Between Land and Sea follows a year of life in the surf town of Lahinch, Co. Clare. Previously known for golf, the advent of surfing in Lahinch from 2000 provided an economic boon for the town and has been embraced by the community. The documentary begins in January when most of the town has closed for the season and the beaches are quiet, giving locals time for their own surfing before the busy season, full of surfing lessons, kicks off. Easter weekend, and the repainting and reopening of local shops, marks the start of this season, and the influx of people and cars to the community contrasts greatly with the quiet (and sometimes financially difficult) winter months.

Offering a portrait of the community, and capturing its spirit, director Ross Whitaker (Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story, When Ali Came to Ireland) introduces us to local surfers Tom Doige-Harrison (and his wife Raquel Ruido Rodriguez), Ollie O’Flaherty, Fergal Smith, John McCarthy and Dexter McCullough, along with ocean-loving community member Pat Conway. Not only do we see these individuals’ athletics in the water (and their true love for it), we also get an intimate look at their lives, exploring the themes of aging as a surfer, financial ups and downs, family life and planning for a sustainable, long-term future.

Between Land and Sea equally creates a portrait of Clare’s Atlantic coast, capturing both its beauty and power. Shots of serene water reflecting orange-tinted sunsets and sleek, smooth waves are contrasted with stormy waters, huge waves breaking on cliffs and turbulent, frothy whitewater. Stunning local big-wave destinations Riley’s Wave and Aileen’s Wave, at the base of the scenic Cliffs of Moher, feature in the film. These waves attract surfers from all over the world, including surfing legend Shane Dorian who makes an appearance in the documentary, but are home to our surfers from Lahinch who show off their skills here. While Whitaker captures a great deal of the essence of Lahinch, its waters and its people from the land, Kevin Smith deserves special accolades for his visually impressive aerial and water camerawork which provides some remarkable shots. Capturing adventure, athleticism and everyday life, this film will appeal to surfers and non-surfers alike.

Following the sold-out screening, Ross Whitaker, Ollie O’Flaherty, John McCarthy, Dexter McCullough and Pat Conway were present for a Q&A. Whitaker explained that the film was made with a low budget and a small, but very dedicated, crew who put in the time to be there when things happened. Spending hours behind the camera filming surfing took intense concentration in order to ensure that the best waves of the day were captured. Meanwhile, O’Flaherty expressed a sense of pride in what they achieved and happiness that people will get to see the amazing place they live in, a thought mirrored by the rest of the panel. Throughout the film he, along with other surfers, expressed a desire to train up a new generation of Irish surfers to greatness, and this film should help to inspire that.

There are plans for Between Land and Sea to be released throughout Ireland next year as well as continue on the festival circuit.

 

Between Land and Sea screened on 19th November 2016

The Cork Film Festival 2016 runs 11 – 20 November

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Cork Film Festival Review: Certain Women

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Tom Crowley finds three to be a crowd Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, which played as part of the opening weekend of the Cork Film Festival in the Everyman Palace Theatre.

With her new film Kelly Reichardt returns to her feminist oeuvre after a brief foray in filmic activism with the eco-thriller Night Moves (2013). Shot on film, Certain Women has a certain raw quality, a look that is reminiscent of Chantel Akerman’s feminist masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). However, Certain Women is no such masterpiece. Her best film still remains Wendy and Lucy (2008).

Certain Women does in fact share a lot of the same thematic qualities as Wendy and Lucy, especially in the crippling loneliness and stoicism embodied by Lily Gladstone’s character, a ranch hand in search for a meaningful relationship. The film is a triptych. We begin with the story of Laura (Dern), a lawyer who feels unvalued in her field because of her gender. She acts as a surrogate other-half, sister and mother to a disgruntled client Fuller (LaGros) whose marriage is falling apart.

Our second protagonist Gina (Williams) is also underappreciated. She is taken for granted within her family unit consisting of her pushover husband Ryan (LaGros) and bratty teenage daughter Guthrie (Rodier). The problem with the film as a whole is that the first two stories are significantly over-shadowed by the third.

Although feminist in context, it deals with the more universal theme of loneliness as Jamie (Lily Gladstone in a magnificent performance) goes in search of a meaningful relationship. In an attempt to connect with the world she goes to a night class she isn’t even signed up for. There she meets her teacher Beth (Stewart). Beth is a blindly ambitious and self-involved aspiring lawyer who makes a four hour trip twice a week to teach a class about ‘School Law’, a subject she knows nothing about just to please her bosses. Jamie sees a comparable loneliness in Beth and falls into silent infatuation. The ending to this particular panel is devastating.

The three narratives are loosely linked together by geography and ignoble relationships. The fact that the film is split into three stories helps ease Reichardt’s notoriously slow pacing. She is a director that really wants her audience to feel time. She is a committed realist. However, with Certain Women one could argue that Reichardt doesn’t get the dramatic balance right – although this opinion could be purely gender related. It is interesting that the connection that this reviewer felt most deeply with was Jamie. In the original short stories by Maile Melroy from which Reichardt adapted this film, the character of Jamie was a man. Reichardt changed the characters gender to appropriate her feminist agenda.

Certain Women premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. in January 2106. It screened as part of 61st Cork Film Festival opening weekend in The Everyman Palace theatre Saturday 12th November and will get a limited release in Ireland on the 3rd March 2017.

The Cork Film Festival 2016 runs 11 – 20 November

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Doc Day @ Cork Film Festival

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Inform. Debate. Inspire.

 

Friday 18 November | The River Lee | 1100 | €30

 

Doc Day is Cork Film Festival’s new rich and packed day exploring trends in Irish and global documentary.

 

Speakers

  • Kim Longinotto (dir., Pink Saris, Dreamcatcher)
  • Sarafina DiFelice (Associate Director of Programme, Hot Docs)
  • Luke W Moody (Director of Film Programming, Sheffield Doc/Fest)
  • Laure Bonville (Documentary programmer, BFI London Film Festival)
  • Oli Harbottle (Head of Distribution, Dogwoof)
  • Mike Lerner (prod./dir., Roast Beef Productions, The Russian Woodpecker, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer)
  • Hamish Moseley (Head of Distribution, Altitude Films)
  • Rich Warren (Director, Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival)
  • Anna Berthollet (Festivals & Non-Theatrical Sales Executive, Taskovski Sales and Distribution)
  • Patrick O’Neill (CEO, Wildcard Distribution)
  • Maya Zinshtein (dir., Forever Pure)
  • Alan Maher (prod., Forever Pure)

 

Programming

Explores current trends and recent shifts in documentary programming worldwide.

 

Distribution

This session poses questions to distributors on the global trends in documentary distribution and the current changes in the industry.

 

Social Change and the Campaigning Documentary

The outgoing Head of Film at BRITDOC, Luke W Moody, now Director of Film

Programming at Sheffield Doc/Fest, discusses the commissioning landscape of journalistic and social change documentaries.

 

Portrait of an Independent Production Company Roast Beef Productions (The Russian Woodpecker, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer) is one of Europe’s fastest growing and most impactful independents. Co-founder Mike Lerner will talk about his company’s practice, and why he’s big in Ukraine.

 

Keynote

Renowned documentarian Kim Longinotto will present the keynote lecture to close out the day.

 

Book now:

corkfilmfest.org | 021 427 1711

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