Preview of Irish Film at the 2019 Cork Film Festival

 

Over 300 films and events are included in the packed 2019 Cork Film Festival programme, with 90% of the features, documentaries and shorts having their first screening in Cork. The festival runs from 7 – 17 November. Tickets are available at www.corkfilmfest.org.

This year a trio of Irish premiere Galas have been announced, with the much-anticipated drama Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, having its Irish premiere at the Opening Gala on Thursday, 7 November.  Closing the 11-day festival will be the Irish premiere of new Irish-Belgian drama, The Other Lamb, direct from its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, on Sunday, 17 November. Plus there’s the Irish gala film The Last Right, the debut feature from the very talented Aoife Creghan.

Below we preview all the Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

Ordinary Love

DIR: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn • WRI: Owen McCafferty

Thu, 7th Nov 2019 @ 19:30 • The Everyman Theatre

Joan and Tom  are a long-married couple settled in their ways, enjoying brisk walks at sunset and playful bickering. Then Joan discovers a lump in her breast, which starts a chain of events that threatens to change their relationship completely.

CAST:  Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson

Tickets


Lost Lives

DIR: Dermot Lavery, Michael Hewitt

Fri, 8th Nov @ 18:15 • The Everyman Theatre

Adapted from the book that aims to document the stories of the men, women and children who have died as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Lost Lives is an elegiac, powerful and sadly pertinent film that acknowledges the human cost of 50 years of sectarian conflict and comes at a time when the fragility of the peace process is distressingly evident.

Tickets


Into the West

 DIR: Mike Newell • WRI: Jim Sheridan

Sat, 9th Nov @ 13:00 & Sat 16th Nov @ 18:30 • The Everyman Theatre

The ever-popular tale of two Traveller boys who escape the harsh reality of their grim lives in a Dublin high-rise with the aid of a magical white horse. Papa Reilly  drinks himself into a stupor after the death of his wife. His sons Ossie  and Tito are comforted by the gift of a white stallion, Tír na nÓg, from their grandfather.When their beautiful steed is stolen, they begin a quest to retrieve him and head west, with their father and police in hot pursuit.

CAST: Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, Ciarán Fitzgerald, Rúaidhrí Conroy, David Kelly

Tickets


Irish Shorts 1: Legacies

Sat, 9th Nov 2019 @ 15:30 •  The Gate Cinema Cork City

Bound (Amy Corrigan), Stray (Sinéad O’Loughlin), Cúl an Tí (Stuart Douglas), Pat (Emma Wall), Ruby (Michael Creagh, Peggy and the Grim (Luke Morgan)

Tickets


The Cave 

DIR/WRI: Tom Waller 

Sat, 9th Nov @ 18:15 • The Everyman Theatre

When the Wild Boars soccer team, consisting of 12 schoolboys and their coach, became trapped deep inside a waterlogged cave in northern Thailand during the summer of 2018, the efforts to rescue them drew the concerned attention of the world. In this thrilling, visceral recreation of events, Irish filmmaker Tom Waller tells the story from the perspective of the people who often made selfless decisions as they witnessed young lives at stake.

CAST: Ron Smoorenburg, Lawrence de Stefano, Eoin O’Brien

Tickets


Irish Shorts 2: Daughters

Sun 10th Nov @ 13:00 •  The Gate Cinema Cork City

Moth (Allyn Quigley), Young Mother (John Robert Brown), Chestnuts (Tom Lenihan), Relic (Christy Scoltock), Coming to Terms (Patrick Ketch), 134 (Sarah-Jane Drummey), A White Horse (Shaun O Connor), Ciúnas (Tristan Heanue).


Sweetness in the Belly

DIR: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari • WRI: Laura Phillips

Sun 10th Nov @ 17:45 & Mon 11th Nov @ 15:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Having grown up under the guardianship of a celebrated Sufi master after being abandoned by her wayward hippie parents, Lilly  finds herself in Ethiopia and in love during the final years of Haile Selassie’s reign. As revolutionary fervour erupts in violence, she ships to England, where her status as a white woman sees her favoured before black refugees, though her devout Muslim faith means she is still regarded an outsider. She contributes to building a growing community of migrants while searching for her lost love.

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Wunmi Mosaku

Tickets


Free Radicals

Mon 11th Nov @ 20:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

A selection of international experimental filmmaking that includes Meat (Silvio Severino) and Epoch (Kevin McGloughlin).

Tickets


What Time Is Death?

Tue 12th Nov @ 18:00  Triskel Christchurch

After retiring from the music business, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, formerly The KLF, entered the art world as the K Foundation. Following their biggest artistic statement to date (filming the burning of a million pounds) they signed a contract on the bonnet of a Nissan vowing not to mention the burning for 23 years, then promptly disappeared. Sure enough, 23 years later, in 2017, the K Foundation resurfaced with plans to build a ‘People’s Pyramid’ in Liverpool filled with human ashes.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 3: Friends, Families & Other Strangers

Wed 13th Nov @ 15:30 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Evergreen (Dominic Curran), In the Narrow Shade of a Pen (Taro Madden), Just Fine (Ciarán Hickey), The Owl (Neil Winterlich) Limbo (Matthew McGuigan), The Space Between (Elaine Kennedy). 

Tickets


The Evening Redness in the South

Wed 13th Nov @ 18:00 & Thu 14th Nov @  12:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Amidst images of men at work on building sites, mist rolling over the countryside, gloriously vivid skylines and tenderly reconstructed memories, a narrative of sorts is played out, as the life and loves of an unnamed protagonist (portrayed by Louis Jacob with compelling screen presence) are hinted at.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 4: Finding Their Place

Thu 14th Nov @ 17:00The Gate Cinema Cork City

Kelly (Solène Guichard), No Place (Laura Kavanagh), Rosalyn (Olivia J Middleton), The House Fell (Maeve Stone), Humblebrag (Sinead O’Shea), In Orbit (Katie McNeice), Wishbone (Myrid Carten), Hasta La Vista (Laragh A McCann).

Tickets


The Yellow Bittern

DIR: Alan Gilsenan

Thu 14th Nov @ 18:00  The Gate Cinema Cork City

To mark the tenth anniversary of its original release, Cork Film Festival presents a special screening of The Yellow Bittern, Alan Gilsenan’s remarkable documentary biopic of Liam Clancy. Recounting his life in his own words, Clancy’s personal reflections are insightful and inspirational, constructing a revealing portrait of great candour and honesty. Like his musical work, the film is lyrical and poetic, and a fitting tribute to this great man at the end of his life.

Tickets


Floating Structures

DIR: Adrian Duncan, Feargal Ward

Thu 14th Nov @ 18:15  • Triskel Christchurch

Beginning with the world’s first metal cantilever bridge, which was located in Bavaria, Floating Structures charts a course to Paris where it encounters the visionary engineering work of Ireland’s Peter Rice. Co-directed by visual artist and writer Adrian Duncan and Feargal Ward (The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid), Floating Structures is a flâneur-like quest to consider the gravity-defying mysteries of structural engineering.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 5: It’s No Longer a Journey Down the Road

Fri 15th Nov @ 16:00 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Lovestruck (Eli Dolliver), Kathleen (Liam O’Neill), Streets of Fury (Aidan McAteer), Leave the Road Behind You (Daniel Butler), HALO (Michael-David McKernan), John Don’t Know Nothin’! (Conor Kehelly), The Dream Report(Jack O’Shea), Something Doesn’t Feel Right (Fergal Costello).

Tickets


The Last Right 

DIR/WRI: Aoife Crehan

Thu 14th Nov @ 20:45 •  The Everyman Theatre

A fateful exchange on a flight from New York to Ireland has complicated consequences for Daniel Murphy.He’s left in charge of a corpse, the body of someone he never knew. He is persuaded to take on the challenge of getting an environmentally friendly cardboard coffin from his family home in Clonakilty to Rathlin Island by his autistic younger brother Louis ) and Mary, a flighty young mortician with her own agenda.

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Samuel Bottomley, Niamh Algar, Brian Cox

Tickets


Irish Shorts 6: Documentary Shorts

Sat 16th Nov @ 12:30 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Blankets of Hope: Cork Cancer Care Centre (Edvinas Maciulevicius), Outside the Box (Janet Grainger), Postcard from a Crisis (Kathleen Harris, Samuel Meyler), Ramón: Notes from a Beekeeper (Hilary Kennedy), The Last Organist (Paddy McConnell), The Sunny Side Up (Peter Kilmartin), Hydebank (Ross McClean), Recommended Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey), 99 Problems (Ross Killeen), The First was a Boy (Shaun Dunne)

Tickets


Cork on Camera
Sat 16th Nov @ 15:15  Triskel Christchurch

The Irish Film Institute presents a programme of Cork-themed films from collections at the IFI Irish Film Archive. This year’s programme includes ‘Silent Art’ (1958), a portrait of sculptor Séamus Murphy by Oscar-nominated documentarian Louis Marcus; ‘Travels Through Erin’ (1978), a US homage to the Aran jumper taking a trio of models around Cork on a photo shoot; ‘Dark Moon Hollow’ (1972) following an elderly gentleman as he meanders from Roches Point to Gougane Barra in a film directed by then BBC film editor Colin Hill; and tantalising rushes from ‘Car Touring’ (1965), Jim Mulkern’s uncompleted travelogue of two young couples touring the county.

Tickets


Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts

Sat 16th Nov @ 15:30 The Everyman Theatre

Above the Law (Bryony Dunne), Kalchalka (Gar O’Rourke), Welcome to a Bright White Limbo (Cara Holmes), A Better You) (Eamonn Murphy), Maya (Sophia Tamburrini), Christy (Brendan Canty), Sister This (Claire Byrne), Corporate Monster (Ruairi Robinson), A Cat Called Jam (Lorraine Lordan), The Grass Ceiling (Iseult Howlett).


Best of Cork

Sun 17th Nov @ 13:00 • The Everyman Theatre

Blankets of Hope: Cork Cancer Care Centre (Edvinas Maciulevicius), The Space Between Us (Elaine Kennedy),  Coming to Terms (Patrick Ketch), Stray (Sinéad O’Loughlin), Rosalyn (Olivia J Middleton), A White Horse (Shaun O Connor), Outside the Box (Janet Grainger),  Lovestruck (Eli Dolliver).

Tickets


The Other Lamb

DIR: Małgorzata Szumowska • WRI: Catherine S McMullen

Sun, 17th Nov 2019 @  18:00 • The Everyman Theatre

Hidden away from civilisation, an all-female cult serves its spiritual leader, a man known as Shepherd. Selah has grown into a teenager as part of this self-sufficient community, but as she approaches adulthood, pervasive doubts about her faith inspire dark, bloody visions. As the Shepherd leads his flock on a journey to find a new paradisal retreat, Selah is shocked to learn what her role in the group is to become.

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Raffey Cassidy

Share

The Cinema of Romances

Pic: Dorje De Burgh

David Turpin is a screenwriter (The Lodgers, The Winter Lake) and musician, as The Late David Turpin.  With the release of his new album Romances – a collaboration with a ‘cast’ of ten different guest singers that was inspired by his work in film – David discusses five unusual cinematic love stories that have been influential on his own work.

 

My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

See My Own Private Idaho at the right age, and it’s with you for life.  Gus Van Sant’s best film is many things – a sympathetic portrait of young people on the fringes; a palimpsest of Shakespeare’s Henry IV; a road movie as deeply affecting as Paris, Texas – but most of all, it’s an extraordinarily tender and melancholy unrequited love story. River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves are one of the most iconic couples of the 1990s, precisely because they don’t fit together – and because this is evident to everybody (both in the film and watching it), except for Phoenix’s poignantly guileless hero. The justly famous campfire scene between the leads is one of cinema’s most moving depictions of the insufficiency of words to express feeling. It’s beautifully played by Phoenix, of course, but it’s also worth noting that Reeves’ dependable air of benign obliviousness was never better – or more tragically – used than here.

 

The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)

Peter Strickland’s rarefied love story takes place in a world without men, where lepidopterologists Cynthia and Evelyn (Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna) conduct a relationship defined by ritualised performances of dominance and submission. The film’s genius lies in how its surface – impeccably evoking the misty, sapphically-fixated ‘eurotica’ of the mid-1970s – both conceals and illuminates its inner meaning. Unlike the ‘Eurotrash’ it invokes, The Duke of Burgundy is a deeply humane and moving story about the ways in which we abnegate ourselves for our lovers – and the fear of failing to sufficiently embody others’ desires. The reversal of roles, in which we come to understand the ‘dominant’ partner (Knudsen) as imprisoned by the desires of her ‘subordinate’ (D’Anna), is one of erotic cinema’s most astute, and moving, deconstructions of its own myths. The Duke of Burgundy is both a wholesale work of onanistic fantasy, and its own opposite.

 

Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)

Based on a florid bestseller by Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager is, in many ways, the quintessential 1940s melodrama – not least for its touching faith in the power of psychotherapy. It’s also the perfect vehicle for Bette Davis, whose transformation from drab ‘Aunt Charlotte’ to glamorous ‘Miss Vale’ is achieved via The Talking Cure and some truly spectacular hats. As Jerry – the married man to whom she becomes close while visiting Rio de Janeiro – Paul Henreid judges his performance perfectly. In other words, he understands that this is Davis’ show. What makes Now, Voyager more than an exquisite piece of camp (although it is that too) is its genuine wisdom. Charlotte and Jerry cannot ultimately be together (‘Don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars!’ Davis exclaims), but their romance has made each of them better able to accept their course in life.  It’s a touching affirmation of love as the path to self-knowledge, however long the affair itself may last.

 

The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)

The Fly is a marvel of dramatic economy featuring only four significant roles – the central couple (Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum) and a pair of potential love rivals (John Getz and Joy Boushel). The romance between unworldly Seth Brundle and no-nonsense Veronica Quaife may have been helped by the fact that Goldblum and Davis were a couple at the time, but it’s also written with warmth and empathy, as well as the razor-concision one expects from Cronenberg. We all remember the inside-out baboon, the acid-vomit, and the leprous body-parts on the bathroom shelf, but what’s striking about The Fly is the humanity and eroticism that peeks out between these gruesome highlights – as delicate as the stocking used to test the telepod device.  Although Cronenberg has been cagey about the film being read as an AIDS metaphor, its story of a couple facing disease – and the transformation of the afflicted into a social pariah and object of fear – has powerful resonance emerging the year after the first HIV antibody test was developed.

 

La Belle et la Bête (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

My favourite screen romance is Jean Cocteau’s exquisite adaptation of Perrault’s 18th-century fairy tale. Plundered by two Disney versions (animated in 1991; notionally ‘live action’ in 2017) that rinsed it of its eroticism and mystery, Cocteau’s still glows like a strange and lonely star.  Its uncanny visual highlights – living candelabras, the still-shocking appearance of the Beast himself (Jean Marais) – have the force of dreams, but Cocteau also finds magic in the everyday (as in the scenes of Belle hanging white sheets on the washing line). Josette Day plays Belle with self-possession, essential decency, and no trace of the ‘goody-goody’. One can actually see why she and the Beast fall in love – and Cocteau’s own celebration of Marais (his own long-time companion) is a romance in its own right. This is the only version of the story to get to the heart of the matter when – after the hairy wooer is transformed into human form – Belle asks, with a telling hint of deflation, ‘Where is my beast?’.

 

www.thelatedavidturpin.com 

Romances can be streamed/downloaded from Bandcamp at thelatedavidturpin.bandcamp.com/album/romances

 

Share

GAZE International LGBT Film Festival Roundtable

From left to right Katie McNeice, Tom Speers, Maya Derrington, Gemma Creagh and Roisín Geraghty

In this podcast, we welcome three filmmakers whose works are screening at this year’s GAZE International LGBT Film Festival (1 – 5 August). Maya Derrington, Katie McNeice and Tom Speers join Gemma Creagh to talk about their films and filmmaking.

Plus festival director Roisín Geraghty pops in to give us a quick look at this year’s programme.

Frida Think (Maya Derrington)

A woman walks into a party dressed as Frida Kahlo, only to find that her version of unique has mass appeal.


In Orbit (Katie McNeice)

A hypnotic and beautiful love story between two women that crosses both time and space.


Boy Saint (Tom Speers)

A sumptuous short film of friendship and adoration between boys, based on a poem by Peter LaBerge.

The GAZE International LGBT Film Festival runs from 1 – 5 August 2019. 

The Irish Shorts programme screens at  6:30pm at the Light House cinema on Sunday, 4th August.

Full programme & tickets here.

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

Share

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/

Share

Interview: Joe Lee, director of ‘Fortune’s Wheel’

bill-stephens-feeds-lion-mouth-to-mouth-630x437

Joe Lee spoke to Film Ireland about his documentary Fortune’s Wheel, which tells the fascinating story of lion-tamer Bill Stephens in 1950s Dublin.

 

One Sunday afternoon in 1951 in Dublin’s Fairview Cinema, audiences were being transported to the exotic plains of the film Jungle Stampede, which featured a wild beast stalking its human prey – little did cinemagoers know that outside the cinema that same afternoon, Fairview was playing host to its very own beast roaming the streets as a lioness, owned by local man Bill Stephens, escaped from her pen menacing shocked locals.

Joe Lee’s documentary Fortune’s Wheel, which is currently screening at the IFI, introduces us to the events that occurred that day which ended when police were forced to shoot the lioness dead. From this point on we are led into the remarkable world of the lioness’ owner Bill Stephens, the Fairview lion tamer, whose act, ‘Jungle Capers with Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner’ (his wife, May) travelled around Ireland.

Joe gives a bit of background to Bill Stephens – “he was a welder by trade and something of a mechanic but he was also a drummer in The Billy Carter Swing Band. But he had always had an interest in animals. He bought a lion cub from Dublin zoo and he reared it alongside his own Alsatians. He soon began travelling with Fossetts and Duffys, two of Ireland’s biggest circus families. At the time of the escape in November 1951 Bill was keeping 3 or 4 lions at the back of Fairview cinema, which he used for his act.”

The escape, which is remembered in the film by a colourful cast of local people, turned Bill into a star as the story spread across the world. He became, as Joe describes, “that famous guy whose lioness escaped in Fairview” – but that fame was a doubled-edged sword as Bill had lost a very valuable animal which would prove very difficult to replace. But if he was to fulfill his ambition of taking his act to America, Bill knew he had to do it with his next lion.

The lion he replaced her with was a very difficult lion – a very aggressive one that would  ultimately lead to tragedy. Joe refers to Bill’s time with his newly acquired lion as his year of living dangerously. Seeking to emulate his hero Clyde Beatty, the famous American lion-tamer, Bill had raised the stakes, performing more and more dangerous acts with a more aggressive animal.  As Joe explains, “He was a guy in his 20s and like a racing car driver he always wants to drive that extra 5 miles per hour  to push the boundaries of what it was. All the time he would have been looking at Clyde Beatty with his 12 animals and mixing lions and tigers and wanting to do that himself. In Beatty’s book Jungle Performers it says Get an angry animal into your act. It makes it more exciting.” Unfortunately for Bill, seeking such excitement involved taking one risk too many.

Alongside his partner May, a lot of Stephens’ life has been clouded in myth, stories that had stayed untold and memories that had remained hidden for various reasons. Thankfully, Fortune’s Wheel provides a voice for those stories and a space for those memories culminating in moments of catharsis that are a testament to a remarkable man who truly dared to dream.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzUOQh99-nY

Share

From the Archives: Interview with Albert Maysles

Albie2

The great documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, best known for Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, died last week aged 88. In 2005 Documentary Producer and Director Vanessa Gildea interviewed him for Film Ireland.

 

As a documentarian I happily place my fate and faith in reality. It is my caretaker, the provider of subjects, themes, experiences – all endowed with the power of truth and the romance of discovery. And the closer I adhere to reality the more honest and authentic my tales. After all, knowledge of the real world is exactly what we need to better understand and therefore possibly to love one another. It’s my way of making the world a better place.’ Al Maysles.

Albert & David Maysles (1932-1987) are credited with being the creators of ‘direct cinema,’ the distinctly American version of the French ‘cinema verité’. Al Maysles and Maysles Films count over three dozen films to their credit, including Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens and the landmark Salesman, a portrait of four Irish American door-to-door Bible salesmen from Boston regarded by many as the classic American documentary.

The last time Film Ireland spoke to Albert Maysles he told me about a dream he had to sell his family home in the famous Dakota building in New York, buy a whole building in a cheaper part of town, divide it up and install his children and close friends each in an apartment there. I ask him how his dream is coming along, he tells me that they have indeed purchased a building in Harlem, and that two of his children are already living there. With an enormous childlike smile he also tells me that in a couple of days he will know whether the sale has gone through on his Dakota building home. So, dreams do come true! You would be forgiven for thinking that as one of the most famous and celebrated documentarians of all time that Albert has made his fortune through films, but not so. Albert is still a struggling filmmaker; he has many projects in pre and post production that he is trying to get money to make or to finish. Albert was honoured with a retrospective of his work at the Belfast Film Festival in April; I had the opportunity to ask him about filmmaking and his current projects in between Masterclasses and screenings.

Vanessa: The first questions I want to ask you Albert is about the Direct Cinema movement that you and your brother David pioneered in America, is it still a relevant style of documentary filmmaking? And do you still make documentaries in that style?

Albert: I think it’s very important that make a documentary, in terms of filming people’s experiences as they’re happening. Still in America we rely too much on narration and music to dramatise and give what I would call a ‘non cinematic’ style.

And you are still making films in this way?

That’s right and now even more so because we have better equipment with which to do so…

I wanted to ask you a quite personal question about your brother David, who you were very close to and was your collaborator in film. He died prematurely in 1987 which I know had a profound effect on you, was there a point after his death where you thought I don’t want to make films without him?

I never doubted my instinct to go on making films despite the loss. Susan Froemke who was working with us at that time became a replacement for David and more recently Antonio Ferrera. I haven’t been at a loss for good filmmakers to collaborate with.

Despite the current obsession with so called reality style documentaries on TV, do you think there is a current resurgence for the creative documentary, what with quite a number of documentary features getting extensive theatrical releases?

I think people aren’t exposed enough to the purer form of documentary that I would advocate. I think any attempt to get at the real thing will help to move people more in that direction. I remember when the reality shows first began; it was reported on TV with the word reality having quotation marks around it, which meant something about how it had a special attitude towards documentary filming. With the word reality in quotation marks people think that they’re getting the real thing and they’re not, that’s a dangerous thing. Just as in literature there is a move from pulp fiction to non fiction and I think it’s going to happen in film as well, it’ll become more and more an important factor in our lives.

From the early days when you made Salesman, Gimme Shelter and say Grey Gardens you funded the films yourself and exercised complete creative control, so when you were commissioned by HBO to make a series of ‘Filmmakers in Profile’ films featuring Martin Scorsese and Jane Campion to name just two, are you still afforded that level of creative and editorial control?

Well there are few places in America where you make your film the way you want and they accept that, but one of those places is HBO, and so we’ve made three films with them and I’m making a fourth one, the Gates / Christo* project and I’m glad we’re doing it with HBO. It’s always been impossible for me to get films shown on the nationwide networks ABC, CBS, NBC & CNN. So you use your judgement to exercise freedom and anyway the films shown there are so stylized. Some of the theatre owners expect you to sacrifice your own expression, so you have to fight that a lot, but then there’s DVD too as a way of exhibiting but still maintaining the freedom that you want.

At festivals and documentary forums you hear a lot about the MTV generation audience and how certain demands are made on filmmakers by funders / TV channels for a cut every seven seconds or that the subject of the film is repeated every few minutes so that people can join in viewing at any time, have you come across those restrictions at all?

I’ve never had funding from any of those places or had any of my films screened on those channels you’re talking about. So I haven’t had that problem.

Now that you have received certain awards and recognition, like Lalee’s Kin getting an Oscar nomination in 2001, and your cinematography awards etc is it easier for you to get funding to make your films?

It’s hard for me to assess that, I know that maybe 20 years ago PBS wanted to make an American Masters film about me, but when I said well I will make it, they turned that down. But now I’ve put together and am selling the idea of an autobiographical film, I’m getting very good support for that so I’m going ahead with it.

You are publicly a great advocate of the Sony PD150 and subsequently the PD170, how has the DV camera changed the way that you make films from when you shot everything on 16mm cameras with separate sound?

Well firstly if someone wants to make a documentary on film, it’s going to cost you a lot of money compared with video. To buy a proper film camera set up it would cost you $100,000 compared to the PD170 which I think you can buy for $3,000. And you have the picture and sound all in one little package and all on the one tape. Other than that you throw a tape into the camera you can film for a whole hour before you change tape again compared to film where you re-load every ten minutes. People argue with ten minutes you have to be more careful but I don’t know I think tape is better; it seems to be you have more ability in a normal situation when you turn the camera on…

I recall you telling a story about a particular time in Cuba in the sixties with Fidel Castro when you wished you’d had a DV camera to record something that happened, can you tell that story?

In 1960 when I was in Cuba, I spent whole 24 hour periods with Fidel, I remember during one of those days Fidel said this evening ‘I’m going to a reception in the Cuban embassy’ and asked would I like to come along and so indeed I took him up on that. During the course of the reception, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with him when a telegram came to him, he tore it open read it and said ‘Would you like me to translate it for you?’ And I said please? ‘Your state department has just broken off relations with Cuba.’ Well it was a situation where I couldn’t have brought my big camera, but if I’d had a small video camera that precious moment would have been caught…

Have you ever transferred any of your films to 35mm from DV, if so what kind of results did you get?

To tell you the truth I’ve only made tests and they looked fine, but that’s expensive to transfer to 35mm

I read somewhere that you believe that the human urge to reveal itself is stronger than the urge to conceal or keep secrets is. With specific relation to your ongoing Train project In Transit where people have been know to tell you and allow you to film their life stories or intimate secrets between train stops, what is it about you or your approach that makes people want to do that?

I think that unlike some, and I hope they’re in the minority, documentary filmmakers who are out to get people to prove their point. My approach is quite different, I like people and they sense that right away, the way I approach them and look at them produces a kind of trust. And also I want to do a good job at representing their lives fairly and truthfully. I would say that when documentary filmmakers don’t have that faith that what they do then isn’t very true representation of what’s going on. It’s just the fact that everybody has a point of view and that they can control that for themselves. Editing itself no matter how careful you are is a kind of manipulation, I chose editors who are very faithful to the material and I shoot it in such a way so as to render a very truthful account of what’s going on. The whole relationship is based on the kindness of strangers…

A film like Salesman which says so much about America of a certain time, but is still a film that when it screens today 40 years later still resonates so powerfully with audiences, why is it still so relevant?

Well I think that certainly in America and it’s a growing trend all over the world, even in China, buying and selling, the capitalist dream to attempt to be rich. People lose their foundations with one another because everybody is buying and selling. So that theme which was so important in Salesman is still important today and even more so maybe…

There is such heart and such melancholy in the character of Paul Brennan to which I think people will always relate to…

He was a man who like my father was in the wrong job. Paul should have been a writer and my Father instead of being a postal clerk should have been a musician.

He played the trumpet?

Yes he played the trumpet but never as an occupation.

I know that you are currently working on quite a few projects, can you tell me a bit about them?

Well I’m still trying to raise money for my Train project, the Gates/Christo and my autobiography. I’m also making one about the Dalai Lama and his visit to New York in 2003 which I need to get money to finish the editing of. Other projects have diverted my attention away from the train film but as soon as I can I will return to it because I think it has potential to be one of my best.

You started shooting the Train film as early as the sixties when you were in Russia, is that right?

Yes when I was visiting mental hospitals (Albert is a qualified psychologist and went to Russia to make a film about the state of Mental Health care there) making a film and also when travelling on motorcycles with David…

That time reminds me of a wonderful moment we captured when we went to film my mother as she was about to become the president of a local chapter of a club she belonged to. When we came to Boston and knocked on her door with the camera running. My mother pulled her hand up over the camera and on to the top of my head and turned to me and said Albie you need a haircut (laughs). At this time I think that that may be the opening of the film…

What about your Jew on Trial Film, where are you with that?

Again I’ve been working on these other projects so it’s been put on hold somewhat. There is some urgency with that film because Anti-Semitism is on the rise. There is one significant piece in that film, where it was told that Jews killed Christian children to take their blood and mix it with matzos for the Passover celebration, totally ridiculous charges that no one would begin to believe except the Hezbollah’s who come out with such stuff on satellite television.

When you say Anti-Semitism is on the rise, do you mean in America primarily?

I think in other parts of the world primarily, in the Middle East and Muslim countries, but even certainly in France and Germany and probably this Country too.

What you’re talking about there is the demonisation of one race so as to justify abusive or prejudiced behaviour…

Yes exactly, so just as some use this propaganda to propagate Anti-Semitism, a good documentary can re tell the facts of this charge that was made against the subject of my documentary. We need information that we can rely on about the real world.

I want to ask you a bit more about Going on a Lark your autobiographical film, did that idea come out of being approached about the American Masters series?

Yes, that gave me the idea and with my 50th anniversary coming up of making movies, I thought this would be a good time to look back on my life and look forward too, and an opportunity to tell people what I’m engaged with now. One of the things I do all the time which I will show in the film is that I teach people how to make documentaries; people call me and say they have an idea for a documentary but they want some clarification on how to go at it. I say come on over we’ll talk about it, some of those sessions I will be filming, sometimes the idea is so good and they need that help from a professional I’ll just go ahead and help them.

I want to ask you about an old friend of yours and someone you collaborated with on a recent project and that’s Shivaun O’Casey, who made a film about her father Sean O’Casey and I know you shot quite a lot of that for her. We spoke before about possible difficulties of making a film in the Direct Cinema style about someone who is dead, can you tell me about working on that film?

It went very well, especially the scenes where she had conversations with her Mother. It was a work of love all the way through. I had never met him, we were about to film Sean O’Casey when he died but we had gotten all this other great material with Shivaun and her Mother so it just didn’t happen. The love that the daughter had for her Mother and Father is carried all the way that film and it makes for a film that represents him so beautifully. The archival footage is so strong even though we weren’t able to actually film him we had that material which was a direct representation of his thoughts and his philosophy.

With regard to all the projects you are currently involved with, you seem to be still struggling to get money to finish them?

That’s right but you know we had a harder time in the old days. We had to go ahead and make Salesman and Grey Gardens on our own, without any support from anybody.

So is it easier now to make films like Salesman?

I think it’s somewhat easier now. But subjects like the relationship between a Mother and daughter in Grey Gardens, who’s going to put up money to make that? It’s not about politics or violence or the usual kind of topics. So far nobody has sworn, there’s been no profanity in our films and so much of the trash on television is full of that kind of stuff which I find so unattractive and unnecessary.

So you had no money in place when making Grey Gardens?

No, in fact we had a hard time distributing the film; it took twenty years before any television station would show it, it got very well shown in England. Salesman took over thirty years to be shown and these are films that are not one political persuasion or the other which could be used as a reason not to show them.

A filmmaker once remarked that to make documentaries is to take a vow of poverty (Albert laughs), that even if you have received critical acclaim or success or indeed at your level Al it doesn’t seem to make it any easier?

That’s totally true. Doesn’t make it easier in terms of sales, but it is an extremely satisfying profession. I’m so pleased with the films that we’ve made and the good things we’ve done for the people represented, who would otherwise be totally unknown. And for the public who learn so much about life around them through experiencing the things that go on in the films.

You don’t seem to ever get disillusioned Albert?

Not about that, I feel that there’s plenty out there to be represented in documentary and there’s a lot of good to be done that way. I just the got a call the other day from Yoko Ono asking me to do an essay on John as she’s been asking other people who knew him for a book. Then I thought well what about a film and so we’re going to do that too…

You made a film before with Yoko Ono when she was starting out as an artist?

That’s right one of her Happenings that I filmed. More recently just last year, she invited me to her birthday party and so I said maybe I’ll bring my video camera and that could be my gift, so she agreed to that, ended up with a 3 1/2 minute piece which was lovely.

Are you making a film about John Lennon solely?

A film of the people who knew him and who are contributing essays to the book…

The film will co-exist with the book almost?

That’s right; it should go with the book and exist as a film on its own.

Are you and Yoko Ono still good neighbours then?

Oh yes, oh yes but not for much longer… (Albert smiles).

 

Albert Maysles, documentary filmmaker, born 26th November 1926; died 5th March 2015

 

This interview originally appeared in Film Ireland Magazine, Issue 104, 2005

Share

Competition: Win ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ on DVD

w210204_l

 

Ken Loach’s political period drama is available on DVD & Blu-ray 26th September, 2014.

Set in Ireland in 1921 when the country was on the brink of Civil War, the film follows Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward), who has opened a public hall on a rural crossroads where many of the locals hold dances and other community-centred events. However, with the hall’s increasing popularity comes the attention of local politicians and church leaders who force Jimmy to close it down and shortly afterwards he decides to flee the country. Ten years later, as the Great Depression takes its toll across the world, Jimmy returns to his home from the United States to care for his mother. When he sees the effects the Civil War and wider economic downturn are having on the community, he vows to open the hall once more to instill some good spirit into the people’s hearts. But will this decision only serve to exacerbate an already problematic situation?

Thanks to the good people at Limelight Communications, we have a copy of the DVD to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, answer the following question:

Who wrote Jimmy’s Hall?

Email your answer to filmireland@gmail.com by Friday, 3rd October when the Film Ireland Hat will select an answer in a rural dance hall.

 

Jimmy’s Hall is available on DVD & Blu-ray 26th September, 2014

Share

On The Reel on the Red Carpet at JDIFF Irish premiere of ‘Calvary’

Check out the video report from the Red Carpet at JDIFF’s Irish premiere of Calvary from our bestest buddies On The Reel in association with Film Ireland.

Lynn Larkin glammed up to meet the stars as they rocked into Dublin’s Savoy cinema for the Irish premiere of John Michael McDonagh’s new film, Calvary, which opened this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Lynn chats to the film’s star, Brendan Gleeson, about being a total legend, and director John Michael McDonagh about assembling such a great cast.

Lynn also gets the low-down on Gleeson from co-star Marie-Josée Croze, asks Dylan Moran about boozing and riding, and chats to Killian Scott and Aidan Gillen about their bromance.

And be sure to catch special guest John Hurt bust a move on the red carpet…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHM-0rTzs9E

Share