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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Interview with Cathal Black

Cathal Black is one of the most significant film artists from Ireland’s “First Wave” of independent filmmaking during the 1970s and 1980s. 

In 2018 his newest documentary, Five Red Roses: One for Every Syllable of Your Name, was screened at the 63rd Annual Cork International Film Festival. The documentary explores Máirín de Burca, a prominent feminist and Irish republican activist, whose divisive yet gripping story is portrayed by Black in a poetic yet analytical way.

Gabrielle Ulubay had the opportunity to interview Black about the film and about his career more generally.

 

To start off, I attended the Cork Film Festival screening of Five Red Roses: One for Every Syllable of Your Name, and I found it such an interesting documentary on both an informational and audiovisual level. Máirín de Burca, the subject of the film, is such a fascinating figure in Irish history. Would you mind speaking about how you came to make a documentary about her?

I was kind of called into something many years ago, when I was offered the chance to interview a woman who had set up Attic Press, and who was very badly ill at the time, and later died. But I interviewed her and put together a small trailer that we could not, unfortunately, get off the ground. From then, it developed into something more than that. To be honest, there were a few times when I wanted to abandon the project, but we tried to make it a bigger, broader documentary about people like Máirín, Nell McCafferty, and that kind of period. That didn’t take flight either, because of whatever the atmosphere in Ireland was like at the time – some people said that they’d covered it before, or they weren’t sure what the point of view was, or they wanted to sex it up or have a specific, named person walk us through the period. We tried to do that, and used a female comedian, but that got turned down. Then we tried another person, and it wasn’t going to work with her, either. I finally said that it was either going to work with Máirín or it wasn’t going to work at all. Now, someone else could have tried those things and make a different film, but I decided that I didn’t want to have a narrator who appears on screen every once in a while, because that could get a bit boring.

That’s what I like about your documentary. I told you at the end of the film’s screening that I feel documentaries don’t have to be confined to a succession of interviews or voiceover narration. So while you certainly did a few interviews, I found your audio-visual choices very gripping. For instance, it really stood out to me when you had the audio of an interview in the background while we looked at a house with its lights gradually going out. Could you talk about what drove you to make some of those choices?

Well, I didn’t really know what Máirín’s house was like. As a matter of fact, a lot of us thought that the house where she was brought up, in County Kildare, had been pulled down. We thought it was no longer there, and Máirín didn’t seem too keen on filming there. Then, a cousin of hers, named Tomás, who was at the screening in Cork, let us have a look at it, and it was still there. That was very interesting because in my imagination, I had a clear idea of what the house was like: I thought it would be two-storied with old-fashioned staircases, and that wasn’t so.

Now, once we arrived there, the problem was that we didn’t have much time to work with or to mull over what it was about the place that was so interesting. We found some old photographs that we put away in a trunk, and I thought that this house where she was brought up would be instrumental in discovering more about Máirín. She didn’t originally want to reveal much about her father and mother, but she did after a while, when she became comfortable with us. I thought that was a layer which, once brought out, would reveal more about the whole history.

There also aren’t many archives in Ireland about that period in history. There are certainly photographs, and there have been books or bits and pieces written about it, but I wondered how we could visualize all of this. I thought, How do we get to the essence of all of this? Then, when Máirín talked about how she left school at the age of 12 or 13, then joined Sinn Fein at the age of 16 and would come home late on her bike, I found all of that quite captivating. So I took the notion of the house as, one one hand, quite romantic, but on the other hand as having a lot of unrest and a certain amount of sadness. So that was a great way to convey all of that.

Could you talk about the process of finding actors to play Máirín at different ages? Did you have them speak directly with Máirín, or did she have a say in the casting? I imagine that it must have been challenging, because she’s a very complex person.

No, it wasn’t a very difficult process. If you look at the two women who play her, they don’t even look like her at times. I paid more attention to Máirín when she was older, so the woman who is in her twenties was more important to me, whereas the girl on the bicycle was just a one-day shoot. I was trying to match the photograph that Máirín has of herself in her hallway, from her school days. So I thought that if I got someone who looked like that, then I could pull that off. But because of the way this film was made, it was only two or three people trying to piece it together. We didn’t have the luxury of a casting director, so a lot of it we just did ourselves. People did us a load of favors. In fact, there was a woman in Kildare who dressed the girl and found the bike for us, and then we went up to the house and shot what we could. Then we waited for it to get a bit darker, and shot that sequence with her walking with the bike. Nearby, there was actually a school with a little theatre attached to it, so we took footage of the Irish flag on the top of the stage, which is part of Máirín’s story as well. So, in a way, these were all visual metaphors that would probably take us through the story.

The problem is that we had to cut what Máirín said down to its very bone, because there just isn’t enough time to include all of it. It was a question of being visually poetic, as opposed to moving the story along and making good use of time.

I like that you brought up the necessity to bring the film down to its very bones, not only because of time constraints but because of budget constraints. Now, because I am writing for a population that will include aspiring filmmakers working with little or no budget, I was wondering if you could talk about what qualities a filmmaker needs in order to make films under such constraints.

Just speaking from my experience with this film in particular, I found it useful to speak with just two or three people who would be in it for the long haul. I also avoided shooting nonstop for a full week and then getting maybe two days that are very good, while the rest of the week is very bad. That’s just the way I work. I think that you should try to keep it very tight and avoid letting the shooting go on forever, because if it does then all sorts of little mistakes can begin to creep in. Because we were flitting all over the place, picking up shots here and there, it might have been difficult for a large crew to keep up, so I tried to contain it and then find people to help locally.

Now, sometimes we needed more people in scenes, like the Mansion House, which involved about 40 extras. That was probably our most expensive day, because we had to go in, pre-rig it, shoot all day, feed people, and pay them. That was a much bigger operation, so we brought in 2 or 3 extra people for the crew, but in general we kept it pretty tight. It’s almost like some guerilla warfare: You go out, shoot for day or two, come back and assess what you have, and the prepare for the next time you go out. It’s exhausting and not a great way to work, because you have to refuel yourself every time, but in my experience it was the only way we could do it. You also need time to ask yourself, ‘What would be the best image for that?’ or ‘How can I best express that?’ I would think about things that Máirín had told me and wonder if that was a strand I wanted to go on.

But one of the difficult things about doing documentaries is that you have to decide what the narrative is without just listing the things that the person has done. That is alright on paper, and even then looks a bit dull, so you have to consider how to bring some life into the material and what devices you should use to do that. An obvious way is to try to have enough photographs and archival material, and to have people talking, and to cross-cut between them. If you’re interested in this kind of material you would find that interesting, but if not then you might find that boring.

That’s something that came up in the Q&A – the question of how relatable this material is for people who don’t know anything about it, or have nothing to do with the historical material. When you were filming, did you have it in mind that you wanted to make the topic universally interesting?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, one could get into the entrails of the conflict in Northern Ireland, but that’s a very complicated, difficult area. And there are a lot of things Máirín said that people would find very offensive, even though that’s her point of view. You know, when recording this I tried to do justice to what she said, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m for her or against her, because I should be invisible in a certain kind of way. It’s not really my job to come down left or right of her. The aim was to make it so that ordinary people could follow this, without oversimplifying the conflict. There were times that I wondered whether I was skipping over things, but sometimes those are decisions that you have to make.

And it’s very difficult to make those editorial decisions because, like you said, when making a documentary like this you have to remain relatively invisible. I want to bring that back to what you said earlier about a documentary taking on a life of its own, and how Máirín would say certain things that would make you consider going down a different strand. In terms of making this documentary or even making documentaries in general, could you expand on this tension between making editorial, narrative decisions and letting the material take on a life of its own?

I’ve made both documentaries and dramas, and I find that making documentaries is much more fretful. It’s much scarier, because it can take a huge amount of time to find the sort of story you want to do. Also, you have to discover where the documentary leads you and when it begins to find its own energy. It’s a very difficult thing to describe, because the more you work on it the more you pare it back.

It can be quite scary to take things away, but I find that the more information you take, the more the mind expands.

That’s very interesting.

Because the other solution is to just force-feed people information and the audience becomes passive, whereas I wanted people to be riding the journey with her. I wanted them to have a certain amount of feeling for her. You know, I wouldn’t be the best sort of person to make a documentary with just talking heads. I don’t think I could do it.

That’s one of the qualities I appreciated most about the documentary: you captured what a gripping figure she could be, while of course acknowledging what a polarizing figure she could be. The way you depicted her made it so that, whether you agreed with her views or not, she was undeniably fascinating.

If that’s the way it’s working then I’m glad, because from my perspective it’s hard to know whether I’ve hit the right marks. After a certain point, you get thrown out of your editing room because you need space from it. You find yourself making strange decisions in a short space of time, and our editing went over a longer time. I gave myself a certain number of weeks, and it went another 3 or 4 weeks beyond that. I just found it very difficult to get the thing to fit, and I felt that I needed to be fascinated myself or I would get frustrated with it. I had to try to fit the scene with the televisions in, and to take those interviews and use them in an interesting, different sort of way. It didn’t all need to be from A to B to C to D. It could be small pieces of memory, and to me that was more interesting than creating a historical document of her life.

Right, and it is working in the way you intend for it to work. To tie this in with your larger body of work, I know you’ve addressed a number of thought-provoking, often contentious subjects in other films of yours, such as Our Boys (1981), Korea (1995), and Love and Rage (1998). What sparks your interest in these issues, and how do you determine whether you’re going to address them in a documentary or a narrative film?

Well, to go back to Our Boys, that film was made in anger. It was something I felt I needed to do, and I wanted to set the record straight on certain things that were happening in Ireland that are still coming to light. It wasn’t shown on Irish TV for at least 11 years, and it was quite a short piece. The idea was to be subversive in that we used both drama elements and documentary elements, such as archival footage. We want to be subversive and to make a film that said ‘Sorry, but this happened and it was wrong, and we’re going to be living with this for centuries to come.’ I was schooled in the way depicted in the film as well, so I was familiar with the material.

Korea, on the other hand, was made out of love for John McGahern’s short story. There’s an essential sort of dislocation in some of the work, which I find interesting. Anyway, Korea deals with America. It also deals with the notion of going to war, with policy, with legacy, where a father encourages his son to go to America, knowing that he might be enlisted. The father would get paid if his son was enlisted, and if his son passed away.

In a way, the films are about living in a world that I’m not completely comfortable with. I mean, I’m living in a country that I’m not completely comfortable with, but it’s always been like that. It was like that with Máirín de Burca in a way: I didn’t really understand her. I could appreciate what she did, and I was kind of fascinated by her single-mindedness, and yet on another level I wanted to see if there was a way of making this have its own truth, you know? So that you could transcend the historical material and turn it into something else. All my films are sort of like that: They seek to turn something sort of historical and uncomfortable into some energy, as though through some kind of alchemy, so that you can hit audiences in the back of their minds rather than necessarily in the front lobe.

That’s very interesting, and that’s exactly what I was thinking about: how to find the common thread in a diverse range of material. Because the material itself is all very interesting.

Right. For instance, I made a film about Thomas Lynch, who is a poet and undertaker who lives in Michigan. He found out he had some ancestors in Ireland, so he came back to County Clare and met this woman, Maura Lynch, who lived in a small cottage. He absolutely fell in love with the place and comes back every year, and he talks about journeys, the notion of being in Ireland, and the journey he then takes. I was fascinated by that. To put those two things together and to see what his point of view of Ireland was. I accused him once of being far too romantic about Ireland, but at the same time, that cottage in Clare is the same place where I once asked him, ‘Are we going to talk about the fact that you’re an alcoholic?’ You know, it was beautiful down there and I thought that would be the best place to talk about this.

It’s that sort of strange brood that interests me. I think I would be very bored if I didn’t find images and sounds to mix things up and make something interesting. Because without that, you’re just lashing the stuff together.

I agree, and you certainly avoid that pitfall. I really enjoy your work, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Thank you.

On that note, you said a while ago that you were working on some new things before we started talking. Would you be open to talking about those projects that are in the works, or what you might be considering for the future?

Sure. I have a script for a period drama that I’m hoping will work out. It involves the Second World War and certain royalty coming to Ireland, and what happened to them. That’s one thing.

Another thing is a project about a woman who is with the Irish army in Lebanon, and she comes home because her daughter is shot dead. The drama is about us following her, and seeing where her journey takes us. In a way, it’s about modern Ireland, and the idea of coming back to a landscape that you don’t really recognize anymore. There are so many new people, and everything has changed, and the meaning of being Irish is up in the air… and that’s a good thing, in many ways. Those are the two projects. I’m staying away from documentaries at the moment.

Yes, because you said it took you 8 years to do this last one!

Right. Eight years from the time of trying to get people in it, getting it off the ground and then putting it down for a while, and then picking it back up and trying to get some heat in it, and then being told no. We were bringing the budget down, and it’s vile but that was in part because we were thinking ‘Will it get passed if we bring down the budget?’ Then, of course, you get the money and you’re delighted, but the reality of having to make the film with that amount of money is difficult.

Now, when I say ‘that amount of money’ I don’t mean a couple of Euros. It was certainly enough, but when you’re bringing in scenes like the one with the televisions, and moving locations for different shots, you’re sort of asking for trouble with that budget. But we did it. In many ways, it was a miracle that we were able to do what we did.

Yes, and it’s very impressive, and certainly something we can be inspired by.

Thank you.

To close out, I wanted to mention that I saw a screening of Pat Murphy’s Maeve at the Cork Film Festival, and she mentioned Our Boys as a landmark film that was made around the same time as Maeve. I thought to myself how exciting and interesting that was, because I had just met you at that point and we had decided to do this interview. It’s great to see the filmmaking community and Irish film history come together like that.

Very good, yes. In some ways, I think that Pat is not being given the recognition she deserves. I know that her path has been quite difficult, but the problem about working in Ireland is that even when you make a film, and it’s well received, you feel a sort of pressure to reinvent yourself every time.

Yes, I think that’s a pressure that a lot of artists face.

Yes. There was no guarantee that just because you made something and it was good, you would get permission to do another one.

That’s something many of us artists certainly find ourselves hyper-conscious of. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Thank you.

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