Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh • New Irish Shorts 3

Deirdre de Grae picks out her highlights from the New Irish Shorts 3 programme at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

 

The shorts programme was introduced by Eibh Collins, the Galway Film Fleadh shorts programmer, an enthusiastic supporter of short film in Ireland. The seven short films in this programme shared the theme of relationships and included films by established and debut filmmakers. This selection of shorts all had very high production values, demonstrating the impressive standard of new Irish filmmaking. Two of these stood out in terms of character, story, and professionalism: For You, directed by Brendan Canty, and Gustav, directed by Ken Williams and Denis Fitzpatrick.

For You (Brendan Canty)

Canty shows a clear filmmaking style and For You is a very mature short film, surprisingly his first of the format. He has extensive experience directing commercials and music videos, and was nominated for two MTV VMA awards in 2015, for Hozier’s Take me to Church. For You offers an intimate window into the life of a young woman living in high-rise Dublin flats, and her relationships with both her mother and boyfriend. The portrayal seems very realistic, with a mature, gentle performance from Gabby Murphy, balanced with Barry Keoghan’s undeniable, innate screen presence. Keoghan was shooting Dunkirk during the same time period, and For You was shot around his schedule. The shooting and editing style is reminiscent of Andrea Arnold’s work, notably Fish Tank (which screened at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2009), and Red Road, also set in high-rise flats. But more than the technical decisions, the depth of character and honest performance of the young female lead is testament to Canty’s directorial instincts and skill. Perhaps due to Canty’s music video background, I found myself mentally re-playing (the accomplished) ‘Get Out’ video by Frightened Rabbit (dir. Greg Davenport), which is similarly focused on the emotional turmoil of young women in an urban landscape. This is a very professional production, using highly talented and experienced crew. I would hope that Brendan Canty will devote more of his time to filmmaking alongside his commercial work, and look forward to his future feature films, hopefully in the Fleadh in the next few years!

For You was produced by Hinterland films.

 

Gustav (Ken Williams)

Directed by Ken Williams and Denis Fitzpatrick, Gustav is a short comedy starring Seán T. O’Meallaigh, the premise of which centres around the notion of an ‘ear worm’-that phenomenon when a tune or song ‘gets stuck in your head’. The filmmakers have taken this notion literally, and in this short film, we realise that the composer Gustav Mahler has taken up residence in the lead character’s head. I had recently heard that an earworm is caused by not fully remembering the entire song and it can be ‘cured’ by listening to the whole song. The filmmakers played with the audience here and never played the end of the piece of music, even in the credits. I found this to be a very funny film, I am a music-earworm sufferer and could relate to the main character’s frustration. This is a laugh-out-loud, cleverly edited short. O’Meallaigh is perfectly cast and he is in his element playing this comedic role. As with all successful comedies, this film juggled the essentials of good editing and comedic timing with a sharp script.

Gustav was written by Ken Williams,  James Mather was DOP, Shane Callan was Editor. It was produced by Steven Daly of Brainstorm Productions.

Short films screened in this programme:

For You (dir. Brendan Canty), Gustav (dir. Ken Williams), Beside Himself (dir. Nick Rutter), Leap of Faith (dir. Mark Smyth), Peel (dir. Annika Cassidy), Seedling (dir. Stevie Russell), and Mum (dir. Anne-Marie O’Connor)

 

 

New Irish Shorts 3 screened on Thursday, 13th July 2017, as part of the 29th Galway Film Fleadh (11–16 July 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish Short Film Review: Mum

 

Stephen Porzio takes a look at Mum, Anne Marie O’Connor’s film with a trans character at the heart of it, telling a universal story.

Mum, a short film which played at the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh, is a tender meditation on both transgender issues and the process of aging. Co-written and directed by Anne Marie O’Connor (the creator of Sky 1’s Trollied), it stars Kate O’Donnell as Kate, a transgendered woman – estranged from her family – returning home after a four-year absence.

Upon arriving, she is shocked to see that the health of her mother (Margot Leiceister) has declined. Despite an underlying air of tension still remaining within the family – mainly from her father (Peaky Blinders’ Kenneth Colley) – Kate attempts to reconcile with her mum.

The short is handsomely mounted. The suburban setting provides the film with a surprising amount of beautiful imagery over the thirteen minute running time. Plus, O’Connor stages scenes in which the past briefly mingles with the present in a way which evokes the work of Terrence Malick on Tree of Life.

The performances are also impressive. Most of what we learn about the characters isn’t in the language but the way they speak and their body movements. Each actor manages to feel lived-in in their role, communicating information to the viewer subtly and effectively.

The message of Mum is a warm one – the idea that when people begin to process their mortality, they learn to put petty differences and feuds aside. Eventually, they come to understand what is truly important – family and love.

 

 

Mum screened on 13th July  2017as part of New Irish Shorts 3 at the Galway Film Fleadh.

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh: Pilgrimage

Niall Glynn goes on a journey to find meaning in Brendan Muldowney’s Pilgrimage,  which screened at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

Pilgrimage tells the story of a group of Irish monks in the early 13th century called upon by their Vatican superiors to escort a relic of religious significance (and possible supernatural ability) back to Rome to turn the tide of the failing crusades in the Middle-East. Their journey is fraught with peril due to both the perilous landscape and the brutal antagonistic forces in pursuit with Norman invaders and superstitious brutal native tribes to contend with.

Marvel alumni Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal lead a stellar cast alongside a fantastic selection of Irish talent, including John Lynch, Hugh O’ Conor and Rúaidhrí Conroy. Completing the ensemble is Hobbit star Richard Armitage, smouldering in his role as the vicious villain, delivering his occasionally hammy dialogue with relish. Holland reinforces his position as one of the most talented young actors of his generation as he brings an air of honest naivety to his character despite the occasional hiccup with his Irish accent.

Bernthal was wisely cast as a mute given the poor history of American actors struggling with the Irish accent (Back to the Future 3 remaining my favourite example of how not to handle this) and brings a rugged physicality to his performance due to his action experience. The Irish language is utilized brilliantly in immersing viewers in the world of ancient Ireland and the amazing landscapes give a true sense of the scale of the titular pilgrimage and of the bleakness of this world.

Despite this however, the action sequences are easily the weakest aspect of the film. The overuse of shaky cam techniques feels incongruous with the period setting and the rapid cutting makes the fighting difficult to follow at all. Prior to the screening Galway Film Fleadh programme director Gar O’ Brien enthusiastically told the audience to be prepared for extreme violence, yet Pilgrimage uses its gore sparingly with a particularly nasty torture scene working with the themes and narrative rather than for shock value.

The real strength of Pilgrimage is its exploration of its theme of faith in a seemingly uncaring world and its questioning the use of violence in the name of religion. It’s a shame that the decision to focus on action was made rather than keeping it a quieter more meditative experience but, despite this, Pilgrimage remains an incredibly solid film that will keep viewers gripped throughout.

 

Pilgrimage screened on Thursday, 13th July as part of the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh (11 – 16 July).

 

 

‘Pilgrimage’ Writer Jamie Hannigan & Director Brendan Muldowney

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh • New Irish Shorts: Animation

Deirdre de Grae found a lot to love in the animated shorts programme at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

 

The animated shorts programme is always a personal festival highlight of the Galway Film Fleadh, for me. It’s the ideal Sunday morning cure following a hectic week of film screenings and post-film partying – nerves are calmed and eyes are soothed during this perfectly-timetabled programme of Irish short animations. As usual, there was a large audience attendance, including cast and crew.

The competition for entry into the programme is typically tough, resulting in an excellent showcase of Irish animation. This year’s hopeful entrants were up against some well-funded and seasoned filmmakers, so to be selected for this programme is a prize in itself. Not as many student films were included as in previous years, and I missed their creativity and energy. The films curated included animated shorts from a current student and new graduate, as well as established industry professionals. Further animations were screened as part of the Irish Film Board’s showcase on Saturday 15th July 2017, and are reviewed as part of that programme.

The stand-out animated shorts from this programme are An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth (winner of Best First Short Animation and The Don Quijote Award for Best Animated Short Film), directed by Tom Collins, and ‘Sorry I Drowned‘, directed by David Habchy and Hussein Nakhal.

An Béal Bocht / The Poor Mouth (dir. Tom Collins), is an adaptation of the novel by Flann O’Brien (A.K.A. Myles na gCopaleen/Brian O’ Nolan), of whom I am a huge fan. The absurdist, satirical comedy is realised incredibly well by the director, Tom Collins, and talented principal animator, John McCloskey. As with any favourite book adaptation, I was nervous to see if it matched my imagined world. However, I had no need for fear, and was delighted to see some hilarious elements retained, such as the never-ending rain, which sometimes seems an accurate portrayal of life in the west of Ireland. And I am happy to report that the pig fart jokes went down very well with the kids in the audience. The casting is particularly on-point, and I can imagine there was some fun in the sound recording booth with, for example, Bob Quinn as ‘The President’, Tommy Tiernan as ‘Ó Bánasa’, and Mícheál Ó Meallaigh as ‘the Drunken Pig’. The animated film was realised using the original Irish version of the novel and cleverly used Flann O’Brien’s own English translations for the subtitles, thus retaining the original wit.

The animation was a co-production of Raw Nerve Productions (Pearse Moore) and De Facto Films, and was animated at the Nerve Centre in Derry. It was funded by Northern Irish Screen (Irish Language Broadcast Fund), TG4 and the BAI.  The cast includes: Owen McDonnell ,Tommy Tiernan, Donncha Crowley, Bob Quinn, Seán Mistéal and Mícheál Ó Meallaigh.

Sorry I Drowned

Sorry I Drowned‘ (dir. David Habchy and Hussein Nakhal) is a monochrome animation, using Arabic voice recordings, inspired by a letter purportedly found on a drowned person fleeing war. The animation was commissioned by Medicins Sans Frontiers and produced by Studio Kawakeb, Lebanon.

The style and content are reminiscent of both Persepolis (black and white / female voice) and Waltz with Bashir (video footage / war themes). Visuals of pixellated, 1980’s computer-graphics delivered in stark monochrome, serve as the foreground to the Arabic words, spoken by a woman. Ideally, the eyes and mind could rest on the images while the words are spoken, but due to my lack of Arabic, I had to rely on the (too-small) subtitles, which distracted from the fast-moving visual images. It is a fantastic, moving animation, but was screened out of competition as it is not an Irish production.

Blackout

Dylan Nevin’s Blackout was the only student animation shown, and the team deserve kudos for that. This is a dystopian, futuristic, short animation from the perspective of an art student, who rebels. Dylan Nevin is studying animation with the Ballyfermot College of Further Education (BCFE). His work can be seen at www.bcfe.ie

The Line

Dillon Brannick, A recent graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT),  directed ‘The Line’, which explores the dynamics between parent and child, during mourning. In his animation, the baby and father switch places, with the large adult-sized baby taking care of the tiny father.  The result is a gentle portrait of loss and grief. Dillon’s work can be seen at dillonbrannick.com

Wooden Child

Wooden Child, directed by Joe Loftus, is a disturbing examination of death, to a Country and Western soundtrack. Joe works as an animator at Boulder Media and is a graduate of the IADT animation degree programme. His work can be seen at  vimeo.com/joeloftus

 

Animated short films screened in this programme:

Wooden Child (dir. Joe Loftus), Coranna (dir. Steve Woods), The Line (dir. Dillon Brannick), Dreaming of Sleep (dir. Leon Butler), Blackout (dir. Dylan Nevin), Sorry I Drowned (dir. David Habchy & Hussein Nakhal), Cyber (dir. Diarmuid Hayes & Sarah Whicker), Tete a Tete (dir. Natasha Tonkin), An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth (dir. Tom Collins).

 

 

New Irish Shorts: Animation were screened on Sunday 16th July 2017, as part of the 29th Galway Film Fleadh (11–16 July 2017).

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh: The Drummer And The Keeper

 

Stephen Burke tips his hi-hat to Nick Kelly’s debut feature film, The Drummer And The Keeper, which screened at the the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh.

Having sold out a week before its Friday evening screening at the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh, it’s fair to say there was both excitement and expectation in the Town Hall Theatre ahead of the world premiere of Nick Kelly’s debut feature film – The Drummer And The Keeper. Not too long ago, it seemed that films exploring mental health issues were few and far between. Over the past few years though, they’ve almost become dangerously in vogue.

While it is, of course, important that these films are being made, they’re not of great value if the issues are not tackled accurately and appropriately. Not an easy thing to do. It’s even more difficult to make a film that handles the subject matter truthfully and sensitively while also being entertaining and containing moments of genuine humour. It’s a huge credit to Nick Kelly that The Drummer And The Keeper manages to do all of this successfully. The judges at the Fleadh seemed to think so too as the film scooped the award for Best Irish First Feature.

The main publicity photo released in advance of this screening was a striking image of a young man walking away from a burning vehicle. The film itself opens on an image which is just as striking – a close-up of the bare posterior of that same character. The character in question is Gabriel (played by Dermot Murphy), a 24 year-old bipolar rock drummer living in Dublin. He’s also experiencing psychotic and delusional episodes. When we first meet Gabriel, he is setting fire to a sofa on a beach sans his trousers. Setting fire to things is one of the many out-of-control activities that Gabriel seems to engage in when going through a manic period. We soon learn that his mother also suffered from the same condition and eventually took her own life. Gabriel’s only family of note is his sister Alice (Aoibhinn McGinnity). She’s worried that his life is spiraling out of control. His band mates Toss and Pearse (Peter Coonan and Charlie Kelly) do show a degree of concern regarding Gabriel’s well-being but they seem to be more anxious to ensure that his behavior doesn’t derail any opportunities the band may have at hitting the big time.

While Toss’ advice to “cut back on the booze and spliff” seems like a good starting point, Gabriel requires more stringent treatment. This is despite his insistence that “rock and roll is supposed to be out of control”. Medication is the order of the day and to combat the strong fatigue, which accompanies it as a side effect, Gabriel is instructed to partake in regular exercise and sent along to participate in a weekly game of football with a mixed ability group. This is where he encounters the goalkeeping-obsessed Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), a 17 year old with Asperger’s syndrome who is living in institutionalized accommodation.

After a rocky beginning, it’s not long before Christopher is showing up at Gabriel’s band’s gigs and slowly but surely a friendship and understanding develops between them. They may not have much in common but the mental health issues that each of them deal with allow them to identify and bond with one another more than either would have expected. As Kelly noted in the post screening Q & A – “When you have a moment of crisis, the people who are helpful to you are usually completely not the people who you thought were supposed to be helpful”.

With this type of film, it’s always going to be of the utmost importance that the audience finds the relationship between Gabriel and Christopher to be believable. Their friendship is the core of The Drummer and The Keeper. Due to an impressively crafted script (also written by director Kelly), the authenticity of this relationship never wavers or becomes forced. According to Kelly, a great deal of research into both conditions was carried out (all the extras featuring in scenes at the institute Christopher resides in are actually people who have autism) and this can be seen on the screen, both when Gabriel and Christopher interact with each other and with supporting characters. In the post-screening Q & A, there were several comments from mental health workers praising the film for its realistic depiction of both Bipolar disorder and Asperger’s. While Kelly was no doubt proud of the standing ovation the film received, comments like this may have meant even more to him.

Following the screening, Kelly explained that the casting process of the film took a long time. It’s unclear whether or not he was including the casting of Murphy and McCarthy in that statement. Both of them were inspired choices though. While Murphy and McCarthy have credits prior to this, they are still fresh faces on a cinema screen and The Drummer And The Keeper boasts what feel like star making turns from each of them. Both actors deserve all the plaudits they will undoubtedly get. Murphy is especially impressive and his Gabriel emotes as powerfully in the character’s quieter and more introspective moments as in his more explosive one’s. Little room is left to develop supporting characters and this is very much a film about the drummer and the keeper of the title. However, Gabriel and Christopher are such well written characters that few viewers are likely to complain that the central focus consistently remains on them.

Kelly’s directorial ability is extremely confident and one would be very hard-pressed to guess that this is his first feature. It certainly won’t be his last. There are a few parts of the film, particularly near the end, where it feels like credibility is being stretched but by then viewers are likely to be too engaged and invested in the characters to be put off. This is an impressive, moving and often funny debut feature that deserves to find a wide audience. As Kelly said afterwards, “Even if you aren’t currently mentally ill, I think, hopefully there’s something in it for you”. Recommended – An Irish film to be proud of.

 

The Drummer and The Keeper screened on Friday, 14th July as part of the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh (11 – 16 July).

 

 

 

 

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IFB Announce New Funding Initiatives for Female Writers and Directors

 

Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB) has announced a number of new funding initiatives at the Galway Film Fleadh specifically targeted at incentivising female writers, directors and producers, in order to directly increase female representation in the Irish film, television and animation industry

The IFB stated its intention in the 6-point plan to achieve 50/50 parity of funding within three years. However, the actual number of funding applications received by the IFB on an ongoing basis, with female writers and directors attached remains relatively low. Therefore, the IFB will roll out a number of funding initiatives focused on increased production and development funding for female led projects and a female focused low budget production funding initiative. These initiatives are aimed at incentivising female talent into the sector and encouraging Irish production companies through the provision of additional funding to develop Irish female talent.

Commenting on the new initiatives Dr Annie Doona, IFB Chair said “These initiatives represent the continued commitment of the IFB to achieving gender parity within the film, television and animation sector. We are of the view that whilst a lot of been achieved in developing the careers of female writers and directors, not enough has been achieved in relation to increasing the actual funding applications received by the IFB, with female talent attached. I believe these direct funding initiatives will incentivise an increased number of applications from female led talent and will support, empower and elevate Irish female talent working within the Industry. 50/50 parity of funding remains our goal.”

 

The new funding initiatives are:

 

➢ Low Budget Film Production & Training Scheme for female talent
In the coming months, BSÉ/IFB will launch a new low budget production programme aimed exclusively at emerging and established female Writers and Directors. Following tailored workshops, mentorship and training, talent will have the opportunity to apply for support to produce a feature film with a budget of up to €400,000 fully funded by BSÉ/IFB and S481.
 
➢ Enhanced Production Funding for female initiated and driven feature films
Increased support of up to €100,000 (subject to meeting BSÉ/IFB prescribed criteria) will be made available for projects under BSÉ/IFB’s Fiction: Irish Production funding for feature films that are creatively lead by an Irish female Writer(s), Director(s) or Writer/Director with effect from September 2017.

 

Across all other BSÉ/IFB funding schemes, including the BSÉ/IFB Short Film schemes, gender parity across all creative roles will be monitored and encouraged within any applications for support.
 
➢ Development Focus for female initiated feature films
The IFB has recently appointed a new team of project managers who have taken up their positions in the Production & Development team at the IFB. The team is currently reviewing the Screenplay Development scheme for writers, writing teams and writer and director teams, and amendments to the scheme will be announced shortly. As part of the planned amendments to this scheme, all efforts to ensure gender parity across funding awards will occur. In addition, the IFB plans to pilot one round annually available to female applicants only.

 

The team is also discussing the introduction of a supplemental funding award for feature films originated and written by Irish female writers with effect from September 2017.

 

In terms of BSÉ/IFB’s other development funding schemes gender parity across all creative roles will be monitored and encouraged within any applications for support.
 
➢ Establishment of the Gender Equality and Diversity Subcommittee
A new Gender Equality and Diversity Subcommittee will be appointed by the IFB board, who will consult with external bodies, will be introduced with effect from September 2017. The Subcommittee will establish ongoing policies and guidelines in relation to the application process and funding arrangements and will be responsible for their implementation and delivery.

 

➢ Promotion and dialogue focused on female talent
BSÉ/IFB will continue to monitor our progress on gender equality and to conduct our dialogue with the relevant stakeholders and partners including RTÉ, the BAI, SPI, Directors Guild, Writers Guild and Animation Ireland. Particular attention will be given over the coming period to dialogue with the major Irish production companies to discuss actions they could take to increase gender equality within the industry.

 

IFB will introduce a targeted strategy to promote female talent in the sector increasing their visibility, celebrating achievements, supporting their work and promoting gender equality widely to new and existing practitioners as well as the public.

http://www.irishfilmboard.ie/

➢ Note that comprehensive information on each of these Initiatives (the exact details of which are subject to change) will be announced in the coming months and will be made available on the IFB website.

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James Creedon, Director of ‘Thanks to Your Noble Shadow’

Director James Creedon talks about his film Thanks to Your Noble Shadow, the story of one of Ireland’s last missionary nuns, which premieres at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

What can you tell us about the film?
The film is a biographical and intimate portrayal of a woman who has just turned 100 and is reflecting back on a her epic life journey. Born in 1912, she grew up during the Irish Civi War in Cloughduv, West Cork. Her childhood was marked by this – she even heard the shots that killed Michael Collins with her own ears, just over the hills in Béal na Bláth. Educated by the Drishane Nuns (Infant Jesus Sisters) in Millstreet, her father subsequently pulled her out of the school out of fear she would join the order.

Jennie O’Sullivan – or Sr. Paschal, as she was to become known – had indeed developed an interest in becoming a missionary sister and Ireland being the deeply Catholic country it was at the time, she had begun to imagine a life elsewhere as part of that broader movement. Through guile and determination, she managed to return to Drishane on a retreat and from within the convent walls, she informed her family of her decision to join.

Some years later, she then had to say goodbye to her loved ones and her homeland for what she thought would be forever as she journeyed by boat to Japan, where the decision had been taken to send her.

The film charts the course of her life journey, the four camps she spent time in during World War 2, the culture shock she experienced arriving on the other side of the world with not a word of Japanese and how she navigated all of these challenges.

At 100 years of age, she recounts her memories with extraordinary energy, verve, joy and wit. Jennie was, above all, a committed and loving English teacher who built incredibly loving bonds with legions of Japanese women who went through her classrooms over seven decades. The film portrays the sense of deep gratitude that these women have for Jennie at the end of her life. It’s a story of love returned in gratitude by those who have been loved, as her life reaches its end. Jennie is a sublime example of unconditional love – every time I show the film, there are tears and there is laughter.

How did you originally get involved?
My grandmother had maintained close ties with Jennie down through the years by letter writing. I could not understand why Jennie had returned to Ireland after 75 years in Japan knowing that she had expressed a wish to live out her days there. While she was allowed to return on holidays to Ireland every few years from the 1960s onwards, she had left on the understanding she would never return and this “sacrifice” – as she understood it – was part of what had made sense of her decision to commit herself fully to her work as a missionary and an English teacher in Japan for the rest of her days. It simply was not part of her plan to come back to Ireland but that decision was essentially taken for her. As in the army or the diplomatic corps, missionary orders are hierarchical and “personnel” don’t decide where and when they are moved from one location to another.

I, however, found the decision to send such an elderly women home quite bizarre and I began to interview her. It turned into a year-long project of visiting her and filming her every time I returned to see my family in Cork (I have been living in Paris for 12 years now working as TV journalist at the France 24 international news channel). Jennie and I developed a really strong bond and began writing letters to each other. I then decided it was essential to travel to Japan with a message from Jennie that I would deliver to her loved ones and past pupils in a bid to close the circle and heal the suffering of her separation from her adopted homeland. I brought video messages back to Jennie after my trip to Japan and she witnessed one last time the huge love and gratitude felt by so many of those she had dedicated her life to. It was a massively gratifying and moving journey for me.

You must have been thrilled to have such an amazing story to tell.
I was intimidated by it in the beginning as I had never imagined that I would try to make a film. It was the strength of her story and the fact that she seemed to simply be in death’s waiting room with few taking notice of how extraordinary she was apart from those who knew and loved her that compelled me to up-skill fast and find a way of recording her memories before she passed on. What I was most impressed by was her energy and her memory and her ability to recount stories well. She was able to recite ‘Daffodils’ by Wordsworth in full from memory. She would sing ‘Danny Boy’ perfectly on note… Her storytelling and ability to entertain and be joyful at such a ripe old age was astounding.

What were Jennie’s abiding memories of Japan?
The relationships she had developed. I prompted her and pushed her a lot to talk about the major historical events she had lived through but in the end what rose to the surface every time was quite simply her almost zen-like presence and devotion to the moment and to human relationships. It made me reflect on the values she had lived by and it made me examine – as someone who is not a practicing Catholic – what it was about her values and how she encountered and merged those values with her host / adopted country that explained her vitality and vigour at 100 years old.

What did you yourself learn spending time with her?
I learned that to be giving and loving and joyful is the secret to happiness. It’s such an old adage but she seemed the living embodiment and proof that “in giving you receive”. It really is as simple as that. She radiated love, joy and happiness. Simply being in her presence was uplifting. She came along at a time in my life where I was searching for meaning and answers to some of life’s great questions and her simple presence seemed to answer those questions in a very simple way. I’m much more at peace with myself now than I was starting out in this project. Also, the doing of the project and the resources I had to draw on, the strength and courage I had to find to overcome the obstacles in my way helped me to become a more confident, happy person. My confidence grew because I had formulated a dream – to preserve her energy and her memory for transmission to others – and I had executed it.

What can you tell us about the archive footage you use?
I drew heavily on archive footage from the Irish Film Archive, British Pathe, NHK in Japan and other sources to illustrate the richness of her oral memory as recounted in our conversations. She was a little deaf and she insisted I come out from behind the camera to sit next to her. As she told me her stories, they came to life in my mind’s eye and I sifted through archives of early 20th century Ireland and Japan for hours on end to find the best images and the one’s that most closely matched what I had envisaged as she told me her stories.

And the footage of interviews… how much were you working with in the edit and how did that work out?
I went completely “mental” in the filming and collecting of footage stage… I had 30 hours of interviews with her and added to that interviews with other missionaries who had returned from Japan, as well as historians, etc., etc. I didn’t know where to draw the line and I learned a harsh lesson in the editing stage! My wonderful editor Elisabeth Feytit and I quickly realised that – as had been the original intention – Jennie’s story was preeminent and so she stayed, those who knew her stayed, and all other interviews ended up on the cutting room floor.

Rather than interviews, it’s conversations, which are made more natural by you appearing yourself in the film.
As mentioned above that was her decision, and there’s quite a funny sequence in the film where you see her deciding that. Because I’m a TV journalist and used to being in front of the camera and because Jennie had spent decades at the top of a classroom, neither of us were self-conscious in front of the camera so I do think the conversations that emerged were very natural. Also, in some respects I was experimenting and had the idea that, at worst, this would be a family record and didn’t have to be shared – so I wasn’t worried what people would think.

And funding the film…

The question of funding and distribution had not even been remotely touched on during the filming stage. I did a crowdfunding campaign around a year later in order to make up the editing and production costs. I had no official funding for this project which was entirely paid for by the crowdfunding and by the school she worked at in Tokyo who understood and fully supported the motivation for the film.

 

Thanks to Your Noble Shadow screens in the Cinemobile on Sunday, 16th July at 16:15 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.
Buy tickets
The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqJJPUDxfZA

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

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Olga Černovaitė, director of ‘Butterfly City’

 

Director Olga Černovaitė explains her motivation for making ‘Butterfly City’, her film about the city of Visaginas, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

The city of Visaginas was created from nothing in the 1970s in order to service a powerful Soviet nuclear power station. Literally designed and shaped like the wings of a butterfly, it was intended to be a window of Soviet progress to the West. After USSR disintegration, however, EU membership meant Lithuania has to close the plant, the city’s main industry. At a time of growing geo-political tension, and in an ambiance of mutual mistrust, what future for the 25,000 Russian-speaking townspeople?

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, director Olga Černovaitė explains her motivation for making Butterfly City, a portrayal of a city that is refusing to die along with its defunct power plant.

“I knew I had a story to make about this topic of identity, in Lithuania, where I grew up, but for a long time I couldn’t identify exactly what it was. In the end, it was right under my nose all along. As a child to Russian parents, I was born in Lithuania and raised as a very patriotic Lithuanian. But the question about identity became stronger as I grew older. Am I Russian? Am I Lithuanian? Later, after my daughter was born, I spoke Russian with her and taught her Russian songs.

“When researching the film I discovered that many of the people of Russian descent in Vilnius I was talking to turned out to be from Visaginas. Then I realised this was the place I had to go to and there everything came together. Originally, before I studied film, I had a scientific education, in chemistry, so in that way even the characters based at the power plant reflected my own personal history, just like other characters are also a kind of reflection of myself.

“I did not set out to make a political film, but in the process of making the film and with the recent political climate in the former USSR states, it became impossible to avoid it. So I tried to show the complexity of the problem. And perhaps even showing a more nuanced point of view. Lithuania was the first country to leave the Soviet Union and a lot has changed since then. Some people see it as a good things, some people not. The many voices in the debate can be heard in Visaginas.”

Talking about the role the power plant plays in Visaginas now, Olga says that “many people in Visaginas lost their jobs because of the power plant closing. When the power plant was still fully functioning, the town had 33,000 inhabitants, of whom 5,000 worked directly at the plant. Today the population is around 20,000 people; 2,000 work at the plant and this number is still decreasing. It is still is a big source of income for the people who still have jobs, as a lot of work goes into closing a power plant. Ironically, the people that are working on closing the plant are the children of the people that built it in the 1970s.

“If you look at people’s attitudes towards the plant, there is mainly pride, though. You could say the power plant symbolises the history of Lithuania and people’s attitudes towards it are as complex and diverse as people’s attitudes towards the USSR and the country’s independence.”

As for the future, “Visaginas is a city at a turning point,” according to Olga. “The closing of the power plant created a lot of uncertainty, but it also paves the way for a new future. Nowadays, the town is investing a lot in tourism sports, and other small and mid-size businesses. Looking at it from the outside, it may seem like a dying city, and maybe it was for a while, but with a very active young generation that shares a deeply rooted love for the city, what dominates is hope.”

 

Butterfly City screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh Friday, 14th July in the Cinemobile at 12:15

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The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017

 

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

 

 

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