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.
This month at the Cannes Film Festival, 20 up and coming producers from 20 different countries from throughout Europe participate in ‘Producers on the Move’. The initiative is aimed at connecting young, enterprising European producers with potential co-production partners, strengthening their industry networks and, at the same time, providing a solid and visible platform for this next generation of European filmmakers. They take part in project pitching, 1:1 meetings and case studies, social events and an extensive press campaign, which includes online presentation and profiles in the international trades.
This year Cormac Fox of Vico Films was selected as Ireland’s EFP Producer on the Move for 2019.
Cormac has produced several feature films for Vico Films, including Fiona Tan’s History’s Future, which premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2015, Peter Foott’s 2016 local breakout hit The Young Offenders, and Sophie Hyde’s Animals which had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and comes to Irish cinemas later this year. He is currently producing a TV series, Cold Courage, for Viaplay.
Gemma Creagh met Cormac to talk about his career to date as a producer and what to expect in Cannes.
James Allen (Laurence O’Fuarain) is a successful, controlling, thirty-something banker living alone and working in Dublin city at the tail-end of the recession. When a family tragedy occurs at the hands of his employer he decides to take action which forces him to face a terrible childhood secret. Meanwhile, his mysterious co-worker Alison (IFTA-nominated Sarah Carroll) has her own agenda, which puts her on a collision course with James, triggering a dark spiral of deceit, revenge, and murder.
Gemma Creagh met up with writer/director Alan Mulligan to talk about his look at modern-day greed and desire, and society’s ever-growing need for control.
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to Irish writer Stephen Shields about his debut feature film The Hole in the Ground (2019). Stephen also talks about his work on Zombie Bashers (2010) and Republic of Telly (2009) and gives us an insight into the craft of writing.
Cellar Door tells the story of young lover Aidie as she searches for her son while in the grip of the Church. But as she gets closer to the truth, she suffers uncontrollable shifts in time and place that send her spiralling.
Gemma Creagh sat down with writer/director Viko Nikci to open up the Cellar Door and find out more about his moving mystery thriller.
Cellar Door is showing at Cineworld, Eye Cinema, IMC Dun Laoghaire, The Gate and Movies@Dundrum.
Kate graduated with an Honours Degree in Film & Television Production from the National Film School, IADT in 2012. There, she majored in Directing and minored in Editing. Her graduate short Breathe In (2012) was selected for a number of Irish and international film festivals. She then worked as a Broadcast Producer in TBWA Dublin for almost 2 years after graduating.
In 2014, Kate attended Berlinale Talents to develop a short called Little Doll at the Short Film Script Station. The film depicts the first same-sex crush of a young girl. The short then premiered as part of Generation Kplus at Berlinale 2016. For her work with Little Doll, Kate was included in the British Council’s fiveFilms4freedom 2016 Global List – 33 inspiring people from around the world promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights every day.
In 2016 Kate was chosen to take part in the Guiding Lights, the UK’s leading mentoring scheme for filmmakers and was paired with director Alice Lowe (Prevenge, Sightseers)
In 2017, Kate was funded by Screen Ireland to make Catcalls, an irreverent horror about a sexual predator who gets what’s coming to him. The film won Best Short Film at the YDA Ireland in 2018 and has played at many festivals all over the world since its premiere at the Cork Film Festival in 2017.
Recently, Kate was selected for Screen Ireland to take part in their inaugural POV scheme. The selected projects will enter a development and mentorship phase before three will be greenlit, with a budget of up to €400,000 each – the money has been ring-fenced from Screen Ireland’s overall production budget. They will be aiming to enter production in late 2019/early 2020. You Are Not My Mother is a horror feature to be written and directed by Kate and produced by Deirdre Levins (Nails) for Fantastic Films.
In the world of music videos, Kate has gained praise for her work with Bitch Falcon and Maria Kelly as well as her recently critically acclaimed video for Pillow Queens’ ‘Gay Girls’.
Set over a long bank holiday weekend, misfit teenager, Joey Moody, returns to his home town in a bid to reopen his family’s crumbling caravan park and salvage his friendship with his best friend, Lanks. Meanwhile, on a mission to find the money to cover his wife’s medical expenses, Ronald Tanner, a fractured soul, risks his meagre life savings on a get rich quick scheme that ends in abject failure and humiliation at the hands of local big shot Gits Hegarty, pushing Ronald over the edge and off the wagon. After Joey accidentally burns down Ronald’s camper van and is forced to find the cash to repay him, the strange pair find themselves bonded together in misfortune. In an effort to change their shabby circumstances they concoct a plan to rob the Pleasurama, the local amusement arcade, and the domain of the iniquitous Gits.
Gemma Creagh chats to Morgan Bushe about The Belly of the Whale, his debut feature as a director and Lewis MacDougall about his role as Joey.
Gemma Creagh talks to Aoife O’Toole, the Dublin Feminist Film Festival Manager, about what we can expect at this year’s festival with screenings in the Light House Cinema 21st and 22nd November plus Special Launch Events taking place on 20th November in The Generator Hostel, Smithfield.
The Dublin Feminist Film Festival runs 20 – 22 November
Natasha Waugh’s latest short film, Mother, screens at this year’s Cork Film Festival. In the film, hardworking mam Grace, played by Hilary Rose, has the perfect happy family: a loving husband and two wonderful children. But when her husband arrives home one day with a brand new kitchen appliance, she slowly starts to realize that there might not be room for both of them in this house.
Gemma Creagh sat down with Natasha to find out more about her quirky short, her journey into film and her IFTA-nominated 2016 film Terminal.
Natasha Waugh co-founded Fight Back Films in 2013, and has, to date, directed four short films (Food Fight, Running Commentary, Lag, and Terminal) and co-directed another (The Betrayal) with filmmaker Kamila Dydyna. The films have enjoyed success on the festival circuit.
Ross Whitaker lands another knockout with this comprehensive character study. Katie is a beautiful, complex piece of cinema, as nuanced and fascinating as the superstar herself.
In a world fueled of vapid hubris, where 19 year-olds release autobiographies, reality stars flog lipgloss liners and careers have been launched via snapchat, Katie Taylor is an unboundedly refreshing figure. You won’t find her spewing casual racism or throwing railings through bus windows, Katie’s motivation is, and always has been, fuelled by her love of boxing. At an age when most people’s career highlights would be a pay rise or successfully sneaking naggins into their college nights out, Katie was changing the entire world of women’s boxing. In fact, she was instrumental in getting this sport in to the Olympics, and through diligence, faith and a quiet self belief she continues to make her mark today.
A fantastic piece of cinema, Katie is the classic comeback story. The narrative kicks off in the aftermath of Katie’s disastrous and heartbreaking defeat at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. That devastating loss, teamed with the estrangement of her father, coach and mentor, Pete, has Katie on the proverbial ropes. This feature tracks her career, as Katie takes on the monumentally difficult challenge of turning her hand to professional boxing.
Director Ross Whittaker torments the audience with tension. National sports victories are few and far between; you’d be hard pressed to find anyone on this island who isn’t following Katie’s career as if they’d been boxing aficionados all their lives. Nevertheless, this feature has you reliving her wins and losses as if they were happening in real time. While this documentary hits all the satisfying emotional highs and lows you’d expect from any decent sports film, what really sets it apart is the heart behind it; Katie Taylor is an introverted, spiritual, unstoppable force and during these 89 minutes we, as an audience have absolutely no choice but to fall in love with her. Whitaker does a fantastic job articulating her journey – sometimes on her behalf – as she grows from a fierce, young upstart into an articulate, inspirational woman.
Lenny Abrahamson’s new film The Little Stranger tells the story of Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson), the son of a housemaid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1948, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. But it is now in decline and its inhabitants – Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling), Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter) and Caroline Ayres (Ruth Wilson) – are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. When he takes on his new patient, Faraday has no idea how closely, and how disturbingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own.
Gemma Creagh was at the European premiere at the Light House cinema in Dublin and talked to Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Lenny Abrahamson and Ruth Wilson.
I, Dolours presents one woman’s story of life and death in the IRA, for whom the Good Friday Agreement brought no peace of mind. A member of a crack, secret IRA unit run by Gerry Adams, Dolours Price led the first team to bomb the centre of London in 1973. Before this, she was a central figure in one of the most notorious and controversial IRA operations of The Troubles: the murder and dumping into unmarked graves of people whose violent deaths the IRA wished to keep secret – the so-called ‘disappeared’.
Gemma Creagh talks to Maurice Sweeney about his documentary, based on lengthy interviews with Dolours Price and extensive reconstructions. I Dolours tells the anguished story of one of the few women who dedicated her life to the IRA only to be haunted by memories of what she had done and the realisation that it had all been for naught.
There have been a number of feature documentaries recently focusing on The Troubles. Is it getting easier to deal with living history?
Yes. I think it’s getting easier. It’s no accident that this year and last year we’ve had No Stone Unturned, I Dolours, A Mother Brings Her Son to be Shot, Bobby Sands: 66 Days. These are screening and being understood by Irish and international audiences. It’s not the usual Prime Time Investigates – these films are about bigger stories and bigger themes. Maybe we’re achieving that distance where we are being able to talk about it.
For me, I, Dolours felt very timely, because it was a great analogy of the North. I think filmmakers in Ireland and the new generation want to tackle those subjects on the bigger screen. Also, I would argue that there has been amazing work that hasn’t been given prominence because it was on TV. There has been an element of snobbishness to a certain extent with films released on the bigger screen garnishing more praise. These are things that have been explored on TV but they are being treated as themes and stories rather than political investigations, which I think is important. I think also it’s a sign of a generation of Irish filmmakers maturing.
Regardless of that snobbery though the shift in distribution platforms and the international hunger that there is for these true life stories – that’s the future, is it not?
It is and they are coming around to it. The demand for content has never been so high. Maybe 7 years ago we were all worried that with all the content production, values were going to go down. People got that wrong. So there’s a call for really well produced, intelligent content. Obviously, there’s a lot of bad true life stuff out there – but that’s the nature of the beast.
Structure is changing. Filmmakers are also thinking about something in four parts now. It doesn’t have to be contained within 90 minutes. It’s going to be interesting for documentary filmmakers in particular as to how they choose to tell a story and what type of stories they decide tell – there’s scope to think bigger and still get those nuggets of human experience in those films.
It’s interesting you say that because after watching this film I was imagining it as series – there’s a strong female anti-hero who’s been pushed to the edge and pressured into extreme action. Breaking Bad meets The Americans.
As a drama, certainly you could imagine that – thanks – I’ll go back and write that now and I’ll use that tagline!
I noted that you had been trying to get the project together for a while. How did it eventually come into fruition?
It came on the back of a failure in getting of another project off the ground with Ed Moloney, the journalist. We were trying to do a programme on the collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane with producer Nuala Cunningham. It didn’t happen. After it never came to fruition, we spoke about the possibility of using Ed’s 2010 interview with Dolours Price. So I read part of the transcript. I was amazed and enthralled by the story. I thought this is really powerful. I knew that this inside-story of uncomfortable truths was something special.
We got development money of the Film Board and eventually got to the phase where we had production funding before we asked ourselves what we were going to do with it.From my background, I was treating it as an historical doc. I had never met the woman. I had that removal which served the end product well because I could see it from a bird’s eye, from a different angle, from my point of view as a director. To be honest, we actually struggled a lot deciding how to make it initially. We had discussed different ways and I had even thought about shooting the interview again with an actress. I almost thought you could do this as a full drama from an interview given by the woman who was in the IRA. I kept thinking about how to do that. In fairness, Mick Mahon, the editor, kept saying – “look you have the interview, use it.” I don’t why I was reluctant initially to be honest with you, it was a form I had always wanted to try. So then I sat down with Mick and looked at the interview. We saw how brilliant and really powerful it was and from then on we decided that we were just using her voice. The film became more glued into shape then. It took shape in our minds.
That shape is quite interesting in the different forms you use to tell the story and achieve the overall effect.
It was about using three forms of filmmaking: archive, straight sit-down interviews and enactments, which is what I would see as her visual memory, they would interweave together. The enactments were important because we knew wanted to tell a strong visual story, and they add that sense of drama alongside the archive footage and interviews.
It was clear in my head when we went to shoot eventually. There was a lot of time to plan so we almost had the film edited to a certain extent in our heads to where the important points from the interview were.
The shoot itself was about 11 or 12 days. The edit was 15 weeks.
The film is an emotional rollercoaster and Dolours is such a complex character for the audience – how was it for you as a filmmaker?
The audience has to go through the same thing we went through. We were conflicted by listening to her and how we felt about her. There are certain scenes that really bring about that conflict and show this young woman who made decisions but who would ultimately suffered for them. We didn’t want to be too apologetic. You couldn’t agree with what she did, but I think you could understand. Also we didn’t want to shy away from showing the damage that she caused. You’re treading that line.
I thought Lorna Larkin was amazing as Dolours in the reenactments. She brings a real gutsiness to the role. How did she come on board?
I had other actors lined up who were great and one in particular who I think got scared of the project about doing something about the IRA and other reasons, so things were getting quite tight. I came across Lorna and I thought she had that sparkle in her eye and would really own Dolours. When we met, she was just so up for it – she wasn’t phased about it at all. We’re dealing with very tricky issues here IRA, killings, Hunger strikes… very contentious stuff. She was very brave in her approach. We did some tests with her in costume and she was great and she’s able to pull off different looks. I think having an unknown was important – she becomes more Dolours.
How was the film received and did you get any kind of feedback from people who were involved?
We did – and there were certain people who were saying we shouldn’t be making this film. Some people are surprised when they see it that it’s not a ‘Let’s Get Sinn Fein’ job. It’s not about that. When we showed it in Canada at Hot Docs, people got the emotional story of it. When we showed it in Britain, it was all about the political. Then when we showed it in Belfast, which is almost like returning to the scene of the crime, I was very nervous about that. It was a packed cinema with ex-IRA members in the audience. They questioned certain things but a lot of them were very positive about it. They thought it showed that this is what it was like. This is what the committed part of the IRA does and also the cruelty of it. A lot of the time when I see the film with audiences, it’s amazing, they are just silent at the end – I’ll take that as a compliment!
DIR: Maurice Sweeney • DOP: Kate McCullough • ED: Mick Mahon • MUS: Giles Packham • PRO: Nuala Cunningham, Ed Moloney • CAST: Lauren Beale, Gail Brady, Lauren Carr |
For anyone looking to apply for an Irish visa, there are certain cultural memes you should consume before they hand over that final approval document. No matter what your background, artistic endeavours such as Father Ted, Oscar Wilde’s cutting commentary, Under The Hawthorn Tree, The Snapper, Rory Gallagher’s melliferous tunes or Heaney’s poetry, are all accessible ways to gain insight into the nuances of our nation’s heritage – and I, Dolours is a perfect addition to this ‘bible’ of sorts. This feature is not a staunchly republican piece of propaganda that will have you singing rebel songs over a bodhrán on a rainy afternoon. In fact, it’s a clear, balanced assessment of the complex history that surrounds the North, emphasising the good, the bad and the ruthless on both sides of the religious divide.
What’s most engaging about I, Dolours is how it remains as complex and intricate as the woman it portrays. The film begins by tracking the evolution of the tensions in Northern Ireland. This is juxtaposed with the dark retelling of Dolours Price’s family history, including her father’s involvement with the IRA and her aunt’s horrific disfigurement. All theses elements are dappled with dramatic reenactments, and narrated by the late, real-life Dolours herself in the notorious interviews she recorded in 2010 with journalist Ed Moloney.
It was only after a peaceful civil rights protest ended in bloodshed at the hands of the British government, that Dolours joined the Provisional IRA. There, she and her sister were recruited for a special ops unit which, as she stated in her interview, was headed by Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams. Dolours, along with her her sister, were eventually convicted on charges related to a London bombing. Yet it was prior to this when the depths of her wartime cruelties were inflicted. Dolores was a central figure in a team which murdered and ‘disappeared’ a number of targets during the Troubles. In her interview, Dolores, in her own words, describes how she led suspected informants, among them the widowed mother-of-ten, Jean McConville, to her death.
Director Maurice Sweeney makes brave choices with some drastically varying shifts of pace; the film starts off with newsreels in a classically structured documentary format, then the narrator, Dolours’ footage is introduced, followed by the reenactments. There are moments, especially when Dolours is in prison, where there’s a sudden, jarring shift to a slow-paced, stylistic drama. Actors break the fourth wall, and chunks of the narrative are revealed in a non-linear structure.
This portrait of Dolours is made with the performance. Newcomer Lorna Larkin is exceptional. She embodies the ambiguity, charm and tenacity of this antihero and her character choices are strong, deepened by the chemistry she has with Gail Brady, who plays her sister. Needless to say, Dolours is not a likable figure. However, while Lorna warms her cold rational, Maurice poses the question as to what depths can someone go to when they are pushed that far.
A fascinating portrait of a compelling and complex figure in Irish history served well by a skilfully crafted piece of Irish filmmaking.
DIR/WRI: Liam O Mochain • PRO: Bernie Grummell, Eamonn Norris, Liam O Mochain • DOP: Fionn Comerford • ED: Ciara Brophy • MUS: Richie Buckley • DES: David Wilson • CAST: Liam Ó Mochain, Aoibhin Garrihy, Lynette Callaghan Norma Sheahan, Brendan Conroy
First up, let’s give credit where there’s a hefty dollop of credit due. It takes insane amounts of determination and effort to shoot a feature. It’s an expensive, exhausting and an emotionally-draining process – even with a few bob in the coffers from a funding body. Six years, a heap of Irish talent, and seven neatly-woven stories later, Liam O Mochain has delivered a jaunty gem in Lost and Found. Completely on his own dime, he spliced together simple vignettes and produced something that holds its own against any Irish film released this year.
The format is not dissimilar to the Kevin Smith cult classic, Clerks. These seven stories, also punctuated by title cards, are loosely centred around Daniel, played by Ó Mochain himself. The mayhem begins when this ne’er-do-well starts working at the Lost & Found in a rural train station. The short, self-contained chapters, featuring Daniel and the people he encounters, swing from amusing to maudlin, then back again. Delivering decent foreshadowing, simple dialogue and a neat plot structure, this feature makes for an easy watch once it ramps up.
When penning the script, O Mochain was inspired by true stories that either happened to him, people he knows or things he was told about. With plotlines focusing on Bridezillas; a desperate bar-owner and his cultural appropriation; World War II treasure-hunting; a tragic older gentleman with dementia; and the worst proposal ever, you have to wonder about the company Liam keeps.
There’s a host of familiar faces dappled through the cast, which adds to the energy of the piece as a whole. What’s even more impressive than their solid performances, however, is how something shot over five years manages to keep such consistency.
Although Clerks is the obvious comparison for a piece like this, tonally these films occupy very different realms. Rather than oozing that grungy ‘90s despondency, Lost & Found steers itself towards the earnest and warm. This is quite refreshing in an era where everything is glib and self aware. Whether it’s the classic character archetypes, jaunty music or the rural setting, there’s almost a touch of the ’70s in there. All in all, Lost & Found delivers a rewarding, quirky slice of Irish cinema.
Now, it’s certainly time to see what O Mochain can do with a budget.
Brian Lally spoke to Gemma Creagh about his retrospective look at five decades of celebrated composer and the “godfather of Irish electronic music” Roger Doyle and observes him presenting one of his most ambitious musical projects to the general public – his first electronic opera.
I met Roger Doyle at the Fleadh way back in 2004. I had been aware of his work and the music he had done for films like Pigs and for Joe Comerford’s short experimental films, both of which feature in the documentary.
I met him at a retrospective on the work of Bob Quinn. Bob was showing Budawanny and he pointed out Roger Doyle in the audience. I ended up chatting to him afterwards. At the time, I was making Aftermath, an experimental film and he gave me some of his music to use in the film. It was something very new that he was working on and was very otherworldly. It had an enormous impact on the actual film. The film went around the world playing at festivals and seemed to have an enormous impact on the audience. Half of it was down to his music.
I started thinking maybe I should make a documentary about his work. I started filming Roger’s concerts with a view to using them in a documentary at some point. But nobody seemed interested. I got rejected everywhere.
Then in 2015, Roger told me his opera had been funded. This was his first electronic opera, Heresy, a big 2-hour production about the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno. I’d seen a short version of it, which was a work in progress, a few years earlier and I knew it would be good. That was kind of what I needed because the one thing the documentary lacked was a solid structure but I knew I could build a future documentary about the preparations for the Opera, leading up to the opening night, which would be the climax of the documentary.
I set the documentary up so that you’re introduced to Roger leading a quiet life in Bray. Here’s a guy who has brought out 27 albums but, outside of the Dublin art scene, there’s not that many people who know Roger Doyle – so it was a great subject for a documentary. Someone said that the purpose of a documentary is to make the unseen seen, or in this case to make the unheard heard.
Roger has had an amazing career spanning 50 years. He has an incredible work ethic. He composes every single day. He is highly disciplined and highly focused. Plus, he’s one of those people who has that rare quality that as he gets older he’s actually getting better. I’ve looked back at all his work, I’ve listened to every single one of those 27 albums and I think, as a single piece of work, the Opera is his finest achievement, particularly when you see it live.
I didn’t want to make a documentary about an obscure talent who remains obscure. The Opera allowed me to make a story about an obscure talent who has this big career-defining moment quite late in life. There’s a theme in the documentary of an artist in search of an audience and the payoff at the end is a mind-blowing performance in front of that audience.
And so the structure took shape – a fly-on-the-wall style documentary following the preparations for Roger’s first electronic opera and along the way a look back at Roger’s 50 year-long career in music, avant garde theatre and film.
By the time we came to 2016 I’d been filming Roger on and off for about 10 years so I had a wealth of archive from about 2005 onwards. Plus the remarkable work he’s done has attracted other filmmakers beforehand, so there was very rich material for me to draw on when it came to putting the actual feature documentary together.
As for the fly-on-the-wall footage, I attended about half the rehearsals for Heresy, picked the very best moments from that and filmed the Opera itself. Thankfully, it proved to be spectacular, visually striking and just a treat overall.
I hope I’ve captured the spectacle of his opera and done justice to his remarkable career.
The Curious Works of Roger Doyle screens on Thursday, 12th July at the Pálás Screen 1 @ 18:30 as part of the 2018 Galway Film Fleadh (10 – 15 July)
DIR: Dave Tynan • WRI: Emmet Kirwan, Dave Tynan • PRO: Michael Donnelly, Dave Leahy • DOP: Jj Rolfe • ED: John O’Connor • MUS: Gareth Averill • DES: Mark Kelly • CAST: Emmet Kirwan, Ian Lloyd Anderson, Seána Kerslake
Dublin OldSchool is an evocative, poetic film set in modern-day Dublin. As the name suggests, it’s dripping in nostalgia; there’s stylistic nods to ’90s/Naughties classics Trainspotting and Disco Pigs that will have you sucking on your soother necklace.
Jason (Emmet Kirwan), a charismatic, wannabe DJ, has two conflicting goals for his bank holiday weekend: to man the decks and spend each waking moment in a chemical-induced haze. With a hearty band of sessioners in tow, and a rake of cans, the party begins. Jason flits from venue to venue, dodging the pigs, clashing with his ex, crashing gaff parties, raving in Wicklow – but the revelries are hindered when Jason encounters his brother. Daniel, a homeless heroin addict, forces Jason to reevaluate his past.
The theatrical origins of the story are evident in the weighty dialogue/lyrical voiceover, and elevated with a steady beat of trance and striking visuals. While this delivers the distinct style, not all supporting characters can handle the verbosity. The leads’ performances are outstanding, however. Although a little too old for that particular peer group, Emmet brings believability and charisma to Jason. This makes his terrible choices a lot easier to squirm through. While Ian Lloyd Anderson, who plays Daniel, is just perfect.
If you haven’t watched the short film Heartbreak, do so now. Director Dave Tynan brings that same well of emotional depth and empathy to all of his characters. Interestingly enough, Tynan also walks the tentative line of neither glamourising drug use, nor demonising it. The negative repercussions are there, but the parties also look like excellent craic. Meanwhile, cinematographer JJ Rolfe adds to the shifting atmosphere with his aesthetics. Depending on which scenes you’re watching, Dublin can look like Baltimore a la The Wire, or an ad for The Gathering.
Dublin OldSchool has the potential to be one of those classic films people return to. The duality is there across the board. It’s fun and heavy; fast and slow; a comedy and a commentary – but mostly, this is something best experienced on a big screen.
DIR: Ryan Coogler • WRI: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: Rachel Morrison• ED: Debbie Berman, Michael P. Shawver• MUS: Ludwig Göransson • DES: Hannah Beachler • CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker
After more than two decades stranded in the depths of Development Hell, the much-anticipated Black Panther has finally made it to the big screen… which it graces with style.
The premise is refreshingly off-beat when compared to the rest of the Marvel Universe; Wakanda is an uncolonised and secretive East African nation, teaming with futuristic technology due to their resources of Vibranium. To the rest of the planet, they don the appearance of a Third World country, while behind their borders, they have spaceships, magnet trains and super snazzy spy-gadgets that would make Q drool.
After his father dies tragically, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must go home to take his rightful place as King of Wakanda. His first act as his nation’s leader is, naturally, to go on a mission to South Korea to catch a manically gleeful South African smuggler, Ulysses Klaus (Andy Serkis). T’Challa enlists the help of his ex, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o); badass warrior babe Okoye (Danai Gurira); and his genius sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) – who steals every scene with her cheeky grin and one-liners. When their extraction plan fails, bloodless violence and neon-lit car-chases ensue, starting T’Challa down a path navigating levels of dissonance and betrayal he certainly wasn’t prepared for in King school.
In the great tradition of the superhero genre, Black Panther suffers from too interesting an antagonist. Uber-baddy Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) is complex, engaging and ultimately eclipses Boseman’s T’Challa. But it’s only a minor offence that’s easily forgiven. You know a casting director has done their job well when you only casually refer to co-stars with the calibre of Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker towards the end of a review.
What Black Panther does exceptionally well is to create an immersive and bountiful world. The distinct soundtrack elevates and modernises magical visuals, from ice mountains to the visceral glowing sunsets to the contrasting cityscape of Korea and Wakanda’s futuristic nod to space mountain. There’s something to keep everyone engaged – light self-referential comedy, fight scenes, action, on-point political commentary and Shakespearean-esque family drama. The scope of the aesthetics and the notably restrained violence mean it’s perfect for a family outing to the cinema in this ever-delayed Spring of ours.
Black Panther, a gleaming example of Afrofuturism, provides a unique perspective on a well-worn genre. As a piece of cinema, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it certainly delivers a polished spin on it.
Maze is based on the true story of the 1983 mass breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland. As Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), the chief architect of the escape, schemes his way towards pulling off this feat, he comes into contact with prison warder, Gordon Close (Barry Ward). Initially Larry and Gordon are confirmed enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide, but when Larry realises that Gordon may be unwittingly useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. Larry intends to use and manipulate Gordon in order to get closer to his goal but what follows is a tense, and intriguing drama in which an unlikely relationship is forged between two enemies that will have far reaching consequences for both of them.
Gemma Creagh caught up with Barry Ward ahead of the film’s release on DVD.
How did you get involved with Maze.
I had worked with Jane Doolan, the producer and we made an Italian film together [L’accabadora (2015)] in Cagliari, Sardinia in Italian. It was around that time she said her husband Stephen Burke had a script and that there would be something in it for me. At that stage, I think they had me in mind for one of the inmates. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was already attached. As time went by, availability issues and production issues rose and then, while talking to Stephen and Jane, they said that they wanted me to play Gordon, the warden, in the film opposite Tom, who plays a Republican prisoner. It’s a really brilliant part and I was thrilled to do it – plus Jane and Stephen being friends made it all the more sweeter.
Gordon is a real meaty character with maybe some views the people don’t agree with. But you really empathize with the pressure he’s under. It’s very easy to vilify a prison guard but you brought so much to the role to create a three-dimensional character. How did you approach him as a character.
I think that on the page it was really obvious immediately that the warden was a really a terrific part – really meaty as you say. And the fact that traditionally prison-breakout movies involve the escapee as the hero and the warden as a one-dimensional baddy whereas this film put a twist on that made it really interesting. It’s really appealing for anybody reading it and particularly the role of Gordon. So in the approach most of it was on the page and it was hard to go wrong. My own research on it was about the context of the time – the North in the ’70s and early ’80s. I was reading a lot of books on that time, which was really at the height of it all. It made for really grim but terrific reading. The wardens had a bad reputation – and probably well founded. They were legitimate targets and they were being murdered during that period. It was a highly dangerous job and required great courage to see it through and to do it. I was thinking of Gordon as quite simply as a jobsworth… but he really took pride in what he was doing and deemed it a very important job. It was something of a vocation or a mission that he got up and out everyday. And he wasn’t going to cow down to anyone in the face of threats. He believed what he was doing was right – and that he was on the right side of the war.
Whatever side the character is on, whatever the politics, they are coming from a similar mindset, I think. I read a lot about not only the historical context of the time but also the professional context of being a prison warden. They wasn’t that much to go on but there were more studies more recently – particularly in the States – on the effects of that profession on the mental well-being of wardens. It makes for harsh reading. It’s an extremely challenging job and leads to all sorts of social and personal problems. I had all that in mind… but as an actor approaching your character you have to trust that the research you’ve done is there and will be present during a scene but you kind of have to park it at the door and just concentrate on the scene in hand, what the character’s individual objectives are and what obstacles they are faced with. Both Tom and my characters were so well drawn that it was kind of easy – and a joy – to play. Plus me and Tom get on brilliantly and were bouncing ideas of each other. So when action is shouted you draw on all the work you’ve done and hopefully get the scene.
Produced by Jane Doolan and Brendan J Byrne, Maze is released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK on the 15th January (EST) and 22nd January (DVD), and was financed by The Irish Film Board, RTE, BAI, Film Vast, Windmill Lane, Cork regional funding and Irish tax incentives for the film industry.
Ahead of an IFTA screening, Gemma Creagh chatted to the writer/director of The Limit Of… Alan Mulligan and actor Laurence O’Fuarain, who plays James Allen, a man pushed to his limits, and beyond, in a tense thriller set against the backdrop of Ireland’s banking sector.
How did the project come about?
Alan: I studied Commerce at NUIG and from there went into banking and finance as an accountant but I became very unhappy. That went on for a few years before I decided to look for something else. I’m from a small town in the west of Ireland and a creative career never really occurred to me. Then, for some reason, I did a 6-week course in the IFA and fell in love with filmmaking. I went out and made a short film that got into a couple of festivals, made another short film while I was still in the bank that got aired on RTÉ – which was amazing. I had an idea for a feature and started to write. That’s when I came to Filmbase and did a writing course with Stephen Walsh. I decided to leave the bank and focus on writing the feature. I thought I’d make it in 2 years. 5 years later here we are with an IFTA screening!
How long was the writing process?
Alan: The writing took 18 months in total. People say they write drafts. In my process, because I was new to the craft, I was writing drafts of scenes all the time. So I was drafting certain scenes over and over whereas some others just worked the first time. There was 100 drafts of some parts of it in with 5 draft of others.
We didn’t make many changes once we all sat down – some dialogue here and there. It was more that we dropped parts…
Laurence: The first three weeks we just went over the script over and over again. And we just kind of trimmed the fat and cut it down to what it needed to be.
Alan: The dialogue is quite sparse in it. The character James Allen is a very controlled silent type of guy. When he does say something it means something – in the style of Drive and Shame.
I remember sending Laurence a scene and he rang me saying that his character didn’t need to say this and this and this. And I said I know. This is what I want the character to be thinking but I haven’t figured that out yet. We needed to sit down and figure out what he has to say. That’s how we worked together. I was writing everything the character would say as if it was a very heavy dialogue film and he was a very open type of person. Then Laurence would say right I only need to say this line and this…
Laurence: He was doing my job for me really. Thanks for that!
Sounds like it was quite a collaborative process then.
Laurence: Yeh. We worked on it for a long time before we got to shoot – 9 months. It was great because when it came time to shoot we were totally prepared when our feet hit the floor.
Alan: And it meant that because it’s made for 30,000 euro and we shot it for about 16,000 we didn’t have time to redo things. It was very intense, so it was a lot easier to get the takes. Even if we changed something on set, Laurence knew the character so well he could adapt. We weren’t learning the character as we went along. Once we got into shooting everyone knew their characters because they had been meeting with me for so long and they ‘d been doing so much work by themselves.
And how long was the shoot?
Alan: 17 days. It was tight. Great fun though and everyone did really put in the hard work, which was amazing. I guess me not being from a film background it was a real experience to see everyone working late and long hours and putting everything into creating this stuff. It gave me real inner joy to see everyone working for that creative common goal. I remember banking and if you said to someone, I’m doing a financial plan, everyone come over to the house and we’ll work on it through the night… it doesn’t happen, I guess, this level of commitment.
Laurence, tell us a little bit about James Allen, and what it takes to embody a character like that.
Laurence: For me, with James, I just found he was more a boy than a man. What interests me with characters is their connection to everybody else in their life, their connection to the environment and how they see it. James is very controlling. He’s very regimented. In a way, that’s the kind of key to his headspace – that he doesn’t tip over… but he’s not in control. The connection he has most with anybody is his mother, which I can relate to – well Irish men and their mammies… y’know! I tried to integrate that into him as well. I tried to find James within me and then bring that out and then obviously work with the direction from Alan, what his visions were of the character and then go on set and try to be open to anything that happens within the take.
Sarah Carroll, who plays Alison, was excellent. How did she come on board?
Laurence: I remember, once I’d been cast, Alan asked me to help him out with a couple of the other characters that he wanted to cast. He showed me Sarah in Trust, a short he’d done with her. She was fantastic. She fit. I remember we did a couple of readings and it was pretty much straight away. She was amazing to work with.
There was a great chemistry and she had a certain intensity herself that she brought to the role., That was interesting to watch and good for a female character. They can sometimes be written quite flat.
Alan: The same thing again. There’s not much dialogue so the performance of seeing this person is lost and hurt and isolated and feeling a lot of the same things James is – but she’s in touch more with her emotional side. I always say in my head that she’s the heart of the film for me. I think that she is capable of saving herself. I don’t think James is. He’s capable of controlling himself and continuing forward but in terms of saving himself and being happy, he relies on someone else to do that for him, which would have been his mother. And then maybe Alison replaces his mother.
What can you tell us about your influences and the style you brought to bear on The Limit Of…?
Alan: I enjoy European cinema, so it would have influenced me a lot. The Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn… Drive is one of my favourite films. I love the style of the visuals and music. And that precise framing and colour scheme he uses to match characters. I wanted that with The Limit of… Like with Alison wearing a green cardigan throughout the film at different stages – it’s an earthed colour and green is a dominant colour in the house which makes her feel like she belongs.
The cinematographer Daniel Balteanu, who I worked with on Trust, was heavily involved in the style of the film. He was sending me pictures of paintings and that influenced certain framing, certain colours and the lighting we used to create particular moods. Again, that was intense prepping for a few months before shooting.
And, I was saying this all through rehearsal, James Allen has to be still. The camera movement has to be controlled and reflect the whole vibe and tone of the film – and James Allen is the film, so they have to connect with each other. There are only 2 or 3 hand held shots in the film. I wanted that controlled feel to it.
The Limit of… screens on Monday, 18th December as part of IFTA Academy Members VIEWING SEASON Screening
The Limit of… is submitted in the following categories:
Best Film Best Director: Alan Mulligan Best Scriptwriter: Alan Mulligan Best Lead Actor: Laurence O’Fuarain Best Supporting Actress: Sarah Carroll Best Original Music: Stuart Gray Best Cinematography: Daniel Balteanu Best Costume Design: Paula Fajardo Best Editing: Alan Mulligan Best Production Design: Lilla Nurie Best Sound: Nikki Moss, Ian McIntyre, Barry Reid
Use of recurring imagery within the film to tell story:
Gemma Creagh sat down with Alan Maher of Marcie Films to discuss the ins and outs of producing Pat Collins’ Song of Granite, the life story of traditional Sean-nós singer Joe Heaney, from County Galway.
DIR: James Franco • WRI: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber • PRO: Evan Goldberg, Vince Jolivette, Seth Rogen, James Weaver • DOP: Brandon Trost • Ed: Stacey Schroeder • MUS: Dave Porter • DES: Chris L. Spellman • CAST: James Franco, Alison Brie, Zoey Deutch
“Everybody betrayed me! I’m fed up with this world!”
After 2016, we all are channelling Tommy Wiseau’s sentiment in some sense. For a moment, let’s revisit the wonderous time of 2003; a time when sexual harassment remained largely ignored/covered up; a time when everyone was too busy commenting on Britney, Cristina and Madonna smooching to worry about the war in Iraq; a time when Nokias were the height of sophistication; and when the collective world thought ‘W’ was the worst American president ever.
2003 was also when an unknown indie film, The Room, premiered in LA. Since then, this bizarre masterpiece has garnered much love as a cult classic – as well as holding the mantle of Best Worst Movie ever made. Allegedly based on the works of Tennessee Williams, this eccentric tale of love gone wrong remains the perfect fantasist escape – but only for the filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. For the rest of its viewers, The Room is an off-beat comedy. The Disaster Artist is based on a book of the same title. Written by Tommy’s co-star and classic Hollywood hunk, Greg Sestero, it tells the outlandish, true-life tale of how The Room was made.
First up, if you haven’t seen The Room, do so now. I promise, it will be worth it. To make the most of this experience, you must buy a pack of plastic spoons and go see a special screening. However, at the very least, check out a few of its greatest hits on YouTube. The Disaster Artist is a mass of in jokes about the strange dialogue, obscenely high budget and odd creative and technical choices that can only be enjoyed to the fullest by watching its predecessor.
Even if you had never heard of The Room, The Disaster Artist would still be an excellent watch. The film is half character study and half buddy comedy. James and Dave Franco give two stand-out performances as co-leads; Dave as the wide-eyed young Greg and James as the driven, mysterious Tommy. James’ take on Tommy and his mannerisms are spot on. It’s these, along with some very hard-working prosthetics, which allow for two such similar looking siblings to be cast alongside one another as anything other than related.
Still unconvinced this film is for you? Well, it has more cameos than a SNL highlight reel, with Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Melanie Griffith and Sharon Stone amongst the familiar faces; the pacing is punchy as hell; it’s cringy yet well observed and warm – now that’s a fine tightrope to walk; and credit where credit’s due: James’ directing skills show an attention to detail that is second to none. The Disaster Artist proves through its onslaught of ludicrous scenarios, that truth can sometimes be much stranger than fiction.
Have you any thoughts? Feelings? Emotions? Well, as Greg Sestero says himself:
It’s Not Yet Dark is a documentary about Simon Fitzmaurice, a writer/director, husband and father who is completely physically incapacitated with Motor Neuron Disease, and who is about to shoot his first feature film.
Gemma Creagh talked to director Frankie Fenton about the story behind his moving, life-affirming film.
What drew you to Simon’s story?
How it happened was Lesley McKimm and Kathryn Kennedy were producing My Name is Emily, which is Simon’s film, and they were looking for finishing funds and wanted a crowdfunding appeal. I had just done one for a film I’m making called Reactivate about Climate Change so we met up. I discovered that they were talking about Simon, who was married to Ruth O’Neill, who I grew up with. Soon after that, they asked me to make a promo to see what I thought a film about Simon would look like. That combined with fact that I grew up with Ruth and that there was that personal connection made it feel like a good fit.
What was it like filming a filmmaker? Was there much micro-managing?
I thought there would be, but there was actually zero, which was fantastic, except for the odd time when Simon was telling me to put the camera down. But he was amazing at letting me get up-close and personal. I think he understood that I was directing a film while he was directing a film. He was very kind about not asking me for cuts and not forcing advice on me.
The film has a strong visual narrative and his life is so well documented. Where did you source all the footage?
Originally, we didn’t actually have any footage of his past so we had to come up with differing devices to tell the story, including reconstruction and using obscure macro-cinematography as well as drone footage. However, in the first week of the edit Simon generously donated a hard drive with about 10 – 11 years-worth of footage from his life. In that footage, from year 1, we could see Simon filming his friends and his family. As the years went on and things progressed, slowly the camera was put down and eventually was picked up by his children and his family and the camera was pointed the other way. So you could see this transition over time quite literally, which obviously completely changed the course of our film.
With such amazing footage what was the editing process like?
We were very lucky to have one of the country’s finest editors, Dermot Diskin, come on board and he was able to lend a strength of storytelling and a pace to the film. It became a process of eliminating what we wanted to talk about and things that we didn’t want to talk about. In the end, we felt that the love story was the strongest arc within Simon’s story. With documentary there are hundreds of routes you can end up going up and down but it’s important to try and keep it simple and straight. So it was that love story that stood out for us.
And how did Colin Farrell get involved?
He was a big fan of Simon’s work and they became friends. We were discussing whether we’d use Simon’s computer voice to narrate the film when it was put to Simon how would he feel about asking Colin to do the job. Weirdly enough he liked the idea of a Hollywood A-lister doing his voice! It was phenomenally brilliant. Colin has a certain way of speaking Simon’s voice that nobody else I think could do so well
This was your directorial debut. What did you learn from the experience?
A huge amount. Everyday was a learning day. Obviously it was my first experience directing and I got to see the entire process from picking up the camera to doing a Q&A at the end of the premiere. More to the point though, there’s a huge amount I learnt that I now want to apply to future projects.
It’s Not Yet Dark is in cinemas from 13th October 2017
Gemma Creagh talks to writer/director Stephen Burke about Maze, which tells the true story of the infamous 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP, which was to become the biggest prison escape in Europe since World War II.
Gemma Creagh talks to Len Collin about Sanctuary, which introduces us to Larry and Sophie, two people with intellectual disabilities, who long to be together in a world that does everything to keep them apart.
Sanctuary is currently in the following cinemas and will tour regionally nationwide
Gemma Creagh met Tom Ryan to talk about his film Twice Shy, which is released in cinemas 23rd June 2017.
Twice Shy, is a modern, coming-of-age drama that revolves around a young, unmarried couple who set off on a road trip from Ireland to London, as the result of an unplanned pregnancy. The film charts the ups and downs of their relationship by juxtaposing their dramatic journey with flashbacks to happier times in their romance.
The film stars Shane Murray-Corcoran and Iseult Casey in the lead roles and features support from a stellar cast including Ardal O’ Hanlon (After Hours, Fr. Ted), Pat Shortt (The Guard, Garage), Mary Conroy (Ros na Run) and Paul Ronan (Love / Hate).
Gemma Creagh talks to actor Caoilfhionn Dunne about her role in Ciaran Creagh’s In View, which is released in cinemas from 19th May 2017.
Caoilfhionn plays Ruth, whose life is one of burgeoning guilt dominated by rage, alcoholism, depression and self-loathing which has its origins in a once-off drunken indiscretion with a work colleague some years previous.
In View was awarded first prize for best screenplay at the 2016 Rhode Island International Film Festival and Caoilfhionn was nominated in the best actress category in the 2017 Irish Film and Television Awards.
What’s your background in acting?
I trained at the Gaiety School, a part-time, one-year course first of all and then a full-time, two-year course. I had been in the University of Limerick studying law, French and Sociology but dropped out about halfway through to do acting.
Every parent’s dream…
Yes, it really is. As you can imagine they were over the moon! At first, I was mainly working in theatre, but got into film when I did a short with Hugh O’Conor called Corduroy, and then Love/Hate came along, which was my big TV break.
What’s different about working in theatre, film and television, and what is it you like about them?
Well, they all bleed into each other in some respects. I love live theatre. I love the feeling of being in the room with an audience and feeding off them. There’s a wonderful exchange that happens in that one moment. The next night it is you and an entirely different group of people. So, each night, everybody in the room together has a shared, unique experience. I love that about theatre.
I love film because you get to experiment with how little is required to express a huge amount. I love playing with that. And how much you can convey with as little as possible.
And with TV, the great thing is you get to create a person and carry them through a longer storyline. And you become part of a family.
They all have their own things but do feed into each other a lot.
Turning to In View, Ruth is a very intense character to play. How did you get into the headspace for this?
I read it and just went on what Ciaran [Creagh, the writer/director] had written. I didn’t want to pay too much attention to her job or her identity as a guard, but just to focus on a human being who feels there is no other option. I wanted to explore that. It’s a subject that is very close to my heart, especially with what’s happening in Ireland at the moment and how we do not deal with mental health problems and the problems associated with them. So it was tough, to say the least, but it was worth it to get that character and these subjects on the screen.
They’re subjects that have affected every single Irish person on some level, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. Those things have been around us, if not in us then around. So it’s important to have look at that and acknowledge it.
As an actor, do you bring something of yourself to the characters you play?
I think they are all bits of me – when I approach something I try to find what I know of it. You have to look at yourself and ask, is there a bit of me like that? There’s four main states of being: happy, sad, afraid and angry and we’ve all been there in varying degrees. That’s where I start… what do I know? How can I access that? What part of me do I have? I think that is important for me to maintain a truth throughout what I’m playing, to ground it in something real.
Is there any role in particular you’d like to play?
Mmmmm. I would love to do a comic book movie… something with action.
You had a few action scenes in Love/Hate – did you get a taste for it?
I did, but I want to be green-screening this, jumping off stuff. Doing mad things. I’m a big comic book and fantasy fan so that’s the kind of stuff I love reading and it’s something that I’d love to do – and it’s big at the moment.
Who would be the person you love to play?
I’ve always had my eye on Jean Grey from the X-Men but they have their new Jean Grey now so that’s gone out the window. I suppose I’ll just have to write one myself!
And you can base it in Ireland. I think we’re due a good superhero movie.
Yeh. I think we need a good action movie in Ireland. The last one was Haywire with Gina Carano, jumping across Dublin rooftops and kicking the life out of lads. So, I think we’ve nailed the comedy and the tragedy; it’s time for a big action movie in Ireland.
If you were starting out now and you could give yourself some advice, what would it be?
I would say, get to do everything. Do stage, do screen, do dance, learn to juggle, learn to ride a horse. Learn as many skills as you possibly can because one day that there will always be dips and there will be times when one side of things isn’t going as well. And, also, just arm yourself with as many skills as you possibly can because they will always come in useful and you may open yourself up to jobs that otherwise would have been unavailable to you.
DIR: Jim Sheridan • WRI: Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson • PRO: Noel Pearson, Rob Quigley, Jim Sheridan • DOP: Mikhail Krichman • ED: Dermot Diskin • DES: Derek Wallace • MUS: Brian Byrne • CAST: Rooney Mara, Theo James, Aidan Turner
Disclaimer: For anyone who’s purchasing a ticket to The Secret Scripture expecting a grisly and forensic investigation of the Catholic Church’s role in mid-20th century rural Ireland – don’t. That money would be much better spent on a night at home with microwave popcorn, a bottle of wine, the classics: Song for a Raggy Boy/The Magdalene Sisters … and, most likely, a lifetime of therapy. The Secret Scripture is the furthest from gritty realism a film can go – think Titanic meets Circle of Friends. But don’t get me wrong, it’s exactly this magical, romantic silliness that makes it such an enjoyable film to watch; the wondrous twists, poetic rants of madness, and two noble, tortured leads are straight out of a young adult adventure novel.
The film leaps between two narratives. ‘Lady Rose’, as she’s referred to by the staff at the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, has been locked up for most of her adult life for supposedly murdering her new-born child. As the facility is shutting down to make way for a Celtic Tiger Hotel, psychiatrist Dr. William Greene (Eric Bana) has been called in. His job is to assess this hundred-year-old patient, also known as Roseanne McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave). Lady Rose has defaced a bible, citing it as her ‘Secret Scripture’. From pages of scrawls and doodles, she starts regaling Greene and a woman known only as ‘Nurse’ (Susan Lynch) with the story of her past.
The second timeline takes place in the ’40s. Leaving her war-stricken life in Belfast, Roseanne Clear (Rooney Mara), as she’s known then, returns to her hometown, Ballytivan in Sligo. There she starts waiting tables in the Temperance Hotel for her conservative aunt, Eleanor (Aisling O’Sullivan). It’s not long before Rose draws the lustful gaze of every man in the village, including, but not limited to: a local IRA lackey Jack (Aidan Turner); Ballytivan RAF pilot Michael McNulty (Jack Reynor), who spends an inordinate amount of his time flying above his own home town; and the local priest Fr. Gaunt (Theo James), a man with a gaze so sultry, he’d tempt the staunchest of atheists back to mass.
A love-square ensues, the politics of which, attracts the attention of the sinister IRA enforcer, McCabe (Tom Vaughan Lawlor). After being publicly humiliated, then ostracized for her ‘effect on men’, Rose is eventually signed in to a local psychiatric hospital, St. Malachy’s by her aunt and on the testimony of the spurned (and very handsome) Fr. Gaunt. And things only go downhill from there.
Rooney Mara’s performance is poised, strong and emotive, and makes a potentially passive character, one who’s pushed along only by the whims of others, rather likable. Be prepared for a mild cringe midway, as the lack of chemistry between Mara and Reynor lends an awkwardness to the love scenes that is a perfect and authentic representation of repressed Irish Catholic nature. But at least Reynor’s flawless delivery of classic Reynor is as charming and cheeky as always. Vanessa Redgrave’s Shakespearian take on mental illness would sit better on stage than on screen, but is simultaneously solid and vulnerable.
The Secret Scripture packs a lifetime – and a long one at that – into a film. It’s not hard to forgive a few easy coincidences and misshapen character arcs, when ultimately what’s on screen is a beautiful, sad and funny piece of cinema.
Gemma Creagh goes back to school for Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s observational documentary that follows a year in the lives of two inspirational teachers in the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland.
Nestled in the romantic Kells landscape, Headfort School is the last remaining boarding primary-age education facility for children in Ireland. Lead by leftie headmaster and ex-pupil Dermot Dix, this 18th Century Georgian house and its grounds provide a vast rural setting for kids to both learn and play and remains a space so nostalgically wonderful it would make Enid Blyton characters seethe with jealousy over lashings of raspberry jam.
The film’s narrative is focused around the charming, eccentric teaching couple, Amanda and John Leyden and their relationship with three of their students. Warm and playful as an educator, Amanda loves the arts and has returned to teach after a hiatus brought on by health issues. While staging a play about people staging Hamlet, she dedicates her time to helping Ted, a cheeky and charismatic eleven-year-old suffering from severe dyslexia.
Meanwhile her husband, John, doles out dry, sarcastic pearls of wisdom while he manages this year’s band. The benefits of bashing out cheesy rock and Ellie Goulding covers prove to be undeniable for the kids, especially as an outlet for the shy, academic Eliza, and allows newcomer Florence a chance to finally settle in at Headfort. It’s clear from Amanda and John’s interactions with these students that teaching is the true focus of this couple’s life (well, teaching and some very pampered dogs). As John says himself, “If we don’t come here what would we do all day? Just sitting around getting more and more decrepit.”
From shooting in the dormitories at night to recording in the homes of teachers, filmmaker Neasa Ní Chianáin and her partner and co-director, David Rane, have really managed to get an all-access pass to the school. So much so, that even their own daughter, who attended Headfort as a day pupil during the two years it took them to film In Loco Parentis, features in a few of the band scenes.
While this closeness with the subjects elicits intimacy and openness in every scene, one can’t help but think that there must be some less palatable stories that hit the edit suite floor. Life in an insanely expensive boarding school filled with upper-middleclass children, ponies, loving teachers, and fiscal resources couldn’t have been all that perfect. Right? Real life isn’t all fabulous forts and rope swings. #Jealousy #RaspberryJam
If this film left you wanting more of the gorgeous Headfort landscape and heartfelt drama, then don’t worry – the In Loco Parentis team are currently in negotiations with RTÉ about extending the film into a series.
In Loco Parentis screened on Monday, 20th February and Thursday, 23rd February 2017 at the Light House Cinema as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.