Prisoners of the Moon – Johnny Gogan, Director & Nick Snow, Writer

Image used with kind permission from the IFI

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to director Johnny Gogan and writer Nick Snow at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon at the IFI.  The film tells the story of Arthur Rudolph, a scientist who played a key role in NASA’s historic 1969 moon landing. Rudolph was one of over 100 Nazi V-2 rocket engineers secretly brought to America in 1945 to work on the Cold War missile programme. He became a key figure in NASA’s space race, but was arrested in Toronto in 1990 on suspicion of being a war criminal. The dramatised trial (featuring Jim Norton and Cathy Belton) animates this revelatory documentary which uses archive material, expert witness interviews, and the testimony of Jean Michel, a slave labour survivor of the subterranean wartime V-2 Rocket.

https://www.prisonersofthemoon.com/events

This podcast was recorded at the IFI on Monday, 1st July 2019 at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon.

 

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

 

 

 

 

Share

‘Hubert Butler Witness To The Future’ Dublin Screening this Weekend

 Dublin

 

Johnny Gogan’s documentary Hubert Butler Witness To The Future screens this weekend at the New Theatre, East Essex Street at 3.00pm on Saturday, 28th May and 4.00pm and 7.00pm on Sunday 28th.
 
Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future traces Kilkenny essayist Hubert Butler’s journey through Stalinist Russia of the early 1930s, through pre­war Vienna, where he worked to smuggle Jews into Ireland, to his exposure of the hidden genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in World War2.
 
Using recently declassified documents, Gogan’s highly visual and expansive film explores why Butler “was fifty years ahead of his time” and “one of the great Irish writers”
 
You can read an interview with Johnny here

 

Share

ADIFF Irish Film Review: Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future

2724-HubertButler_1947_large

 

June Butler takes in Johnny Gogan’s documentary about Irish essayist Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Born in 1900 to a family that could trace their roots to the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, Hubert Butler thrived on the peaceful existence of a life that included a zest for growing apples in his own orchard. Not being without a robust sense of humour, Butler was oft heard describing himself as a writer and market gardener.

His fluency in Russian enabled a translation of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard (1904), which is still in use to this day. He loved the slow pace in his ancestral home of Maidenhall and was a popular figure in the local village of Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny. Despite having travelled extensively throughout the Balkans in his early life and learned multiple languages along the way, Butler’s heart first and foremost, lay in the land where he was born and he maintained the mantra that local history was eminently more important than national history. Indeed, Hubert Butler went so far as to insist that ‘where life is fully and consciously lived in our own neighbourhood, we are cushioned a little from the impact of great far-off events which should be of only marginal concern to us’.

Butler was passionately committed to verbally defending Ireland both within and without from forces that at times threatened the integrity and stability of the nationalist core he strove to protect  – sometimes even at great sacrifice to his own mental and physical wellbeing. On more than one occasion, Butler held forth on matters of great portend to a disbelieving public who aimed derisive criticism at this man of letters when the opposite should have been the case. While he may have appeared mild-mannered, when circumstances dictated, Butler had a firm grasp on the subtly of politics and could deliver stinging rebuttals as his rivals all too humiliatingly became aware.

Ireland was, and remains, deeply indebted to Butler’s unwavering morality and nowhere is it more evident than in Johnny Gogan’s in-depth and soulful film on Butler’s life ‘Hubert Butler; Witness to the Future’. Aided by poet Chris Agee, Gogan ably narrates Butler as an expert essayist and considers him to have been at least fifty years ahead of his time when it came to summarising events of national and international importance.

Gogan claims that Butler was able to predict with unerring accuracy future happenings in the volatile arena of pre and post-war Europe. It is testament to the level of investigation into Butler’s life that his writings are mentioned throughout the documentary with such affection and to such a relentless level of detail. Gogan has literally left no stone unturned.

In my interview with Johnny Gogan, he took into account Butler’s devotion to the country life and in no small way, Gogan has included the orchard at Maidenhall where Hubert Butler spent so many happy hours, almost as an expert witness but equally silent additional cast member. When discussing Butler’s impact on modern history, Gogan said one thing that above all made him feel he was in the presence of greatness – Butler he averred, wore his learning lightly and with humility. The magnitude of knowledge he possessed was vast and yet Hubert Butler was a model of reservation and sincerity – unless his conscience was piqued in which case, Butler’s righteous rebukes were remorseless and acerbic. Gogan goes on to prove his words by stating Hubert Butler travelled to Austria at his own expense in 1938 and rescued Jews who were almost certainly due to be transported to work camps prior to the outbreak of WWII. There are dozens of Jews who could place the claim of survival firmly at the feet of Hubert Butler and his wife Peggy.

People often made the point that Butler’s writings could be compared to those of George Orwell. I would go a stage further and suggest that Butler’s writings were unique and comparable only to one – that of Hubert Butler himself. It is right and fitting that through the remarkable vision of Johnny Gogan, Butler has finally come to our attention for his supreme acts of humanity and recognition as the man of learning he truly was. Generations of Irish will have much to thank Johnny Gogan for this wonderful film.

 

Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future screened on 22nd February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 – 28 February) 

Share

Interview: Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future’

image

 

Johnny Gogan’s new documentary Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future, traces Kilkenny essayist Hubert Butler’s journey through Stalinist Russia of the early 1930s, through pre­war Vienna, where he worked to smuggle Jews into Ireland, to his exposure of the hidden genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in World War2.

Using recently declassified documents, Gogan’s highly visual and expansive film explores why Butler “was fifty years ahead of his time” and “one of the great Irish writers”

Johnny Gogan told June Butler how the project came about.

 

I heard about Hubert Butler around the time he had been published in the late 1980s. I hadn’t read him. Three years ago I was in Belgrade and I attended a lecture by the poet and publisher Chris Agee. He was talking about Hubert’s writings on Archbishop Stepinac, the wartime Croatian Catholic Archbishop in Zagreb. Hubert wrote a lot about this period and about Stepinac as a central character – and he actually met Stepinac when he was subsequently imprisoned for treason and collaboration with the Ustaše regime. I was talking to Chris about this and a few lights started to go off my head.

Butler was very interested in the local world, the power of the local, and very much wary of that centralised phenomenon that you get in the western world and in big cities.  I myself have been based in North Leitrim for the last 20 years, so I kind of understood that aspect of his work. I had also touched on that in my film Mapmaker back in 2001, which is about the tensions in a border community in the years after the ceasefires. That was quite influenced by what had happened in the Balkans in the ’90s.

Hubert Butler had in many ways predicted what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s and saw the roots of its violence and the intensity of the violence in what happened in Croatia in the Second World War. You can see it for example in his essay ‘The Artukovitch File’ and in an unpublished essay I found called ‘The Trial’ – he talks about seeing how the seeds of future treason lay in what had happened in the Second World War, particularly in Croatia – and how that had been, in many ways, swept under the carpet.

He wrote exhaustively and very skilfully about that period. He was in the extraordinary position where he came in for criticism from both sides. Butler was obviously really critical of the Catholic Church’s role in the genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in Croatia during the Second World War. But he was also critical of Tito and the way the Communists were dealing with the aftermath of that. They didn’t deal with the guilt and the responsibility, the way that Germany had been confronted with it. So he writes that in 1946 I see the seeds of future treason in the way these crimes are being tried and dealt with.

And then in Ireland he’s also being criticized. He confronts Ireland at the time with what has happened in Croatia and nobody wants to hear. The State and the Church conspired to silence him. And then you have Peadar O’Donnell, one of Ireland’s foremost radicals, telling him to go easy on the Communists. Butler was a very brave, very moral, very informed man.

What I love about Butler, and what I’ve always felt strongly about, is that Ireland should have a much wider international vision for itself beyond obviously a relationship with Britain and the way we have subsumed our international vision into the EU. We hide behind the EU a lot. Butler was saying that Ireland has a role to play as a new nation, as a postcolonial nation, able to put forward a different view of the world and that was potentially shared by many other countries that got their independence and liberation around the same time. That is still very relevant. That vision he developed in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s is still very true and the kind of provincialism that Ireland was slipping  into at that time is still very true – obviously with some exceptions… but we like to think of ourselves as very cosmopolitan. But actually we are quite provincial and quite derivative in our thinking. This is why from an Irish perspective I wanted to make this film. I also found that I hadn’t read a lot or seen a lot about what he was writing about. There are sensations you have yourself but then you see someone articulate them and you just think wow.

 

Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future screens at the Light House Cinema on Monday, 22nd February 2016 at 8:30PM 

 

 

Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on Soundcloud

Subscribe on Stitcher

Subscribe to the Film Ireland RSS feed

 

 

The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 

 

Share

IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Generate The State/Gineador An Stait’

Generate-the-State-2-MED
Generate The State/Gineador An Stait documents the ambitious building of the Shannon Scheme in the newly established Irish Free State of the 1920s that revolutionised electricity production and supply in Ireland. The scheme involved the construction of the hydro-electric power station Ardnacrusha at a cost of IR£5m, one fifth of the Irish state’s annual budget – and at a time of tremendous economic difficulties. Constructed by the German company Siemens-Schuckert, the plant was completed in 1929 and provided the base for the construction of a national power grid while also symbolising a determined forward-thinking independent nation.

 

The film’s director Johnny Gogan explains what brought him to the project. “On one level, the Ardnacrusha story is a typical Ireland’s Own story, a tale of derring-do from a rose-tinted glorious past. I wanted to rescue the story from that fate, peel back the wall-paper to reveal it once more to current generations who know nothing about the scale and the ambition of the project. It is a particularly relevant story for today in that we are failing so abysmally as a country – Society and Government – to address the transition from fossil fuels. The Government recently announced that we would not meet our 2020 Carbon emissions targets. Government has hidden behind the Financial Crisis when in truth the Financial Crisis was the perfect opportunity to change direction. The Shannon Scheme is the living embodiment of that opportunistic ambition.”

 

In 1923 , Dr T.A. McLaughlin proposed the idea of the Shannon Scheme, which came in for criticism at the time as it gathered momentum garnering a few opponents. Johnny says, “I heard a comment recently from the writer Terence de Vere White describing how Ireland experienced a Renaissance – that ran from the end of the 19th century with the Celtic Revival through to the end of the 1920s. The Censorship of Publications Act (1929) represented a symbolic end to this epoque. We need to see Ardnacrusha in the context of that ferment. One of the things that was not allowed to happen was for big ideas not to be quashed and for vested interests not to hold sway. We now know that for most of our history of independence vested interests have been able to hold sway over public policy. One area where vested interest may have held sway was with the powerful farmer – or “rancher” – element in the body politic. Workers were not to be paid in excess of the Agricultural Labour rate, which was incredibly low for this kind of work.”

 

Around 1,000 German and 4,000 Irish workers were involved in the construction phase between 1925 and 1929. The documentary recounts a fascinating part of the process that involved The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union going head to head with Siemens over the workers’ conditions and wages. Siemens appointed Joseph McGrath, the former  Minister for Industry and Coinmerce, as Director of Labour. A ruthless man, McGrath was brought in as a means to oppose the Unions and avert strikes. His victory in doing so would result in injuries and deaths as many underskilled workers were put in dangerous working conditions. Johnny explains howthis post Civil War society was a brutalised place and McGrath symbolised that. He is at once a fascinating and scary individual who subsequently went toe to toe with the Mafia in the U.S. over his promotion of the Irish Sweepstakes. But yes there were many deaths which had to do with the vast industrial nature of the project. It wasn’t that there was no awareness of Health and Safety. The Germans were complaining to the Irish Government about the lack of suitability of the Irish workers who were mainly from agricultural backgrounds.”

 
Nevertheless, the Shannon scheme itself was a major success story. Indeed, the magnitude of the scheme had it dubbed “the Eighth Wonder of the World. ” Yes, it was massive,” Johnny says, “not just in Irish terms, but in European terms. It happened in a brief window between the First World War and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Once again it has relevance today. For example, it is strongly argued that one very proactive way in which Europe could break its current economic stagnation is to adopt a very determined Europe-wide transition to Renewables – solar in the South of Europe and Wind and Ocean Energy in the North – and to construct a Europe wide grid for Renewables. We don’t have the space to go into this in the film, but we do interview one of the main proponents of this approach the Irish engineer Eddie O’Connor, founder of Airtricity.”

 

As Johnny is at pains to point out this piece of Ireland’s history has a lot to say about contemporary Ireland and the lessons we can learn, an indeed the lessons we failed to learn. “The promoters of Irish Water could have taken a leaf out of that Government’s book in how to successfully set up a public utility. The ESB – set up on the back of the Shannon Scheme – canvassed and enlisted communities when setting up the distribution system that was the less vaunted but equally massive task involved in Rural Electrification. The Shannon Scheme also tells us as a country that you can’t use a financial crisis as an excuse for not thinking and planning for the future. In fact, within every crisis lies an opportunity to change direction. As we surface from our recent economic nightmare can we really say that we have changed direction? I don’t think so.”

 
 
Generate The State/Gineador An Stait screens on Sunday, 22nd November 2015 at 13.00 at the IFI as part of its Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

 
Director Johnny Gogan will participate in a post-screening Q&A.
 
 
Tickets for Generate The State/Gineador An Stait are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie
 
 
Johnny Gogan was founding editor for Filmbase of Film Ireland in 1987. His films include the feature films The Last Bus Home (1997), Mapmaker (2002), Black Ice (2012). He is currently working on the feature documentary Hubert Butler Witness To The Future, which will premiere at DIFF 2016.
 
 
Generate The State/Gineador An Stait screens at Limerick’s Belltable Arts Centre 13th January in advance of its TG4 broadcast.

Share

On the Reel: Interview with Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Black Ice’

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 18.59.28

 

Black Ice is written and directed by Johnny Gogan, (Mapmaker, The Last Bus Home). The film explores relationships set against a backdrop of local street racing and tragedy.

Black Ice was shot on a variety of rural locations including Sligo’s Strandhill beach and many of the roads of Dromahair Co. Leitrim.

In the wake of a fatal boy-racer collision that took the life of her brother and his girlfriend, Alice (newcomer Jane McGrath) returns home to reflect on events that lead to the accident. Seduced by the criminal activities of her petrol boyfriend, Jimmy (Killian Scott, Love/Hate, Good Vibrations), Alice plays witness to both the attractions and perils of this Irish sub-culture.

Gemma Creagh spoke to Johnny Gogan at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh about his latest feature, which is in cinemas now.

Black Ice was released in cinemas on 20th September 2013

 

 

You can also read Rose Byrne’s interview with Johnny Gogan here talking about his journey into filmmaking

Share

Cinema Review: Black Ice

970349_665154756829318_1259251148_n

 

DIR: Johnny Gogan  WRI: Johnny Gogan, Brian Leyden  • PRO: Johnny Gogan • DOP: Peter Martin • ED: Patrick O’Rourke • Cast: Jane McGrath, Killian Scott, Dermot Murphy, Marian Quinn

Black Ice begins when an uneasy and distraught local, Alice returns to her hometown near the border for the funeral of her young friend.  After this, a series of flashbacks reveal the events leading up to the crash that caused her brother, Tom and his girlfriend to lose their lives.

This slow-paced thriller examines the dangerous relationship between young people and speed, as then schoolgirl Alice falls for the mysterious, delinquent boy-racer, Jimmy – played by Love/Hate’s Killian Scott. Alice loses her innocence quickly as she finds herself hurtling down the road and into a world of fast cars and corruption.

Featuring some excellent performances from the latest wave of national talent, as well as some fantastically electric chase sequences, Black Ice proves that you can certainly get value for money in these recessionary times with a low-budget feature.

Gemma Creagh


15A (See IFCO for details)

102 mins
Black Ice is released on 20th September 2013

Black Ice – Official Website

 

Share

Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: Black Ice

Black Ice

The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

Black Ice

Saturday, 13th July

IMC 6

14.15

Black Ice will race into the 25th Galway Film Fleadh this Saturday. Set in rural Ireland, and written and directed by Johnny Gogan, (Mapmaker, The Last Bus Home), the film explores relationships set against a backdrop of local street racing and tragedy.

‘It’s very fitting and exciting that The Fleadh are screening Black Ice as it was truly made possible by the budding filmmaking community in the North West’, director Johnny Gogan told Film Ireland. ‘The enthusiasm and energy of the crew is translated onto the screen, where the thrilling high-speed race sequences are vividly brought to life’.

Black Ice was shot on a variety of rural locations including Sligo’s Strandhill beach and many of the roads of Dromahair Co. Leitrim.

‘It was challenging but we hope to do it again. There’s a phenomenon in rural areas of young men in particular jumping into cars and losing the plot. This is really strong in border counties because the border roads are like No Man’s Land in terms of the law, it makes them a choice location for this wild driving’.

In the wake of a fatal boy-racer collision that took the life of her brother and his girlfriend, Alice (newcomer Jane McGrath) returns home to reflect on events that lead to the accident. Seduced by the criminal activities of her petrol boyfriend, Jimmy (Killian Scott, Love/Hate, Good Vibrations), Alice plays witness to both the attractions and perils of this Irish sub-culture.

Read Film Ireland’s full interview with Johnny Gogan here.

Tickets to see Black Ice at the Galway Film Fleadh are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at www.tht.ie.

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

Share