Irish Film Review: In View

In-View

With the release of Ciaran Creagh’s “powerful and unsettling” feature In View, we revisit Seán Crosson’s review from last year’s premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh.

The themes of depression and suicide are among the most challenging to portray cinematically. They certainly don’t fit easily within  mainstream cinema today, with its focus on action, escapism and ‘entertainment’, probably the most overused word in cinema parlance. However, challenging narratives engaged with this topic are probably more necessary today in Ireland than at any point in the recent past given the unprecedented numbers taking their lives each year, now exceeding 500 per annum. As In View’s director Ciaran Creagh remarked following the film’s premiere in Galway, “There is an onus on us to bring these issues forward”.

In View is a powerful and unsettling depiction of one woman’s battle with depression and the circumstances that can surround taking the traumatic decision to end one’s own life. It is a production clearly built upon extensive research which informs the detailed account given of the lead character’s decline.

The film features Garda Ruth (Caoilfhionn Dunne), who is confined to desk duty. She has lost her husband and child, and is unable to deal with the huge loss and guilt she feels, blaming herself in particular for her husband’s suicide following her affair with a colleague. Her days are spent drinking or hiding in her office, unable to move on or overcome the deep depression which constantly follows her. Despite attempts by her co-workers and her father-in-law, she can see no way out. A visit to a local support group would appear to only remind her of her own guilt and much of the last third of the film chronicles her preparations for her own suicide. There is no redemption for either Ruth or the viewer here; director and writer Creagh (screenwriter of Parked (2011)) does not back away from the very dark and tragic reality of suicide.

Creagh is ably supported by the excellent and patient cinematography of David Grennan – indeed much of the film is dependent primarily on the visual with dialogue often to a minimum. The acting is also generally strong throughout, with established figures of Irish stage and screen featured, including  Gerard McSorley as Ruth’s father-in-law, and Ciarán McMenamin as her former lover Denis. There is, however, at times an overuse of incidental music evident where silence might well have been more effective – this becomes increasingly the case as Ruth’s mental state worsens. While no doubt included to compliment her condition, it ultimately detracts from what provides the core and backbone to the film as a whole; the performance of Caoilfhionn Dunne, probably best known to Irish audiences for her role as Lizzie in the RTÉ crime series Love/Hate.

Creagh revealed in Galway that the script was originally written with a male lead in mind; the decision to switch the gender was inspired and adds to the general sense of alienation throughout the narrative as Ruth navigates a primarily male world in search of normality: ‘I just want to be normal,’ she remarks at one point. Given the challenging subject of the film, In View is not easy viewing but it is Dunne’s extraordinary performance as Ruth that principally keeps the viewer’s interest throughout the narrative.

 

In View screened on Thursday, 7th July as part of the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh.

 

 

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Fís Na Fuiseoige

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Shane Croghan takes a birds-eye view of Aodh Ó Coileáin’s Fís Na Fuiseoige, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Fís Na Fuiseoige (The Lark’s View) is a gently-paced reflection upon the long-standing Irish relationship between land, literature and our own sense of self. Merging modern techniques of aerial cinematography with the words of Irish language poets dating as far as hundreds of years back, this documentary is a thoughtful examination of our heritage and an affectionate celebration of the relationship between person and place.

Director Aodh Ó Coileáin displays a clear passion for, and understanding of, the value of the Irish language in his handling of the topic. The informative, co-dependent relationship between person and place is evoked in the simple, yet effective, directorial decisions employed throughout Fis Na Fuiseoige. Introspection is encouraged in the slow movement of the camera, the considered cadence of the poetic delivery and the natural beauty captured by the swooping overhead drone. Even when we venture into the urban cityscapes, which are implemented later on in the piece, the reflective style of the documentary is never abandoned in favour of anything overtly dramatic. Instead, an almost meditative viewing is encouraged. The inclusion of these urban locations is an important addition, offering a contrast to the earlier rural settings and providing the viewer with a more complete snapshot of contemporary Ireland.

Though the beautifully crafted sequences of poetry and landscape imagery may set the tone of Fís Na Fuiseoige, the interviews with local people at each of the documentary’s locations are also an important component, serving to root the narrative in reality to some extent. Their affinity for their heritage, alongside their wealth of knowledge regarding their homeland, contextualises the more metaphorical, visually-driven sequences and further reinforces the theme of the film, that our proximity to the land allows us to better grasp a sense of our own existence. As well as presenting us with an affectionate exploration of our relationship to the land, Aodh Ó Coileáin offers an insight into the value of the Irish language and the potential loss of identity which can arise when a language begins to decline.

Fís Na Fuiseoige is an impressive directorial debut from Aodh Ó Coileáin. Both grand in scope and intimate in execution, this documentary is a warm study of our language, our land and ourselves. Director of photography Colm Hogan has captured some truly staggering images, presenting the topography of Ireland from a bird’s-eye perspective and providing his director with the ideal fodder for the narrative. This film is timely, given the recent centenary celebrations, and more importantly, it is delivered with conviction and brimming with genuine emotion.

 

Fís Na Fuiseoige screened on Friday, 8th July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.

 

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Sanctuary

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Seán Crosson reviews Len Collin’s debut feature, which closed this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

The Galway Film Fleadh closed this year with one of the most ambitious, innovative and deeply moving Irish films of recent times, Len Collin’s Sanctuary which received the award for Best First Irish Film. Featuring a cast composed mostly of intellectually disabled actors, Sanctuary explored with compassion, understanding and at times considerable humour challenges faced by intellectually disabled individuals in Ireland today, particularly when they fall in love. The achievement of this film is all the more impressive when one considers how rarely intellectually disabled actors have featured prominently in fiction film, with rare exceptions including Jaco Van Dormael’s Le huitième jour  (The Eighth Day, 1996) and Marcelo Galvão’s Colegas (Buddies, 2012). Screenwriter Christian O’Reilly (whose previous credits include the story for disability themed feature Inside I’m Dancing (2004)) adapted Sanctuary from his play of the same name produced by Blue Teapot Theatre Company between 2012 and 2014. Director Collin and his collaborators (in particular Petal Pilley, CEO & Creative Director of Blue Teapot) wisely maintained the same cast from the original stage production who have clearly established a strong and convincing rapport. At the centre of the narrative are Larry (Kieran Coppinger) and Sophie (Charlene Kelly) who want to spend unsupervised time together in order to develop their relationship. However, as intellectually disabled individuals they are legally forbidden from developing a sexual relationship unless they are married leading them to bribe their care worker Tom (Robert Doherty) just so they can book a hotel room for several hours. Tom arranges a room for the couple during an outing to the cinema of the intellectually disabled group to which they belong. While Tom brings Larry and Sophie to the hotel, their friends leave the cinema unaccompanied to explore Galway city in scenes that reveal each character’s need to find their own sense of independence and personal expression outside the controlled confines of their day-to-day life.

Sanctuary cleverly and unobtrusively brings the viewer through the complexities faced by intellectually disabled people wishing to start a relationship – the relevant law is mentioned once in the narrative but its introduction is neither forced nor disruptive to the developing diegesis but rather a necessary part of understanding the rationale for the actions of the film’s lead characters. Furthermore, the film does not treat its subjects as objects of either pity or deserving of our sympathy; these are independent and remarkable individuals who offer fascinating perspectives on the world around them. The scenes in which the group members escape from the cinema to explore the city, its shops, markets, and pubs are particularly impressive in this respect. Each character engages with his/her surroundings in what may be considered unusual ways (as when one character puts a chain on a security guard and hugs him) but they simultaneously alert us to aspects of the world we inhabit but may have become blind to through over-familiarity.

This is an auspicious debut feature as a director from Len Collin, a graduate of the MA in Production and Direction at the Huston School of Film & Digital Media, NUI Galway, and an experienced screenwriter for television in England, including writing credits with  “EastEnders”,”Casualty” and “The Bill”. Films such as Sanctuary have a crucial role to play in our culture today; they open a dialogue and hopefully prompt debate of issues that should be of serious concern in any healthy society. To do so with the humour and compassion evident in Sanctuary is an achievement that will be appreciated by audiences across Ireland, and I expect, internationally.

Sanctuary screened on Sunday, 10 July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Further Beyond

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Tony Tracy takes a journey Further Beyond, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Having established a reputation across a range of media, notably theatre, during the mid 1990s, ‘Desperate Optimists’ – the working title of the creative partnership between Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor – have more recently come to the fore in the world of Irish film through two highly original and intensely atmospheric features: Helen (2008) and Mister John (2013). These films, and their work in general – as they characterize it in the opening voice over of this ‘documentary’ – deal with their abiding fascination with ‘outsiders, wanders, rovers…people who have been displaced, adrift, at sea, people who are not sure where they belong, and because of that, who they are.’

Here their focus is Ambrose O’Higgins (1720 –1801), an Irishman born on his family’s estate in Ballynarry, Co. Sligo, before being dispossessed and evicted with his family and moving to Meath, then later to Cadiz and South America. After a period in Argentina and elsewhere he crossed the Andes into Chile where he eventually rose to become Governor General and later viceroy of Peru. (His illegitimate son, Bernardo O’Higgins was the chief architect of Chile’s independence). The film begins by wondering upon who this man was, and what propelled him from such origins to such heights in a land and culture so far from his own? O’Higgins’ life (or part of it anyway) becomes the starting point for the film-makers reflections about a series of inter-related themes about the construction of identity, film, history and memory.

The voice-over (more of which in a moment) wonders aloud how this long gestating bio-pic might begin. Now another narrative strand emerges, closer to the present and more personal: the story of Helen, an Irish woman born in the Bronx to Irish parents but sent back to her relatives in Ireland alone, aged just 11 months, aboard a trans-Atlantic passenger ship. Later, Helen became Joe Lawlor’s mother, although this is not entirely transparent, as he is referred to as ‘my mother’ by the male VO actor who checks with an unseen director if the audience will understand this. That slippage is not accidental; it is part of the film’s preoccupation with a range of overlapping tensions: between one’s present and past; memory and identity; place and destiny. The hermeneutics of biography are slippery, even when – especially when – its your own. In an inspired clip we see Helen recounting the story of A Playboy of the Western World, a touchstone text of making yourself up as you go along.

Funded under the Irish Arts Council and Filmbase’s adventurous and important Reel Art initiative, Further Beyond is an extended meditation on history and memory, an interrogation of words, images and ideas that might, more commonly, take place off-screen in a notebook or pre-production meeting. It begins with an extended set of questions, digressions and other Brechtian alienation devices by two voice actors who may, or may not, be surrogates for the filmmakers. Calling it a documentary (as it is listed in some descriptions) is inadequate: It is an essay film. While this hybrid form of ‘filmed philosophy’ has steadily increased in popularity in recent years (in Ireland, most notably, through the films of Pat Collins and Tadhg O’Sullivan – also recipients of Reel Art funding), Nora Alter locates the origins of ‘a new genre of film’ in German avant-gardist Hans Richter’s 1940 essay ‘Der Filmessay: Eine neue Form des Dokumentarfilms’. Parsing Richter, she writes:

Unlike the documentary film, which presents facts and information, the essay film produces complex thought that at times is not grounded in reality but can be contradictory, irrational, and fantastic. This new type of film . . . no longer binds the filmmaker to the rules and parameters of the traditional documentary practice . . . rather it gives full reign to the imagination, with all its artistic potentiality.

Certainly this is one of the ambitions and achievements of Further Beyond. Its early sections in particular are rife with theses and anti-theses: ideas, interruption, digressions, self-commentary and irony. There are references to other directors and their process: Robert Flaherty and his anxiety about making a start on editing, Stanley Kubrick’s search for the perfect image of a tree in a field with which to begin Barry Lyndon.

O’Higgins significance to Latin American history is immense but the filmmakers admit that are more interested in the less documented parts of his life – in Co. Meath and Cadiz where he ‘re-invented’ himself (as ‘the Baron of Balinarry’) before he began his epic journey across half the earth. On a more meta-textual level, the problems of making of a bio-pic are foregrounded in the voice-over including where to begin, location issues (Cadiz could never be shot anywhere but in Cadiz), who will play the young Ambrose (three Irish actors come to mind) and an interview with a man who played him in a TV mini-series. An interview with a waitress in a café in the Andes where they go looking for a location is followed by self-reflexive re-enactments (there’s not enough snow) and a soaring ‘heroic’ score which is abruptly cut. Meeting an expert historian in Santiago, they (but not the audience) hear details of Ambrosia’s complex, adventurer life. (I later look it up online and it is fascinating but largely occluded in the film). The VO reflects: ‘If we were smart we would focus on this part of Ambrosio’s story . . . and if we were smarter still we would be making a film about Bernardo . . . but we’re not very smart.’

Helen Dowling was born in New York in 1936 to Irish parents, who for reasons not entirely understood (perhaps alcoholism, mental-illness) sent her back to Ireland alone as an infant to live with her aunt Nora on a farm in Co. Kerry. The film visits the farm where she grew up (it doesn’t match memories of the narrator) and the small coastal town of Ballyheige, in the company of her surviving brother Chris. The VO ventriloquizes her thoughts while standing on its glorious beach, of a feeling ‘hard to place’, memories of the America she left behind and sometimes thoughts of ‘Roger Casement the wander, the rover, the risk-taker’, who was washed ashore here. Later she returns to the United States, to Hoboken, New Jersey. There’s a long discourse on On the Waterfront and the famous scene between Marlon Brando and Eve Marie Saint (the one where he picks up her glove) which is set in a park near her boarding house. ‘The film struck a chord with Helen, standing inside the church, thinking about the film, a feeling overcomes her.’ There are shots inside the Catholic church (where the film’s fictional Fr. Barry was priest), inside her lodgings, a picture of her on a beach with young men, information about her job in a hair salon in the Empire State building and shots over New York from its viewing deck. We learn of a marriage proposal from Ireland – should she go back? It’s like a real-life version of Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn.

I’ve included all this detail to communicate that the film is dense and complex, both in its construction and ideas. But while both these individuals are fascinating in their own way and while the film is full of stimulating intellectual digressions (with reference to Barthes, Bachelard, Sontag, Benjamin and others) I was not entirely convinced that bringing them together illuminates the other or the larger themes the film is reaching for. While there is an outline of each narrative ‘journey’ and while there is speculation as to their thoughts, Ambrose and Helen feel like rather strained projections than real people. (Perhaps there was a more solid basis for their thoughts than was revealed). The film ends with the suggestion to ‘make a start’ and while that is in keeping with the tentativeness of the film’s overall approach, it proves deeply frustrating from the perspective of story or even thesis. With so much called into question through form, narration or tone, the film leaves us with little to dwell on or hold onto. And yet, it would not be fair to summarily dismiss it: in its formal experimentation, its memorable characters and its thinking out loud about making cinematic history (particularly of the ‘great man’ variety), it represents an ambitious and engaging intervention about an often deeply clichéd genre. (Truffaut’s Adele H, Varda’s The Beaches of Agnes or Pat Murphy’s Anne Devlin came to mind as feminist rejections of such conventions). Still I would have liked to know more about Ambrose, who, even while he worked as a colonial administrator never seems to have left his Irishness and experience of Cromwellian dispossession entirely behind him. The Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography tells me that one of his most important achievements was the abolition in 1789 of the cruel ‘encomienda’ system, whereby landowners kept indigenous labourers in conditions close to slavery.’ I wonder if Roger Casement was aware of O’Higgins before he washed up in Ballyheige?

 

Further Beyond screened on Sunday, 10th July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.

 

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh

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The 2016 Galway Film Fleadh proved yet again to be a showground for the best in new Irish cinema. Click on the title to read our review and check out what’s fresh in film.

 

A Date for Mad Mary

 

Cardboard Gangsters

 

Crash and Burn

 

Dead Along the Way

 

The Further Beyond

 

History’s Future

 

In View

 

Lost in France

 

Outcasts by Choice

 

Rebel Rossa

 

Short Film: Student Showcase

 

Tiger Raid

 

The War Against Women in Eastern Congo

 

The Wall

 

The Young Offenders

 

Check back for more reviews

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Dead Along the Way

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Stephen Porzio takes a look at the Maurice O’Carroll’s crime comedy, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

A unique feature of Irish drama, separating it from the rest of the world, is its humour. J.M Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Samuel Beckett’s absurdist theatre and the McDonagh brothers output – all are tinged with comedy. As a people, we tend to find the hilarity in dark situations. Even the recent thriller Traders, a satire of recession Ireland centring upon men who beat each other to death for large bags of money, possessed a strain of jet-black wit. Writer-director Maurice O’Carroll’s debut feature Dead Along the Way (made for a reported €10,000), although much, much slighter than the works mentioned above, is too flecked with shades of dark comedy.

The film, featuring a jumbled timeline, opens with two murders. In the past, gangster Big Jim (Tom Lawlor) has killed the twenty-nine-year-old who may have impregnated his sixteen-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, in the present, amateur videographers, Wacker (Niall Murphy) and Tony (Ciaran Bermingham, Game of Thrones), accidentally kill Big Jim, from whom Wacker borrowed money to pay for his girlfriend Aoife’s artificial insemination. The two men in order to survive must dodge Aoife (Donna Patrice, Raw), an over-zealous Ban-Garda (Sinead O’Riordan) and dump the gangster’s body.

I mention the role of comedy in Irish drama because Dead Along the Way plays out like a less interesting Martin McDonagh play (particularly one from his Leenane Trilogy, all revolving around violent deaths in quiet country towns). Maurice O’Carroll’s script is occasionally quite witty but is missing the darkness, the underlying themes or the interesting supporting characters that populate the similarly plotted work of McDonagh. Also, by aping the Irish playwright, by extension he apes one of his major influences, Quentin Tarantino. In Dead Along the Way, Tarantino’s trademark trunk shot is utilised various times for long scenes of dialogue, as is the juggling time-line of Pulp Fiction. As well as this, a torture scene in which Big Jim arrives dressed as Olivia Newton John (he was at a costume party) plays out like a toothless homage to Reservoir Dogs’ infamous ear-cutting scene in its contrast between humour and horror.

Also, the film looks quite bland, no doubt on account of its budget. However, there have been movies in the past that have looked gorgeous, made for less than €10,000 (El Mariachi, Following, Primer to name a few). O’Carroll too often falls into a pattern of “establishing shot, still camera as a character walks, side camera when two characters are in conversation, close-up, repeat” creating a rather repetitive feel.

However, although, there is nothing original or particularly deep in Dead Along in Way, there is a rough-around-the-edges charm to the movie. The main cast look as if they are giving it there all, despite working with limited resources. Niall Murphy (according to IMDB this is his first TV or movie credit) is a likeable protagonist, with the charismatic everyman feel of Colin Farrell. He and Bermingham possess a genial odd-couple chemistry, adding some emotional heft to a well-handled subplot regarding Tony’s closeted homosexuality. While the characters on Big Jim’s side of the story are crudely drawn and their performances leave a lot to be desired, Donna Patrice shines as Wacker’s long suffering girlfriend. In lesser hands, she could have been an unfunny straight-woman to Wacker and Tony’s antics, but Patrice adds a live-wire and chaotic flavour to the film’s already farcical final act.

Maurice O’Carroll has talents as a writer and mines fine performances from his leads. These attributes are enough to cautiously recommend his debut feature. Dead Along the Way is a quirky uniquely Irish crime-comedy which hints O’Carroll may produce better work in the future, with a larger budget.

 

Dead Along the Way screened on Wednesday, 6th July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.

 

 

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: History’s Future

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Tony Tracy examines Fiona Tan’s film about one man’s odyssey through a Europe in turmoil – and through his own mind. The Irish-Dutch-German co-production screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

We live in unsettled and unsettling times. In the weeks bracketing the screening of History’s Future at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh, the UK tore up its European membership card, France experienced its third major terrorist event in 18 months, a sniper shot five police officers in Dallas TX during a peaceful protest over recent police shootings, and a failed military coup in democratic Turkey left hundreds dead and thousands arrested. All this after several years of ‘austerity’ politics following the implosion of hyper-capitalism and the displacement of some 11 million Syrians, including approx. 5 million refugees. Perhaps that surfeit of reality helps explain the somewhat depleted audience for what, for my money, was one of the richest films of this year’s Film Fleadh. More likely, it was its early afternoon slot on Saturday and the abundance of more readily recognizable Irish features screening during the evening. Yet for all its internationalism – an Irish-Dutch-German co-production directed by Fiona Tan (Indonesia/Australia/Amsterdam), co-scripted by British film critic Jonathon Romney, featuring an international cast and shooting locations in six countries – History’s Future is local enough, with themes that implicate us all and a career-high performance by the hugely talented Mark O’Halloran who, alongside his screenplay for Viva, is redefining the cinematic boundaries of Irishness in 2016.

To adequately summarise History’s Future would be a reductive and only half-certain exercise given its multiple textures and digressions, not to mention the fact that sub-titles suffered a technical failure at the Galway screening, a serious issues for a film with multiple extended foreign-language scenes (although some in the post-screen Q+A felt this added to the film’s overall effect of opacity and it led to a memorable translation/‘making-of’ anecdote in the Q+A afterwards from Mark O’Halloran of his scene with Denis Lavant). Writer Romney has spoken before of the impact Wim Wenders’ early films had on him and there is certainly a discernable influence in the film’s themes (memory) and structure (transnational road movie) that recalls films such as Paris, Texas and Until the End of the World. In its assemblage of drama, documentary and archive footage to convey past and present states of Europe, we might also invoke two more recent films: Leos Carax’s surrealist Holy Motors – not least through the shared DNA of Lavant – and Tadgh O’Sullivan’s reflective and disturbing essay-film The Great Wall on the refugee crises. It shares with both those films an odyssey narrative, but defies the traditional conventions of the genre in that this journey begins at the end and ends in confusion. But confusion, to paraphrase Brian Friel, is not an ignoble condition.

History’s Future centres on a central character – or more accurately a series of related characters – all played with panache and dexterity by O’Halloran. The Ur-character has lost his memory after an assault, cannot remember those most intimate to him, and after some weeks in rehab, leaves his wife and home in suburban Netherlands to wander through a series of European settings: Barcelona, Paris, Athens, Dublin. At each turn we learn about him from those he meets and through them we encounter a Europe that has also become detached from its past and, more troublingly, its future.

While this is director Fiona Tan’s debut feature film, she is an internationally respected multi-media conceptual artist and this background contributes to the film’s often cerebral and highly visual vignettes which refuse to be fully integrated into a smooth overarching narrative. (The film begins at ‘The End’ and rolls backwards and forwards at different junctures). Indeed the film is perhaps best approached as an instance of the now common intersection of gallery and cinema; and one could imagine episodes from the film playing on a series of ‘white cube’ screens simultaneously. Across a range of settings, costumes and facial hair, Mark O’Halloran manages somehow to bring unity to such disparity, grounding big ideas about an amnesiac and disintegrating Europe in a performance of a man/men who are genuinely confused but who remain, nevertheless, alive and directed onwards.

 

History’s Future screened on Saturday, 9th July as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.

 

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Lost in France

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Shane Croghan gets lost in music watching Niall McCann’s latest doc examining the rise of Scotland’s independent music scene.

 

Following on from his acclaimed 2012 documentary Art Will Save The World, director Niall McCann has delved into the world of indie music once again, and emerged with the charming Lost in France. Travelling to the north of the United Kingdom this time, McCann has assembled a compelling cast of characters to examine the rise of Scotland’s independent music scene in the ’90s, with a particular emphasis on the trailblazing record label, Chemikal Underground.

Though the narrative spans nearly twenty years, from the mid ’90s all the way through to 2015, the past and present are threaded together by the reprisal of a notorious 1997 trip to Mauron, a tiny French town which played host to a small music festival back in the day. McCann’s camera invites the viewer onto the tour bus, to join Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), RM Hubbert and Chemikal Underground founders The Delgados as they head back to France, attempting to piece together their memories of the 1997 trip along the way.

McCann has struck gold with these subjects. Their effortless rapport drives the narrative, offering everything from nostalgic anecdotes about the origins of Chemikal Underground, to acerbic commentary on the state of the contemporary music business. As the gang on the bus attempt to recall the events surrounding the original trip eighteen years ago, we are treated to an insightful reflection on creativity, friendship and the transformative power of music. These contributions are coupled with archive footage, hobbled together from the libraries of those involved with the scene over the years, adding to the reflective tone which characterises much of the film.

Despite the far-reaching impact of Chemikal Underground upon the wider British indie-rock scene, this documentary is extremely personal, exploring the rise of the label from the internal perspective of those who helped to build it from the ground up. The sense of camaraderie amongst the musicians serves to forge an intimate connection between the viewer and the events unfolding on-screen. As Kapranos and company attempt to stitch together an image of that 1997 trip to Mauron, the audience is right there with them, leafing through weathered photographs and struggling to fully recall the booze-soaked debauchery that took place eighteen years ago.

Unsurprisingly, Lost in France is wonderfully soundtracked. From the feedback-drenched noise-rock of Mogwai, to the chart-cracking indie anthems of Franz Ferdinand, with a few acoustic interludes from the likes of Emma Pollock and RM Hubbert, the music is a key component in the eighteen year journey from past to present. In particular, the decision to cut between archive of old gigs and the present day performances in Mauron is an effective method of conveying the passage of time, as well as the timelessness of music.

Lost in France is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, neatly packaged with easy-flowing banter, a cracking soundtrack and some lovely shots of rain-soaked rural France. These aspects alone would’ve made for a charming little documentary, particularly for fans of Scottish independent music, but, thankfully, McCann has crafted a film greater than the sum of its parts. Not simply a music documentary, Lost in France is an insight into the communal power of music, the necessity of art and the freedom that creative endeavour can allow to those willing to fully embrace their idealistic dreams. Speaking alongside some of the featured musicians, McCann offered the film as a retort to the contemporary notion that “you’re supposed to just do any shit job and be grateful for it”. Lost is France is more than a just an entertaining watch, it’s a self-affirming experience for young DIY artists.

Lost in France screened on Friday, 8th July as part of the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh

 

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