Review: Talking To My Father

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DIR: Sé Merry Doyle

 

Architect Robin Walker’s architecture emerged, as T.K Whitaker’s Ireland emerged, an Ireland of growth, growing confidence and a step away from the insular nationalism that defined the preceding years. In this film, Walker’s son Simon explores his relationship with his father through the legacy that his father has left behind. Part of the Scott Tallon Walker architecture firm, which pioneered the modernist architectural style espoused by such twentieth century architects as Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe, Robin Walker’s buildings have both a significant and controversial presence in the Dublin skyline. Notable buildings emanating from the modernist movement include Busáras, RTÉ studios and Walker’s very own Bord Fáilte building by Baggot Street and the Cork Opera House. Through a dialogue with his father, Simon wishes to highlight the importance and the artistic merit of the much maligned modernist moment in architecture and how important it was in creating a sense of modern Ireland.

Sé Merry Doyle’s film aims to emphasis the personal nature of Simon’s quest, that this film is not simply an exploration of Walker’s legacy but Simon’s own re-connection with his deceased father. Throughout the film, Simon rummages through the vast writings and photographs his father has left behind in order to understand the philosophy that lay behind the architecture. Such an intimate approach offers us a brilliant introduction to the principles of architecture and the personal philosophy that lie behind it. The image of place and how architecture, as Simon explains, is the alignment of nature, space and time provides an apt allegory to the very idea of nation building; and this theme of nation building is constantly evoked in Simon’s quest.

Although at times, the film lags over the moments of family intimacy, evoking the boredom of spending too much time looking at another person’s family photos, such moments are short lived. Instead, there are moments where the beauty of the Irish landscape, especially on the Beara Peninsula and the interaction of Walker’s architecture to its environment, really emphasis the importance of socially and environmentally engaged architecture.

Through Simon’s quest then, a very valid and personal message is uncovered from his father, that architecture has a social and political responsibility. Thus, when Simon brings us on his journey to the UCD restaurant on one of the more ambitious projects of 1960s Ireland, the building of Ireland’s largest university, Simon speaks about his father’s political inspiration from the 1968 student protests in Paris. Those familiar with UCD will know the urban legend of Belfield being designed to prevent a repeat of any student provocation. What Simon informs the viewer is that the open-plan design of the restaurant building was his father’s wish to create a space where students’ ideas and conversations flowed freely, reflecting the openness of 1960s thought.

Doyle’s film is filled with such vivid insights into the nature of design and a son’s desire to remind us of the need for good design. Now, as Simon wonders, in post-debt socialisation Ireland, can the importance of design be re-invigorated and exist outside the terminology of finance. In a nation that is now suffocating due to a history of bad planning, constant niggling questions over the land use of buildings in NAMA’s possession and yet another housing crisis, Talking to My Father is a wonderful reminder of a period in Irish history that embraced a positive design approach to the challenges of nation building.

Sean Finnan

90 minutes
Talking to My Father is released 16th October 2015

 

 

Read an interview with Sé Merry Doyle here

 

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Competition: Win Tickets to ‘Talking to My Father’ + Q&A @ IFI

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Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early ’60s and one of its most celebrated figures was Robin Walker. Robin studied under Le Corbusier and later worked alongside Mies van der Rohe in Chicago. Upon his return to Ireland he became a key agent in the shaping of the emerging modern nation.

Looking again to Dublin’s streets which he has so faithfully recorded in earlier works (James Gandon, A Life; Alive, Alive Oh!), Sé Merry Doyle follows Simon Walker, a quarter of a century after Robin’s death, as he explores the legacy of his father’s work. The film allows Walker’s buildings to speak for themselves, taking us with Simon in his search for Robin’s architecture of place. (Sunniva O’Flynn).

Talking to My Father is released exclusively at the IFI from Friday, 16th October 2015. Director Sé Merry Doyle will take part in a Q&A after the screening at 18.30 on 16th October.

Thanks to our good friends at the IFI, we have a pair of tickets to give away to Friday’s screening plus Q&A.

To be in with a chance of winning answer the following question:

Complete the title of Sé Merry Doyle’s 2010 documentary:

John Ford – ____________________.

Email your answer to filmireland@gmail.com before 2pm Thursday, 15th October when the Film Ireland Hat will plan, design, and construct a winner.

 

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Talking to My Father – Review of Irish Film at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015

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Grace Corry takes a look at Sé Merry Doyle‘s Talking to My Father, which screened as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

On a blue racer, Simon Walker cycles into the opening scene of this latest release from Loopline Productions, Talking to my Father. Propping his bike up against a high stone wall, he climbs its frame and a faint, nostalgic laughter sweeps the audience as he peers over to examine the hidden house that he grew up in. As he looks, photographs from the ’60s of a walled futuristic haven in the heart of Dublin city appear on screen – narrated by Simon, we take a pictorial tour of his early youth.

Sé Merry Doyle’s documentary follows Simon on his journey back through his own life and relationship with his father, Robin Walker. Robin was a remarkably talented and prolific figure in the reformation of Ireland’s architecture in what was an emerging, modern nation. Simon, also an architect, traces his memory with his father’s architecture as his guide, travelling Ireland from building to building, conversing with each across what Robin Walker understood to be a breathtakingly beautiful landscape, recognised in his work.

The documentary is in large part about that – the relationship we have with our environment and how architecture, particularly that of Robin Walker, contributes to that relationship.

Speaking to Sé Merry Doyle, he said he wanted to make a documentary about the human story within this, about the bond between father and son and the passion they shared for their art, juxtaposed by society’s transgression of it, highlighting the omnipresent role architecture plays in our lives and how little we value its history. There are certain elements of loss – Simon at times throughout seems unfulfilled by his relationship with his father, but where the humanistic aspects of the film appear wanting, the conversation through architecture deepens and it is these moments that reveal the tenderness felt, reinforced by the past and by his father’s absence.

The scenery is spectacular. We traverse Kenmare and Kinsale to Howth, with cinematographer Patrick Jordan providing long, worshipful shots that pan in time with the imagination thus creating an ease of understanding, lured by Simon’s narration which is in turn punctuated by Patrick Bergin reading Robin’s musings and philosophies that have been lovingly curated by his son. In this rhythm, we understand the importance of the telling of this story between father and son – not just its importance in capturing a story of love, but a story that teaches us that the most powerful and perhaps permanent thing in life is our memory.

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Sé Merry Doyle

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Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early ’60s and one of its most celebrated and influential figures was Robin Walker. Robin studied under Le Corbusier in Paris and later worked alongside Mies van der Rohe in Chicago. His return to Ireland in 1958 coincided with the emergence of an aspiring modern nation. Robin Walker became a key agent in this nation-building process.

A quarter of a century after his death, his son Simon Walker explores the legacy of his father’s life’s work in Talking to My Father. Director, Sé Merry Doyle’s allows Walker’s buildings to speak for themselves, taking us with Simon in his search for Robin’s architecture of place.

Grace Corry sat down with Sé Merry Doyle to discuss his documentary, which screens at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

Referring to Robin and Simon’s relationship and how you wanted to represent that in the film, you said that you wanted to capture them as father and son and as architects – was it difficult deciding which relationship to focus on more, or which relationship was more relevant to the film?

Well to me the big thing was that Simon wanted to pay homage to his father, both as a son and as an architect, both being from different eras – Robin’s era was kind of the golden age of modernism in Ireland, Simon is living in a country that’s just coming out of bankruptcy and such. Really, I wanted more of the human story as a film, I didn’t want it to be solely based on architecture in that I was more interested in trying to discover Robin through Simon. So it was kind of a gentle narrative and we worked a lot on that; it was probably the biggest thing we did. It started with me trying to encourage Simon to tackle the boxes and boxes he had of Robin’s writings, and in the end suggested to him to write a letter to his father, and that letter in a way became the application to the Arts Council or at least the central part of it. So that dialogue was always a central part.

 

Your own interests seem to have been with documenting historically and culturally defining moments in Ireland. Were you aware of how prolific an architect Robin Walker was or how instrumental he was in modernising Ireland?

No, I wasn’t. It was funny that, because I had done a film for instance about James Gannon and Georgian Dublin and made Sculptor of the Empire on John Henry Foley who did the Daniel O’Connell monument in Dublin and the Prince Albert monument in London, so funnily enough this was an area I wanted to dig in to. Simon shares an office with me and I knew how highly regarded his father was but I didn’t know that he had been with Mies van der Rohe (Paris) or Corbusier (Chicago). He studied and worked with both of them and I knew then that he was an individual whose story was worthwhile.

 

Did you approach this documentary – such an intimate situation and a sensitive subject – differently to how you made Alive Alive O – A Requiem For Dublin where you’re representing several voices or a community voice, as opposed to capturing this quite private discussion between father and son?

I wanted it to be something for all of us, I didn’t want it to be the same as the film I made on Patrick Scott [Golden Boy] – in that case I wanted the individual but this one I was kind of playing with what has happened to Dublin and who looks after it. One of Robin’s great buildings was UCD, which was originally an open plan for the students and now it’s been kind of turned into a supermarket. All the space has been taken away. The new Ireland that was coming after World War II and stagnation and economic failure had new buildings going up all over the place willy-nilly, but again after the oil crash of ’74 that all went away. The film is about whether we are invited into the conversation with those buildings that remain from that time. Do we like them? Do they mean anything to us now? The film is saying no in most cases.

 

I suppose working so closely with Simon on such a personal project about Robin’s work requires a particular approach to achieve the right balance.

Yeah, well that was delicate, you know, I’m not a Sunday World type of film journalist and I wanted Simon to have a certain amount of control. Once Simon knew that I was making a creative documentary and that there would be no interviews or appraisal type stuff and that it was really just going to be his own journey, that relaxed him. He’s a great writer and we spent hours and hours talking and looking back through his father’s papers and some of that went right into his heart. It was a complicated narrative but a great journey from reading old notes to going and seeing these buildings which made for some great moments in the film, a lot of which surprised me. I invited Simon to go as far as he wanted to go and he did.

 

So, what’s next for Talking to My Father?

At the moment I’m developing a film called John Huston – The Great White Whale, which is about Moby Dick and Herman Melville and a notion that Moby Dick is God and whoever kills him is akin to the apocalypse. We’re in development with the IFB and we’re very excited.

 

 

Talking to My Father screens at the IFI on Tuesday, 24th March @ 6pm as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Book tickets here

 

 

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Interview: Sé Merry Doyle, director of John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man

The documentary, which enjoyed its premiere in the Irish Film
Institute during the recent John Ford Symposium, take a detailed look
into the making of the 1952 classic The Quiet Man, regarded as one of
filmmaker John Ford’s most personal projects.

Daire Walsh caught up with director Sé Merry Doyle to talk about the film.

When did you first start to develop John Ford: Dreaming
The Quiet Man?

I started approximately seven years ago. It took a
while. Pretty much all the stuff (in the film) you would have seen of
Nancy in Cong, and stuff like that, people who were connected with The
Quiet Man, was filmed first for a lot of reasons. One that I thought
some of them wouldn’t be around much longer. That became the basic
material for a pilot, which also included initially Jim Sheridan.
Basically, I hawked that around to try and get a documentary written,
but really nobody was interested in it. Then on a chance encounter,
Alan Maher came into the Loopline offices many years later to talk
about another project, and I don’t why but I said ‘Hey, would you look
at this pilot before you leave’, and he immediately was struck. He got
what nobody else was getting, and then the film went into full
production.

Have you always been a big admirer of The Quiet Man?

I’ve certainly always been an admirer of John Ford. I’ve grown up
watching his movies with my parents. The Quiet Man, I suppose for all
of us here, is a ‘love it or hate it’ sort of film. Way back, the
documentary was originally called ‘The Quiet Man: A Milestone Or A
Millstone?’. That idea would be a noose around our necks. I’ve always
been an admirer of John Ford, and the whole idea for the film started
when I was talking to somebody else, a colleague, who rubbished The
Quiet Man, and countered by saying ‘How could that be if it was made
by John Ford?’. I wanted to get to the bottom of what Ford was up to.

Was it difficult to secure the participation of any of the
interviewees we see in the documentary?

Maureen (O’Hara) was very difficult. She has never really spoken
at length about The Quiet Man. She had a feeling that people were
going to exploit the film. She didn’t want to, but I happened to meet
her nephew, Charles Fitzsimons, in Los Angeles, and we got on very
well and he put in the good word for me. After two years of trying to
get her, I finally secured an interview in 2010. That was difficult,
but it was also a wonderful interview, I had great fun with her.
Martin Scorsese really came about because years ago he came here to
give a talk, and also his editor Thelma Schoonmaker came. Because I
was an editor at the time, I kept a correspondence, and she led me to
Scorsese. Scorsese loves The Quiet Man, and loves Ford, so that kind
of worked well. Peter Bogdanovich, we just met him in LA, and he was
wonderful. But a lot of these people I think really wanted to
contribute to the documentary, it wasn’t too difficult with them.

What kind of an impact do you think The Quiet Man has had on Irish film?

Well I think it has been enormous. I think in all fairness, the
film was extremely popular. We all know that some did, and still do,
put it down as a stereotype. You know, John Ford created a stereotype
for America. I think all the early maverick Irish filmmakers,
especially say Joe Comerford, they were  creating the new realism
cinema against The Quiet Man. Now those filmmakers have since gone on
to not be petrified and respect The Quiet Man. But back then  Ireland
was trying to re-invent itself.

The film seems to give as good an insight into Ford himself as
does The Quiet Man. Was that your intention from the outset?

Absolutely. His 20 year quest to make the film, how it changed
from being a gung-ho IRA film to something totally different, that
became the tracking of the film. For instance, He was a Democrat, so I
think he was making a film about a lot of things we’re going through
in Ireland now. Will Danaher is a banker if you like in modern day
terms. Sean Thornton is someone who wanted to chill the land and lead
a decent life. He has created a world in Inis Free that is of
Shakespearean proportions. I think he knew his film would be more
understood with time. As he said, you couldn’t go around Hollywood
saying you were making an intellectual film. They’d kill you. As you
can see from the film, he’s a very complexed, difficult character, but
at the same time his troupe of actors, Wayne, O’Hara, McLaglen, were
very loyal to him and called him ‘Pappy’.

You had the film’s premiere last weekend. How did you find that?

It was fantastic, it really was. We had the original world
premiere in Cork, where we had 1,000 people in the Opera House with
Maureen O’Hara. That was a night to remember, and it broke box office
records for a documentary showing in Cork. What was special about the
other night was to have Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson, in the
audience. Redmond Morris, who produced the film, and particularly
Peter Bogdanovich, who was a great friend and biographer of Ford, gave
the film the thumbs up. That was one of the best accolades I’ve had so
far for the film.

How important has the Symposium been for the film’s profile, and
also giving Ford the recognition he deserves in his ancestral home?

I think it’s amazing. I just think John Ford is an Irish icon. He
has peopled all his films as Westerns with Irish and lots of other
migrants to America. He was a good man, a great filmmaker. I think
they couldn’t have chosen anybody better to finally honour on a yearly
basis. He’s a real icon for emerging filmmakers, and when you see
people like Scorsese paying homage to him, and Steven Spielberg and
all the rest, it is a great platform for Irish film I think.

Do you have any other projects on the horizon at the moment?

I made a film that came out in the year 2000, that had a little
bit of that very first film I made in 1982, which is called Looking
On, which was documenting the inner city parts of Dublin. I returned
to that in 1996, and four years later it came out with a film called
Alive Alive-O: A Requiem For Dublin. It still has a strong presence,
it gets shown occasionally at the Archives, but the last time it was
shown everybody said you have to do a final chapter. The film ended
just as the Financial Services Centre was rising. Ireland was going
through a huge economic boom, so I’m trying to go back to the Irish
Film Board and do an epilogue or a full stop to that show. It just
seemed to chart a whole period of Dublin. That’s the next project if I
can get it made.

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Interview: Director Sé Merry Doyle talks about new film ‘Dreaming The Quiet Man’

Director Sé Merry Doyle talks to Charlene Lydon about his new film Dreaming The Quiet Man, which is released in cinemas this Friday.

John Ford’s 1952 classic The Quiet Man is often a controversial issue with Irish people. Though we may be proud of Ireland’s involvement in the classic Hollywood film, the exaggerated cultural stereotypes it portrays can sometimes offend. The film has become the subject of acclaimed filmmaker Sé Merry Doyle’s (Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien, Alive Alive-O) latest documentary. I sat down with Sé as he put the finishing touches on his new film Dreaming The Quiet Man.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the documentary is the inclusion of an interview with Maureen O’Hara who has broken her silence about her time working on The Quiet Man for a very candid and, indeed, delightful interview. Now ninety years old, O’Hara often avoids discussing the film as, Sé explains, ‘she doesn’t like anyone taking on The Quiet Man because she doesn’t think they [filmmakers] can get it.’ Despite her reported misgivings she talks animatedly, honestly and fondly about her time working on the film, her rather complex relationship with John Ford and her admiration of the The Quiet Man. Sé was pleased with how the interview brings the documentary together. ‘She just gave the most wonderful interview. You can feel the energy. She has some extraordinary insight into the film’. Her insight into John Ford himself was invaluable to the documentary, Sé adds. ‘She knew all the nuances and she knew what a bastard he was. As she would say, he was the greatest son-of-a-bitch, but he was the greatest director as well. For me, as a director, it was a proud moment. I just thought, somehow, as the last person who could throw light on John Ford as a friend, that was really powerful. If I hadn’t had it in the film I would always have been thinking, ‘oh man, I wonder what Maureen O’Hara would have said.’

The genesis of the documentary is a rocky one, as Sé explains. It started out as sort of an argument against the film’s detractors. ‘When I hear someone say it’s a piece of tosh, I say, “how could you say that? This film was made by John Ford!” He’s regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers in the world ever. How could he make a piece of tosh about the country his parents were born in? And that was really enough to get me going on it.’
Sé attended the anniversary celebration of the The Quiet Man in the ifi with all the Quiet Man ‘maniacs’ who were also in attendance. After shooting some footage of that event Sé then travelled to Cong in Co. Galway where the film was shot to take a look at the lasting effect the film has had on the town. This trip was made before any funding had been secured, and the team consisted of just himself and a cameraman. ‘We just hung around and I met Nancy and Jack Murphy who own Cohan’s hardware store, which, in the film, was Cohan’s pub, and they were just incredibly ordinary but very exciting people. The reason I went to Cong was because everybody involved was very old and I was afraid that they were going to die. It’s what you call time-dependent material.’

With this renewed sense of urgency, Sé, armed with a pilot of the footage from Cong and from the anniversary screening, began to seek financing but found it more difficult than anticipated. ‘There was no interest from any of the institutions that we went to. They were all so prejudiced against the film… People at rté felt it was too local, that it was a silly Irish film. They just didn’t get it.’

It was with Alan Maher, (Irish Film Board) that Sé finally got the penny to drop with someone, ‘Alan immediately got what the argument was, what my hope was. I wanted to shoot a lot of stuff, do a lot of interviews. It was a chance encounter with him, maybe it’s like that with a lot of films. There’s always somebody who gets it and you hope that it lands and it landed on him.’ With the bsé/ifb on board, Sé secured further funding from bai and tg4. The documentary then began to take shape and a host of John Ford admirers were interested in coming on board to discuss why The Quiet Man is indeed more than just a bit of blarney!
Upon assembling the first strands of the documentary Sé realised that the documentary he really wanted to make was not a defence of the film, but rather a film about John Ford and his ‘obsession’ with Maurice Walsh’s story. In demonstrating the passion Ford felt for making The Quiet Man, the reputation it has for being a scourge on the Irish international identity could perhaps be waylaid and replaced with the respect that Sé feels it deserves. With the title changed from The Quiet Man: Millstone or Milestone to the less contentious Dreaming The Quiet Man, the documentary had found its focus, and instead of a debate, it had become a celebration of the film itself and the cinematic master and enigmatic figure, John Ford.

Central to the documentary is the notion that The Quiet Man is really a masked biography of the director himself, who was born in America to Irish parents who raised him with songs and stories from their homeland and whose mother idealised Ireland. Sé explains, ‘What I’m propagating is that he turns this film into his own biography.’ Sé goes on to point out some of the similarities between the central character Seán Thornton (played by John Wayne), and John Ford himself. ‘Ford was a very cantankerous man and his outsider spirit is explored in the film. His obsession with Mary-Kate – he was having an affair with Katherine Hepburn at the time, whose name was Kate and his wife’s name was Mary.’ Sean Thornton’s yearning for Ireland, the idealism surrounding it and the feeling of being an outsider in the place you considered ‘home’ are all aspects that Ford could relate to and are important in understanding the intentions of the film.

The segment that was screened for me spoke volumes about the content and central discussion in the film. The segment included a typically colourful and impassioned interview with Martin Scorsese in which he discusses the scene where Seán Thornton (John Wayne) first arrives on the train in Castletown. Seán walks through the train station to find the horse and cart that will bring him to Inisfree and Scorsese makes the point that Seán is literally walking from the real world to the fantasy/mythological world that is Inisfree. Sé points out ‘Inisfree is not Ireland. Castletown is, but Inisfree is an imaginary place that goes back to pre-Ireland, pre-Christian ritual and all that sort of thing. So he’s playing with all these rituals. But at the same time, Seán Thornton is an American. John Ford knows that the central character is an American who has a dewy-eyed vision of Ireland and the Irish people are playing up to the American’s stereotype of us. So he’s playing with that.’
One of the more common criticisms of the film by its detractors is that Ford has created a damaging mockery of Irish cultural identity. This point is effectively countered by Sé by proposing that Ford is celebrating the mythological elements of Irish culture and playing with the idealism that is often attached to the ‘homeland’ of so many Americans, Ford included.

The documentary takes a look at many areas of interest for Quiet Man fans, but is also historically interesting for any cinéphile or indeed any Irish person. The effect the film has had on Cong is remarkable and the archive footage that is included in the documentary from the making of the film is an invaluable look at Ireland in the ’50s. Interviews with Cong locals Jack and Nancy Murphy are insightful and endearing, and contrast well with the archive footage, which shows the glamour and excitement in the air at the time of shooting. It was unlike anything rural Galway had seen before and the impression the film made on the local economy is still evident some sixty years later.

Now putting the finishing touches on what he describes as ‘the most difficult piece of work I’ve ever done’, the film Sé has created is unlike any other documentary about The Quiet Man. Neither a defence or a detraction, the documentary attempts to reconcile the cultural hyperbole with the knowingly playful use of stereotype and idealism that Ford perpetrates within the film. Sé concludes ‘I suppose all I can say about The Quiet Man is that I’m trying to open a door. Obviously anyone who loves the film will enjoy it, but it will open a whole new perspective on what they were saying. There was a genius at work here, and Ford did spend the guts of twenty years getting it to happen’.

 

This article first appeared in Film Ireland: The Winter Issue – Issue 135

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Cinema Review: John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man

Dreaming the Quiet Man

Dreaming the Quiet Man

 

DIR: Se Merry Doyle • WRI: Stephen Walsh • PRO: Martina Durac, Vanessa Gildea • DOP: Patrick Jordan • ED: Nicky Dunne • Cast: Maureen O’Hara, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jim Sheridan, Gabriel Byrne

 

At the time of writing, the spectre of Euro 2012 has really begun to grip the nation as the Republic of Ireland take part in their first major tournament in all of ten years. However, though the excitement in the exploits of Giovanni Trapattoni’s men has spread across the country, there will still be a certain section of Irish society who will only have a passing interest in how the Boys In Green fare in Poland and Ukraine.

 

With this in mind, there is always room for an alternative, and that is a role that the John Ford Symposium filled with some relish during its four-day run in the capital recently, starting on 7 June.

 

Amongst the events that took place during this time included a screening of Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece Unforgiven (Eastwood was the recipient of the John Ford Award last year), an outdoor screening of The Searchers, a real stand-out from Ford’s back catalogue, and public interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and Stephen Frears.

 

Another key fixture in the Symposium’s calendar of events, however, was the premiere of Se Merry Doyle’s insightful documentary, John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man, which takes an in-depth look at the Irish-American helmer’s time making his love letter to The Emerald Isle back in 1952.

 

In the long history of the Irish film industry, few films have made as inedible a mark as the John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara fable, which sees Wayne’s Sean Thornton returning to his birthplace in the West of Ireland following an ill-fated encounter in America.

 

This is something that Doyle seeks to examine in his documentary, and he has secured a real coup by getting O’Hara to speak candidly about her role in the film for the very first time.

 

Though she is now in her early 90s, O’Hara seems as sprightly as ever, as she recalls vividly her experience of portraying the now iconic Mary-Kate Danaher. We also get interviews with the aforementioned Bogdanovich (who had previously made the documentary, Directed By John Ford, in 1971), Martin Scorsese, acclaimed Irish director Jim Sheridan, and a variety of residents from Cong in County Mayo, where a large portion of the film was shot, who all give their take on what has helped the film to stand the test of time.

 

Amongst the elements that have captivated the interviewees, Scorsese in particular, down through the decades is the mythical feel of the film, which is brought into sharp focus during Thornton’s arrival by train to the fictional Inisfree, and its depiction of Irish traditional life, which was largely alien to watching US audiences.

 

There is also quite a lot made of the fact that Ford had such a hard time convincing the major studios in Hollywood that The Quiet Man was a worthwhile project to invest in, with many of them feeling that it wouldn’t be a profitable project for them to pursue.

 

Profitable it was though, and Ford would go on to win the Best Director Oscar at the 1953 Academy Awards (for a record fourth time), with Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout’s green-tinted Cinematography also being recognised.

 

However, as fascinating as it is to hear the ins and outs of the making of the film, this documentary also offers a greater understanding of what Ford was like as a director, and as a man. Footage from Bogdanovich’s documentary where he attempts to interview Ford, and Bogdanovich’s own recollection of shooting the film, shows us how difficult the man born John Martin Feeney could be, and O’Hara also reveals the problems she had working with Ford on The Quiet Man.

 

What also comes through, however, is how brilliant a filmmaker he was, and O’Hara herself has no hesitation in saying that Ford was the best director that she worked with. Ford himself often said that he didn’t have any great interest in films, and that he only ever saw it as a job, but it is clear that The Quiet Man was a film that was very close to his heart.

 

Given the legacy of The Quiet Man, Doyle’s documentary will undoubtedly have a life outside of the cinema, but for those who have been taken in by the recent Symposium, and are fans of Ford’s 60-year-old classic, it is well worth venturing to your local theatre to catch John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man while it is showing.

 

Daire Walsh

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man is released on 15th June 2012

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'Jimmy Murakami – Non Alien' wins 'Directors Choice' award at Sacramento Film and Music Festival

Sé Merry Doyle and Jimmy Murakami

Sé Merry Doyle’s documentary Jimmy Murakami – Non Alien has won the director’s choice award at the Sacramento Film and Music Festival.

Murakami who is best known for his  work on The Snowman and When the Wind Blows has lived in Ireland for over forty years. However the documentary explores a period of his life that has, until now, remained hidden.

At the age of seven he and his family were incarcerated in Tule Lake Concentration Camp in Northern California, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Considered a threat to national security they spent four years in the camp where, along with many thousands of Japanese-Americans, they suffered countless humiliations and an enormous loss of freedom. Now in early retirement, he has decided to return to this period of his life by creating a series of stunning paintings that illuminate his memories of prison life.

The documentary follows Murakami on an emotional return to Tule Lake.

For more details on the Sacremento Film and Music Festival click here

For more details on Jimmy Murakami: Non Alien click here

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Issue 132 – Jimmy Murakami: Non Alien

Jimmy Murakami

The renowned animator of The Snowman revisits the American concentration camp in which he and his family were interned in this new documentary. Dermod Moore spoke to the director, Sé Merry Doyle, one of the producers, Vanessa Gildea, and to Murakami himself.

‘I was 9 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. That was when the shit hit the fan for all Japanese people in America. My family, alongside 125,000 Japanese-Americans, were forced to evacuate their homes and were interned in concentration camps, west of the Mississippi. We ended up in Tule Lake, in Northern California, a dry, arid lake in the middle of nowhere. The War Relocation Authority hastily set about turning the desert into a prison. Our family had no choice but to settle in. Our new address was Ward 3, Block 24.’

These words open Loopline Film’s latest feature documentary, Jimmy Murakami: Non Alien. They are spoken by the eponymous narrator, the animator and director of such masterpieces as When the Wind Blows and The Snowman.

For most of his life, he has kept these early memories to himself.

Luck, a certain kind of continuous encouraging serendipity, played a large part in the making of this film. A former animation student of Murakami was told the whole story about ten years ago, and got a grant to write a treatment for a documentary. However, it contained only a brief mention of the concentration camp. The BBC turned it down, because they were already making a film about another animator at the time. The real story had been missed.

Sé Merry Doyle: I remember how this film started for me. At the 2007 Galway Film Fleadh, I saw Linda Hattendorf’s The Cats Of Mirikitani, a film about an 83-year-old homeless artist who was interned in Tule Lake Camp. Jimmy, an old friend of mine, was in the audience, and I remember asking him if he identified with it, because it was about a Japanese-American. He got quite emotional about it. ‘What’s the matter with you?’ I asked him. He said, ‘I was in that camp’.

Jimmy Murakami: The coincidences were all there – the artist in the film was called Jimmy M, he painted, he went to the same camp, although he was a lot older than me. I got very emotional because it was my past coming back.

SMD: I was shocked. He’d never told me. But I didn’t jump at it then, I let it go. It got a little seed going, but I didn’t push at it. However, when Jimmy told me he had started doing paintings about that period in his life, encouraged by his wife Eithne, I flew out to his house. I got excited, Jimmy was being active rather than passive about it, and it was visual. I brought a camera with me, we shot a pilot, and I immediately sensed this could be a great story. That’s a good year and a half ago…

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 132.


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