Ellen Murray reviews Song of the Sea, “a breath of fresh air in a market that is continually being crammed with commercial-driven, sub-par content.”
If the fact that it was nominated for an Academy Award was not enough to tempt you to see Cartoon Saloon’s stunning Song of the Sea in cinemas, then you now have the chance to view it in the comfort of your own living room. A suitably strong follow-up to the studio’s 2009 work The Secret of Kells, the film follows the story of two siblings, Ben and Saoirse, as they discover a magical world of selkies and faeries on the brink of extinction, all the while trying to uncover the truth about their mother’s mysterious disappearance on the night of Saoirse’s birth.
Director Tomm Moore deftly guides the film, balancing the whimsy and drama so that neither is undermined by the other. For all the mythological elements present in the story, the film also takes time out to examine the hard realities of loss, grief, and broken families- but, like all good family films, it is never ham-fisted and offers no easy answers. In traditional Cartoon Saloon style, the flat, picture-book backgrounds of the film lends it an air of surprising depth missing from most mainstream animation today. At times, the animation reaches moments of such dazzling beauty that it becomes worth taking a timeout to pause the film and just gaze at the image before you. The superb animation is further aided by the commendable voice performances provided by the cast. Moone Boy’s David Rawle as Ben and Brendan Gleeson as the children’s grieving father, Conor, shine in particular.
The DVD contains a couple of extras, including a segment on the art of the film, clips of animation tests and, of course, audio commentary from director Tomm Moore. It would have been interesting to hear from others who worked on the production, which was split between animation studios in five different countries, but Moore provides such an engaging in-depth look into the background of the production that he alone is sufficient.
A wonderful film for families, and for lovers of animation, Song of the Sea is a breath of fresh air in a market that is continually being crammed with commercial-driven, sub-par content.
Available for rent or purchase now.
Directors: Tomm Moore
Producers: Tomm Moore, Paul Young, Claus Toksvig Kjaer
Song of the Sea and The Lobster were both winners at the 2015 European Film Awards in Berlin on Saturday, December 12th.
Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea won Best European Animated Feature while The Lobster won Best Screenplay for Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou’s script, as well as the previously announced Best European Costume Designer Award for Sarah Blenkinsop.
The European Film Awards are voted on by the more than 3,000 members of the European Film Academy which consists of filmmakers from across Europe.
A pair of professional but badly mismatched criminals break into a vacant house to carry out an insurance scam. Awkwardly thrown together with an hour to kill, they reluctantly start telling each other tall tales.
Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of a young woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn, NY where, unlike home, she has the opportunity for work and for a future – and love, in the shape of Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen). When a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, she finds herself absorbed into her old community, but now with eligible Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) courting her. As she repeatedly postpones her return to America, Eilis finds herself confronting a terrible dilemma – a heart-breaking choice between two men and two countries.
Brooklyn is adapted from Colm Tóibín’s New York Times Bestseller by Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley.
When 12-year-old Mickey Miller moves with her family from New York to Ireland, she soon discovers a mysterious link between herself and the 300-year-old legend of the mysterious Black Knight, who regularly haunts the sleepy Irish village of Longwood. With her new best friend in tow, Mickey sets out to redeem the knight while saving a precious herd of white horses and thwarting the evil plans of a greedy, ambitious woman – a mighty handful even for the bravest girl.
Conor Horgan’s documentary follows Rory O’Neill’s journey from the small Mayo town of Ballinrobe to striding the world stage. The film takes us behind the scenes with his alter ego Panti in the year she became the symbol of Ireland’s march towards marriage equality.
A struggling movie producer in search of an investor reluctantly follows the promise of money into Dublin’s drug underworld where she witnesses a botched murder attempt.
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Lobsteris a love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods. A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.
Talking to my Father features two voices from two eras each concerned with how we as a nation understand the architecture that surrounds our lives. Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early sixties and one of its most celebrated and influential figures was Robin Walker.
Based on the bestselling novel “Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost” by Cornelia Funke, Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails, which features Amy Huberman, follows a young boy Tom who discovers an ASG, an Averagely Spooky Ghost called Hugo in his cellar. He soon realizes that Hugo is not only completely harmless, but also desperately needs his help. Hugo cannot go back to his haunted house, because a dangerous AIG, an Ancient Ice Ghost, has moved in and is spreading an arctic cold over the entire town in the middle of summer. Tom and Hugo go to professional ghost-hunter Hetty Cuminseed, who doesn’t like children or ghosts very much, and who just lost her job at the CGI, the Central Ghosthunting Institute. Hetty teaches Tom and Hugo the basics of ghost-hunting and the three become an unusual team: only with friendship, courage and self-confidence can they overcome their adversary and save the town from the AIG.
Older Than Ireland features thirty men and women aged 100 years and over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland. Older Than Ireland ‘s observational style offers a rare insight into the personal lives of these remarkable individuals.
In the cut-throat London film industry a vivacious actress chasing her big break struggles to maintain her integrity in the face of the director’s advances
The GreatWall( Tadhg O’Sullivan)
This bold new documentary, an adaptation of a Kafka story, looks at the enclosure of Europe by a complex system of walls and fences. Mysterious and visually dazzling, the film journeys across a range of European landscapes, and encounters those whose lives are defined by these walls – detainees within European migrant camps. [IFI Programme Notes]
Tells the incredible story of Aidan MacCarthy, a young doctor from West Cork who survived some of the most harrowing episodes of World War II (including the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) and his family’s search to uncover the origin of the Japanese Samurai sword, which now resides in MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere.
You’re Ugly Too (Mark Noonan)
Will (Aidan Gillen) is released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his niece Stacey after the death of her mother. As they both head into the sleepy Irish midlands and attempt to be a family, they suffer a series of setbacks; Stacey is refused admission to the local school because of her recently developed narcolepsy; Will repeatedly comes close to breaking his prison-ordered curfew; and his attempts at being a father figure to her prove disastrous…As their future hangs in the balance they must search for a new way forward together.
Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated animated feature tells the story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.
Rachel, a rookie cop, is about to begin her first nightshift in a neglected police station in a Scottish, backwater town. The kind of place where the tide has gone out and stranded a motley bunch of the aimless, the forgotten, the bitter-and-twisted who all think that, really, they deserve to be somewhere else. They all think they’re there by accident and that, with a little luck, life is going to get better. Wrong, on both counts. Six is about to arrive – and All Hell Will Break Loose!
The sequel to Boorman’s 1987 Academy Award®-nominated picture, Queen and Country takes place in 1952. Bill Rohan is eighteen years old, dreaming his life away at the family’s riverside home, waiting to be called up for two years’ conscription in the British Army. His idyll is shattered by the harsh realities of boot camp. He meets Percy, an amoral prankster; they are rivals and antagonists, but they gradually forge a deep friendship in the claustrophobic environment of a closed, prison-like training camp. The pressure is briefly relieved by excursions into the outside world, where they both fall in love. Finally, Bill is confronted with the shattered lives of wounded boys returning from Korea.
Fortune’s Wheel is a documentary feature film about Bill Stephens, an ordinary young man in 1950s Ireland with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star. It is also a love story about Bill and his young and beautiful wife May, from East Wall. Their double act, Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner, was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the stage. With this act they hoped to break free from the suffocating reality of Irish life, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped.
The story gained national and international attention at the time, but it is only now – after 60 years of silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.
Set in rural Ireland, The Canal stars Rupert Evans as David, a film archivist with a morbid fascination for old films in which the subjects have since died. Right after learning that his wife may be cheating on him, she mysteriously disappears at the same time that his assistant Claire finds an old reel of film that points to a murder that took place in his house a hundred years ago. David starts to suspect her disappearance may involve some form of the supernatural but he also quickly becomes the prime suspect.
A slacker comedy which chronicles a hectic 24 hours in the life of would-be comedian Coilin (Killian Scott) and frustrated musician Alex (Peter Coonan). When Alex’s girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant, he refuses to allow her to derail his long-held plan to escape to London. Meanwhile the hapless Coilin is striking out on stage and off, as he attempts to get his faltering comedy career off the ground and win the heart of his dream girl. With time ticking down to Alex’s departure, the mismatched pair will be forced to confront the reality of their childhood dreams of artistic greatness while their lifelong friendship is tested to the limit.
It’s the end of the world. A flood is coming. Luckily for Finny and his dad Dave, a couple of clumsy Nestrians, an Ark has been built and all animals are welcome… well almost all. Unfortunately for them, Nestrians are not on the list! But Dave has a plan, and Finny and he manage to sneak onto the Ark disguised as Grymps – much to the horror of real Grymps, Hazel and her daughter Leah.
However their troubles are just beginning as the two curious youngsters end up falling over board. Now Finny and Leah have to brave the elements in their quest to find higher ground while fighting off hungry predators and making unlikely friends. Meanwhile on board the Ark the parents must set aside their differences and hatch a plan to turn the boat around and make it back in time to rescue their kids.
In in a desperate bid to save his mother from addiction and unite his broken family, a young taxi driver on the fringes of the criminal underworld is forced to take a job which will see him pushed further into its underbelly. But will John be prepared to act when the time comes knowing that whatever he decides to do, his and his family’s lives will be changed forever.
I Used To Live Here follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.
A documentary that focuses on Irish humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble, whose unwavering commitment and selfless efforts have seen her change the lives of countless children and families for the better since 1989. Her drive stems from a childhood in Ireland fraught with poverty, loss and institutional abuse. However, despite achieving so much in the face of adversity and the success of her global children’s foundation, Christina remains scarred by the memory of the three children she was unable to save, namely her own brother and two sisters, from whom she was separated at a very young age. Hundreds of thousands have benefitted as a result of her courage, daring and steadfast dedication to protecting the vulnerable from the evils of the world, but is it possible for Christina to put her own family back together after being separated for fifty-three years?
Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon)
A young man with mental health issues becomes intimate with a suicidal air hostess, but his obsessive mother enlists a dysfunctional cop to separate them.
Apples of the Golan (Keith Walsh & Jill Beardsworth)
The epic story of one village in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Before the Six Day War, Majdal Shams was one of 139 villages in the Golan Heights region. Only five remain. Over 130,000 Syrian Arabs were forced from their homes never to return. Amongst those who remain a stoic pragmatism prevails, Israel their home, Syria their homeland. Neither is paradise. They are too few to fight. The apples are the people’s bombs.
Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea won Best Irish Feature Film at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. Alex Fegan’s Older Than Ireland was awarded Best Irish Documentary while Mark Noonan’s You’re Ugly Too won Best Irish First Feature ( in cinemas 24th July)
The Bingham Ray New Talent Award was given to producer Kathryn Kennedy, who produced the Fleadh’s opening film, My Name is Emily. Seamus Deasy was awarded Best Cinematography in an Irish Feature for his work on the film.
Stephen McNally’s Meanwhile won the Don Quijote Award for Best Animation and the Best First Short Animation was awarded to Tom Caulfield’s Unhinged.
The James Horgan Award for Best Animation went to Maurice Joyce’s Violet, while the Tiernan MacBride Award for Best Short Drama was won by Phil Sheerin’s North.
Best First Short went to Tristan Heanue’s Today, while Cara Holmes’Queen of the Ploughwon Best Short Documentary.
The full list of winners of the 2015 Galway Film Fleadh:
Best Irish Feature Film: Song of the Sea
Best Irish First Feature: You’re Ugly Too
Best Cinematography in an Irish Feature: Seamus Deasy –My Name Is Emily
Best Irish Documentary: Older Than Ireland
James Horgan Award for Best Animation: Violet
The Don Quijote Award for Best Animation: Meanwhile
Best Animated Sequence in a Short Film: Geist
Best First Short Animation: Unhinged
The Tiernan MacBride Award for Best Short Drama: North
Best Short Drama: Queen of the Plough
Best First Short Drama: Today
The Donal Gilligan Award for Best Cinematography in a Short Film: Tim Fleming – My Bonnie
Best International Film: Margarita With A Straw
Best International Feature Documentary: Armor of Light and Touch the Light
Best International First Feature: My Skinny Sister
Best Human Rights Feature: Marzia, My Friend
The Bingham Ray New Talent Award: Kathleen Kennedy (Producer – My Name is Emily)
The Fleadh Pitching Award: Luke Morgan – Ewetopia
The One Minute Festival Award – Luke and Roger
Short Film Slam: I Am Jesus
Galway Hooker Award: Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera, and Mícheál O Meallaigh
DIR: Tomm Moore • WRI: Will Collins, Tomm Moore • PRO: Claus Toksvig Kjaer, Tomm Moore, Paul Young • ED: Darragh Byrne • MUS: Bruno Coulais • CAST: Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lucy O’Connell
Acclaimed Irish filmmaker and illustrator Tomm Moore follows up his first Oscar-nominated feature, medieval fantasy quest The Secret of Kells (2009) with another mythological and magical tale of venture steeped in legend and lore in his second consecutive nominated film, Song of the Sea. Inspired by the mysterious, fabled selkie creatures, who inhabit the land as humans but transform into seals at sea, Moore’s timeless tale, nostalgically delineated in hand-drawn, 2D animation, melds the mystical of yesteryear with a specific time in contemporary Irish culture to create a heartfelt story of origins, home and identity that will resonate with audiences of all ages.
Ben lives with his little sister Saoirse and father Conor in a lighthouse off the Irish coast. Their selkie mother returned to the sea six years previously, leaving Ben devastated and his father unable to cope. Troubled Ben grows increasingly resentful of mute Saoirse, who appears to embody the selkie tales told to him by his mother and whom he blames for her abrupt departure. When Saoirse discovers a white sealskin coat she is called to the sea and it is revealed that, she too, is a selkie and swims with the seals until she is washed up ashore, prompting Granny to take the children to the city for their own safety. Yearning to return home, they run away and in their adventurous quest, they encounter a host of mythical characters inhabiting a lost and forgotten world, who either help or hinder their challenging venture to see them safely back to the island.
Set in the 1980s and voiced by an all-star Irish cast, including Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan and Pat Shortt, Song of the Sea is a retrospective celebration of an Irish culture and identity that no longer appears visible in the nation’s ever-changing cultural landscape. Rooted in a particular space and time, depicted through its recognisable pre-Celtic Tiger iconography, unobtrusive Irish symbolism and colloquial expression, the film is a romantic and wistful portrait of a defunct past that evokes a particular cultural mood and serves as a welcoming breath of fresh air in a genre that is wholly engaged with a hyper-sophisticated, CGI platform. The film’s revisionist perspective elicits a deep emotional resonance to a specific cultural identity while also challenging the art of contemporary animation through its bewitching use of a traditional and predominantly redundant means of animation filmmaking. Moore’s hand-drawn, water-coloured aesthetic executes a craftsmanship that stimulates an intimacy, charm and melancholic beauty and which sits in complete opposition to its successor’s craft, so that each frame stands alone as a conventional laboured work of artistry and finesse.
A masterful storyteller, Moore’s dreamscape retrospectively entwines a bewitching fantasy of ancient folklore with a heart-warming contemporary narrative to marry the traditional with the new, the fantastic with the real, the joyous with the sinister and the mystical with the cynical. Narratively more accessible and visually more arresting than The Secret of Kells, the classic narrative of attempts to reach home in the face of adversity, driven by a host of recognizable archetypes in possession of traditional Irish values, engenders a nostalgically recognizable milieu that summons a language and behaviour of a bygone era, bringing a sense of wondrous familiarity to the film’s narrative and overall comforting aesthetic. Song of the Sea explicitly embraces its revisionism through its highly conventional narrative, stereotypes and style to commemorate a time when a sense of collective national and cultural identity appeared more clearly defined and resolute. Moore, however, does not glorify an idealised past in blissful amnesia. Shards in the narrative detail dark subtexts infusing a socio-cultural commentary that is fully aware of the past’s own failings. Themes of abandonment, alcoholism, depression, grief and isolation recall metaphorical legends of an ancient past realised through a more conflicted contemporary narrative, creating a vision that is both romantic and discordant but underpinning a sentimentality that is firmly embedded in its Irish identity.
Song of the Sea is a magical feast of visual delights, narrative intrigue and nostalgic revisionism that will appeal to the inner child of all ages. It can be viewed as a yearning to return to a familiar past and reclaim a forgotten identity, lost in an ever-increasing chaotic culture, both narratively and within the context of the animation genre. It serves to reinforce a more coherent vision of the past through its use of over-familiar and universal narrative devices, which will effectively resonate with knowing audiences, particularly those familiar with the pre-Celtic Tiger era in Irish culture. Song of the Sea does not seek to dethrone the existing digital prowess dominating the animation genre but rather through revisiting conventional mores within the genre itself it, celebrates a simplistic but highly emotive method of animation filmmaking and a distinctly traditional way of authentic Irish life.
Song of the Sea had its Irish premiere earlier this evening at the Galway Film Fleadh. Glen Falkenstein sent us this review from the film’s Australian premiere at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.
Films routinely transport us to another world, another place; somewhere different and sometimes so enthralling that you can’t rip your eyes away. Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea, set in modern Ireland, does just that, weaving a very rich tapestry of Celtic folklore around a world we know, rendering a laudable achievement in both technical and literal storytelling just that much more fascinating.
Conor (Brendan Gleeson) shares an isolated lighthouse with his wife Bronagh and their son Ben, who is expecting a little brother or sister. A very pregnant Bronagh disappears one night after putting her son to bed, with Ben waking up to find a despondent dad and a baby girl, Saoirse. Fast-forward six years and Ben’s entrenched dislike of Saoirse has only grown, his sister yet to utter a word, his closest companion his scruffy sheepdog Cu.
Saoirse discovers a shell in Ben’s possession, left to him by their mother, which whenever she plays it produces magical properties and summons a flock of fairies. After a late-night adventure by Saoirse into the sea to explore these new-found wonders, her grandma decides the lighthouse is no safe place for children and takes them away to live with her, with Ben and Saoirse determined to remain by the ocean with their father.
Expertly integrating aspects of Irish mythology and a modern-day setting and characters, Song of the Sea is throughout its run an engaging and visually enchanting story. Screening as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival, elements of Celtic mythology unfamiliar to the many who view the Oscar-nominated animated feature are rendered all that more engaging for both their vivid portrayal and demonstrated relevance and fusion within a current setting.
Tumbling down a rabbit hole of folklore, Ben encounters many magical, skilfully drawn creatures as he attempts to reunite himself and his sister with the ocean; both he and his father discovering the mythical secrets of their own family and home. The well-chosen style of animation is both descriptive and colourful but not overly complicated, creating images that are instantly charming as well as graphically striking when deployed for the more exuberant characters Ben meets along the way.
A memorable and endearing animated entry at this year’s festival, Song of the Sea sets itself above countless other children’s films by ably appealing to both kids and much older cinema-goers on so many wonderful levels at once.
Winners of the 12th IFTA Awards for Film and Drama were announced at a ceremony in Dublin last night.
Hosted by actress and television presenter, Caroline Morahan, the Awards Ceremony will be broadcast on TV3 on Monday, June 1st.
This year’s winner for Best Film went to Song of the Sea, which goes on release in Irish cinemas on 10th July. Also among the awards was Jim Sheridan, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
FULL IFTA 2015 WINNERS’ LIST:
Best Film: Song of the Sea
Best Director Film: Lenny Abrahamson for Frank
Best Script Film: Terry McMahon for Patrick’s Day
Irish Film Board Rising Star: Sarah Greene
Best Lead Actor Film: Moe Dunford for Patrick’s Day
Best Lead Actress Film: Deirdre O’Kane for Noble
Best Supporting Actor Film: Domhnall Gleeson for Frank
Best Supporting Actress Film: Sarah Greene
George Morrison Feature Documentary: In A House That Ceased To Be
Best Animation Short: Somewhere Down The Line
Best Short Film: Rockmount
Best Drama in association with BAI: Love/Hate 5
Best Director Drama: Ciaran Donnelly for Vikings
Best Script Drama: Stuart Carolan for Love/Hate
Best Lead Actor Drama: Aidan Gillen for Charlie
Best Lead Actress Drama: Charlie Murphy for Love/Hate
Best Supporting Actor Drama: Stephen Rea for The Honourable Woman
Best Supporting Actress Drama: Aisling Franciosi for The Fall
Best Director of Photography: James Mather for Frank
Best Costume Design: Lorna Marie Mugan for Peaky Blinders
Best Editing: Emer Reynolds for One Million Dubliners
Best Make-Up and Hair sponsored by M.A.C.: Vikings
Best Original Score: Stephen McKeon for Queen and Country
Best Production Design: John Paul Kelly for The Theory of Everything
Best Sound: Patrick’s Day
Best International Film: Boyhood
Best International Actor: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
Best International Actress: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
Tomm Moore’s Oscar nominatedSong of the Sea has won the Grand Prize at the second Tokyo Anime Award Festival. The full list of winners below:
Feature Film Competition
Grand Prize – Song of the Sea– Dir. Tomm Moore, Ireland
Best Film Award – Mune – Dir. Alexandre Heboyan, Benoit Philippon, France
Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Prize – Song of the Sea– Dir. Tomm Moore, Ireland
Short Film Competition
Grand Prize – We Can’t Live Without Cosmos. – Dir. Konstantin Bronzit, Japan
Best Film Award – Bang bang! – Dir. Julien Bisar Beach Flags – Dir. Sarah Saidan
Special Jury Prize – My Stuffed Granny – Dir. Effie Pappa
Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Prize – We Can’t Live Without Cosmos. – Dir. Konstantin Bronzit, Japan
The Audience Choice Award – Sicigorousawa un Cironnop – Dir. Sugihara Tune