Directed by Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta, Last Hijack is a true tale of survival in Somalia told from the pirate’s perspective. Combining animation with documentary storytelling, the film takes an innovative hybrid approach to explore how one Somali pirate – Mohamed – came to live such a brutal and dangerous existence. Animated re-enactments exploring Mohamed’s memories, dreams and fears from his point of view are juxtaposed with raw footage from his everyday life in an original non-fiction narrative.
Working closely for the past four years with directors Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta and the Submarine team, Nicky Gogan and Caroline Campbell of Still Films produced the animation for the documentary with Gavin Kelly and the animators at Piranha Bar, using a bespoke technique developed with Tommy, painter Hisko Hulsing and illustrator Aaron Sacco.
Producer Nicky Gogan said: “It was such a privilege to work on this documentary with Tommy and Femke, both of whom have made films I love and admire. Also bringing to life the paintings in such an imaginative and unique way was really exciting to us. It was really great to work with Gavin and his team as we have a long history of pushing animation boundaries both technically and aesthetically through our collaboration when programming the Darklight Festival.”
Last Hijack is a Dutch / Irish / German / Belgian co-production by Submarine in co-production with Still Films, Razor Film, Savage Film, IKON and ZDF. In association with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board. Supported by the Media Programme of the European Union, Netherlands Film Fund, CoBO, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, the Dutch Media Fund and the Flanders Audiovisual Fund with the participation of PLANÈTE + and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse.
Still Films award-winning documentary Seaview, which was filmed with asylum seekers living in the former Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Mosney, screens at 11:45 tonight on RTÉ1.
An hour north of Dublin beside the sea is a bizarre looking collection of grey cement buildings with brightly painted doors, and rusting fairground rides. This is Mosney – Ireland’s Coney Island. A former Butlin’s holiday camp, Mosney was once a world fully equipped for entertainment, with arcades, fairground rides, holiday chalets. It was a place where Irish families would escape the daily grind of work in order to relax, to dance, enjoy themselves. A visit to Mosney today presents a radically different picture, but still a picture of escape.
Seaview is directed by Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley.
Independent Irish production companies Bandit Films and Still Films today confirmed that feature film Black Ice will be released in Irish cinemas on September 20th 2013. The film will also screen at the Galway Film Fleadh this weekend and had its World Premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February. Directed by Johnny Gogan and starring Killian Scott and Jane McGrath, the film is a dramatic action thriller set against the backdrop of the local petrol-head scene in rural Ireland. Black Ice will screen on Saturday July 13th at 2.15pm at the Galway Film Fleadh with stars Jane McGrath, Dermot Murphy and director Johnny Gogan in attendance.
Set in rural Donegal, Black Ice follows Jimmy Devlin, played by ‘Love/Hate’ star Killian Scott, and his complicated relationship with girlfriend Alice Watters, played by newcomer Jane McGrath who has been receiving rave reviews for her feature film debut. The story, set in a clandestine road racing scene where Jimmy is considered “top dog” among the petrol heads, also follows his and Alice’s struggle to break into the legit professional rally scene, but there are other forces at work in this shadowy border world threatening to undermine their ambition. The world of cars, whether it be the modified car scene or the rally scene, is a big sub-culture in many countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. There is a degree of mystery and secrecy around the world of cars, young people and speed.
Set in the period around the Irish economic crash of 2008 Black Ice was shot on locations in Sligo and Leitrim, a developing hot-bed of film-making now playing host to the new Ken Loach film. Gogan’s third feature after The Last Bus Home and Mapmaker, Black Ice is co-producer Still Films first fiction film foray having previously scored hits with documentaries Pyjama Girls and Seaview.
The title track for the film, performed by Sligo rapper Myster E and Sarah Crummy and written by Johnny Gogan and Myster E will be released as a single in Ireland on 29th July.
Johnny Gogan, director and producer, while expressing his gratitude to the film’s wonderful cast commented: “It’s very fitting that Black Ice should be screened at the prestigious Galway Film Fleadh given that the film was produced under the auspices of Studio North West, a hugely vibrant and creative filmmaking community in the North-West of the country. Their involvement and that of the region’s car community was decisive in the successful realisation of a film with so much action and high production values. We’re really looking forward to screening the film at the Fleadh, and to the release of the film on September 20th. All of our cast and dedicated crew worked tirelessly on the project, so to see the final result on the big screen and to have the appreciation of an audience is really important.”
Producer Nicky Gogan also commented on the commitment of the cast and crew, noting that “The enthusiasm and energy of the crew has translated onto the screen, where the thrilling high-speed race sequences are brought to life very vividly. Along with the dynamic aspects of the film, there is at its heart a deeply affecting universal story of first love, with people trying to pick up the pieces and make a life for themselves after the economic crash. The film really does have something for everyone, and we think it’s a model of how films can be made in Ireland in the future.”
The film was produced by Bandit Films and Still Films, with the support of The Irish Film Board / Bord Scannán na hÉireann.
The TV premiere of Pyjama Girls takes place on RTÉ 1 at 10:15pm on Tuesday, 13th March. Ross Whitaker talked to director Maya Derrington shortly before its screening at the 2010 Stranger Than Fiction Festival. This article originally appeared as the spotlight article in Film Ireland summer 2010, issue 133.
This year’s Stranger Than Fiction festival had a new slot (moving from June to April) and a new festival programmer in Niall MacPherson. The line-up for the festival was as good as it has ever been, boasting impressive titles like Last Train Home, American: The Bill Hicks Story, Fred Wiseman’s La Danse and Chris Rock’s Good Hair.
While the attendance of incoming international filmmakers was greatly restricted by the volcanic ash cloud, Mother Nature had no such impact on audience figures and there were impressive crowds throughout the festival.
Over the weekend, long lines regularly snaked through the IFI, proving that there’s very much still an appetite for high quality documentaries. The most popular film of the festival was undoubtedly Pyjama Girls, the thrice sold-out directorial debut of Still Films’ Maya Derrington.
Pyjama Girls is a touching, absorbing slice ofDublin life that had the audience transfixed from beginning to end. Running at a tight 70 minutes, the film draws you into the chaotic life ofDublin teenager and habitual pyjama-wearer Lauren.
Over the course of the film we learn about the challenges that life throws at Lauren – from her addict mother to the disruptive world of the flats – and understand the crucial importance of her friendship with her more grounded best friend Tara. Balancing tenderness with hilarity, Pyjama Girls tracks the explosive micro-dramas of teenage life against the bleak backdrop ofDublin’s inner city flats.
The film has been described as an observational documentary and the strongest scenes are those that capture the tension and love in conversations between Lauren and her immediate family members. One scene in which Lauren has her fingernails painted by her little sister is worth the admission price alone.
These observational scenes are interspersed with more stylised interview-based expositional vignettes that retrospectively tell the story of Lauren’s young life. These scenes bring us closer to Lauren and give us insight into her behaviour and temperament.
Derrington decided to make the film when she spotted some young girls on the street in pyjamas and was shocked by the sight.
‘I was inspired to make the film because of my own surprise and fascination with the daytime pyjama phenomenon. I asked myself why would an item of clothing bring out such shock in me because I’d usually be quite laid-back about clothing. Then I noticed that people all over the city were getting riled by the topic.’
‘The vitriol it provokes reminds me of the response to punk. I wanted to explore on screen the intensity of being a female teenager: the everyday dramas and the depths that are hidden behind the clothes and the posturing.’
Derrington used the setting of the flats and the pyjamas themselves as visual inspiration when approaching the film.
‘There were two things in my mind as I began, one was the bright softness of the pyjamas as a metaphor for female teenage life and against that the harsh lines of the flats. I was really struck by the architecture of the area which combined brutality and community, so I wanted the place to be very present within the film.’
The project was funded by the Irish Film Board under the micro-budget scheme, which completely funds films up to a total budget of 100k. The film was a big undertaking that took up two years of Derrington’s life and the budget was therefore understandably tight.
‘We put it forward for funding as a low-budget project because we just wanted to get on with it,’ says producer Nicky Gogan. ‘We had pitched it to a few broadcasters at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival and although people seemed interested in it, we felt that if we wanted to make the film that Maya imagined we might need funders who were a little more open and flexible to what it might become. We kept it low-key, often it was just Maya and ap Sinead Ni Bhroin that made up the crew, and that suited the observational approach.’
‘One of the descriptive terms we used throughout preproduction was ‘micro-dramas’, adds Derrington. ‘We wanted to find the micro-dramas of female teenage lives and I think that term in itself would be enough to terrify a lot of commissioning editors. That along with the term ‘observational, because any observational work creates big challenges for commissioning editors because you can’t guarantee what will happen.’
One of the great challenges of making an observational film can be finding an ending and Derrington admits that she had some sleepless nights wondering where the film would end.
‘I have to admit that I didn’t think I had an ending. The girls we were following kept joking that they were going to get themselves arrested to give us an ending. It was in the edit that we found the ending. It says something about the open-ended nature of life.’
Judging by the response to the film at the Stranger Than Fiction festival, the film has plenty to look forward to in the future.
A new action drama based on boy racers in the border area is currently being filmed in Sligo and Leitrim. Directed by Johnny Gogan (Mapmaker), ‘Black Ice’ is the first drama produced by Still Films’ Nicky Gogan (Pyjama Girls).
Set in small town rural Ireland, the main past-time for its youth is racing cars down an old “concession road” and the authorities of North and South find it difficult to police in the new open border dispensation. The drama follows Jimmy Devlin, played by Love/Hate star Killian Scott, and his complicated relationship with girlfriend Alice Watters, played by newcomer Jane McGrath (recently seen in Little Women at The Gate).
Johnny Gogan, Director has said: ‘The film is set in 2008 and present day. It’s a contemporary story that’s about post-crash Ireland where our central character, Alice, is trying to pick up the pieces. It’s particularly fitting that the way we are making the film, combining new filmmaking technologies with the ethos of Studio North West, reflects this aspect of the story.’
Co-written by Johnny Gogan and Brian Leyden, scenes in the micro-budget feature depict thrilling high speed race sequences with local car enthusiasts Richie Irwin, Noel Crawley, Terry McDermott, Shamie McGuinness and Andrew Trotter performing white knuckle stunts for the feature.
Producer Nicky Gogan has praised the goodwill of the local community: ‘In addition to fixing the crew’s cars and everything else, it’s amazing how people have really got behind the project, the racing forums around the country are buzzing with news about the film.’
Production began in early February and the four week shoot wraps next week, with the aim of an autumn release.
The fabulous final JDIFF weekend got off to a top-notch start with a fantastic feast of fresh films – of the short variety, of course. These six hand-picked gems showcase the crème de la crème of Ireland’s talent, all the while making the audience laugh, tugging on our heartstrings and documenting some amazing characters.
First up was another excellent short, shot by the talented crew over at IADT. The Centre of the Universe tells the story of a young airhostess with the power to save the universe. This quirky sci-fi is written and directed by Brian Dunster and stars Michelle Beamish, Rosemary Henderson, Sophie Peacock and the fantastically funny David Michael Scott.
Following this was Frontiersman, which provided quite a contrast. This documentary follows the incredible stories of rugged individualists, sole traders, and entrepreneurs from Donegal; Arsene, Paddy Toye, Liam Grier, Alphie McCollum, Pat Gillespie, Eamon Friel and James McDaid. Heartfelt, eccentric and truly inspiring, this (quite long) short was created for the Sharing Stories project by director Derek O’Connor.
The tone got a bit heavier next with Thomas Hefferon’s Switch. This Galway Film Centre/RTÉ funded short tells the tragic tale of a man trying to atone for hit and run, where he fled the scene two years earlier, leaving a man dead and his daughter seriously injured. This piece is put together well, but the performances from Barry Barnes, Lesley Conroy and Jane McGrath are simply amazing.
This was succeeded by a rom-com to lighten the mood. Directed by Shimmy Marcus and supported by the Goethe Institute, Rhinos is absolutely gorgeous romance that is certainly not lost in translation. Escaping her tumultuous relationship, the vivacious Ingrid spends a day with quiet, reserved Thomas. He takes her sightseeing around Dublin for where they share a deep understanding ¬– despite their fundamental language barrier. * I’m sorry other shorts, you were really very good, but this was without doubt my undisputed favorite. Perhaps ever.
Up next was Still Films’ observational documentary Rats Island. This quiet, original piece showed a day in the life of Eddie, a man who was unemployed and homeless until he moved to a small island in a river estuary with his son, Andrew. Directed by Mike Hannon, this film subtlety emphasises the hardship of daily life for this odd charismatic character.
And the final film of the evening was Pairs and Spares, a light comedy about feuding bowlers in a strike-fuelled showdown. Philip Kelly directs a fun Warrior films’ short featuring Rachel-Mae Brady, Paul Halpin and Jack Hickey.
A lovely balance of drama, romance and comedy, these shorts really hit the spot and made me forget about the many longs I had left to watch.
The good people at Still Films have given us 3 copies of the wonderful Pyjama Girls to give to 3 lucky people.
To win yourself a copy, simply email email@example.com with ‘Pyjama Girls’ in the subject line and the Film Ireland hat will choose winners by lunchtime on Monday,21st November
‘’A touching, absorbing slice of Dublin life…. had the audience transfixed from beginning to end.’
Pyjama Girls is now on sale at the Irish Film Institute Film Shop. It will also be available to purchase from Tower Records, Wicklow Street & Easons, the Kilkenny Design Centre and from www.stillfilms.org from Monday, 21st November.
Critically acclaimed Irish documentary Pyjama Girls will be released on DVD in time for Christmas in the IFI Bookshop, Tower Records and online at www.stillfilms.org, launching Still Films Distribution.
Irish production company Still Films are distributing the DVD with support of the Irish Film Board’s new Direct Distribution funding programme, marking the launch of the innovative Still Films Distribution arm. This follows Still Films’ success with the theatrical release of the film in cinemas around the country in 2010. International trends for alternative distribution and the success of independent distributors such as Dogwoof in the UK has allowed Still Films to kick-start their own distribution plans with Pyjama Girls.
Still Films will also be working with Dogwoof in the near future to bring their successful Popup Cinema initiative to Ireland, empowering people to take an active role in exhibiting films in their own communities and providing endless opportunities for alternative distribution.
James Hickey, Chief Executive of Bord Scannán na hÉireann / The Irish Film Board has said; ‘We were delighted to see Pyjama Girls meet with such a positive reaction when it was released in the IFI last year. It is one of many interesting IFB funded feature documentaries telling unusual and compelling Irish stories which have met with much success internationally and in Ireland over the past few years. Hopefully this forthcoming DVD release will give Irish audiences another opportunity to see Pyjama Girls and to enjoy the story of Lauren and Tara.’
With its uncompromising look at the lives of some of Dublin’s most vulnerable young people, Pyjama Girls focuses on 15-year-old Lauren and her best friend Tara. Lauren’s future hangs in the balance as she regularly takes part in street violence with rival teen gangs and faces expulsion from school. Over the course of the film we learn about the challenges that life throws her – from her addict mother to the disruptive world of the flats – and understand the crucial importance of her friendship with Tara.
Director Maya Derrington said, ‘We were overwhelmed by the way Pyjama Girls resonated with audiences across the country and in response to public demand the film will now be widely available in shops. I hope this will be the first of many independent Irish documentary DVD success stories from Still Films Distribution.’
Irish documentary Pyjama Girls is released on DVD from 15th November exclusively at the IFI, with more retailers to follow.