Irish Film Review: Atlantic



DIR: Risteard O Domhnaill • PRO: Marie-Therese Garvey • ED: Nigel O’Regan 

Following his much lauded debut documentary, The Pipe, about the Corrib Gas controversy in the northwest coast of Ireland, Risteard O Domhnaill returns to the topic of resource mismanagement, this time taking on the impact of the oil industry and fishing restrictions on small scale fishermen across the Atlantic. Focusing on fishing towns across Ireland, Newfoundland and Norway, O Domhnaill presents the plight these fishermen face in the aftermath of the overfishing of the ’70s and ’80s. With stringent laws that favour highly profitable but ecologically disastrous fishing trawlers and the invasive drilling of multi-national oil companies, the more traditional net fishing practices are dying out along with ever-growing species of fish. New generations favour work on oil rigs which is, ironically, killing the very fishing traditions they come from. Like a Möbius strip, the issue is cyclical and ever twisting.

As in The Pipe, O Domhnaill utilises affecting characters to draw us into these small communities and their quandary. Despite the hardships these fishermen have already faced and the bleak future their livelihoods appear to hold, they never come across plaintive, but rather insightful, humorous and brimming with integrity. The individual voice is key. Stunning aerial photography transports us across the great ocean – weaving into and under, offering breathtaking glimpses of the life within it – until the camera settles beautifully on the small towns, the stillness echoing the sense of loss in the already dwindling communities.

Never one to shy away from those culpable, O Domhnaill shines a strong light on those in power, both past and present. Archive footage brings on home the flippant attitude of times past and our own mishandling of resources. Norway offers a beacon of hope with a government seemingly in tune with its country’s coveted resources from the outset. But it is a complex and difficult fight and something we all need to be more aware of.

Tess Motherway

138 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Atlantic is released 29th April 2016

Atlantic – Official Website






Interview: Tess Motherway, Dublin Doc Festival Director


Dee O’Donoghue chatted with Dublin Doc Festival Director, Tess Motherway, after the event to discuss her impressions of the night and why she feels the Dublin Doc Festival is an important platform for documentary filmmakers.


How many entrants were there in total and was this amount up on last year?

We had over 80 entrants this time around due in part to our engagement with online submission platform Film Festival Life, which accounted for almost half of the entries.  This was indeed an improvement on last year and allowed us to cast our net wider in terms of the films that we received.


The theme of the festival was Interior/Exterior and Mindscape/Landscape – how did the seven selected films meet this thematic criteria above all other entrants?

The aim of each screening is to carefully curate short documentary film in a programme that complements each film.  I’m always guided by the entries, I like to see what filmmakers are engaging with, the subjects that excite them, and work the programme around what we receive.  I take a long time to consider and review all the films, but it was quickly clear that this year’s strongest entries had the common thread of interior/exterior.  I then got to work selecting films that worked well together and engaged with this theme in varying and interesting ways.


Did you receive much international interest and how are you hoping to attract more international entrants next year?

Most of our entries were actually international, which is great, and a good measure of how far the festival is reaching.  We always have strong Irish representation in the programmes, being an Irish festival, but the demographic of films submitted depends on so many factors.  We really pushed the boat out with this year’s screening launching a new website and setting up more social media accounts and actively engaging with other festivals and filmmakers.  This has had a huge effect on growth and I’m confident that it will result in even more submissions.


Why do you think it is important to hold a Dublin Doc Festival?

I think it’s really important to offer the hugely talented short documentary filmmakers out there (of which Ireland has many) more opportunities to show their films as I think short documentary film has limited opportunities within film festival shorts programmes to be shown.  Dublin Doc Fest was founded with the objective of creating a new platform for documentary film in Ireland and, being a documentary filmmaker myself, my aim is to present short documentary in carefully curated programmes and non-traditional screening spaces.


Were you pleased with the success of the event and how do you hope to exceed this year’s festival next year?

I was delighted with this year’s event. We were completely sold out and there felt like a real buzz about it, especially online. We received really positive feedback and people are already asking when the next will be, can it be bigger and when can they enter their films. Our next step is to put together a solid funding and sponsorship plan to enable us to put on a bigger, longer event. I chose the name Dublin Doc Fest with the ambition of it becoming a full festival some day and that is still my goal. Next year I’d love to have a few screenings take place, I’d also love to take a different approach with the film festival structure and bring something new to the way things are done.


The third Dublin Doc Fest took place on Saturday, 28th February 2015 at 7pm in The Irish Georgian Society, City Assembly House, 58 South William Street, Dublin.


You can read Dee O’Donoghue’s report from the festival here




DIR/WRI/PRO: Michael Hewitt, Dermot Lavery • ED: Andrew Tohill • DOP: Mark Garrett • DES: Steve Saklad • MUS: Mark Gordon, Richard Hill • CAST: Liam Neeson

Road racing is one of the fastest and most dangerous of all motor sports with Ireland and The Isle of Man being the only two places in the world that it is legal. Despite this, it is as popular now as it was when the infamous Dunlop brothers first appeared on the scene. Narrated by Liam Neeson, Road is a feature documentary about the Dunlop family who have dominated road racing titles since the 1970s. With humble beginnings in Ballymoney, County Antrim, brothers Joey and Robert’s foray into the sport began with a love of racing friends on the back roads of their hometown. Throughout their careers they constructed and repaired their own bikes, always close to the mechanics of the sport.

A tale of two generations – the film weaves masterfully between Michael and William, sons of Robert Dunlop – who continue the family tradition into present day. This is executed beautifully through the use of archive footage, often reconstructing shots from the past and juxtaposing them against the two young men preparing for a race.

There are some wonderful moments in this film, and terrific racing footage from every vantage point of the machine. The documentary really gets under the skin of this family and their obsession with the sport with a lovely sense of these brothers, of who they were, throughout. Despite personal histories full of tragedy, the need these young men have for the sport is evident – and it is a need – which is wrapped up in identity and family tradition. This could easily be a fan film or a family memoir, but it avoids both. A worthy topic, well told.

Tess Motherway

PG (See IFCO for details)
101 mins

Road is released on 13th June 2014

Road – Official Website


Report: Film Ireland at the Dublin Doc Fest

Doc Fest


Carmen Bryce reports on the Dublin Doc Fest, which recently took place as part of the 10 Days in Dublin arts festival.

The Dublin Doc Fest (DDF) served documentary aficionados with a generous helping of beautifully crafted shorts as part of the ‘10 Days in Dublin’ arts festival.

DDF is an exciting new short documentary film festival that showcased work from both Irish and International documentary filmmakers, its objective to provide a new platform for short documentary film and to place it centre stage. It is the only purely short documentary film event in Ireland.

In this first instalment on 4th July at the Sugar Club (D2), the festival delivered work exploring art and the artistic process, memory, addiction, hope and the strength of the human spirit from award winning documentaries and filmmakers such Colm Quinn, Martin Bleazard, Andrew Telling, Hedvika Hlavackova, Siobhan Perry and Ross McDonnell.

The festival invited an audience to sink their teeth into an assortment of documentaries that each offered a brief but provoking insight into vastly contrasting topics, from springboard diving to drug addiction.

The festival got underway with Off The Board by Siobhan Perry, which took a look at the world of spring board diving in Ireland. The doc, which received ‘Special Mention’ at the Galway Film Fleadh 2012, is a slowly paced, stylised short, easing the audience gently into the evening’s screening experience.

Set against a melodious soundtrack, the movement of diving in the docu is represented through vivid and striking images of the young divers while they narrate their experience, motivations and fears as competitive athletes through disembodied voices.


Needle Exchange

Colm Quinn’s Needle Exchange offered a very contrasting tone, style and content. Produced by Andrew Freedman for Venom Productions, Needle Exchange tells the story of two recovering drug addicts who practice tattooing on each other and find over time that they mark each other in more ways than merely physical.

The engaging, touching and at times, darkly humorous documentary, had already screened in festivals such as the Galway Film Festival, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Worldwide Short Film Festival and Paris Documentary Festival to name a few.

Another memorable screening at the Dublin Doc Festival was Jan Blom by Martin Bleazard, which tells the story of a rowing coach from Holland who found himself in the Port Alfred township of South Africa after his partner died and started an organisation to train disadvantaged children in sports and basic education. The story of Jan Blom is uplifting and inspirational, warming the hearts of even the most cynical viewer.


Remember Me, My Ghost

A highlight of the festival was Remember Me, My Ghost by Ross McDonnell, in which a resident of the notorious Ballymun flats in Dublin’s northside recounts her bleak experiences living amongst drug abuse, social deprivation and the constant threat of violence.

The documentary was developed out of McDonnell’s stills project ‘Joyride’ in which he photographed teenage residents of Ballymun. The initial focus of the project was as a fictional feature with the script developed through interviews with Ballymun’s real life protagonists. However, upon McDonnell’s return to the area the tower blocks had been demolished so he decided to take another approach for the short.

Instead, we get a heartbreaking story of a woman who has her hopes of a new life for her young family violated and crushed but ultimately finds her way through the other side to a better future.

Festival Director Tess Motherway told Film Ireland she would love to see DDF become a fully fledged and internationally renowned event.

She said, “As festival director, I couldn’t be happier with how the first ever screening went. I was delighted with the turn out and have been receiving nothing but positive feedback for the selection of films, the way they were put together, which was a huge motivation – to screen short documentary film as a curated event, and for the event itself.”

Tess added, “The essence of the festival is to specially curate short documentary film in an engaging way – to counteract the trend of showing short docs as opening acts to larger features. I believe Ireland has some of the best documentary filmmakers in the business but unfortunately they receive little acknowledgement closer to home. As for short documentary film, it is a hugely underappreciated form of film and that’s why I wanted to create a new platform for short documentary film in Ireland.

“There was a lot of work put in, as I work full time in the industry myself, and spent most evenings over the last few months promoting, watching submissions, selecting films and getting the right formats for screening. It was important for me to show high quality films in high quality formats. What also sprung from submissions, and which was also something that I wanted to create, was a mix of funded, professional and student films side by side – not separated, but shown together for their quality and merit.

“I would love to see DDF grow bigger in the future, to become a fully fledged and internationally renowned event, on par with other documentary film festivals such as Sheffiled Doc Fest and to create a hub for audience and filmmakers alike,” she added.

Carmen Bryce




JDIFF 2013: IFB Shorts Programme


Tess Motherway tries on a selection of IFB Shorts, which played at the 11th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (14-24 February 2013)

IFB Shorts

Wed, 20th February
Light House 1
125 mins
The IFB’s shorts programme this year was an interesting mix.  There were the usual themes of family, relationships and death, but many took an almost wicked take on this, some even teetering on the bizarre.  One thing, however, that was certain, was the technical quality – each short excelled in sound and vision, something that, for a variety of reasons, does not always go hand in hand with short films.


The animation offerings were particularly impressive like Fear of Flying, a delightful short animation by Conor Finnegan about a bird who decides to avoid winter migration because of his fear of flying and Learning to Fish by Teemu Auersalo, a humorous but poignant take on consumerism portrayed through the plight of the urban seagull.  Perhaps the most noteworthy, however, was the opening short, Irish Folk Furniture by Tony Donoghue, a gorgeously (and painstakingly) made animated documentary about furniture-making and restoration in a small town in Tipperary.  It is just such a beautifully simple subject and masterfully made short, well deserving of its Best Animation in last years Sundance Film Festival.


There were a also good handful of short dramas on the programme, most notably Un Peu Plus by Conor Ferguson, a bitter sweet journey of an elderly womans love of confectionary and Homemade by Luke McManus, a darkly comic love story that takes home made baking to new heights.


Documentary also made a healthy appearance in the form of Laura McGanns The End of the Counter, a lament about the end of the small Irish corner shop, and with it, the personal shopping experience and Home a lovely and cleverly constructed portrait of six individuals talking about their first homes.


The IFB shorts programmes are always well attended, wherever they go, and the line-up in JDIFF was no exception.  People are interested, they respond to them, perhaps because they are a snap shot of what is funded in Ireland today.  Whatever the reason, long may it continue.

Tess Motherway



We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Field

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film


The Field

(Jim Sheridan, 1990)

‘… Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain…’

Tess Motherway

In an interview with Jim Sheridan marking the twentieth anniversary of his famous adapation of John B. Keane’s 1966 play, he reflected on the modest success of the film in America stating ‘…America and elsewhere don’t get the concept of farming the land for somebody else… it is medieval to them, a foreign concept.’ (Moon, Aileen, ‘Jim Sheridan Talks About ‘The Field’’) Land ownership; that historic and most quintessential of Irish problems.

In The Field, Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain – drenched in the wilds of the west coast, the setting is at once romantic, a place of idyl, at times almost harking back to Ford’s The Quiet Man in sentimentality – a working place of purpose and sustainability. We are drawn into the landscape, invited to understand The Bull’s (Richard Harris) inertia regarding the land.

Conversely, it is also the setting of terrible violence, suspicion and anger, a lost place, steeped in the memory of Ireland’s past. For The Bull, the field acts as a double-edged sword, a provider and source of security, but also a tormentor – the divisive wedge between himself and his family and, ultimately, leading to his own mental decline. Sheridan utilises the landscape to translate these conflicts – the heavy stone, gushing river and violent storms – exaggerating the elements in order to optimise tension and climax. Purposefully devoid of time and place, Sheridan’s Ireland is the Ireland of nowhere and everywhere, and, unable to accept a changing Ireland, The Bull plays out these post-colonial demons, and the field provides the stage.

‘There’s another law stronger than the common law …. The law of the land.’

Today, Ireland continues its struggle with the land, but in a very different way. Irish cinema has always echoed this and, as with countless works of Irish art to date, land and landscape continue to be potent subject-matter. The Field is no exception and, twenty two years on, its impact is no less powerful.

Tess Motherway

Click here for more We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film



DVD Review: Circus Born


Matt Skinner’s Circus Born is one of those painful anomalies, bursting with quirk and promise but falling just ever so short of the mark. Gritty and observational in approach, the documentary takes the form of ‘a year in the life’ of Fossett’s Circus, where the focus on the everyday labour and toil overshadows the glamour of the spotlight.

The film never shies away from the honest opinions and struggles (and tempers) that revolve around the big top.; the frustrations of orchestrating an act with language barriers, new perspectives on the absence of animals in today’s circus by the children that grew up around them, and the uncertainty of securing seat sales as they travel across country, are but some of the issues covered. This is only disappointing due to the fact that Circus Born seems to merely touch on the history of Fossett’s family circus through sporadic interviews with its oldest surviving member.

There are attempts to elaborate on these snippets, but, unfortunately, they become lost in the mix. This is a shame, as what is revealed is fascinating and recalled with the warmth and humour of a true born show-person.

That said, there are some really nice, honest moments throughout and the balance between the genuine love of the performers is juxtaposed nicely with the reality of the day-to-day running of the show.

Tess Motherway


DVD now available

For enquiries regarding Circus Born for festivals, other showings or TV please email Matt at