Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman, Co-Directors/Co-Writers of ‘Extra Ordinary’

In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman, Co-Directors/Co-Writers of Extra Ordinary, a supernatural comedy which tells the story of Rose, a sweet and lonely small town driving instructor who must use her supernatural ‘talent’ to save the daughter of a local man from a washed up rock-star looking to use her in a satanic pact that will reignite his fame.

Mike & Enda discuss things that go bump in the night, getting the project from script to screen, and working with Maeve Higgins, Will Forte, Barry Ward and Terri Chandler. They also talk about their early days in IADT and experimenting on mini-VHS tape, making music videos, ads, the influences behind their work and being practical with visual effects .

Extra Ordinary is released in Irish cinemas 13th September

 

 

vimeo.com/teamdaddy

 

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Review of Irish Film at The Dublin Feminist Film Festival 2019: Shorts Programme 

 

The Dublin Feminist Film Festival has established firm roots on Dublin’s cultural calendar, shining a spotlight on women in film. It promotes and celebrates female filmmakers, hoping to inspire and empower others to get involved in filmmaking.

Irene Falvey went along to this year’s Shorts Programme.

On Thursday, 22nd August, the Dublin Feminist Film Festival showcased an impressive and varied collection of short films, all made by female directors. 

The Beekeeper (2019) Ireland (6.29)
Dir. Robyn Conroy

As the only animation feature in the programme, The Beekeeper stood out as the most visually arresting of the shorts. Set in a bamboo forest, the landscape feels blissfully detached from the world. In a short timeframe, The Beekeeper manages to create a bond between the two characters – a young girl called Mae and the bear that protects her; their attachment to each other is undeniable. They live in harmony together, nourishing themselves on honey. Disaster strikes when Mae discovers where this food source comes from, a bee sting attack forces the bear to return Mae to her place amongst her own kind. This short film evokes equal parts sadness and sweetness; the joy and simplicity of their connection and the sadness of their true incompatibility.    

Moon Rabbit (2018) Japan (14.25)
Dir. Kae Ho

Moon Rabbit tells the story of 7-year-old Rio as she returns to Japan with her recently separated Japanese mother Seiko and her older brother. Clearly these kids have grown up in America and this trip launches them back into their Japanese heritage, comically highlighted when their cousin tactlessly proclaims how foreign they look. While the film does deal with cultural differences, many other ideas are threaded throughout; themes such as innocence, the stories we tell ourselves and secrecy all feature. The film takes place principally in Seiko’s parent’s house. This domestic setting is used to effectively illustrate the main motif – what goes on behind closed doors.  While this family unit is closely contained in a physical sense within this house, behind closed doors they can easily block each other out. The children are dismissed as Seiko closes the door and confides in her mother about the breakdown of her marriage. Rio’s older brother and her cousin shut the door so that they don’t have to play with her. This barrier that is created by closed doors is lifted when Seiko enters the bathroom where an upset Rio has shut herself in. The privacy that a closed door provides fades and secrecy falls away. This is an insightful film about the secrets we keep and the stories we need to tell ourselves. 

 

Tra na mban / Ladies Beach (2019) Mexico (6.36)
Dir. Carmen Garcia Gonzalez

This short documentary provides an insightful glimpse into the lives of women that brave the chilly depths of the Irish sea every day. Several of the women that meet regularly are interviewed; explaining honestly why they do this and the effect it has on their lives. In particular Martell speaks of the way this ritual has transformed how she feels about herself and how she carries out her life. We get the sense that we are being let in on a great secret to life; the women are infectious in their enthusiasm. What is interesting about this documentary is that it shows a way that these women have carved out an inclusive and supportive community. It is a practise built on bravery and self-respect. 

 

Driving Lessons (2019) Iran (12.48) Winner Best International film
Dir. Marziyeh Riahi

Driving Lessons focuses on an Iranian woman taking driving lessons; it is illegal for her to be alone with her instructor meaning that her traditional and misogynistic husband must tow along for the ride. The film is shot solely in the instructor’s car, taking place over a couple of days of lessons. This keeps the action contained in one place, meaning that the tensions between the two men eventually boil over and erupt. The husband constantly interrupts, is bossy, controlling and makes a lot of chauvinistic statements that sting. However, a twist arrives when we see that perhaps the young instructor is actually worse – he won’t sign his wife’s travel papers preventing her from visiting her sick father. Both the husband’s behaviour and the instructor’s refusal of his wife’s demands demonstrate that even as women in the Middle East are given more rights (driving) progress is still slow. Our female protagonist’s lack of speech throughout the entire feature re-affirms her powerless position. 

 

Clay Project (2017) Ireland (4.50)
Dir. Kathy Raftery

This film examines the work of artist Vanessa Donoso López.  We are brought to a sun-soaked and sleepy part of Spain, bursting with nature and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. What stands out about this feature, is the fact that it examines the artists approach and ideas/inspiration rooted in her work rather than the outcome. Instead we get a glimpse into the how and the why of a piece of art. The artist makes her art from clay, the camera shows her going through the manual process of turning earth into this material. This means that her art is very much connected to the place it was created. Seeing how this art is made gives us a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation for the artistic process. 

 

Early Days (2018) UK (12.00) Winner Best Film
Dir. Nessa Wrafter

This film highlights the more troubling and traumatic aspects of welcoming a newborn into the world. It examines the internal emotional conflict of becoming a mother. We get a window into Kate’s world as she struggles through the first few trying days. Flashback sequences reveal that it was a painful birth, blood and hospital scenes subvert the typically joyous portrayal of welcoming new life. This film effectively shows the realities that make this transition alienating from the self; shown through Kate examining her inflated post-birth stomach. She feels distaste for her body and estrangement from it when there is no longer life growing inside it. Excluding flashbacks, all of the film takes place within Kate and her partner’s home, creating a sense of entrapment. The only glimpses of the outside world we see comes from Kate looking outside the window and spotting her eccentric and colourfully dressed elderly female neighbour. In the end this woman provides Kate with some solace, concluding the film on a hopeful note. 

 

Mother (2018) Ireland (9.24) Runner-up for best film
Dir. Natasha Waugh

Mother is a bizarrely comical and cleverly creative film. It deals with all the insecurities that a mother may face; depicting all the things she must do to please her family.  The film examines one mother’s attempts to go about caring for her family and husband until she is replaced by a fridge! The fridge can cook better, is more entertaining, can do French plaits and is better in bed. This bizarre and wacky feature is laugh-out-loud funny and smart; making us hope to see more from this director in the near future. 

 

The Shorts Programme took place 22nd August 2019 as part of the Dublin Feminist Film Festival (22—24 August) 

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Stephen Clarke Dunne: Director/Co-Writer of Thank You Come Again

Director/Co-Writer Stephen Clarke Dunne takes us behind the curtain of  his drama comedy day-in-the-life type story with a mosaic of seemingly unrelated characters centred around an adult shop.

After a purchase is returned to the shop for a refund, it is revealed that the box contains something of far more importance than just a toy.

It was a crisp autumn day in February 2014, John Sweeney and I were on the way through town to shoot a scene for his show-reel when we happened to pass a pokey little adult shop. In the midst of discussing ideas for future films, we immediately turned to each other and said; wouldn’t it be absolutely hilarious to set a comedy inside one of those shops?

Later that evening, we were messaging each other from around 7pm till 2am in the morning continuously with ideas for the story and characters. We came up with all the story and characters in that several hour burst of creativity.

Over the next couple of months, we finished the full script and did a number of re-drafts with a view to doing the impossible and shooting a feature film without a budget.

We got a production team together over the summer of ’14 and managed to raise a meagre budget of €5k with thanks to credit cards. The production team agreed to work unpaid with the budget being used for insurance, catering, production design and some equipment (whatever equipment we couldn’t borrow – mainly hard-drives).

During the autumn we held auditions – it was hilarious meeting the actors and have them read the characters lines, so much so that myself and the casting director had bouts of laughter so hard that we couldn’t speak for several minutes!. It was amazing, but we actually managed to find an actor that suited each role absolutely perfectly, so much so that you would think that the roles were written just for them.

Once the actors were cast we set the shooting schedule for October and upon completion of the first day of principal photography, the second worst thing that can happen to a film production happened – we lost our main location. The shop that we had booked to shoot for the next several weekends announced that they were closing down within a week. The production shut down.

Everyone was immensely disappointed that the production had shut down, but many of the cast came back to say that they would love to continue to be attached to the project if it was to still go ahead. One cast member in particular, the late Steve Harris, gave me great morale support to try and give the film another go; these things happen and you have to just keep going, and “keep her lit” is what he said to me.

I managed to get my head together, and co-writer / lead actor John Sweeney and I had another go at tweaking the script as we felt this was an opportunity to make the ending stronger and tie in some random characters into the ending. We got a new production team on-board and contacted the cast to see if everyone was still available, and still interested – which almost everyone was to our delight. To overcome the hurdle of losing the location for the first production we decided to attempt to build a set in order to give us the freedom to shoot at times that suited us instead of having to work around a real shop’s opening hours.

We managed to source an old tyre shop just three weeks before the shoot, and in the absence of securing a production designer I had to step up to the plate and also fill the shoes of a production designer. I spent three long, hard weeks with my dad building the set, my fingers literally bled from the hard work that went in to it. We borrowed a lot of the props – it’s amazing what some people keep under their beds and down the back of their wardrobes! and we also bought a few bits of stock to try and fill the shelves. On the first day of principle photography, in order to get the shop ready, we painted and moved props around to get the shop looking good right up until the cameras started rolling. As the lights flicked on, and the last drop of paint dried, another calamity occurred – the electricity went out. After a quick scan of all the building work, we were relieved to find out that a nail must have pinched a wire, and the lights went back on. Finally we were rolling on our feature film – again!

Even with our own shop set, the shoot still proved a major challenge as we had a lot of actors schedules to work around, especially with everyone being unpaid we had to make concessions with people’s availability. After three exhausting long weeks we finally wrapped on all the shop scenes, and the police station location – we were able to use a room downstairs in our tyre shop as an ‘interrogation cell’. This brought the film to around 60% completion – we still had another several locations to get through, including a church, beach, bar, lounge, house, etc. The plan was to pick up at least one location every couple of weekends over the coming weeks to finish the film, this would give us the time to try and scrimp save and organise the loan of equipment to get the film over the line. Also, most people were now only available over weekends.

Sadly, these next weeks would prove to be the most difficult yet for the production, and it ended up taking over a year to finish all the remaining scenes. Initially, it proved very difficult to get people available for their remaining scenes, and then more difficulties piled on top of that: a cast member had to cancel at the last minute to attend the funeral of a good friend, another location was badly damaged in a fire. Then the very worst thing that could ever possibly happen midway through a production happened. I was shocked to hear that my good friend and cast member Steve Harris had been involved in a tragic accident with his brother, Alan, during June 2015. Alan lost his life in a workplace accident. Steve put his life on the line to try and rescue his brother. Very sadly, the following day, Steve Harris succumbed to the injuries he received and passed away. Steve Harris died a hero trying to save his brother.

I shook when I heard the news. I stood on Grafton Street with the world walking past as a blur for I don’t know how long. I also remembered feeling terrible guilty thinking that that was the end of the film now, as we had several key scenes still to film with Steve Harris in them. Then I thought to myself I will do whatever it takes to finish the film as a tribute to him and to dedicate the production to him, as this would now be his final on-screen performance.

After the shock had settled, I spoke with the production team and the cast members who still had scenes left and we all agreed to somehow rally on to finish the film for Steve Harris. John Sweeney and I put our heads together and found a way to re-write Steve’s scenes without him. Thankfully, we had his character’s first and last scenes, so we managed to re-work it so his character ‘goes missing’ from his on-screen wife for the entire middle of the film, and she is hunting him down during this period of time. By some miracle we somehow managed to finish the film, and have it still, somewhat, make sense.

Another long, hard year of post-production followed with many, many technical hurdles, but everyone pulled out the stops to get the film into a deliverable state considering the hardships the production had faced. We had used a myriad of different cameras and various lighting equipment and I was very concerned that film would even visually look coherent. Thankfully, the cost of this post-production process, which is normally a very expensive process, was once again minimised by people offering to help out to get the film finished. We also received a grant from Fingal County Council to allow this post-production process to happen.

Upon completion of the final deliverable of the film, we started the film festival process. We aimed for the big Irish festivals and the big international comedy festivals, another cost which we as filmmakers had to absorb. Unfortunately, despite receiving fantastic feedback, the film only got accepted into a handful of festivals but it did thankfully pick up some awards.

In hindsight, this production which ultimately cost €9k plus another €4k for post-production, was an unbelievable life-learning experience, and despite its immense challenges I am really delighted that it found its way to the cinema for the sake and creativity of all involved. Despite the production’s many hardships and as the tagline says, I found myself thinking “what could possibly go right!?” many times, as nothing ever seemed to be going right. Well, finally what possibly, eventually went right is that we now have a feature film to show and people are now going to get the great chance to come along and see it.

Stephen Clarke Dunne 08/08/2019

In Cinemas September 6  

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Reel Horror Show: Episode 13

Reel Horror Show’s Mark Sheridan is joined by Dr Sarah Cleary in this special episode to explore the cobwebbed tunnels of horror.

Sarah and Mark discuss how the horror genre is being controlled, regulated and restricted in response to its alleged effect on children. Other topics include horror as the messenger. Trump horror.  A take-down of Stranger Things and the comfort blanket of ’80s nostalgia. Franchises! Zombies!! – watching Diary of the Dead in the context of Love Island. The Exorcist as a conservative narrative. Is there ever a cause for censorship? An examination of I Spit on Your Grave. The discomfort of seeing the human in the monster. A look at Midsommar‘s folk horror. The condition of Irish horror and where it can go. Plus a Rob Zombie love-in.

And to quote Sarah – “a good horror should always leave us a little bit looking over our shoulder as we leave the cinema”

 

 

Dr Sarah Cleary

Awarded her PhD in Horror, Sarah has dedicated her studies to exploring the juxtaposition between the media and the alleged negative effects of popular culture on children. Having published and given talks on a wide variety of horror and pop culture subjects, from eco-zombies to satanic panic, Sarah splits her time between lecturing and academic consultancy in the media. 

With her first book on horror and censorship forthcoming in 2019, when she is not nose deep in books and film, Sarah is also a horror specialist and pop culture panellist on a day time current affairs TV show, Creative Director of Horror Expo Ireland which seeks to unite academia and pop culture and producer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Ireland, now in its 15th year.

sarahcmcleary@gmail.com

@sarah_clearysc

https://www.facebook.com/horrorexpoireland

www.linkedin.com/in/drsarahcleary

Reel Horror Show, Irish Film Podcast

 

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The Bleeding Pig Film Festival Roundtable Podcast

L-R Emma Fagan, Laura O’Shea, Gemma Creagh, Mia Mullarky

In this podcast Gemma Creagh is joined by Emma Fagan, programme manager of The Bleeding Pig Film Festival (9-11 September) and filmmakers Mia Mullarky (Mother & Baby) and Laura O’Shea (Hold the Line), whose films are screening at the festival.

46′ 03″

Mother & Baby (Mia Mullarky)

Mother & Baby explores the memories of Mother & Baby Home survivors who were sold or fostered out by the Irish church and state if their mothers conceived them out of wedlock.

Mia Mullarkey is a film director based in Dublin, Ireland. She
directed several successful shorts, receiving 35 awards globally, and screening at major international short film festivals such as Palm Springs, Aesthetica, São Paulo, Valladolid, Tehran and Helsinki. In 2018 Mia received the Discovery Award at Dublin International Film Festival for her body of work, and was made the 2018/2019 Filmmaker-in-Residence with Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival and The Digital Hub.

http://motherandbabyfilm.com
http://miamullarkey.com
http://ishkafilms.com/

Hold the Line (Laura O’Shea)

Em works in a call centre. She faces a day that’s more difficult than the usual ‘customer care queries’ and is on the brink. That’s until: she picks up the phone to Patsy.

Laura O’Shea is an award winning actor/writer/filmmaker from Limerick City. Her filmmaking-debut was a Short Film titled Hold the Line. This was the Winner of the ‘Best Short Film’ award at the 2019 Belfast Film Festival and it also won the ‘Audience Award’ at the 2019 Chicago Irish Film Festival. Laura won the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the 2018 Richard Harris International Film Festival for her performance in Hold the Line and also received a Special Mention at IndieCork 2018 for ‘Best Emerging Irish Female Director’. In the theatre world, her play Knowing Nathan that she co-wrote as well as acted in was the Winner of the ‘Judge’s Choice Award’ at the 2018 Galway Fringe Festival. Laura comes from a musical background and holds an MA in Music Technology.

Emma Fagan has a background in marketing and project management but her life-long passion for film led her away from office life and, for the last six years, she has worked with a number of Irish film festivals in various capacities. In 2016, in association with the Bleeding Pig Cultural Festival in Donabate, Co. Dublin she set up the Bleeding Pig Film Festival, platforming independent Irish film to the local community there. Emma also runs a PR & Marketing agency, Fillum, which promotes independent filmmakers in Ireland.

 

Mother & Baby and Hold the Line screen as part of a selection of short films all written/and or directed by women on Tuesday, 10th September: 7.30pm to 9pm – followed by a Q&A.

The 2019 Bleeding Pig Film Festival takes place 9-11 September in Keelings of Donabate, Co. Dublin.

The full programme is here.

 

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation

The Dream Report

Orla Monaghan was at the Fleadh to celebrate the creative cornerstone of Irish film: the animation industry. 

On Sunday, 14th July the Galway Film Fleadh treated us to sixteen short animations from both new and established talent from all across the country. There was some truly imaginative work on display, and all genres were covered.     

  

Streets of Fury

The standout in comedy was Streets of Fury, directed and produced by Aidan McAteer. The tale follows the violent Max Punchface, an ’80s-styled video-game character, as he punches his way through levels and life. And just like that, Max is suddenly transported into the calm, bloodless world of Sheepland. How will Max now cope without using violence as currency?  Streets of Fury is a fun blend of nostalgia and humour. It definitely has everything you would want from an animation!

THEM

The absolute standout on the day was THEM. Directed by Robin Lochman and produced by Mathias Schwerbrook, it is an original animation with a gritty new look. In an isolated village where everyone bares the same sliver reflection, how will life change when a new, golden, self-proclaimed leader shows up? The story examines the place and power of false idols in our world and follows one characters attempt to fight and overhaul the system. A definite must-see!

A Quack Too Far

For younger viewers, A Quack Too Far and Far Isle are both superb options. Directed and written by Melissa Culhane, A Quack too Far tells a simple tale about a sleepy fox and a noisy duck. What does a fox have to do to get some peace? A Far Isle, directed by Laura Robinson and produced by Gavin Halpin, is enjoyable for both adults and children. The story of one girl’s enchanting boat journey is beautifully told with an impressive, colourful visual. 

     

Dorothy

In terms of horror, Dorothy offered up a truly spooky piece about a child being tormented in the witching Salem Massachusetts in 1687 and Offering showed us what happens when a mysterious quest goes awry. 

   

Legend Has It

A few of the animations focused on Irish subject matter. Legend Has It told the tale of a young girl’s struggle with a dark secret in an ancient Celtic community. Whereas The Bogman was an interesting take on the transition between old Ireland and new. In reaction to the recent sustainability announcement from Bord Na Móna, the story follows a man from the midlands who has harvested peat his whole life. How will he, his community and more like him cope with this news?

Wear and Tear

Also worth a mention is Wear and Tear, a sort of psychological thriller about nightmare-born creations following you into your waking day.  Cliona Noonan’s humorous Tuna about a woman’s odd obsession.  And I’m sure any student can relate to Ctrl + Alt + Z, which tells the classic, stress-inducing story of the student who forgot to hit save. Visually, The Dream, directed by Jack O’Shea, really merits a mention. The positively unique style of this animation was stunning and certainly made it unforgettable. Finally there were strong debuts from Shannon Egan (Archie’s Bat) Kayleigh Gibbons (Featherweight), Rachel Fitzgerald (Bubbles) and Janet Grainger (Outside the Box) completing an impressive programme of Irish animation.

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation programme screened 14th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)

        

 

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Ivan Kavanagh, Writer/Director of ‘Never Grow Old’

In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Ivan Kavanagh about his latest feature Never Grow Old and the influences behind it, and discusses the Western genre in general and its enduring appeal. Ivan also talks about working with John Cusack, Emile Hirsch and Déborah François and the craft of filmmaking itself.

In Never Grow Old, Irish carpenter and undertaker Patrick Tate (Hirsch) lives with his young family on the outskirts of a small frontier town on the California trail during the 1849 gold rush. It’s a tough but relatively peaceful place, until outlaw Dutch Albert (Cusack) and his gang take over, killing anyone who stands up to them. Patrick initially plays a dangerous game, profiting from the outlaws’ mayhem, but it is only a matter of time before he must protect his own from the bloodshed.

Starring Emile Hirsch (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Into The Wild), Déborah François (L’Enfant) and John Cusack (High Fidelity, Being John Malkovich), Never Grow Old was filmed in Galway and Luxembourg and was produced by Dominic Wright and Jacqueline Kerrin for Ripple World Pictures and Nicolas Steil for the Iris Productions Group.

Never Grow Old is released in Irish cinemas Friday, 23rd August.

40′ 16″

 

 

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Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 37- Sexy Thrillers… There’s No Buckets Involved

 

Sarah Cullen and Richard Drumm return to give us their latest contemplations and ruminations on film.

This episode’s reviews include The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, Never Grow Old and Toy Story 4. Netflix fodder Secret Obsession and Kidnapping Stella, plus a daylit look at MidSommar, Woman at War, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Good Boys.

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 3, Fiction

Stephen Burke checks in on Galway’s programme of live action shorts which explores the parallel problems of escapism from a variety of settings: judgement, troubled pasts and unhappy status quos. 

It’s a great credit to the Fleadh that the range of shorts on offer is so incredibly diverse. Half of the shorts in this line-up were directorial debuts and all were being screened for the first time. Aside from a brief synopsis, there’s very little information to be found on such films before seeing them. That’s what makes screenings at the Fleadh so exciting though. You’re not quite sure what you’re about to see. This is refreshing in an age where marketing is quite often so over the top to the point where it’s not a rarity for a trailer to spoil the entire plot of a movie. 

Before the screening, the short film co-ordinator, Eibh Collins, emphasized that some of the films were quite heavy. She certainly wasn’t just saying this for effect. The first three shorts on show featured some of the darkest themes you’re likely to see in any film programme outside of a Lars Von Trier retrospective. Of course, when tackled properly the darkest of themes can make for the most interesting pieces of cinema and such was the case here with the two strongest films coming from this first half.

Limbo

Darkness is firmly established in the first scene of this debut film from 21-year old Matthew McGuigan when we’re presented with the image of a man walking across an abandoned landscape. This is cleverly juxtaposed alongside scenes of the central character Brendan interacting with his elderly mother Eilis in her nursing-home room. You just know that there will be some connection between the two images, but what is it? This gives the audience something to think about from the beginning.

Eilis’ death is clearly imminent. She is as aware of this as anyone and so finally feels comfortable enough to reveal a long-held secret to Brendan… A fellow resident of the nursing home overhears and insists that some man on a particular island will be able to solve “the mystery” for them. Brendan is skeptical, feeling the resident’s suggestion is all a bit fairytale like. The reality of what’s happening with his mother though is far from a fairytale of course and wanting to honour her wishes, Brendan agrees to follow up the source.

The acting in this film is strong and the relationship between Brendan and his mother is completely believable with top-notch performances coming from Patrick O’Kane and Roma Tomelty. For such a harrowing subject matter the script also manages to inject some humour without unbalancing the overall sombre tone. Despite its short running time, Limbo boasts more character development than it perhaps has any right to. The pacing is also spot on with the film taking its time to reach what seems like an inevitable conclusion. However, in not rushing things, the emotional impact of this conclusion is greater when it does arrive with audience members likely to be all the more devastated when their suspicions prove to be founded. This is a very impressive debut from Matthew McGuigan with much credit also going to his cinematographer Mark Garrett for capturing the required mood and tone. 


Run

Caroline Grace Cassidy and Róisín Kearney have each written and directed several short films before but Run is their first collaboration. It was created following the introduction of a new legal framework on domestic abuse, to include coercive control in Ireland. 

Right from the off it’s clear that the lead character, Sarah is married to a pig of a man. Physical violence isn’t the issue here however. The point of the film is, of course, rather to show how a spouse can wield emotional control over a partner. In Run Sarah’s husband is so much of a pig though that you initially wonder how she hasn’t left him a long time ago. What’s interesting is that in a strange way, as the film progresses, the viewer does become acclimated and accustomed to the husband’s boorish behaviour, revealing just how easily people can end up trapped in such toxic relationships.


Void

Ger Duffy’s Void is a visceral experience boasting a tour-de-force performance from Laurence O’ Fuarain. At the outset, the audience is presented with some interesting images, all of them begging a similar question – “Where the hell are we?” Are we in the future? Is it the present world?’ One thing is clear. The nameless character onscreen is a man who is being tortured by a whole range of agonizing yet mostly indecipherable thoughts. 

The man sets off into the night in search of something. It might be judgment. It might be an escape from the demons within. If it’s the latter they soon confront him instead. Before long, he arrives outside a nightclub. After making an aggressive but unsuccessful attempt to gain admission, he manages to sneak inside. Once in, he engages in full-on debauchery, including pill popping and having sex in a bathroom cubicle. All the while the mental anguish continues. 

The interesting thing is that apart from O’ Fuarain nobody else actually appears on screen throughout. Instead of using supporting actors, Duffy employs an extremely imaginative narrative technique to evoke the memories of the character. He uses lighting and audio effects in particular to tell the story. In other words, while we see the man dancing or fighting or going through the motions of interacting with people, these other people are never onscreen. We hear them but don’t see them. Sound has long been considered to perhaps be the most undervalued aspect of filmmaking and it is used here to brilliant effect. Much credit must go to sound mixer Andrew Fenton and sound editor Damian Chennell.

From a visual point of view, the nightclub itself is actually an empty house with strobe lighting and similar effects portraying otherwise. Duffy’s methods work very well in unsettling viewers and bringing them into the seedy world that O Fuarain’s character is desperately navigating. The consideration of film being a form of voyeurism comes to mind as the audience is watching some very personal and intimate memories and as such they are forced to not only observe the character’s actions but also to be somewhat complicit in them. It feels like the definition of a bad trip but more importantly it’s a very powerful piece of cinema.

As the sole performer O’Fuarain is quite simply terrific. He possesses a very strong screen presence and at times in this film he physically resembles a feral Paul Galvin. His character is a ticking time bomb detonating at regular intervals before resetting to soon do the same again. O’Fuarain is a skilled enough actor though to wrench empathy from his audience. The character is explosive but in his hands and in Duffy’s there is always the sense that an unfortunately misguided individual lays beneath all the rage. This is why a late hint at redemption doesn’t feel like it’s stretching the bounds of credibility. O’Fuarain’s performance in Void is far removed from his equally impressive leading turn in Alan Mulligan’s The Limit Of, which was released in cinemas this past April. In the latter film his character may have been burning up on the inside but he constantly projected an outward appearance of stoic calm. The fact O’ Fuarain can portray both roles so convincingly marks him down as a talent to watch. The same can be said for Duffy. Void is a great follow-up to his very impressive debut short film Little Bear (which he co-directed with Daire Glynn) and he is now 2 for 2.


Halo

Halo is the directorial debut from Michael-David McKernan, who also plays the lead role of taxi driver Dara in this 16-minute one-take film. Ever since the 1970s when Travis Bickle first got behind the wheel in Taxi Driver, onscreen drivers of this ilk have usually fallen into one of two categories – the comical chatterbox or the lonely crusader. Dara belongs to the latter category though at the beginning of Halo, he doesn’t seem to be on any particular mission.

When we first meet him, Dara seems to be having a fairly standard night on the road, dealing with a fairly obnoxious couple of passengers before picking up a female customer (Toni O’Rourke). While driving her to her boyfriend’s house, he tries and somewhat succeeds in striking up a conversation. What happens next affects them both. Dara is clearly a lonely guy and McKernan’s portrayal is good, veering between awkwardness and sincerity. He brings a charming likeability to Dara. His acting is restrained which is impressive considering McKernan is directing himself. 

The nighttime setting of Halo creates a suitably dark and detached mood, the latter matching the likely mindset of the lead character. McKernan must be commended for his creativity and ingenuity in using some royalty free Beethoven music too, which works in terms of plot as well as serving the atmosphere. The one-take style actually suits this type of story quite well and there isn’t really any occasion where it feels unnecessary. Burschi Wojnar’s cinematography is un-showy and he keeps a largely steady hand throughout.

One issue though is that as Halo moves on, the direction that the story is heading begins to feel predictable. As such, a slight left turn at the end is more than welcome. While not perfect, this is a solid first effort from Michael-David McKernan and it will be interesting to see what he does next, both as an actor and as a director.


Starry Night

Starry Night is a graduate film from students of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire with Emma Smith directing from a script by Rachel Moloney. The first scene opens on an estate in Dublin city as Cara (played by Hazel Clifford) leaves her house and gets into a taxi with her best friend Jeanie. A voiceover narration from Cara explains that she’s finally leaving the place she grew up in, something she never felt she’d have an opportunity to do. Up to this point she’s had to put her own future on hold to take care of her young sisters.

The film then flashes back, showing the events leading up to this moment juxtaposing scenes from the recent past alongside scenes from this day of departure for Cara. Starry Night follows Cara’s attempts to get somebody to take care of the children for her, under the false pretense that she’ll be collecting them again later that night. In reality she is about to abandon the girls to pursue her own dreams. Throughout the piece, titles are repeatedly superimposed on screen displaying how long it is before Cara and Jeanie’s flight leaves. The use of these titles does get a bit tiresome after a while. 

While the stakes are unquestionably high for Cara, there’s just not as much tension in the film as there could be. Following her great performance as Sharon Curley in the stage version of the Snapper last year, Hazel Clifford gives another likeable turn and she has a bright future ahead.  At the end of the film, Cara faces a huge decision but there’s never really any doubt which way she will go with it and it all becomes a bit obvious. It wouldn’t be quite fair to say that the voiceover is overdone but Clifford is a good enough actor that perhaps the film didn’t need it. It’s likely that a greater emotional effect would have resulted if the audience weren’t told Cara’s feelings at certain points but were just allowed to concentrate on the performance instead. 

The production design is worth praise and the cinematography is strong. Without meaning to be condescending the film does look and feel like a professional production, which is not always the case with student pieces. The use of a single location for the majority also brings across a feeling of claustrophobia, which effectively mirrors Cara’s constricted existence. 


The Blizzards – Behind the Music

Who Would Want To Be In A Guitar Band? This is the question that is playfully explored in Jeff Doyle’s lighthearted mockumentary about Irish band The Blizzards. It’s a relevant enough question too in this modern world where guitar-based music seems to be drifting further and further from the mainstream scene. 

The plot of the film consists of The Blizzards attempting to make a comeback and being led in their quest to do so by hapless manager Duncan Browne. In an attempt to get with the times they actually record a non-guitar inspired song called “Who Would Want To Be In A Guitar Band?” (“your music is just too guitary” moans Browne at one stage), which is met with widespread derision. This spells catastrophe for Browne and for the band members, with each of them dealing with the fallout in their own individual way.

Johnny Elliot gives a good performance as Browne. The band is also game for proceedings too and they do well at sending both themselves and the music industry itself up. This kind of film has been done many times before though and although humorous, Behind The Music is just not laugh-out-loud enough to compensate for the lack of originality. Mockumentaries have burned themselves out over the past decade or so and the humour in such films needs to constantly be razor-sharp if they are to stand a chance at being noticed from amongst the pack.

There is a constant stream of celebrity cameos throughout with Mattress Mick and John Connors probably being the most memorable. These guest appearances are fun at first but soon begin to grate when hardly a minute passes by without one occurring (though kudos to Doyle for getting Stormy Daniels to appear in his film!).

Aside from fans of The Blizzards, it’s hard to know who the film is aimed at. Ironically a serious documentary about the same subject matter may have broader appeal. There are plenty of music fans out there that would find the notion of the guitar as an instrument of the past to be a very unappetizing one indeed. It would be interesting to see just how a thirty-something band like the Blizzards manage to navigate this current world of sanitized pop. At one point in the film Louis Walsh shows up to give lead singer Bressie a pep talk. Aiming to convince him that there is still a place for guitar in the music business, Walsh stresses that: “Ed Sheeran plays guitar”. Regardless of whether that line is intentional or not, it might just be the funniest joke in the entire film.

 

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary Irish Talent: New Shorts 3, Fiction programme screened 11th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July)

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The Dublin Feminist Festival: Filmmaker Carmen García & Programme Manager Dr Jennifer O’Meara

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh is joined by Carmen García and Dr Jennifer O’Meara to talk about the Dublin Feminist Film Festival, which runs 22 – 24 August 2019.

Carmen García is a feminist videojournalist, journalist and filmmaker. Her film Tra na mban / Ladies Beach screens at the festival as part of the shorts programme on Thursday, 22nd August.

Dr Jennifer O’Meara is an Assistant Professor in Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and a programming manager for the Dublin Feminist Film Festival.

Full programme here
Buy tickets here
Tra na mban / Ladies Beach (2019) Mexico (6.36)
Dir. Carmen Garcia Gonzalez

 

 

In the west coast of Ireland, a group of Irish women 40 to 80 years old swim every morning in the Atlantic cold waters come rain or shine. Martell, who hasn’t missed a day in 10 years now, let us know how is it for her and the swimmers to meet at the Ladies Beach in Galway, vent together under the cold water and share a hot coffee and a warm chat afterwards. A tight-knit bunch brought together by their love to the sea.

 

Instagram: @carmengarxia
Twitter: @carmengarxia

 

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Early Irish Cinema: “Leaning towards the Spectacular”: The Suppression of the Sinn Fein Review in April 1919

Denis Condon’s blog Early Irish Cinema looks back at the early development of cinema in Ireland on the anniversaries of those developments and offers information on what cinemagoers could have seen in Irish cinemas a century ago. Here Denis highlights the banning and seizure of the Sinn Fein Review, a compilation of Irish Events newsreel (1917 – 1920) items  100 years ago.

Drogheda Advertiser 19 Apr. 1919: 3.

On the evening of Wednesday, 16 April 1919, Head Constable John Orr arrived at the Boyne Cinema in Fair Street, Drogheda, accompanied by a squad made up of all the available Royal Irish Constabulary men in the town’s Westgate and South Quay barracks. As Orr recorded in his official report of events, caretaker Thomas Borden told him that manager Joseph Stanley was not present and initially refused to give the policemen the key to the projection box. However, when Orr threatened to break in the door with a heavy hatchet he had instructed be brought from the barracks, Borden relented and opened the door. Seizing two reels of film that made up parts 1 and 2 of the Sinn Fein Review that had been produced and supplied to the cinema by Norman Whitten’s General Film Supply (GFS), Orr brought them back to Westgate barracks to await further instructions (CSORP).

Poster seen on 29 Mar. 1919 by Inspector Herbert of the Dublin Metropolitan in the window of the General Film Supply offices in Dublin. Courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland.

This dramatic raid was the end point of a process that began two-and-a-half weeks earlier, when a poster in the GFS office window at 17 Brunswick had caught the eye of Inspector Herbert of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) as he had been strolling past between 10 and 11am. Making this his business, Herbert had quizzed an unnamed GFS employee about the poster and had been told that the film showed “a number of incidents in connection with the Rebellion of 1916, its leaders, and the Sinn Fein movement generally which have been shown from time to time have been put into one film in review form” (CSORP).

What happened between these two police actions has been well known in Irish film studies since the late 1980s, thanks to Kevin Rockett’s detailed account in Cinema and Ireland, the first systemic book in the field (Rockett, Gibbons and Hill 34-6). Rockett based his account on a file in the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) that covers the banning of both the Sinn Fein Review in April 1919 and Ireland a Nation in January 1917 (see an account of the latter film here). As such, this file offers the richest detail of any official document of the period on the British authorities’ regulation of Irish cinema in the late 1910s, between the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. Rockett charts how the police and military authorities consulted on what to do, and citing the precedent set by the Ireland a Nation case, the police sent two detectives to view the film. Their report led to the conclusion that it should be banned because it was “Sinn Fein propaganda pure and simple.” When the police arrived at the GFS offices to seize the film, they were told that copies had already been despatched to Drogheda, precipitating the raid on the Boyne Cinema.

Ian Macpherson was appointed Chief Secretary of Ireland in January 1919; from Century Ireland.

The details of Irish Events films provided by the detectives and local newspaper accounts of the events in Drogheda deserve more attention than they have had, but it’s worth first saying something about the kind of source this file is. It is part of the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers (CSO/RP), the surviving documents held by NAI that went through the Dublin Castle office of the British cabinet minister with responsibility for the administration of Ireland. In April 1919, the post of chief secretary was held by Ian Macpherson, but as the two-year gap between the Ireland a Nation and Sinn Fein Review cases suggests, cinema-related cases only rarely crossed Macpherson’s desk.

The IVA advertises a 1919 funding drive; Freeman’s Journal 21 Jun. 1919: 4.

The day-to-regulation of cinema was done at a different level of government, by local councils under the powers provided by the 1909 Cinematograph Act. That act originally focused on the very real danger of loss of life from cinema fires caused by the bringing together of highly combustible nitrate film and light sources that produced high heat or even used a naked flame. As a result, regulations initially provided for fire-proof projection booths and auditoria with adequate provision for escape in the event of fire. The employees of the council who were given this responsibility typically belonged to the public health or sanitation department, such as Limerick Corporation’s sub-sanitary officer Solomon Frost, who in February 1919 prosecuted the Athenaeum Hall and Coliseum for overcrowding, or Dublin Corporation theatre inspector Walter Butler who in April 1919, brought similar charges against the Sackville Picture House, Pillar Picture House, Mary Street Picture House and Electric Theatre (“Limerick News,” “City Picture Houses,” “Picture House Crowding”). Butler was not just Dublin Corporation’s theatre inspector. His duties increased considerably in June 1916, when in response to the incessant lobbying of by the Catholic-church-based Irish Vigilance Association (IVA), the Corporation appointed him and Councillor Patrick Lennon film censors.

Frank Leah’s caricature of Eugene McGough; Irish LimelightJun. 1918: 1.

When it became clear that Butler and Lennon could watch only a fraction of the films exhibited in Dublin, the IVA again successfully lobbied the Corporation for the appointment as additional censors of IVA members Eugene McGough and AJ Murray, “two gentlemen of education and standing in the City who are willing to devote their spare time to carry out the work, without fee or reward, solely in the interests of the citizens” (Dublin Corporation). In May 1919, the IVA claimed that McGough and Murray had watched over 700 films in the previous year, spending “2,100 hours of their time viewing these films before they were presented to the public, which meant that they were engaged for seven hours a day cutting out of these films whatever was objectionable” (“Worthy of Support”).

The definition of what was objectionable differed between the IVA-enhanced Corporation censors and the British officials at the CSO. In January 1918, McGough had clarified his and the IVA’s view that “pictures dealing with sexual matters should be prohibited by law and the house showing them should be heavily penalised” (“Our Cinema Censors”). This is shockingly clear; moving pictures should not treat sex or sexuality in any way. Historical or newsreel films such as Ireland a Nation and the Sinn Fein Review were beyond this kind of reproach, but they attracted the attention of the Castle authorities for political content that had the potentiality to cause disaffection among the majority nationalist audience. Nevertheless, politically contentious films that required the involvement of the CSO were rare, in part because the authorities used banning as a way of warning off distributors and exhibitors who may have seen a commercial opportunity in screening politically controversial material in times when Irish audiences appeared to be especially receptive to advanced nationalist, anti-British opinions.

Frank Leah’s caricature of Frederick Sparling, who was best known as the proprietor of the Bohemian Picture Theatre in Phibsboro, Dublin, but who had hired the larger and more centrally located Rotunda to show Ireland a Nation. Irish LimelightAug. 1917: 1.

In this sense, distributor Frederick Sparling was doing the government’s work for them by keeping the Ireland a Nation case in the public eye. Not that that was his aim: the banning of the film had cost him a considerable sum in securing the distribution rights and in hiring the Rotunda, Dublin’s largest cinema at the time, in which to show it. Understandably, he sought compensation for the banning of a film that the press censor appointed under the Defence of the Realm Act had initially passed for exhibition. But by seeking redress from the War Losses Commission in January 1918 and when this proved unsatisfactory, prompting Irish Parliamentary MP Jeremiah McVeagh to ask a question about it in the House of Commons in February 1919, Ireland a Nation became exemplary of the difficulties over years that distributors could face if they released politically contentious material (“‘Ireland a Nation,’” “Irish Questions”).

Norman Whitten was well aware of these developments, but he had good reason to think that the Sinn Fein Review would not receive such treatment. For a start, the film was a newsreel compilation consisting almost exclusively of short items concerning Sinn Féin that had already been shown as part of Irish Events, and none of these individual items had been banned. The only non-Irish Events items were a couple of films that predated the start of Irish Events in July 1917 and the first film of Sinn Féin president Éamon de Valera since his daring escape from Lincoln Prison on 3 February 1919. Perhaps the de Valera film so prominently featured in advertising was the problem. If the police couldn’t recapture de Valera, they could capture his image. In any case, as the poster spotted by Inspector Herbert indicates, Whitten clearly made no secret that he was compiling the film and intended to offer it for sale. Fingal, the new writer of trade journal Bioscope’s “Irish Notes,” had mentioned it in his/her column of 10 April. “Mr. Whitten’s biggest scoop recently has been the filming of the Sinn Fein ‘President,’ Mr. de Valera, in his hiding place near Dublin after his escape from Lincoln Gaol,” Fingal observed. “This is being included in a film survey of the Sinn Fein movement since the Dublin rebellion in 1916, and is being released under the title ‘Sinn Fein Review’” (“Irish Notes”).

Fingal gave some attention not only to this first Irish newsreel compilation but also to other ambitious film projects that Whitten had in train. These included the feature-length hagiography In the Days of St Patrick, the first scenes of which Fingal had seen and praised as “strikingly picturesque.” But Fingal began the column with the political events that GFS’s Irish Events newsreel covered more generally. “The Irish people have a decided leaning towards the spectacular,” the column began.

Which is a good thing for the makers of topical films.

“Irish Events” is never short of good topical material, and is very popular with audiences in this country. […] At the present moment the most dramatic and picturesque incidents are being provided by the Sinn Feiners.

Fingal probably did not get a chance to see the full Sinn Fein Review, and it does not survive, but Inspectors George Love and Neil McFeely wrote a detailed description of it in their report of a special screening at the GFS offices on the morning of 12 April 1919. “The Film is in two parts and it takes half an hour to show,” they began, before describing the items in each part. Paraphrasing them slightly, these were:

Part I

  1. The annual Republican pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave at Bodenstown, including a scene at the graveside.
  2. The first Sinn Féin electoral victory in the North Roscommon by-election on 5 February 1917, featuring successful candidate Count George Plunkett.
  3. Scenes at the East Clare by-election after the declaration of the poll on 11 July 1917, showing successful candidate de Valera in uniform alongside Plunkett and Sinn Féin leader Arthur Griffith.
  4. The Sinn Féin Convention at Dublin’s Mansion House on 25 October 1917, showing delegates leaving.
  5. Scenes at the East Cavan by-election of June 1918, showing senior Sinn Féin member Father Michael O’Flanagan and crowds outside the White Horse Hotel.
  6. The funeral procession in Dublin on 17 November 1918 for journalist and author Séumas O’Kelly, who had edited the Sinn Féin newspaper Nationality after Griffith’s arrest
  7. The procession from Dublin’s Westland Row railway station and scenes outside Fleming’s Hotel after the arrival of amnestied Easter Rising prisoners on 18 June 1917, and the reception of Countess Constance Markievicz after her release four days later.

Part II

  1. General election events in Dublin in December 1918, including scenes outside the polling booths, the declaration of the poll at Green Street, and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington congratulating Alderman Thomas Kelly.
  2. The anti-conscription meeting at Ballaghadereen on 5 May 1918, showing Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Dillon and de Valera addressing the audience from the same platform.
  3. Irish Women’s Anti-Conscription Procession in Dublin on 9 June 1918.
  4. Crowds outside the Mansion House on the occasion of the first Meeting of Dáil Eireann on 21 January 1919, with a group portrait of key figures.
  5. First film of de Valera after his escape from Lincoln Prison on 3 February.
  6. Markievicz exhibiting a picture she painted in Holloway Prison, entitled “Easter Week”; also the Countess engaged in gardening and painting a picture.
  7. De Valera’s first appearance in Dublin after his escape, showing his arrival at the Mansion House with Cathal Burgess [Brugha], footage of the Lord Mayor and his two daughters, and de Valera leaving the Mansion House.

Both parts were no doubt close to the standard 1,000-foot reel length, running about 15 minutes. As such, each numbered item ran an average of two minutes, but some were likely the one-minute standard of newsreel items while items taken from newsreel specials were probably over two minutes. Apart from the two final films of de Valera (II 5 and 7) and possible the one of Markievicz (II 6), it is probable that all the other films had been shown previously, as Whitten told the two detectives. Certainly some of them are readily identifiable as films discussed here previously, such as the newsreel special of the first Dáil.

While the structure of the film may seem a bit haphazard, it appears to sacrifice a strict commitment to chronology to a progress towards emotionally charged climaxes. Part I begins with a key annual event in the Republican calendar, the pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave in June, but the likely film used here was not the oldest Sinn Féin film but probably the film shot on 29 June 1918. Following it, the film proceeds chronologically through items I 2-6 of the by-elections, convention and Séumas O’Kelly’s public funeral. The final item of the triumphant return of the 1916 rebels from prisons in Britain is most clearly out of chronological order but is placed at the end of the reel because this event had such a strong emotional charge and showed the popularity of figures such as Markievicz.

The chronology of part II is not as disturbed, but it begins with the December 1918 general election, at which Sinn Féin had been so successful, before including events earlier in 1918 and finishing with de Valera’s reception at the Mansion House. The fact that Irish Events had two films of de Valera during his period after his escape from prison suggests a close connection between GFS and Sinn Féin, a convergence of the filmmakers’ leaning toward the spectacular and the politicians’ need for publicity. It is also interesting to note the prominence of Markievicz and other women activists again in this half of the film. “The Film as it stands,” Love and McFeely’s report concluded, “is a glorification of Sinn Fein and wherever exhibited would, no doubt, be good Sinn Fein Propaganda, and might in that way be objectionable to members of an audience holding different political views” (CSORP).

Handbill for the exhibition of the Sinn Fein Review at the Boyne Cinema. Courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland.

It was unlikely that many of the members of the Boyne Cinema’s audience held different political views, or at least were not aware in advance of the kind of film that the Sinn Fein Review was. Whether the GFS poster was used in Drogheda is not clear, but the cinema did issue a handbill that survives in the NLI file on the seizure of the film. The handbill also stresses de Valera’s name among all the Sinn Féin leaders who are connected to the movement’s history since 1916. The cinema itself had substantial 1916 connections, having been established by Joseph Stanley, the proprietor of the radical Gaelic Press in Dublin’s Liffey Street and printer of such key 1916 Rising documents as the Proclamation and the Irish War News. Stanley had been among the activists imprisoned in Britain, and Constable Orr in his report on the raid on the Boyne described him as a “Sinn Fein suspect, now living in Drogheda,” a phrase that may explain the heavy-handedness of the seizure.

The Boyne Cinema’s opening programme; Drogheda Independent 25 Jan. 1919: 1.

Although the Boyne seems largely typical of the many small cinemas of the period, Stanley’s radical politics marked it out in certain ways. When it opened on 27 January 1919, the Drogheda Independent reported that it would be run under “Irish-Ireland management” (“New Picture House”). This was immediately evident in the presentation of the opening programme, which was topped by the “Irish-made screamingly funny comedy” Rafferty’s Rise (Ireland: FCOI, 1917) and featured among its supplementary attractions the dancing of gold-medal Irish dancer Greta Daly. As a man under surveillance, Stanley’s choice of a film poking fun at the foibles of a rural constable may not have wholly accidental. This level of Irish content was not long maintained, however. During the second half of the opening week, the programme was topped by American comedy The Clodhopper (US: Kay Bee/New York, 1917), but perhaps there was more continuity in Charles Ray’s performance of the country bumpkin than initially seems. “People who foolishly imagine that a ‘Clodhopper’ cannot get on in other spheres of life,” the synopsis in the Drogheda papers warned. “should have their minds disabused by a view of th[is] famous comedy film “(“Only a ‘Clodhopper’”).

Drogheda Independent 19 Apr. 1919: 3.

The appearance of the Sinn Fein Review must have been a gift for Stanley, but audience reaction is a little more difficult to judge. Local newspapers carried no ads for the film, but they all reported differently on how waiting patrons reacted to the police raid on the cinema. “At the time of the seizure there was a large crowd outside waiting to gain admission,” the Drogheda Advertiser observed, “but there was little or no display on their part with the exception of cheering” (“Boyne Cinema Raided”). “The seizure was effected quietly, and without any excitement,” the Drogheda Argus reported. “The management, however, carried on to full houses during the evening with other pictures, as if nothing had happened” (“Sinn Fein Review Film Seized”). This impression that the audience was little disturbed by the seizure is contradicted by the Drogheda Independent, which suggested that the audience were hostile to the police actions: “the crowds in waiting accompanied their [the police’s] movements with shouts and jeers, interjecting as well remarks that seemed suited for the occasion” (“Picture Film Seized in Drogheda”). Even if the “excitement called up by the incident was short-lived,” this account suggests that it at least provided an occasion to express disapproval of the police.

While these different accounts would bear some more examination in relation to the editorial persuasion of Drogheda’s newspapers, they show that the Sinn Fein Review had at least brought Irish audiences’ leaning towards the spectacle onto the streets.

Denis Condon lectures in film at NUI Maynooth.

Contact: denis.j.condon@nuim.ie

References

“Boyne Cinema Raided.” Drogheda Advertiser 19 Apr. 1919: 3.

“City Picture Houses: Alleged Overcrowding.” Dublin Evening Mail 25 Apr. 1919: 3.

CSORP/1919/11025. National Archives of Ireland.

Dublin Corporation, Reports, 1917: 173.

“‘Ireland a Nation’: Why Military Authorities Banned the Film.” Evening Telegraph 29 Jan. 1918: 3.

“Irish Notes.” Bioscope 10 Apr. 1919: 119.

“Irish Questions.” Cork Examiner 28 Feb. 1919: 4.

“Limerick News.” Cork Examiner 1 Feb. 1919: 5.

“New Picture House.” Drogheda Independent 25 Jan. 1919: 2.

“Only a ‘Clodhopper.’” Drogheda Argus 25 Jan. 1919: 1.

“Our Cinema Censors: The Difficulties They Have to Contend With.” Evening Herald 31 Jan. 1918: 2.

“Picture Film Seized in Drogheda.” Drogheda Independent 19 Apr. 1919: 2.

“Picture House Crowding in Dublin.” Dublin Evening Mail

Rockett, Kevin, Luke Gibbons and John Hill. Cinema and Ireland. Routledge, 1988.

“Sinn Fein Review Film Seized.” Drogheda Argus 19 Apr. 1919: 2.

“Worthy of Support: Activities of the Vigilance Association Outlined.” Weekly Freeman’s Journal 3 May 1919: 1.

 

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Film Ireland Goes to the Heart of Alaska

Image: B1999.14.1210D, Hilscher Collection, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.

 

James Bartlett found himself in Fairbanks, Alaska and learned about the single most powerful businessman in the Territory of Alaska and its richest resident, Austin “Cap” Lathrop, who would have a role to play in the territory’s film history. 

Ireland may be famous for its weather, but it struggles to hold a candle to the freezing extremes of Alaska. Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska, and, due to its location right in the center of the state, is nicknamed “The Golden Heart.” 

Alaska is enormous, too. Twice the size of Texas, I was surprised to learn that it only became a US state in 1959. Until the discovery of gold (and later oil), the purchase of this frozen, largely-uninhabited landmass was famously derided as a folly.  

Hollywood rarely comes to Fairbanks, though a number of its landmarks did feature in the Oscar-nominated 2007 film Into the Wild. Directed by Sean Penn, it looked at the life of Christopher McCandless, a young man searching for adventure who died in the Alaskan wilds he had made his temporary outdoor home. 

On a recent visit to Fairbanks I saw several of the locations that featured in the film, including a couple of evenings in the shamrock-friendly Big I pub (you just can’t get away from Irish pubs, no matter where you are).  

Inside I heard stories of fur trapping, driving across the ice on the frozen Chena River (there was only one two-way steel bridge), and how travel by small plane is still as common as ever.  I also learned that Fairbanks was once home to a film mogul named Austin “Cap” Lathrop.

Lathrop first made inroads into Alaska in 1895, when his steamship bought supplies – and prospective miners – to the territory. He later invested in mining and oil, and in 1911 he converted a clothing store into his first Empress film theatre in the city of Valdez.

He opened other Empress-named cinemas, including the all-concrete one in Fairbanks (1927), where he also bought out the owners of the rather forlorn-looking Lacey Street Theater (both now long replaced by a multiplex). 

Lacey Street

He had radio and newspaper interests in Fairbanks and beyond too, but in 1924 he was the driving force behind adventure-drama film The Chechahcos (the title meaning “tenderfoot” or “new arrival”). 

Many Alaskan stories had been seen on the big screen, but they didn’t shoot on location. Lathrop, as president of the Alaska Motion Picture Corporation, wanted to change that. They announced plans for the production of a 12-reel picture – three of which were to be shot in Alaska – as a co-production with Oregon-based American Lithograph.  A large studio was built in Anchorage, and the crew from Hollywood, New York and Oregon flew in to work on the melodramatic story of gold-rush days. 

Every effort was made for full authenticity, and actors and crew alike faced the challenges of shooting on location, including a final chase involving mushing, a frozen river and a glacier – all of it real. Many local actors were hired, and others lined up to help and to work as extras (a story familiar to the countless hundreds or more who picked up work on the many years that “Game of Thrones” shot in Northern Ireland). Pathe-International bought the rights, and it was screened at the White House for the President before being released across America.

Hopes were high and reviews favorable, but audiences weren’t impressed (and the unusual title probably didn’t help either). Some, however, noticed that Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 comedy The Gold Rush might have been influenced by it, and in 2003 it was selected by the National Film Preservation Board.

Image: www.cheechakos.org

Lathrop died in an accident in 1950, but he did live on in perhaps Fairbanks’ most famous film. Released in 1960, Ice Palace was partly shot in Fairbanks, and featured a cast that included Richard Burton and Robert Ryan. 

Based on the 1958 novel by Edna Ferber, it saw rich businessman “Czar” Kennedy (played by Burton) and Thor Storm (Ryan) as two friends and rivals living in “Baranof,” a growing city looking towards statehood.  “Baranof” was greatly inspired by Fairbanks, and Czar was based on the life of “Cap” Lathrop. 

Northward Building

In 1950 a new, swish, eight-story apartment complex called the Northward Building had been built in Fairbanks. It was home to the city’s elite, and a very-similar building was Czar’s home in the pages of the book.  Writer Edna Ferber was fresh off the success of her previous novel Giant (and the subsequent James Dean film), but this movie version was a flop.   

Though it has lost almost all its lustre, the Northward Building still pays tribute to its moment in the spotlight: the hallway is lined with posters, newspaper articles and copies of the book. Locals still call “The Ice Palace”. 

Perhaps the best show in Fairbanks is the Aurora Borealis, which can be seen – weather conditions permitting – on many nights of the year here, thanks to that central location. I was lucky enough to catch a pre-winter glimpse….

 

 

Currently based in Los Angeles, James Bartlett is a story analyst for the Sundance Institute, the Nicholl Fellowships, the UCLA Professional Screenwriting Program, the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and National Geographic Films. He also reads for several UK regions, is the US consultant for Euroscript, and lectures across the UK and Ireland.

He’s available for private consultation at jbartlett2000@gmail.com

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary 

Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah)

Seán Crosson took in a selection of  documentary shorts at this year’s Fleadh, featuring works from both established and debut directors, showcasing the best of Irish talent. 

A key component of the Galway Film Fleadh’s focus on new and emerging talent is the series of short programmes featured across the festival. In total there were nine sessions dedicated to shorts at the Fleadh, covering documentary, fiction, and animation and as always the organisers deserve great credit for the focus and space they allocate to young Irish filmmakers in the programme. 

The films included in the first programme covered a wide range of topics from reflections on Irishness, to profile pieces, and considerations of aspects of the natural world.

El Hor

The programme began with the visually stunning and evocative El Hor directed by Dianne Lucille Campbell. Inspired by the beautiful Saluki dog, the film combines mythology, nature imagery, and dynamic cinematography, with otherworldly musical accompaniment. In the surreal landscapes and images created, the film is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s work, but also in its imagining of the world from the perspective of the animals featured, the work of Stan Brakhage. Overall Campbell has produced an extraordinary cacophony of sound and image, impossible to categorise but rather oddly included in a section dedicated to short documentaries; this was a work much closer in form to experimental film.

Our Land

More in keeping with documentary form was Eoin Harnett’s Our Land, an impressively realised reflection on what makes Ireland distinctive. Featuring seven contributors, each of whom provide engaging, humorous and at times insightful commentary on the topic, the documentary was excellently paced, moving effectively between its contributors and supporting footage from the streets of Galway.

Recommend Rapper

The subsequent films Recommend Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey) and Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) (Gerard Walsh) each provided profiles of intriguing characters from Galway. Recommend Rapper focuses on would-be rapper Danny Rock from Kinvara in Galway and his efforts to produce his first music video. While generally well produced, there is an uneasy tension (never entirely resolved) evident in this work between the director’s concern to sympathetically portray the subject and Rock becoming himself a figure of fun. Farmer Michael concerns the man (Steven Timothy) behind the comic character in the film’s title who has achieved a considerable following in recent years for his entertaining and idiosyncratic YouTube videos. This is an entertaining and at times moving account of the challenges Timothy has faced in his life. However, it is also a somewhat unbalanced piece that would have benefited from either a longer profile to accommodate the tonal changes apparent or a more focused production. 

Squared Circle

Squared Circle is an interesting chronicle of a group of wrestlers setting up and performing  on Waterford promenade, accompanied by an evocative commentary of the events concerned, written by Dublin-based wrestling promoter Simon Rochford, and recited by actor Ger Carey. In its day-in-a-life structure, the documentary is an informative account of the wrestlers featured and the effort involved in the events they organise and participate in.

Making Tom

Big Tom McBride was a legendary figure in Irish country music, above all for people from his native Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan. Táine King and Lorraine Higgins’ Making Tom is a sensitively produced study of the making of a statue to commemorate the country and Irish legend, and the impact of its unveiling on residents of his home town.

Pigeons of Discontent

The final documentary featured in this programme was Paddy Cahill’s Pigeons of Discontent – this was amongst the strongest works featured in this section, imaginatively engaging with the divided opinions among local residents of Stoneybatter in Dublin city towards the large number of pigeons that gather in the area. Cahill rightly chooses to focus his camera almost entirely on the pigeons themselves and the, at times, striking and beautiful shapes they create in flight, accompanied by comments (both positive and negative) from those who share Stoneybatter with them. 

Seán Crosson

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary programme screened 10th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

 

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: A Bump Along the Way

Siomha McQuinn gives up her seat for Shelly Love’s A Bump Along the Way.

A Bump Along the Way, a product of an all-female creative team and winner of Best Irish First Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, is about the tumultuous relationship between happy-go-lucky Pamela and her 15-year-old daughter, Allegra, who does not shy away from scolding her mother’s behaviour. Picture a modern-day Gilmore Girls but the relationship between the Lorelei and Rory is more hostile, Rory is a vegan and Stars Hollow is now a gossipy town in Derry.

After a night of lacklustre romance with a younger man, Pamela is baffled to find herself pregnant. Her situation is far from ideal as the father wants nothing to do with her and she can barely make ends meet in her current situation. The news puts further strains on her relationship with Allegra and the pair must learn to navigate their reality as they prepare for the arrival of their newest family member.

Many of the ideas in this film are already well-trodden paths such as the mother/daughter role-reversal and the absent father. However, both Pamela and Allegra are given narratives that are separate to the central relationship and this makes the world of the film richer.

The role of Allegra is played by Lola Petticrew, who won the Bingham Ray New Talent Award for her performance. She switches seamlessly between being a callous and bitter teenage daughter and a shy, artistic student who falls prey to some of her classmates. Her acting style is very natural as she creates a character who is quietly brave. The way she treats her mother initially seems disproportionately cold and unfair but with the realisation that Allegra is having a difficult time in school, and the knowledge that Pamela’s pregnancy will only act as fuel for her bully’s taunts, it is easier to empathise with a teenager who is doing her best to survive a tough time in her life. 

Bronagh Gallagher, who plays Pamela with big-eyed lovability, is clueless to Allegra’s bullying. She is well-meaning but vulnerable, which makes the growth of her character even more pleasing. A party-girl by nature, she is restless during her pregnancy and it is endearing to watch the pure torture that it is for her stay at home and rest, made worse by Allegra’s increasingly busy social calendar.  

Apart from Pamela’s delightful baker boss and Allegra’s kind teacher, men are painted in an almost entirely negative light; from the father of Pamela’s unborn child, who is fiercely unkind when discovering the pregnancy, to Allegra’s father who kicks up a fuss when asked to contribute financially. Their characters lack much intricacy, but this is easily forgiven as A Bump Along the Way is a film that champions women and delves into their complexities, making a slight dent into the massive backlog of films that represent women through flimsily constructed characters. These typical toxic male characters are there to aid the narrative. Pamela realises that she needs to stand up to the negative men in her life if her daughter is ever to respect her. 

A Bump Along the Way is a sweet and uplifting film about female relationships, the difficulties of life in a small town and the power of standing up for yourself. Despite engaging with difficult topics like bullying and misogyny it remains light and upbeat. It is satisfying and fun and suggests a bright future for the women involved in its production. 

Siomha McQuinn

@SiomhaMcQuinoa

A Bump Along the Way screened 13th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

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GAZE International LGBT Film Festival Roundtable

From left to right Katie McNeice, Tom Speers, Maya Derrington, Gemma Creagh and Roisín Geraghty

In this podcast, we welcome three filmmakers whose works are screening at this year’s GAZE International LGBT Film Festival (1 – 5 August). Maya Derrington, Katie McNeice and Tom Speers join Gemma Creagh to talk about their films and filmmaking.

Plus festival director Roisín Geraghty pops in to give us a quick look at this year’s programme.

Frida Think (Maya Derrington)

A woman walks into a party dressed as Frida Kahlo, only to find that her version of unique has mass appeal.


In Orbit (Katie McNeice)

A hypnotic and beautiful love story between two women that crosses both time and space.


Boy Saint (Tom Speers)

A sumptuous short film of friendship and adoration between boys, based on a poem by Peter LaBerge.

The GAZE International LGBT Film Festival runs from 1 – 5 August 2019. 

The Irish Shorts programme screens at  6:30pm at the Light House cinema on Sunday, 4th August.

Full programme & tickets here.

 

 

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Hugh O’Conor, Director of Metal Heart

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh is joined by writer Stephen Shields (The Hole in The Ground, 2019) to chat to Hugh O’Conor about his feature directorial debut Metal Heart.

Hugh talks about  pitching “Twin Peaks in Terenure” to writer Paul Murray, the development process, a darker version, casting and working with the actors. Hugh explains how his own background as an actor influences his directing and learning from other directors he’s worked with as an actor. Finally, Hugh sheds light on getting the soundtrack right, Louise O’Neill’s influence on the script ,  creating a complex bad guy and Resistance, an upcoming pilot for RTE.

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Galway Film Fleadh Filmmakers Roundtable

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh sits down with three filmmakers whose short films screen at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. Director Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair (Break Us), writer Sarah Ingersoll (The Bridge) and producer Marissa Aroy (The Ferry) join us to talk about their films, their roles as director , writer and producer and their individual approaches to the craft of filmmaking.


Break Us

(DIR/WRI:  Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair • PRO: Claire McCabe, 925 Productions • CAST: Gavin Drea, Danielle Galligan, Tristan McConnell)

Irish Talent: New Shorts 7Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts
Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45

Mark and Sophie plan to rob a post office but as things go awry, they each discover what they’re really made of.


The Bridge

(WRI: Sarah Ingersoll • DIR:  Mark Smyth • PRO: Lynn Larkin • CAST: Lochlann O’Mearáin, Peter Coonan, Marie Mullen)

Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction
Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

After the sudden death of his parents a young man must choose between returning to his home village in the west of Ireland to care for his estranged younger brother, and a bright future in Canada.


The Ferry

(PRO: Marissa Aroy, Roisin Kearney, Clodagh Bowyer • DIR/WRI: Niall McKay • CAST: Aoife Duffin, Deirdre Donnelly, Clodagh Bowyer)

Irish Talent: New Shorts 5, Fiction
Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45

Aoife searches for her birth mother and unveils a past that entangles two other women in town.

Tickets www.galwayfilmfleadh.com/


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David Magnier, Writer/Director of ‘Buoy’

In his short film Buoy, a young man throws himself off a lighthouse to end it all, but it’s only the beginning. Ahead of the film’s screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, writer/director David Magnier tells Film Ireland how his short film came to surface. 

The idea for Buoy wormed its way into my head over the course of a few weeks, in the twilight hours between going to bed and falling asleep. I find this period of time the best for creative musings and if I latch onto something I like as I am about to fall asleep and if it’s good enough to pull myself out of near unconsciousness I write it down in my notes. As a result my notes make for some pretty weird reading but the idea for Buoy haunted me for weeks. It was one of those images I couldn’t shake and I just knew I had to make it as I couldn’t seem to make peace with not making it. So the three-and-a-half-year struggle to realise it began.

 

The first stage was pulling the narrative together, which was the easy bit as it’s pretty loose and open-ended and the young male suicide anomaly in Ireland is all around us so it was something I wanted to address. I felt the aesthetic of the west coast of Ireland would be the perfect landscape for it due to its sort of magical and attractive bleakness.

 

The second step was figuring out how to make it. This was the tricky part as I had never seen weightless floating achieved this way before so there wasn’t much by way of a ‘copy that’ reference. I have always had a huge affinity for post-production and using it as a storytelling tool, so this part, although stressful, was a great process to work though. Finally, it was settled on a series of shoots that we could piece together into a final result… we hoped:

 

  • On location in West Cork shooting all the background plates and locations, imagining there was a man floating in the air.
  • In the studio shooting the close-ups of his face so we can have some actual reactions and acting
  • In an underwater tank in the UK with a green screen behind the actor, which we could then drop onto the plates from the first shoot.
Sounds easy right? Well, nothing about this turned out easy. On the first day on the west coast shoot a heavy lift drone with a full days worth of footage plopped into the Atlantic Ocean (technical fault), which hammered morale of course also our lighthouse location fell through last minute. So we had to make a lot of compromises to get what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted. As a director this can be hard to swallow as you have an idea in your head, but you need to switch to firefighting mode and just get what you can without the production breaking. It’s occasions like this that your crew having your back is so so important and a few heroes tend to present themselves. Burschi Wojnar the DOP saved my bacon more than once on this shoot and without him going the extra mile the whole thing would have certainly fallen apart and Dave Minogue the co-producer pulled some magic to get a second lighthouse for us.

 

The underwater tank shoot was one of those high risk situations where you wonder, can David Thompson, our lead, act underwater while holding his breath. Thankfully, the answer was yes and he played such a blinder that by the end of the shoot day he was actually nearly blind. Talk about putting your body on the line. It was already becoming very apparent to me that I wasn’t the only one rooting for this film and the cast and crew were, if you’ll pardon the pun, keeping me afloat.

 

So with all the shoot days behind us the final and arguably the toughest hurdle was looming. Getting someone to do the incredible amount of post production for the meagre budget I had remaining. This took some bouncing around and the guts of two and half years as a few people took it on and the volume of work scared them off. Then Johnny Han introduced me to Brian Ali Harding, the next hero in the story. Brian took it on and although it was a lot more work than he anticipated – think bubble removals, rotoscoping, keying, CGI whales and seas, etc. – he took it on as a labour of love and saw it through. When you are lucky enough to find people who care about your project beyond just the budget available you are very fortunate indeed and that for me is what short film is all about. It’s a collaboration against the odds to make something you all end up emotionally invested in.

 

Buoy screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 2, Fiction programme on Thursday, 11th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.

 

 

Preview of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2019

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Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 36 – I’m Jesus. I Want Cocaine

 

Sarah Cullen and Richard Drumm return to open up the bonnet of film. In this episode, our podders shine a light on Netflix fodder Rim of the World, I Am Mother, When They See Us and The Perfection, and take a look at some recent cinema releases, including Too Late To Die Young,  Diego Maradona, Brightburn, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, High Life, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and In Fabric.

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Gerard Walsh, Director of Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah)’

 

Gerard Wash’s short documentary introduces us to Farmer Michael, a Galway-based, divisive character getting millions of views online. But his creator, Stevo Timothy, has a past with far more twists and turns than anyone would expect.

 

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, Gerard tells Film Ireland about how the film came together.

 

Documentaries were always something that I enjoyed watching but I never thought I would make one. Feature films have been my goal for over ten years and after directing 3 I decided why not! Let’s give it a go.

I have always been interested in telling people’s stories through small profile pieces and just putting them online so I was really going into the documentary blindfolded. Learning each day.

In between work and personal projects I enjoy asking interesting people that I encounter if I can document their story or talents and just put it out there. It helped me with my filmmaking and storytelling and I would always learn something new.

I still don’t know if it’s a selfless or selfish thing to do because I enjoy taking a peek into other people’s lives. The goal for me is always to help the subject with some sort of release or maybe just help them show off their talents.

I started this with a YouTube channel over 5 years ago called “LIVESETS” at the time. I would contact bands and singer/songwriters and just shoot one-take live performances. But after a while I wanted to do profiles on people from all walks of life. From barbers and sportspeople to comedians and grieving mothers.

Eventually I was approached by Stevo (Farmer Michael). I had worked with him a few years back on a promo video for a pub in Galway and after that, asked him to play a small part in my film South, so there was a bit of a relationship there.

He was looking for someone to create a short video about him and his life so I agreed.  When I sat down to interview him I really wasn’t expecting him to tell me the things he did. I felt Immediately torn on how to tell his story.

On one hand, it is a story of success, redemption and prevailing through art. I think that’s the story he wanted me to focus on originally.  But on the other hand, it’s a story about a terrible tragedy and something that could change a lot of people’s’ minds on how they feel about Stevo as a real person and not just his character.

After the first interview I realized that the story was bigger than I originally thought so I decided to spend more time exploring his life. I shot more days over the course of a year and wanted to see different sides of Stevo. I wanted an ending, I wanted some sort of redemption. For me, redemption needs to be shown over the course of time, it needs to be earned and I wanted that to come across in film.

If I’m being honest I was just looking for an honest way to tell the story and I’m not 100 percent sure I found it. The cut of the film as it stands has an ending, I think it works the way I indented it too, for now,  but I would eventually like to explore the idea of a longer film, hopefully we can acquire some funding for a feature-length version.

I always had a the goal of letting the viewer decide how they feel at the end and not forcing my own opinion on them. I could have easily sugar-coated Stevo’s story and tied it up in a nice little bow but there is no way I would. I have laid out as much as I could and I think that’s my responsibility as a storyteller.

If people are expecting to see a film based on a comedian and his hilarious exploits, they may be in for a bit of a surprise with this film. It is a story about a comedian, but also a story about a man with an extraordinary past.

I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions and views after they see the film, I could be over-thinking everything and it’s entirely possible that I may have my head up my hole with my analysis of the film. But let’s see how it gets on.

Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 1, Documentary Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction programme on Wednesday, 10th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 12:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.

The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.

 

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Prisoners of the Moon – Johnny Gogan, Director & Nick Snow, Writer

Image used with kind permission from the IFI

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to director Johnny Gogan and writer Nick Snow at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon at the IFI.  The film tells the story of Arthur Rudolph, a scientist who played a key role in NASA’s historic 1969 moon landing. Rudolph was one of over 100 Nazi V-2 rocket engineers secretly brought to America in 1945 to work on the Cold War missile programme. He became a key figure in NASA’s space race, but was arrested in Toronto in 1990 on suspicion of being a war criminal. The dramatised trial (featuring Jim Norton and Cathy Belton) animates this revelatory documentary which uses archive material, expert witness interviews, and the testimony of Jean Michel, a slave labour survivor of the subterranean wartime V-2 Rocket.

https://www.prisonersofthemoon.com/events

This podcast was recorded at the IFI on Monday, 1st July 2019 at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon.

 

 

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Erik Nelson, Director of ‘The Cold Blue’

The Cold Blue is a new feature-length film, digitally restored, constructed from the material of 34 reels of raw, colour, footage shot during bombing missions in Germany.

Captured by William Wyler, it was originally shot for the 1944 documentary The Memphis Belle: A story of a Flying Fortress. This extraordinary, never-before-seen colour footage puts you 30,000 feet over Nazi Germany, battling killer flak, enemy fighters, and minus 60-degree temperatures. 

Director Erik Nelson, who was in Dublin recently, talked to Paul Farren about the making of the documentary. 

 

How did this project come about?

It came from a long-term passion of mine for World War II history and aviation and I had a friend who worked with Paul Allen, the reclusive billionaire, who also shared a passion for World War II aviation. They gave me some money to go and look for colour footage of WWII airplanes just because it would be interesting for historical purposes. That’s when we discovered William Wyler’s outtakes – and intakes actually – from Memphis Belle and the moment I saw that collection I realised that there was a feature film in here and pretty much this whole project crystallized instantly.

It’s a very beautiful, very sombre depiction of the B-17 bomber crews coming from England to Germany at the end of the war. How would you describe it?

The film is, in essence,  a time portal that immerses you in the world of 1943 and the men who flew over Germany from England and the strategic bombing campaign.  It catapults the viewer into a B-17, 25,000 feet over Germany with flak enemy fighters in unbelievable cold and strenuous conditions.

The transformation job on the footage was astounding.  I couldn’t get over the beauty of it.

Originally I thought of this as an art film, not an historical documentary, maybe influenced by my work with Werner Herzog.  So I tried to create something that wasn’t a traditional documentary but which was much more of an immersive experience, not unlike the Peter Jackson film [They Shall Not Grow Old, 2018] or Apollo 11 [Todd Douglas, 2019].

It’s interesting seeing this kind of restoration because it does have a most unusual and emotional impact, it certainly did for me.  Some people might find it controversial in the way that it touches on certain aspects of the violence of the war and where people might see the voice it gives. But I thought it more profound than that because you did talk about the effect the war had on the citizens of Germany and the whole madness of that and so the story is there for people to go and check for themselves.

That’s it. This points you…  it opens up the door if you want to walk into it and learn more. But you can’t tell the story without discussing the people on the ground. They often get dismissed in traditional World War II documentaries. It’s very much an unflinching, cold-blooded presentation of the realities of the time and viewers can find in it what they want.

I agree. It was a story is a bunch of 20-year-old men who were put in a terrible situation and made the best of it.

Terrified 20-year-old boys really, who were following the moral dictates of the time and found themselves in this insane position, day after day, mission after mission.

You were very lucky in being able to have anyone left to be able to talk to and give you that narrative. Tell me about that process going about meeting all these 90 year old men who’d been part of that.

We cast them – we worked with someone who knew who the survivors were and we created a composite crew: one guy for each section and we drove cross-country myself and the producer got in a car and paid house calls because that’s where you’ll find them – you go to them; they don’t go to you – and we spent an hour an hour and a half with each of them across the country: 9 guys, 9 different places. I knew they had to speak to the footage. I knew what was in the footage so I focused the interviews to compliment the footage I knew I had.

It was a highly charged emotional thing for these guys to look at themselves after all these years. 

Yes. This  trauma has never left them and this film opened up that door again for them and my questions opened it up for them, so it was a kind of therapy for them in some ways.

 

What were the biggest challenges for you once the project really heated up and began.  Technically it must have been huge.

No, it pretty much went together very simply. There’s probably 7 active creative participants, 2 people on restoration, 1 person, David Hughes, whose previous film was Black Panther, on sound design, and Richard Thompson, who composed the extraordinary soundtrack.

It was an amazing soundtrack – very evocative and it crept up on you in terms of how it dealt with the emotional moments and how it tried not to be over-melodramatic, I suppose avoiding a propaganda-esque feel.

Exactly. It’s melancholy. That’s something about Richard’s music. He’s always had that kind of melancholy streak, very realistic, cynical streak. I’ve worked with him in the past – he scored my film Grizzly Man and a couple of other films with me. 

What was his way into it? How did you discuss it with him?

He did what he wanted. I’d given him a copy of the finished film with what I thought were the appropriate music choices and he pretty much threw out my choices and did what he wanted, which is  kind of what I was expecting him to do. And he made it far better than I could have dreamed.

Which is part of the joy of that collaborative process when you meet somebody you totally trust.

I do 

And the sound design deserves extra mention as well because that is a huge task to do justice to do something that…  not that it was a case of guessing what it was like, but more to evoke that memory. 

Well the good news is that we didn’t have to guess because  we had access to a real B-17 and state-of-the-art audio recording and we knew where the cameras were placed because we had the footage – so it was probably the opposite of guesswork; it was more duplicate, it was more put the microphone at the right angle and record it exactly how it was. We had to create the sounds of Flak. I worked with the veterans who described what Flak sounded like so we did our best to duplicate that sound.

 

How’s the response been so far at the screenings for the piece?

It’s been terrific. It  seems to be really striking a chord in people. With the success of the Jackson film and  Apollo 11 and now my film, there seems to be a real interest in immersive bigscreen history and for some reason people are looking to escape into “the past”.

I couldn’t get over how huge the missions were from England.

Literally thousands of planes. That will never happen again. You’ll never see 1,000 airplanes in the sky at one time ever again in human history – that was once in human history and William Wyler happened to capture those images in colour film in 1943 and the raw footage that  he captured has managed to survive for 75 years so that’s pretty extraordinary all around.

The work is phenomenal. Just to say again, I’ve never felt such an emotional touchstone to that time and place, in as much as you can have –  it’s a bit of a time machine. 

Thank you – that was the intention, to connect you to the past through the footage of men who were there.

 

In cinemas one night only July 4th http://www.mycineplace.com/thecoldblue

Dublin screening at IFI

 

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Tristan Heanue, Writer/Director of ‘Ciúnas’

 

Tristan Heanue gives us an insight into Ciúnas, his Irish language short film, which is screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. Tristan is also nominated for The Bingham Ray New Talent Award at this year’s festival.

What can you tell us about Ciunas?

It follows a couple as they drive to the city to collect their daughter, they are in the middle of a family crisis. It focuses mainly on the parents and how they cope with the situation.

How did the idea come about?

I was visiting someone in a psychiatric hospital a few years ago and I saw a middle-aged couple sitting at the table next to me in the waiting area. They weren’t speaking and just sitting there in silence.

A few minutes later their daughter arrived, I had no idea why she was there and nothing was addressed when they met. They just proceeded to make small talk even though they both looked like they had a million things they wanted to say to her and ask her. It just stuck in my head, that old Irish thing of not being able to express your feelings or say what you feel. I started to imagine their morning before they came to the hospital and that was where the main story came from.

A few years later I submitted the idea in a paragraph to the Físín Script competition run by the Dingle Film Festival and it was shortlisted and eventually went on to win the award which came with €5000 funding and €2000 equipment rental to make the film.

You’ve a fantastic cast, including Hazel Doupe, who was staggeringly good in Float Like a Butterfly. Can you tell us about finding your 3 leads and working with them.

I saw Hazel in Michael Inside at the Fleadh a couple of years ago, she only had one scene but I was blown away by the emotion and how real she was. I contacted Frank Berry and he put us in touch, I sent her the script and thankfully she liked it.  She’s a really special talent, and takes her work very seriously, I’ve no doubt that she will have an incredible career.

Gary Lydon I have been a fan of for years, we did a film together last August and on the last day I asked him how his Irish was and if he would like to read the script. Again I was delighted he liked it and came on board, we worked very closely on his character and spoke at length in the months preceding the shoot and I think that shows in his performance.

Ally Ní Chairáin I had met through a friend and I instantly knew I wanted to work with her. She was the first person to be cast and again we spoke at length regarding her character and we worked out many ideas and subplots, none of which you see on screen but they gave her layers to her character and performance.

On set it was a dream really, the work we had done individually really showed and everyone hit the ground running. We didn’t rehearse really, apart from a few reads of it the night before we shot.

Does your background as an actor feed in to your directing?

Definitely, I love working with actors, it’s one of, if not my favourite part of the directing process. You just have a better understanding of how they think and what they may need to hear when you’ve acted yourself. You are more sensitive to their needs and can be quite protective of them.

I see you’re working with Narayan [Van Maele, cinematographer] again alongside you – what does he bring to the project and maybe tell us a little bit about working with him.

Narayan’s incredible, we have a wonderful collaborative relationship. He brings so much knowledge with him and always has so many ideas and suggestions. We usually do our location recce together and plan the shot list after. But we like to keep it kind of loose so if something isn’t working or locations change we can work together to find solutions or a better way to do it. I’m looking forward to making many more films with him.

Also you have the brilliant Michael Fleming composing the music…

Yeah, we had worked together on my previous film and I loved the experience. We agreed that this project needed a very subtle score. We decided early on that too many notes over such a delicate piece felt contrived so we set about finding sound textures that reflected the mood instead.

You were also nominated for The Bingham Ray New Talent Award at this year’s festival – what does that mean for you?

It was a real shock to be honest, they had never nominated a short filmmaker before so I really didn’t expect it. I’m hugely honoured and so happy that they liked the film and connected with it. Win or lose it’s a great boost and hopefully it helps bring the film to the attention of some more festivals and helps it on its journey. Things like this can really make a difference with an independent film.

 

Ciúnas screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction programme on Saturday, 13th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.

 

The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 914 July 2019.

 

Preview of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2019

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Jaro Waldeck, Cinematographer

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to Jaro Waldeck about filmmaking and her career in cinematography. Jaro talks about learning her craft, training opportunities and getting into the industry.

Jaro is a DOP with Master of Arts in Cinematography from FAMU Prague and a Bachelor of Arts in Cinematography from Columbia College Chicago. She interned with Academy Award nominee Phedon Papamichael, ASC, and won several Best Cinematography Awards in Ireland and Scotland. Jaro has worked on projects ranging from short narrative and documentary films to music videos, TV documentaries and commercials and promos. She is a member of Czech Society of Cinematographers and a board member of Women in Film and Television Ireland.

As well as focusing on lighting and camera operating, Jaro has four years combined experience teaching cinematography and supervising student film-shoots. Her skills and experience involve working with all modern digital semi-pro and fully professional cameras and workflows, 35mm and 16mm film stocks and cameras, lighting and camera support equipment, colour corrections, location scouting, technical script analysis, storyboarding and shot list creation.

More information on her website www.jarowaldeck.com

 

 

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Preview of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2019

As the good weather starts to kick in we take a look at the goodies on offer at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.  Always a fabulous festival. Hope to see you there. 

The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs Tuesday 9th to Sunday 14th July 2019

 

Irish Talent: New Shorts 1 – Documentary

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 12:00

Features works from both established and debut directors, showcasing the best of Irish talent.

Tickets


Cumar – A Galway Rhapsody

DIR:  Aodh Ó Coileáin

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 14:00 

Through the eyes of six Galway artists this is an art film exploring the confluences which have shaped Galway and Connemara’s unique cultural fabric.

Featured artists include writer Mike McCormack, poet Rita Ann Higgins, singer Róisín Seoighe, street theatre director Noeline Kavanagh, visual artist Pádraic Reaney and musician Máirtín O’Connor. Comedian Tommy Tiernan also adds his distinctive voice to Cumar.

CAST: Mike McCormack, Rita Ann Higgins, Róisín Seoighe, Noeline Kavanagh, Pádraic Reaney, Tommy Tiernan, Máirtín O’Connor

Q+A with director Aodh Ó Coileáin

Tickets


Glimpses of Galway

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 16:00

 

The Irish Film Institute returns with a new programme of archival films made in and about Galway and its environs. The programme includes both amateur and professional footage, dating from the 1920s to the 1970s, and will cover such a broad range of people and places that you may well see yourself or someone you know on screen. The silent films in the programme will be accompanied by Aran Island fiddler Deirdre Ní Chonghaile.

Tickets


Supervized

DIR:  Steve Barron • WRI: Andy Briggs, John Niven

Wed 10 July | Town Hall Theatre | 19:45

An elderly group of international superheroes have retired to a nursing home in Ireland. Heroic adventures have been swopped for bingo and blanket baths. When one of the group dies after having his superpowers ‘downwardly managed’ for the safety of others, one of them suspects foul play.

Ray, the once world renowned ‘Maximum Justice’, decides to investigate. The rest of the gang are not so convinced, and Ray finds himself not only battling against his enemies, but the stigma and restrictions of old age.

CAST: Tom Berenger, Beau Bridges, Fionnula Flanagan, Louis Gossett Jr., Fiona Glascott, Ned Dennehy

Q+A with Fionnula Flanagan


Irish Talent: New Shorts 2 – Fiction

Thurs 11 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

 

This series of live action shorts features a mix of traditional narrative and experimental storytelling. With an exciting programme of premieres and competition winners from Little Cinema’s ‘48 Hour Challenge’ & Offline Film Festival.


Irish Talent: New Shorts 3 – Fiction

Thurs 11 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45

 

This third programme of live action shorts explores the parallel problems of escapism from a variety of settings: judgement, troubled pasts and unhappy status quos. Featuring student work and work from established directors.

Tickets


Finky

DIR: Dathaí Keane • WRI: Dathaí Keane, Diarmuid de Faoite

Thurs 11 July | Town Hall Theatre | 18:00

A musician and puppeteer seeking to escape his past steals an envelope full of cash and escapes to Scotland with his childhood friend Tom to start a new life. On their first night in Glasgow, Finky has an accident and is left paralysed from the waist down. He hits rock bottom, but is given a chance at redemption when he is recruited by Carnival Chaotica, an avant-garde circus troupe. As his journey becomes increasingly hellish and surreal he realises that he must confront his tormented past if he is ever to find peace.

CAST: Dara Devaney, Ned Dennehy, Diarmuid De Faoite, Fionnuala Gygax, Eoin Geoghegan

Q+A with cast and crew


Irish Talent: New Shorts 4: Fiction

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

 

This programme of Irish Premieres explores love stories from the past, the present and everywhere in between. Screening work from both debut and established filmmakers.

Tickets


This selection of shorts celebrates the cinematic convergence of individual art forms. This programme features student film and work from established filmmakers. Loneliness and freedom are key themes throughout.

Tickets


Gaza

DIR:  Garry Keane, Andrew Mcconnell

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 13:45

 

It’s hard to imagine anybody living a normal life in the Gaza Strip. Frequently labeled as the world’s largest open-air prison, this is a beautiful portrait of everyday Gazan citizens, leading meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial conflict.

Gaza depicts a people plagued by conflict but not defined by it, painting a tender portrait of a beleaguered humanity.

CAST: Manal Khalafawi, Karma Khaial, Ahmed Abu Alqoraan

Q+A with directors Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell

Tickets


Bruno

DIR/WRI: Karl Golden
Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 16:00

 

Daniel is a man without a home. Following a personal tragedy, he left his wife and job and drifted into a life on the streets of London. Living in the shadows and surviving on the margins has taken its toll. He desperately wants to find a way back to his former life. But guilt and shame are insurmountable obstacles. Instead, he watches his wife from a distance, as she goes about her daily life. She is so close and yet belongs to another world. A world that he once shared with her.

Daniel’s only companion is a dog called Bruno. They are inseparable. But after he is assaulted one night, Bruno goes missing. As Daniel searches the city for Bruno, he comes across a young boy hiding alone in a dark playground. They search for Bruno, forming an emotional bond in the face of danger. Each step of their journey taking them closer to home and offers the possibility of redemption.

CAST: Diarmaid Murtagh, Woody Norman, Seun Shote, Scarlett Alice Johnson

Q+A with director Karl Golden and cast

Breaking Out

DIR/WRI: Michael McCormack

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 18:30 

 

Filmed over 10 years and covering a lifetime, Breaking Out is the story of singer and musician Fergus O’Farrell, an artist whose unique talent inspired a generation of songwriters and touched thousands of lives, even as his own was slipping away. Its pace matches the remarkable energy of its central character, a man whose pursuit of perfection, gift for friendship and capacity for love captivated all who met him.

CAST: Fergus O’Farrell, Meng Li O’Farrell, Glen Hansard, Jeremy Irons, Vincent O’Farrell, Maureen O’Farrell, Steve Wall, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Liam Ó Maonlaí

Q+A with director Michael McCormack and cast

Tickets


Animals

DIR: Sophie Hyde • WRI: Emma Jane Unsworth

Fri 12 July | Town Hall Theatre | 20:30

2 best friends and drinking buddies’ hedonistic existence falls under the threat of responsibility and adulthood when Laura gets engaged to Jim – a devilishly handsome and ambitious pianist. As their relationship intensifies, Laura’s friendship with Tyler comes under pressure.

As the fabric of their friendship begins to fray, the bond between these two siren soulmates starts to implode. Finding themselves at a crossroads as their old lives start to slip away, both begin to encounter new opportunities that might carry them beyond their past hedonism. This film, set in Dublin, is a very funny, insightful celebration of female friendship and the choices we make.

CAST: Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat Fra Fee, Dermot Murphy

Q+A with cast and crew

A Dog Called Money

DIR:  Seamus Murphy

Fri 12 July | Pálás Screen 3 | 21:00 

As imaginative as the creative process it documents, this is a uniquely intimate journey through the inspiration, writing and recording of a PJ Harvey record.

Q+A with producer Katie Holly

Tickets


Irish Talent: New Shorts 6 – Fiction

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

This programme of live action shorts explores themes of avoidance and escapism. Featuring films from both new and established directors. A programme hosting home-grown Irish talent and international co-productions from the United Kingdom and United States.


Irish Talent: New Shorts 7 – Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 11:45

Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland (FÉ/SI) is proud to present the World Premiere of an exciting selection of new Irish short films funded under the agency’s Frameworks and Short Stories schemes. The Frameworks projects included in this line-up are co-funded by FÉ/SI and RTÉ.

Tickets


Best Before Death

DIR: Paul Duane

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 13:30 | Documentary

Following artist Bill Drummond over two years of his 12-year World Tour.

CAST:  Bill Drummond, Tracey Moberly

Q+A with director Paul Duane, cinematographer Robbie Ryan and producer Robert Gordon

Tickets


Bojayá: Caught In The Crossfire

DIR: Oisin Kearney

Sat 13 July | Pálás Screen 1 | 13:45

 

The 2002 Bojayá massacre was and remains one of the worst mass atrocities in Colombia’s 50-year-long conflict. The victims were never to be properly identified. As a result, Leyner, a community leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, decided to become a lawyer to fight for his people’s rights.

Through capturing Leyner’s obstacle-filled quest in real time, a fascinating perspective emerges on the unfolding history of Colombia.

CAST: Leyner Palacios

Q+A with director Oisín Kearney

Tickets


Jihad Jane

DIR: Ciaran Cassidy

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 15:30 

 

In March 2010, two American women, including one called ‘jihad Jane’, were caught in a number of high-profile arrests, which were trumpeted by the US attorney’s office as ‘the new face on terror’.

Facing huge jail sentences, the two women pleaded guilty but now for the first time ever, with unprecedented access, Jihad Jane tells the story of the most absurd terror cell ever to come together.

Q+A with director Ciaran Cassidy

Tickets


A Bump Along The Way

DIR:  Shelly Love • WRI: Tess Mcgowan

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 17:45

 

Fifteen-year-old Allegra is constantly embarrassed by her mother’s immaturity, her dead-end job at the bakery and her lifestyle, encouraged by fast-talking best friend Aisling. But Pamela’s fed up too, having put her life on hold to raise her disapproving daughter.

When Pamela becomes unexpectedly pregnant, the relationship between mother and daughter is tested as the two navigate the upheavals of pregnancy and teenage hormones, driving Pamela and Allegra to a new understanding and appreciation of each other along the way.

CAST: Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew, Mary Moulds, Dan Gordan, Andy Doherty, Gerard Jordan, Paddy C. Courtney

Q+A with cast and crew

Extra Ordinary

DIR/WRI: Enda Loughman, Mike Ahern

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 20.00|

 

A driving instructor must use her supernatural gifts to save a lonely man’s daughter from an aging rockstar looking to use her for satanic sacrifice.

CAST: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte


Heyday: The Mic Christopher Story

DIR: Alan Leonard • WRI:  Níall Carver, Alan Leonard

Sat 13 July | Town Hall Theatre | 22:30

One of Ireland’s great musical talents finds his body shattered by a road accident. After a miraculous recovery, he is reborn, transformed, and in his last year inspires his friends onto greatness. Mic Christopher was an enormous musical talent who since his death in 2001, remains largely unknown outside of Ireland.
This story charts Mic Christopher’s rise, fall, rebirth, and legacy – how he leads his wide circle of friends (an entire generation of Irish musicians ) onto fame, success and new artistic highs.

CAST:  Mic Christopher, Glen Hansard, Sharon Horgan, Rónán Ó’Snodaigh, Bronagh Gallagher, Mike Scott, Lisa Hannigan, Colm Mac Con Iomaire

Q+A with director Alan Leonard and cast

Tickets


Irish Talent: New Shorts 8- Documentaries

Sun 14 July | Town Hall Theatre | 10:00

This strand showcases a diverse range of short documentary films. We explore different themes surrounding present-day social and global issues in a variety of styles. Showcasing work from debut filmmakers and more established directors from Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Tickets


A Girl From Mogadishu

DIR/WRI: Mary McGuckian

Sun 14 July | Pálás Screen 3 | 12:00

 

A true story based on the testimony of Ifrah Ahmed, an Irish-Somali activist. In this female empowerment film, Ahmed escapes war-torn Somalia as a teenager. With the help of a human trafficker, she finds refuge in Ireland where she vows to devote her life to stopping the practice of female genital mutilation.

CAST: Aja Naomi King, Barkhad Abdi, Martha Canga Antonio, Maryam Mursal

Q+A with director Mary McGuckian


Irish Talent: New Shorts 9: Animation

Sun 14 July | Town Hall Theatre | 12:00

This strand of shorts celebrates the creative cornerstone of Irish film: the animation industry. We showcase the latest work from established directors and the best in new Irish animation from the country’s recent graduates of Ballyfermot CFE, IADT, Limerick Institute of Technology and Coláiste Dhúlaigh.

Tickets


Never Grow Old (Closing Night Gala)

DIR/WRI: Ivan Kavanagh

Sun 14 July | Town Hall Theatre | 9.30

 

An Irish undertaker initially profits when outlaws take over a peaceful American frontier town, but his family come under threat as the death toll rises. Don’t miss this exciting fast-paced action movie set on the infamous California trail during the 1849 gold rush, where loyalties spin like the barrel of a gun

CAST: Emile Hirsch, John Cusack, Déborah François

Visit galwayfilmfleadh.com for the full programme

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Reel Horror Show: Episode 12

Otto Lehtonen

 

Our grotesque gathering of ghouls and goblins return to spread mischief in the latest episode of the Reel Horror Show. Ali Doyle, Conor Dowling, Conor McMahon and Mark Sheridan are all chained at the ankle to a pipe and will only be set free by discussing horror for over an hour – will they succeed and be freed or will they fail and be handed a hacksaw by their evil editor. 

Films that come under the horror hammer include Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,  Escape Room, The Silence, Us,  The Twilight Zone, Mom and Dad, Insidious IV, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Victor Crowley, The Cure for Wellness, Unfriended: Dark Web, Slenderman, Possum – “it’s a guy, with a bag, with a spider in it…”, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, Necromancer, Patchwork, May, Pet Sematary.


 

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John Butler, Writer/Director Papi Chulo

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, Papi Chulo tells of a down-on-his-luck weatherman (Matt Bomer) who is shaken by the end of a relationship. He has an on-air meltdown, prompting concerned bosses to persuade him to take some time out. To fill his days, he employs a Latino migrant worker (Alejandro Patiño) to paint his home but also to keep him company. Despite their cultural, age and language differences, they connect.

Paul Farren sat down with writer/director John Butler to talk about creating his comedy/drama,  the themes of empathy and unlikely friendship, the talents of Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patiño and working with DOP Cathal Watters and composer John McPhillips.


Papi Chulo is in cinemas from 7th June 2019

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Screening Ireland in Rome: The Irish Film Festa, Twelfth Edition

Áine O’Healy reports from the Twelfth Edition of The Irish Film Festa in Rome, which ran from March 27th to 31st 2019.

In late March a cohort of Irish actors, directors and producers arrived in Rome as guests of the Irish Film Festa, which ran from March 27 to March 31.  Now in its twelfth iteration, the festival has expanded to a five-day programme of screenings, workshops, panels, and other events. Taking place annually at the prestigious Casa del Cinema—a stone’s throw from the Via Veneto and the resonances of the dolce vita that this location evokes—it showcases the best of recent filmmaking from both sides of Ireland’s north-south divide. Under the creative direction of Susanna Pellis since its inception, it has found increasing popularity with Roman filmgoers, drawing full houses over the entire course of the festival. The audience is for the most part Italian (the films are subtitled and all other events are facilitated through interpreters) with a sprinkling of Irish and other English-speaking expats also in attendance.

Although festivals of Irish cinema are beginning to proliferate across the planet—some of the invited guests at the Rome event had just attended the recently established Moscow Irish film festival—Rome’s Festa has distinctive characteristics that set it apart from the others thanks to the vision and acumen of Susanna Pellis, whose specialized knowledge, passion and dedication have shaped its unique profile since 2007. It remains a relatively intimate and remarkably dynamic event that offers multiple opportunities for Irish filmmakers (both well-established and up-and-coming) to interact with each other and with local audiences.

The programming is thus never simply an assortment of new releases from Ireland. Rather, it reveals Pellis’ keen awareness of ongoing developments in Irish filmmaking—not only with respect to mainstream releases, but also making room for more quirky, independent features, documentaries, shorts, and experimental productions. More importantly, it is shaped by her capacity to facilitate reflection on the larger implications of these developments through many opportunities for conversation and interaction. The screenings are accompanied by a stimulating range of presentations, interviews, workshops, and question and answer sessions, involving directors, actors and other industry professionals.

Short Film Winners Paul Horan & Mia Mullarkey 

Since 2010, the Festa has included a competition of short films. Sixteen of the films submitted this year were selected as finalists and screened at the 2019 festival, with the two winners announced and then re-screened on the closing night. With its incisive exposé of the events surrounding the discovery of the remains of almost 800 children in a sewer adjacent to the former Bon Secours Home in Tuam in 2017, Mia Mullarkey’s Mother & Baby won the documentary award. It includes archival material as well as interviews with several aging former residents of the notorious Mother and Baby Homes and with the self-trained historian, Catherine Corless, who spent years uncovering evidence of the horrific neglect and undocumented deaths of an astonishing number of children at the nearby convent. This is an impressive work that pays particular attention to the effects of traumatic memory and to the courage of the extraordinarily modest woman who singlehandedly unveiled the scandal and now quietly dedicates her life to supporting the survivors’ ongoing quest for justice.  

The film that won the Best Drama Short award, Paul Horan’s Bless me Father, also broaches the issue of the excessive power of the Catholic Church in Ireland. A two-hander set entirely within the confines of a confessional, the film dramatizes the revenge of a terminally ill man against a priest who had psychologically tyrannized his parishioners with a demoralizing rhetoric of fear and guilt. Like Mother & Baby, it portrays Irish society as an insular world paralyzed by secrets and shame, where Catholic clergy and other religious figures occupy a far too dominant role. Although the power of religious institutions is clearly on the wane in Irish society at present, filmmakers may be exercising a cathartic role in bringing to light the lingering effects of still unspoken wounds.

The festival’s opening feature this year was Nick Kelly’s well-received The Drummer and a Keeper, which reprises the well-worn trope of unlikely friendship between mismatched individuals. From the initial, explosive encounter between an institutionalized autistic teenager and a gifted, though temperamental drummer in his twenties who suffers psychotic episodes, it traces the ups and downs of a relationship that is fraught with pain and defensive cruelty. For the most part, the film is infused with psychological drama and suspense, yet it achieves a heart-warming resolution that seems as improbable as it is unexpected. Despite the upbeat ending, a sense of worry may linger for the viewer long after the film’s conclusion, as the storyline has so vividly exposed the fragility of human connections based on the recognition of mutual of pain and isolation. Yet Kelly’s film is more than just another iteration of the “odd couple” movie. Rather, it seems to be part of a growing trend in Irish filmmaking that broaches the pressing question of mental health in contemporary Irish society.

Moe Dunford & Frank Berry discuss Michael Inside  

Frank Berry’s Michael Inside also looks at a difficult social issue, in this case the limited prospects and ever-present risks for young people growing up in depressed urban areas, many of whom are almost inevitably destined for incarceration. The film is a prison drama that transcends the genre at many levels. Although the action unfolds for the large part “inside”, the violence it depicts is principally psychological. Dafhyd Flynn plays the vulnerable 18-year old Michael, who lives with his grandfather on a rough housing estate in Dublin. The old man hopes his grandson will escape the vicious circle of repeated convictions and incarcerations to which many youths in the neighborhood have succumbed, and Michael, too, seems intent on avoiding the routine drug dealing practiced by his circle of acquaintances. Pressured by a friend to hide a stash of drugs in his grandfather’s home, he ends up in prison. Though neither a buyer nor a dealer, he is too intimidated to reveal the source of the stash he was forced to hide. Little by little, Michael is acculturated to hierarchies of prison life and to the moral compromises that prisoners adopt to cope with the conditions of incarceration. The power plays in which he becomes entangled while in prison pursue him even after his release, so he ends up back inside, just like his father. Berry’s direction is assured, drawing fine performances from the cast, which include both professionals, such as Moe Dunford and Lalor Roddy, and non-professionals. Several minor roles are performed by former prisoners with real-life experience of the narrative context. The result is a splendid film of consistent psychological tension tempered by a persistent melancholy. The screening was followed by a panel discussion and question and answer session with Berry and Dunford, which helped to cast light on Berry’s creative process, careful research, and his history of creative collaboration with former prisoners and residents of the blighted social environments that the film evokes.

Every year the Festa includes the screening of at least one “classic” film of Irish cinema. This year’s selection was Colin Gregg’s Lamb (1985), featuring Liam Neeson as Michael Lamb, a novice on the staff of an industrial school run by a religious order, and Hugh O’Conor as Owen, the epileptic ten-year-old he takes under his wing and eventually whisks off to England in an attempt to spare the boy the everyday cruelties of the institution. Foreshadowing a critique that emerged with greater force in several subsequent Irish films, Lamb hints at the troubling underpinnings of the religious institutions that had shaped Irish identity since the creation of the state. As an oppositional figure, Michael seems at first sympathetic, even heroic, in his desire to save the boy from institutional brutality. Yet in the long run he reveals himself to be tragically immature and self-deluding. Neeson’s powerful performance gives coherence and credibility to a role that may have been a great deal less convincing in less capable hands.  

Hugh O’Conor in conversation

Following the screening of Lamb, Hugh O’Conor was invited to share his memories of working on the film with Neeson at the age of ten. A multi-talented artist, O’Conor is one of those rare individuals to have made a successful transition from child performer to adult actor (his most widely seen childhood role was as the young Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot in 1989).  This year O’Conor came to the Festa principally as a director. His debut feature—a particularly popular film with the Rome audience—was Metal Heart.  This upbeat coming of age comedy (the only film in the festival with a female lead) hinges on the rivalry between a pair of 17-year old twin sisters with contrasting interests and personalities. With their parents away on a long overseas holiday, tensions and conflicts flare up between the mismatched pair. Unfolding in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the Leaving Cert results, the story conveys the excitement, uncertainty and worry felt by a substantial cohort of Irish teenagers at a crucial moment of transition. Though the film favours the perspective of Emma, the “goth” sister (Jordanne Jones), over her more conventional and supposedly prettier twin, Chantal (Leah McNamara), both characters are drawn with sympathy and affection, making their eventual reconciliation less than a surprise. Playing Emma’s creative partner, Seán Doyle pulls off a strong performance as teenage musician struggling to withstand parental pressures to conform to middle-class expectations. Meanwhile, Moe Dunford exerts his seductive charm as the wayward son of an aging neighbor, who partly but not fully succeeds in breaking the protagonist’s heart. Despite the specificity of some of its social and cultural references and the limitations of its production budget, Metal Heart is obviously intended to speak to audiences not only in Ireland but also abroad, and the festival viewers responded with genuine enthusiasm to its appeal, as became evident in the discussion and subsequent question and answer session.

Dara Devaney, well known to Irish audiences for his early, recurring presence in the Irish language soap Ros na Rún and for many subsequent film roles, was one of the guests of the Festa this year. A native speaker of Irish, he is the star of the Irish-language docudrama, Murdair Mhám Trasna, which he presented at the Festa. Devaney plays the tragic figure of Myles Joyce (also known as Maolra Seoighe) who was hanged in a miscarriage of justice at Galway Gaol in 1882 for a crime he did not commit. This brilliantly executed film directed by Colm Bairéad and produced by ROSG for TG4 provides a dramatic reconstruction of the brutal murder of an extended family in remote Connemara, followed by the arrest, trial and execution of the suspects. The film underlines the fact that several of the accused, most notably the entirely innocent Myles Joyce, spoke Irish only, but the trial was conducted in Dublin entirely in English. Dramatic recreations of these well-documented historical events are interspersed with commentary by various contemporary personalities, including historian Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh of NUIG and President Michael D. Higgins, who granted Joyce a posthumous pardon around the time of the film’s release. Issues of colonial abuse and the silencing of subaltern subjects are vividly dramatized in this film, which, despite its remote historical context, has clear lessons for our neoliberal and neocolonial times.

One of the revelations of this year’s Festa was the increasingly creative and often hybrid use of the documentary form by Irish filmmakers. Apart from Murdair Mhám Trasna, three other powerful feature-length explorations of specific historical and contemporary realities of Irish life appeared on the programme. Feargal Ward’s The Lonely Passion of Thomas Reid offers a quirky combination of standard documentary approaches and dramatic reconstruction. The film tells the powerful story of one man’s battle against the forces of global neoliberalism. Reid, the man in question, is an independent-minded Co. Kildare farmer who refused to relinquish his ancestral land in the face of the IDA’s strong-arm efforts to force him to sell it with the aim of enabling the occupant of the adjacent property, the multinational corporation Intel, to expand its premises and, supposedly, create hundreds of new jobs. Reid’s story is a parable of the ongoing struggle between those lingering elements in Irish society that cling to values and traditions of the past and the indomitable advance of corporate modernity. The stakes of this struggle are beautifully captured by Ward’s patient, painstaking exposé.

Seán Murray

The Festa also offered two excellent documentaries from Northern Ireland, each of them focused in distinctive ways on the Troubles. The first was Seán Murray’s Unquiet Graves, detailing the collaboration between the RUC and the Ulster Defence Regiment in the murder of over 120 civilians in a campaign conducted across a broad swath of Co. Armagh and Co. Tyrone from July 1972 to the end of 1978, but also encompassing the bombings in Monaghan and Dublin in May 1974. Using archival material, reconstructions, and contemporary interviews—including a riveting conversation with whistleblower John Weir, a former member of the RUC and a convicted murderer–the film is a stunning indictment of state organized violence and startling abuses of power that are still unacknowledged at the official level.

Unquiet Graves was followed by Brendan Byrne’s Hear my Voice, which is structured as an audio-visual engagement with painter Colin Davidson’s large-scale portraits of eighteen victims and survivors of the Troubles. The film alternates between images of Davidson’s mute but haunting portraits (collectively titled ‘Silent Testimony’) and interviews with survivors and relatives of those killed in various attacks over a period of several years. Though sectarian issues are not mentioned in these testimonies, it becomes clear that Byrne’s interlocutors are living with the effects of atrocities committed by both Republican and Loyalist factions. With its quiet, poetic force, the film provides a searing reminder of the traumatic legacies of a violent conflict years after its purported conclusion.

Isle of Docs panel

In recognition of the recent flourishing of the documentary form among Irish filmmakers, a panel titled ‘Isle of Docs’ followed the screening of these films, featuring Frank Berry and Seán Murray in discussion with Susanna Pellis. Berry has made an award-winning documentary (Ballymun Lullaby) in addition to two feature films, all of which are grounded in social realities of the economically deprived communities around Dublin with which he is familiar. Murray, a self-described activist filmmaker, is based by contrast in Belfast. He has focused on making documentaries and shorts dedicated to issues specific to the people of Northern Ireland—particularly with regard to the legacy of the Troubles, and he sees his films as having the power to disturb and challenge the status quo. Since they each work in different jurisdictions and different production environments, some of the discussion concentrated precisely on the differences in funding opportunities and institutional support for documentary filmmaking north and south of the Border. The fact that both Berry and Murray have produced work of such conceptual rigour and professionalism augurs well for the future of the documentary on the island of Ireland.        

John Lynch Interview

The festival frequently offers masterclasses run by notable Irish actors. This year it was the turn of veteran actor John Lynch, guest of honour at the Festa, to take on the role of workshop leader. Lynch was in fact already a well-known face to audiences of the IFF, which over the years has screened several films in which he has played a prominent role. Pellis conducted a substantial, wide-ranging interview with Lynch on the day following the workshop, exploring the full arc of his acting career and his ancestral ties to Italy, or more specifically to his mother’s birthplace in the region of Molise. He discussed his early involvement in Irish language theatre while in school in Northern Ireland, his move to England and development in professional theatre, the many film roles he was offered that centred on the Troubles of Northern Ireland, and his more recent work in serial television. Although inevitably associated with Northern Ireland, Lynch is a truly transnational figure, as he now lives in southern France, has learned to speak French, and has even performed in French. He also discussed his development as a writer—a pursuit adopted in mid-life—and announced that he has completed his third novel. Following the interview, the festival audience had the opportunity to watch one of Lynch’s characteristically intense performances in the Australian feature Angel Baby (Michael Rymer, 1995), in which he plays a psychiatrically disturbed young man teetering on the edge of self-destruction.

The Dig‘s Lorcan Cranitch, RyanTohill and Moe Dunford with Susanna Pellis

A few years ago, the IFF screened Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon, 2014), a film that introduced the festival audience to the considerable talent of Moe Dunford, then a rising star of Irish cinema and now an established presence. Dunford was one of the guests of this year’s Festa and appeared in no less than four of the films on the programme. Cast in supporting roles in Michael Inside, Metal Heart, and Black ’47, he plays the lead in The Dig, the first feature film directed by Ryan and Andy Tohill. Here Dunford gives an astonishing performance as Calahan, whom we first encounter as he arrives home to his boarded-up cottage in Co. Antrim after completing a fifteen-year sentence for killing his girlfriend. Since the body had never been found and Calahan has no recollection of the crime—admitting to state of drunken oblivion at the time of the murder—his conviction was based entirely on DNA evidence. Yet he does not claim to be innocent. Discovering that his neighbour, the girl’s father (Lorcan Cranitch), has been digging up the vast bogland on Calahan’s property for years in a still futile attempt to unearth the body, he tries to get the intruder off his land. When he fails to achieve this, Calahan begins to dig alongside the man who understandably hates him, while both of them are carefully observed by a threatening local policeman who dominates everyone and everything in the area as though he were the law itself.  With little dialogue, most of the film is shot outdoors in the eerie winter light, as both men struggle with the hard labor of digging and with the ups and downs of their psychological tug-of-war. The scenes set in this stark, elemental landscape are mostly without dialogue, with the actors relying on movement and facial expression to communicate acute pain, anger, and frustration. Eventually, however, the men’s relationship becomes more complex and complicit. This psychological drama is overlaid by resonances of the western, which mark the story as a familiar, intensely masculine contest played out between and among men—the returned convict, the farmer seeking justice or revenge, and the man of the law. Although the farmer’s surviving daughter has a more important role in the narrative resolution than we might have expected, the film’s conclusion affirms that the story belongs fundamentally to the men, as is true of the classic western. Despite a hurried, disappointingly underwritten third act, the powerful effects of the cinematography and performances remain with the viewer long after The Dig comes to an end. Clearly a film that struck the festival audience with particular force, it was followed by a lively discussion with co-director Ryan Tohill, Dunford, and Cranitch and elicited one of the most engaged question and answer sessions over the course of the Festa.

Black ’47 (Lance Daly, 2018) is the only feature film produced to date to take on the subject of the Great Famine. This is not, however, a conventional period drama. Instead, the filmmaker has given us a revenge thriller with strong influences of the western. These elements make for engrossing viewing, despite the predominant use of the Irish language (subtitled in English and, for the Festa, in Italian), the bleak colour palette, and the vision of a frozen Connemara landscape inhabited by a starving population. This desolate spectacle of famine and injustice is witnessed through the eyes of Connemara native, Martin Feeney (James Frecheville), upon his return from the war in Afghanistan where he had fought for the Crown as a member of the Connaught Rangers. Finding that his closest family members are either dead or homeless, Feeney realizes that he is witnessing a social order as depraved as that of any colonial outpost, and begins to seek revenge. What the film makes clear is that the Great Famine was no natural disaster. Though the potato crop has failed, food is not lacking even in remote Connemara. The local landlord (Jim Broadbent) is in possession of huge store of grain that he refuses to concede to the starving locals, and thus becomes one of the targets of Feeney’s avenging mission. The dramatic tension intensifies when Hannah, an IRC officer with whom Feeney had served in Afghanistan, is sent by Dublin Castle to track down and eliminate the avenging Irishman. What the authorities do not know is that Hannah owes Feeney a debt of honour, and the Englishman makes good that debt first by urging Feeney to escape with his life, and when he refuses, by aiding him in his final act of vengeance. Although the ultimate narrative resolution has elements of the formulaic, the film functions as a kind of popular history lesson. It certainly had this effect in Rome, where few of the viewers seemed aware of the events of that fatal year remembered in the collective consciousness of Irish people as ‘black ’47’.

Pellis generously includes in the Festa elements rarely seen at film festivals—usually literary and musical events—that connect filmmaking with other related art forms. In this way, she invites Italians to appreciate many dimensions of Ireland’s rich cultural output. This year we were treated to twenty brilliant photographic portraits of Irish artists captured beautifully by the Irish actor and director Hugh O’Conor.

Karl Geary with Simona Pellis

The literary spotlight of this year’s Festa was on Karl Geary’s novel, Montpelier Parade, recently translated into Italian. Geary—also an actor—was at the festival specifically to discuss his work as a fiction writer. Simona Pellis presented the novel to the assembled audience and conducted a thoughtful interview with the author. Predominantly a coming of age story, the novel is narrated in the second person, a detail that intrigued several of those who participated in the lively question and answer session that followed the interview. Geary expressed gratitude that so many of those present had read his work with close attention. Prior to writing the novel, Geary had been for the most part involved in screenwriting and performance, and some audience members may well have remembered his work in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall.  

Prof. Aine O’Healy with Dara Devaney

In addition to a literary event, almost every edition of the IFF has included at least one live musical performance. This year the musical spotlight fell on actor Dara Devaney, who performed two plaintive songs in the sean nós tradition as a prelude to the screening Black ’47. One of these, the mysteriously worded ‘Johnny Seoighe’, is the only known Irish song that refers explicitly to the Great Famine.

The Irish Film Festa thus underscores the multiplicity of talents that characterize many of those who are active in the Irish filmmaking community and it offers Italian audiences a general sense of the high level of contemporary cultural production in Ireland.  As an annual festival dedicated to Irish cinema, it is unparalleled in its scope and vision, providing much more than simply a selection of recent films that happen to be made in Ireland.

 

Áine O’Healy teaches film and Italian studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is author of Migrant Anxieties: Italian Cinema in a Transnational Frame (Indiana University Press, 2019).

 

Visit www.irishfilmfesta.org

 

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Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 35 – Drop Kick a Puppy

 

Sarah Cullen and Richard Drumm address the nation and share their latest jibber jabber on some new films that people have made for you to see, including dream-chasing and drug-taking in Wild Rose,  spotting Dublin streets in Greta, and high-school yarns in 8th Grade and Book Smart.

Sarah takes a look at three Netflix films with women drinking in Wine Country, a lack of murders in Who Would you Take to a Desert Island, and alive ghosts in Suzzanna: Buried Alive.

Richard takes his seat at the High Table and discusses the endless shoot-outs of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, nonsense in the cinema at Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, and the pointlessness of Vox Lux.

And finally there’s the glass cliff of Avengers: Endgame (were they tears Richard?)

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Land Without God screened on 28th February 2019 as part of theDublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March).

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