Report from The Blackrock Animation Awards



Ruth Hurl reports from The Blackrock Animation Awards, which recently rewarded the talent of Irish and international animators.


The Blackrock Animation Festival has grown from a small one-day event into a weekend of talks, screenings and workshops, attracting prominent speakers and entries from around the world. Consequently it has fulfilled its aim to introduce “the fun, creativity and magic of animation to members of the local community, while showcasing the talent of Irish and international animators.” One of the ways the festival has augmented this intention was through The Blackrock Animation Awards.


The awards create an important space in which young talent is nurtured and up and coming animators can gain recognition and exposure. The ceremony, which took place in the very grand surroundings of the UCD Smurfit business school consisted of seven award categories, ranging from the best international student or graduate award to the best under 18s category, highlighting the awards emphasis on young and new talent. A theme endorsed by the festival director’s opening speech in which she highlighted the importance of renewing young people’s passion for animation.
The festival attracts a vast amount of entries originating from Europe, the U.S, Russia, and Japan. A testament to its ability to inspire and encourage a host of young animators and highlights the growing prominence of the festival in the international animation community. A point reinforced by the winner of the best Irish student or graduate film, Adam Kavanagh, who believes that the festival has become more widely known about within the relevant circles. He also commentated on the positive impact the awards have on the winner’s career, contributing to their reputation within the industry, which can lead to future work.
The festival, therefore, serves an important function, particularly in light of Ireland’s excellent and Oscar-endorsed status in the animation sector, it inspires young people’s interest in the craft and vitally endorses and aids new talent. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why so many young, interesting animators want to participate in the Blackrock Animation Awards.


The winners of The Blackrock Animation Festival Awards:


Best International Student  or Graduate Film Category


Miss Todd – Kristina Yee – National Film and Television School, UK.

Honourable Mention

Semaforo – Simon Wilches-Castro – University of California, USA.


Best Irish Category


Macropolis – Joel Simon and Tim Bryans

Honourable Mention

The Missing Scarf – Eoin Duffy


Best International Short Film


Le Vagabond de St. Marcel, Rony Hotin, France


Best Irish Student or Graduate Film


Curraid, Adam Kavanagh, BCFE


Honourable Mention

That’s Not Supposed to Happen, Rory Kerr, IADT

Innisfree, Don Carey, BCFE


BEST 2d (Traditional Animation)


The Long Bridge of Desired Direction, Ivan Maximov, Russia

Honourable Mention

The Lady with Long Hair, Barbara Bakos, Hungary


Community Recognition Category

Town, Orla McHardy and Orla Murphy


Under 18s



Bog Standard, Pure Project

Honourable Mention

Hide and Seek, The Yanamo Girls, Tokyo, Japan


The 3rd Blackrock Animation Film Festival and Awards were held  11-12 October 2013



Report from ‘The Brotherhood’ screening



Louise Mac Sweeney’s short film The Brotherhood screened privately last month at The Generator Hostel in Smithfield Square in Dublin. Ruth Hurl dropped in to take a look.

Creativity and ingenuity is alive in independent short filmmaking and never more evident then in The Brotherhood private screening in Smithfield’s Generator hostel. The film by Louise Mac Sweeney and Cainneach ‘Kenji’ McKeon started life as a small piece of dialogue between an old bedbound biker and his struggling protégé. With this they were required to create a simple flashback for an American pilot. . However, sensing that the dialogue contained enough emotional content to inspire an “interesting back story” she decided to deconstruct the scene and create a short film around the segment. It tells the story of the bedbound biker, Raghnall’s teenage life in a 1970’s Irish orphanage, his encounter with Sean the leader of a local bike gang and the turning point which brought him to America.

A great deal of skill and talent was required in order to successfully fit the scene into this new story. But Mac Sweeney and her co-producer and DOP, Kenji Mac Eoin, have created a film that transcends a simple flashback, taking the audience “on a journey with [the biker] through his memory” instead. This reflective quality is enhanced by the presence of relatable themes like loneliness, belonging and loyalty, which are imbued with a private, intimate, tone. This helps to justify the content of the short, implying that “for the first time this biker [is telling] his story and it’s a privilege”, for the young protégé and consequently the audience to witness. Surrogate father figures and a strong theme of bonding evident in the hospital scene are mirrored by the relationship between young Rags (Adam Darby) and his mentor Sean (Don Mac Eoin). Indeed, it is this relationship which forms the heart of the film. They have great chemistry and deliver accomplished and endearing performances. Mac Eoin is particularly good and utterly believable as the bike gang’s respected leader. Their story is visually complemented by some beautiful shots of Wicklow and an effective use of light which creates a distinction between the biker’s warm family environment and the cold, cruel orphanage. This imagery was skilfully aged during post-production giving the short period authenticity while avoiding the need for expensive vintage settings and props. Mac Sweeney believes that this “transforms the film” but admitted that it took “a lot of hard work to dirty [it] up to look like 16mm, which they did with colourist John Talbot’s grade, creating the impression of a faded memory.. This nostalgic sentiment is perfectly complemented by Ken Tuohy’s evocative score, inspired by Arlo Guthrie and American folk.

These elements not only work together to create a moving short, but also belie the fact that the film was made on a non-existent budget in just two weeks. The director credits their ability to work under these conditions with being highly organised. Scenes were “well planned out…so they knew exactly where and how to shoot” before they began production. They also made sure to comply with every legal requirement preventing any restrictions during the filming period. However, it was the support of groups like, Old Skool Motorcycles in Bray who provided bikes and cast members, which was of real benefit to the filmmakers. The director commented on “the fraternity they had with the bikers” and the “enormous goodwill” that existed on set, which not only helped Mac Sweeney and Kenji during the production period but inspired a “sense of duty to [complete the film] for the people who worked so hard to finish it” A feat greatly appreciated by the gang of bikers, cast and crew members who attended the premiere screening. The pair hope to attract an even wider audience by entering their short in festivals around Ireland and America and consequently creating a platform on which to make further work.

The film does more than simply highlight the importance of collaboration and imagination in independent film. The Brotherhood is essentially a testament to Mac Sweeney’s and Kenji’s talent as filmmakers

Ruth Hurl


Cinema Review: Austenland



DIR: Jerusha Hess  WRI: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale  PRO: Stephenie Meyer, Gina Mingacci  DOP: Larry Smith ED: Nick Fenton  DES: James Merifield  Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Field, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie


Austenland, written and directed by Jerusha Hess, the writer behind Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, is a wacky, farfetched story that manages to inject life and humour into the Jane Austen fantasy. Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is an Austen fanatic whose small apartment resembles a Darcy shrine complete with a life size cardboard cut out of Colin Firth and talking Darcy dolls. She longs to escape her boring job, invigorate her non-existent love life and experience the romance and civility of the Austen era. Drawn to the prospect of immersing herself in the world of her favourite author she spends her savings on a trip to Austenland. A place where ladies can live out their fantasies by acting in a personalised narrative which includes a romantic storyline with an actor playing a character based on one of Austen’s leading men.

However, the quality of Jane’s visit is influenced by her inability to afford the premium package offered to the other guests, a ditzy, pretty blond and a man-eater who appears to know nothing of Austen’s work. While they enjoy the finery of the regency era Jane has to sleep in the servant’s quarters and wear the plainest of the Austen costumes. Initially disappointed by the experience she finds it difficult to settle into a world where the line between reality and fiction is muddled and romance comes pre-scripted, that is until she learns how to embrace her storyline and play the Jane Austen game.

Camp and over the top Austenland is not a subtle film but it is occasionally very funny and enjoyably silly. It uses many of the typical features of period romances to poke fun at the legacy of Pride and Prejudice while creating new material for Austen fans to enjoy. The script has some genuinely amusing lines and scenes, particularly those depicting the Austen men in their off duty pool house. Jennifer Coolidge has some great comedic moments but her performance can become excessive and grating and is essentially the same character she has played countless times before. Where as Bret McKenzie offers a more understated comedic performance as the music loving stable boy. Keri Russell’s believable heroine maintains a semblance of normality while being surrounded by the ridiculous which helps to make the film somewhat convincing.

However, the performances from the supporting cast are dreadfully affected and overblown which contributes to the film’s major downfall. The excessive absurdity of Austenland hinders the effectiveness of the romantic storyline. The premise is interesting but a lack of restraint leads to a film that has no substance and is just too low brow and silly to be taken seriously. Furthermore, the film is let down by an obvious plot, however, this tends to be a characteristic of the romantic genre. Therefore, funny as the film is, it never really reaches its full potential and instead seems more like American Pie for Austen fans then a great romantic comedy.

Regardless of Austenland’s flaws, fans of period films will enjoy the ways in which the film plays with the characteristics of the genre. While audiences looking for a fun, silly film that requires absolutely no work and offers some great laughs will not be disappointed.

Ruth Hurl

12A (See IFCO for details)

96 mins
Austenland is released on 27th September 2013

Austenland – Official Website


Cinema Review: About Time

About Time trailer - video

DIR: Richard Curtis WRI: Richard Curtis, PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner. DOP: John Guleserian. ED: Mark Day. DES: John Paul Kelly. CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is a sensitive man. He adores his sister, worships his father and is desperate to find love. However, Tim has a secret weapon when it comes to romance, time travel. He can fix problematic interactions, re-experience fantastic moments and generally find the woman of his dreams. But, as his father (Bill Nighy) who shares his son’s unusual gift explains, there’s a catch, Tim can only travel back through his own lifetime and not past certain life altering incidents. Nonetheless Tim excitedly tries out his new talent only to be met with unrequited love and general disappointment. That is until he meets the beautiful shy American Mary (Rachel McAdams) his perfect woman who just happens to reciprocate his romantic feelings. However, his relationship with Mary doesn’t run smoothly as an intervention in the life of a friend leads him to lose her number forcing him to travel back in time in order to re-meet her. Tim is then continually motivated by his love for Mary to perfect every moment of their relationship so that they can have a wonderful, regret free life. But as time passes and various events arise Tim realises he can’t change everything, nor protect his loved ones.

About Time marks Curtis’ third outing as a director and in many ways it is his most successful. The usual criticism of Curtis’ work is that it is far too syrupy and sentimental. This film is very sweet, however, the inclusion of time travel manages to some what dilute the saccharine elements and inject life and interest into the story. Nevertheless this is still very much a Curtis fairytale with beautiful shots of Cornwall and London forming the backdrop to Tim and Mary’s romance, which is filled with bumbling interactions and heartfelt declarations. But, it is Tim’s relationship with his father that is the true heart of the film. Nighy and Gleeson have excellent chemistry creating a believable father and son relationship which forms the backbone of the story. Gleeson offers a natural, endearing performance although he occasionally veers into Hugh Grant territory, particularly throughout the voiceover.

However, he has excellent comic timing and can deliver humorous lines with more conviction than other leading men who have appeared in Curtis’ films. Indeed the casting of Gleeson was a wise move as his presence acts as another way to infuse some freshness into the film, which for the most part is populated by Curtis’ usual collaborators, like Bill Nighy, whose performance is highly watchable, if not particularly new or taxing. The rest of the cast represent many of the traditional stereotypes used in romantic comedies particularly British romantic comedies, the sarcastic drunk, the lovable innocent and the trampy best friend. Fortunately these stereotypes are toned down enabling them to actually contribute to the comedic moments. Therefore Curtis has managed to include some devises which mitigate the nostalgic sentimentality and the cheesy characterisation and make a film about time travel that’s more believable than previous work.

However, the film is too long and drawn out repetitively making the same point, that we should remember every moment, however small or mundane. This point was reinforced by saccharine dialogue and a cringe inducing montage of normal people enjoying simple pleasures, which was unnecessary. The time travel theme can only do so much to temper the inclusion of such soppy elements which in the end do make the film overly sweet. These aspects of the film also lead to the plot becoming messy and unwieldy particularly during the films conclusion. About Time would certainly have benefited from a more concise ending.

Nonetheless, Richard Curtis’ film is enjoyable, funny and at times moving. The time altering element and Gleeson’s performance help to curtail the sentimentality but the film is let down by a messy conclusion that allows for too much indulgent sentimentality. Regardless of its flaws romantic comedy fans will still be entertained by this gentle comedy.

Ruth Hurl

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

123 mins
About Time is released on 4th September 2013

About Time  – Official Website



Cinema Review: The Bling Ring



DIR: Sofia Coppola  WRI: Sofia Coppola, Nancy Jo Sales  PRO: Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Youree Henley  DOP: Christopher Blauvelt, Harris Savides  ED: Sarah Flack  DES: Anne Ross  Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann


Sofia Coppola’s fifth film is an at times enjoyable if not in depth look at The Bling Ring story, based on the article ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’ by Nancy Jo Sales. The film does not tell the audience anything particularly new about the gang, nicknamed ‘The Bling Ring’ by the media. It takes an extensive look at their activities inside the homes of their victims and their enjoyment of the stolen celebrity lifestyle. What begins as an opportunistic visit to Paris Hilton’s home quickly develops into an unbridled crime spree which sees the gang stealing luxury items, cash and art from celebrities like Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan. Revelling in their proximity to fame and their ownership of beautiful things the gang parties in various LA night clubs where they upload pictures of themselves posing with the stolen goods on social media sites. However, it is this carelessness and arrogance which leads to suspicion, police involvement and the eventual undoing of The Bling Ring, members of which include insecure Marc, ring leader and fashion obsessive Rebecca, party girl Chloe and best friends Nicki and Sam.


The acting from this cast of largely unknowns is consistent and authentic, particularly the characters of Marc and Chloe. Emma Watson is less believable as the vacant, ‘California girl’ Nicki, whose accent and gestures seem awkward and unnatural. Visually the film is glossy, exhilarating and occasionally beautiful. The scene of Rebecca and Marc running through the primarily glass home of Audrina Patridge as Hollywood lies glittering in the background is particularly note worthy and showcases the work of cinematographer Harris Savides, who sadly died during the making of the film. Coppola also cleverly utilised images from facebook, camera phones and gossip sites like TMZ. This not only highlights the recklessness and callousness of the gang but also subsequently shows how the teenagers’ lives started to mimic both the negative and positive aspects of the celebrity lifestyle they adored. Coppola is offering a critique on the culture of celebrity obsession and fast fame as she highlights how the media transformed the youths into a form of infamous star.


The problem is that the director appears torn between offering this tongue-in-cheek treatment of the teens who stole fame and getting caught up in the artistic visuals of the lifestyle. These lavish scenes of looting, luxury items and the gang’s social lives dilute Coppola’s point as they almost glamorize the youth’s exploits. For example in one scene we see Rebecca inside her ‘fashion idol’ Lindsay Lohan’s bedroom spraying Lohan’s perfume on while looking in the mirror. The segment attempts to demonstrate how Rebecca is essentially worshiping at the empty altar of celebrity but the way in which the scene is presented, almost like an advert, perfume glistening on the girl’s neck her hair blowing slowly past her shoulders, undermines Coppola’s critique. There are also far too many of these closet raiding scenes which can become tedious particularly as chunks of the script consist of “Wow” and “Oh my God”. Furthermore, the film lacks any real exploration or understanding of these characters’ motivations, personalities and backgrounds, expect perhaps for Marc and at times Nicki. This leaves the audience feeling disengaged with the gang and their story and occasionally a little bored.


Ultimately, the film offers a highly stylised treatment of The Bling Ring story which will appeal to Coppola’s fans. It boasts some decent performances, beautiful scenes and a partially successful critique on celebrity culture and the ways in which the media endorses and creates fast, empty fame. However, the filmmaker’s preoccupation with endless scenes of wealth and theft and their glamorisation undermines the central critique. This, coupled with a lack of character exploration leads to a film which lacks substance and depth. As a result The Bling Ring fails to engage the viewer and instead leaves you with the impression that you have watched an exceptionally beautiful, sophisticated reality show.

Ruth Hurl

90 mins
15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Bling Ring is released on 5th July 2013

The Bling Ring – Official Website