Retina Rejuvenated: Health

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Optogenetics
 (from Greek optikós, meaning “seen, visible”) is a biological technique which involves the use of light to control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels.

Here is an astonishing insight from The Expotential Investor whose interests are frequently science based and explore the direction of travel in pioneering research and hopefully advances of universal benefit.

Here goes with an example text. I thought I should share it with you.  The words in italics are the authors and are a a Money Week subscribed free e-mail to which you can subscribe. See footer.

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Exponential Investor
A step into the unknown…

24 February 2016

By Nick O’Connor

Deep breaths everyone.
In today’s Exponential Investor we’re going to take a step into the unknown – and explore an emerging branch of science with vast potential (both for the world and for us as investors). 

It’s called optogenetics. 

Never heard of it? 

Don’t worry. By the end of today’s letter you’ll not only know what it is – you’ll see why it’s causing such a stir in the scientific and medical communities and why March could be a breakout month for this hitherto unknown branch of science.
Let’s dive straight in.

The convergence

Our story starts, rather strangely, with the study of algae. 
The fact that algae give off light has been known for thousands of years. As Charles Darwin put in his diary while travelling aboard the HMS Beagle:
The sea presented a wonderful and most beautiful spectacle. There was a fresh breeze, and every part of the surface, which during the day is seen as foam, now glowed with a pale light… As far as the eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright, and the sky above the horizon, from the reflected glare of these vivid flames, was not so utterly obscure, as over the rest of the heavens.
That was nearly two centuries ago. Yet it’s only in the last hundred years or so that we’ve learnt how algae do this. 
But it wasn’t until the 1970s that we made a breakthrough that led to the birth of optogenetics. 
The details of the discovery involve the kind of science that makes my brain ache, so I’ll give you the short version. Scientists found that certain algae contain proteins that respond directly to a light source. This enables them to detect and move toward light. 
Put simply, we found that light itself can be the catalyst for cellular change, rather than a chemical reaction. That opened the door to the idea of using light as a kind of wireless transmitter to bring about biological change.
But it wasn’t until this idea converged with the advent of genetic therapy that the field of optogenetics was born.
See, genetic therapy allows us to transplant the gene responsible for responding to light as a stimulus in algae into other living things (first animals like mice, and more recently humans – we’ll get to that in a second). 
This is all a rather long winded way of explaining what optogenetics is, which is essentially modifying genes so that they’re responsive to light. That may not sound like a big deal. But the implications are immense. 
It means we can use light – or certain frequencies of it – as a catalyst for biological change in the human body. 
That goes far beyond making your skin glow when you shine a light on it. 
Take, for instance, your brain.
Making a change inside the human brain is complex and dangerous. For a long time it involved using electrodes to trigger cellular change. But that wasn’t precise enough for many procedures. According to a special report on optogenetics by Nature Methods:
In 1979 Francis Crick suggested that the major challenge facing neuroscience was the need to control one type of cell in the brain while leaving others unaltered. As electrodes cannot be used to precisely target defined cells and drugs act much too slowly, Crick later speculated that light might have the properties to serve as a control tool, but at the time neuroscientists knew of no clear strategy to make specific cells responsive to light.
Optogenetics is the solution to that problem. 
It means we can make very precise changes to cells within the brain by using light as a catalyst. For example, in one experiment at Stanford University, researchers found that they could switch off the sensation of fear in mice by shooting light through a fiber optic cable at specific cells in their brains.
Put aside whether it’s useful to switch fear off, for a second, and just think about that as a scientific achievement. It means we can manipulate complex cellular actions wirelessly, using light as the sole trigger. 
Which, as you can imagine, has made optogenetics one of the hottest emerging technologies of the last decade. For a graphic illustration of that, take a look at the explosion of uses of the term in scientific literature below: 

Source: Optogenetics by Keith Deisseroth, Nature Methods

There are myriad ways in which the field of optogenetics is developing. I’ll return to the subject again in the future and look at some of them. But before I leave you, I wanted to highlight one particular optogenetic study likely to make headlines in the next month or so. 
Teaching the blind to see

You see, one particular use of optogenetics could be to restore the sight of blind people.

In fact, the very first human test of optogenetics involves a team of researchers in Texas transplanting the DNA of light sensitive algae into legally blind patients. The idea is to use the light entering the eye naturally to trigger a response within nerve cells and send electronic signals to the brain. MIT Technology Review has the story:
The study, sponsored by a startup called RetroSense Therapeutics, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is expected to be the first human test of optogenetics, a technology developed in neuroscience labs that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerve cells.
The trial, to be carried out by doctors at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, will involve as many as 15 patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease in which the specialized light-sensitive photoreceptor cells in the eye die, slowly causing blindness. The aim of the treatment is to engineer the DNA of different cells in the retina, called ganglion cells, so that they can respond to light instead, firing off signals to the brain.
According to reports, that trial should get under way very soon. The results are expected to be “a gold mine” for future studies, according to neuroscientist Antonello Bonci. 
I’ll keep an eye out for the results. But in the meantime, keep a lookout for any other optogenetic breakthroughs. This is an emerging new discipline with vast potential. There are likely to be some major opportunities – and ultimately a lot of money – to be made as it matures.
Just remember – you heard it here first!

All the best, 

Nick O’Connor

Publisher, Exponential Investor


P.S. We haven’t talked much about genetics and biotechnology much yet in Exponential Investor. But we’ll be ramping up our coverage a lot in the coming weeks and months – there’s a huge amount of potential here. If there’s any particular topic you think is worth us looking at, just get in touch with me at nick@moneyweek.com.

 Exponential Investor is published by MoneyWeek Research Limited

MoneyWeek Research Ltd 

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This is the Stanford University USA research paper synopsis.

   
    
 
John Graham

24 February 2016

Belfast

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Sound as Music : Health

Sound as Noise
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Musician charity Help Musicians headed this discussion forum. Formed a panel for a discussion on the need for Musicians and Audiences to be aware of the potential risks to their hearing if disregarding the levels of sound they expose themselves to.  It was a part of the Outreach programme Output which on Thursday last showcased local musicians as well as introducing audiences and musicians to industry professionals whose experience could bring to bear new ideas and experiences on several levels.

The title of the event was long-winded so I prefer to use the core strategy of HelpMusicians which is the leading charity in the field headed by the panel chair and representing his charity, Richard Robinson, next is Shauna Tohill of the band Ruse. Then Will Fenton a sound engineer and lecturer based in Surrey. Then last but not least a Record Produce and Band Manager Declan Legge from the provinces Big Studios. Some further contact details follow at the completion of this post.  
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Day’s Events’

For the most part it involved a day for several venues to set up a platform, stage for the 4 acts they were to host in the ‘what the musicians called’ the fun part.  Each of 4 would do a stint giving it there best shot.

At Altier & Echo it was to include Ruse who also recorded a live track in the afternoon for Radio Ulsters Arts Show.           Also in the duos busy day was a member, Shauna  Tohill participating in the panel on Hearing loss at the afternoon session in the Oh Yeah Centre in Gordon Street.
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https://rewsmusic1.wordpress.com/
See http://www.pledgemusic.com
Damage across the board 

The panel comprised the aforementioned with a review of where the music industry is with protection from damaging sound levels experienced across many platforms.  From in ear buds with which a later chooses to play at very high decibels into their own ear canals music which if sustained for even short periods of twenty or thirty minutes will cause irreprible damage. A survey of musicians carried out in a widespread comprehensive GB study found that 78% of Musicians had found themselves suffering hearing loss and damage.

First of was a description of the levels, the decibel range at which sound becomes audible and how it is delivered. At normal conversation levels we are at around forty to fifty decibels and in a microphone speech is delivered around seventy decibels and eighty is around city traffic levels. At concerts sound is delivered at around 120 decibels where the damaging levels kick in big time.  The Health and Safety laws are very obtuse and for industrial purposes mostly.  They range from noise in Children’s Nursery’s to Nuclear Fusion Plants.

Occurrences – The enjoyment of music comes not without its hazards and everyone must be made aware of them.

Latency is a word used in the context of hearing loss which I take to mean the accumulative effects lasting after the event and is in physiological terms in my mind the interval between stimulus and reaction.  The enjoyment of music comes not without its hazards and everyone must be made aware of them. There’s probably not an older musician around who will not confess to some hearing damage. It is not an occupational hazard but a preventable manageable entity as the discussion was to find out.

Panel Experiences and heads up 
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Richard Robinson of Help Musicians has been profoundly deaf, with no hearing since birth.  Nevertheless it has not stopped him from being an active band member with the aid of technology.  His history will unfold on the charities website no doubt.  He could notice other band members experiences and the loss of hearing he reckoned came at around 6 hertz frequencies upwards. He was able to advise that the conventional orange builders earplugs are non discriminatory as they allow frequencies through and dampen others meaning some damaging ones certainly will get through.  
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Will Fenton
Our hearing, it was pointed out by Will Fenton is not wholly dealt with by our ear functions but he noted if you excuse the pun (there might inadvertently be several – astonishingly we caught Declan Legge use the oft used phrase ‘some band members and sound engineers just like to whack it up to Eleven! It illustrated his stronger very valid point of which will follow) the bass notes come in through our bones chiefly through our flesh and muscle structures.  I found that astonishing.  It also explained why you feel the sound vibrating in you in some small room or large room resonating venues specially when blue or jazz modular ions literally flex their muscles.  

This is the bodily immersive state perhaps the sub-conscious seeks and is an auditory delight and immersive experience.  It is similar in a sense, those puns again, to the dance room venues where the whole body vibrates and endorphin rush, (not a pun – as a band they were rubbish to me) penetrated and bass creates a mind body electric experience.  The brain sending the electric stimuli to the brain at the root of consciousness in waves of directions pulsating memory responses back not everyone’s system in a cyclical trancelike deliverance. Euphoria is the word we all know and are blessed with at times. To be in the centre of a crowd away from the known expected forms of sound delivery are found resonances, puns again.  

Take for instance the type of song and singing at the Millenium Stadium on a Rugby match day and to be in the middle of the Welsh crowd surrounded by thousands of magical Welsh singing voices is a enthralling experience from top to toe.  There is nothing so instructive about sound delivery as it also fills the body in a 360 degree circle.  Or also the experience of being in a very accomplished choir whose sound is interspersed in ranges which are chiefly all of human origin.

Answers

Ear protection is being advanced for all noose environments and huge advances are seen with ear moulded hearing protection devices and utilized by top musicians.

There needs to be venue participation.  Open or closed performance has on occasion information such as decibel levels.  These are some times prominent and other times absent. The requirement to have levels displayed at high level even on the monitors the,selves seems a good way forward.  On the source in other words and the overall combined level not just the output from one set of monitors. 

The music sites need in my view an overall music level overseer. To each venue a Sound Marshall should be appointed with complete authority and responsibility for advising and ensuring the gig or event has fully identified its levels and capabilities in their (confined) space with them then adhering to the protocols. Warnings should be issued to audiences to be aware of their exposure times to sound as being their own responsibility and ‘this event will have a maximum level of #### over the duration of the concert #### hours. Please ensure rest times of around #### and #### between events.

Sound protectors.
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Here are some random products not endorsed by this website but showing just part of the various options.

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Check with suppliers what degree ear mould or headphone protection brings. Some in ear monitors may not be designed to remove all or most of external sound and delivery the bands/performers sound only. So,e may want some external sound as part of the audience reaction and the engineer is best placed to advise how this is achieved. It is not best achieved by having one ear on and one ear off!!!

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John Graham

22 September 2016

Belfast

The Truth Commissioner : A Film Review

  
Director Declan Recks, UK/Ireland, 2014/16, 1hr 39mins.Cast. Roger Allam as Henry Stanfield, THE TRUTH COMMISSIONER.

Co-starring Barry Ward (Jimmy’s Hall), Sean McGinley (The General), Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones), Ian McElihinney (Game of Thrones) and Tom Goodman Hill (The Imitation Game) loosely a political thriller.

Precarious beginnings

It is fairly obvious from early on in this film there is a narrative of dog-eared quasi-logic and poor presentation of an avenue for to confront, in my mind, truth, being the only route to healing and avoiding repetition of the past by subsequent generations.  Victims are and will have relatives of years turmoil and desire for reality.

A prologue of sorts introduces in flashback the later central character of Danny, real name Michael Madden who plays it well given there is as a central character an opportunity to work the character which he does with rare emotion and whose revisiting of a period twelve or more years earlier is an orchestrated sham witness tale in which he willingly implicates himself to a murder or as the story would, now adjusted have him accidentally be the perpetrator of the victims demise. We see the arrival to begin with of the foretold event prior to the victims death and then left back in a domestic scene of the apparent present from which the narrative develops. The Independant quotes (in the form of Ciaran Carson, Poet of these parts) As Montaigne has it, “The truth of these days is not that which really is, but what every man persuades another to believe.” Or persuades himself to believe, he might have added.   Thank God for Jesus and maybe Mother Theresa Mr Carson.  In a recent letter roundabouts the same subject and before I saw the film therefore I wrote the following.. – ,as the disappeared.

It is a bit like the talking heads of TV who discuss interminably about what they don’t know and seek to prove what they must ever doubt. With acknowledgements to a founder father of the medium. MM. Voices forced (sic) into a false recall opportunity.

Remember..

So it is a case of remembering and sharing the truth not concealing it and dying with the healing.

Plot Introduction

Introducing The Truth Commissioner. A stilted arrival at the International airport with a police attendant driver and a well contoured, sweet feminine minder whose fragrance is ensuring a modicum of audacious diversion might appear. Never anything approximating reality, the small body of Commission, not arriving in the private part of the airport overnight, delivers itself to an expectant media lined un at the foot of Stormonts steps. The press are engaged in deliver of the day’s news which is the display and presentation of the loose collared Commisioner already marked as a maverick Independent though slow thinking unwittingly naive head of the story.

Maybe the career diplomat with a faint taproot of law, was selected for his narrowness of thought. I haven’t read the book and any backstory relies on characterisation. The wooden patrol of minor players and sidekicks along with one or two persons who look as malevolent as Bisto gravy and as turgid.

Several elements of implausible conceited averse plot are delivered which is no fault of the director but it is a factor of abridged, simplified and back to implausible again, very estranged characterisation. From a Detective at the Commission called to reveal his version of the past after an “State your name and your connection to the events. ” some absent minded dialogue editor forgot to include the answer to the second part of the question. Implausibly the Detective instead of relying on absence of memory, a familiar trait, responds as a addled teenager and regurgitates when confronted by a ‘witness’ to the affairs sings high notes akin to a canary in a coal mine. I appears he is about to evaporate in his own declarations. Hardly and scarcely believable without the draining absence of dialogue overlooked in editorial. It is addressed differently, correctly later.

What about the film?

As a visual encounter of Belfast it is somewhat light, or nearly bereft of lively atmosphere and the vibe.  It is a narrow cushion of middle class bolt holes and slick ‘namad’ apartments and liquidation across the wet paved renewal and no banking scandal or memorilastion of a province that once had about four of its own indigenous banks.  There too it is necessary to recall this is Eames/Bradley failed (not a glove laid on the Government at Westminister) report days circa 2007? and we haven’t even embarked on the corrupt background of property development, mis-managed local authorities and ministries asleep at the wheel or adjacent to their bedside table with the brown envelope before their ‘Forgive our sins’ prayer load.  God is always busy.  So the setting is false and not indicative and perhaps due to any sub-text in the book not delivering a true picture of Belfast.  It is very unreal except through familiarity, meaning you recognise places not people.

Character By-pass

The scenes are somewhat moderated and tension free zones. Whereas the South African Truth Commission dealt with several languages, those at the forefront of interpreting and thus becoming the person, the victim and truth teller, were in need of psychological trauma assistance. This ‘local’ story is set around one sole story and a noodling acquaintance with files and reams and digitised computer ready copied paperwork volumes. The last you’ll hear of those so-called confidential files about as light a summary as to convince an audience -‘You know there might be something in this. We should have one of those.‘ Without evaluating the colossal criminality of the state and collaborators of all hue and political background, military or pseudo academic muses. Alone Brian McElhenny and A dislikeable, that comes across no problem, Conleth Hill are solid and deal their hand best and with what they can do with a frivolous uninspiring, unrealistic script, which has only the book to enliven it or create believable narrative.  It was annoying at worst and secondary entertainment with lots of nice photography and ‘sure isn’t that ..’ But no wow.

It’s actually regressive and far from helpful to have this story told in such a doctored way as to seem ‘frightfully’ realistic to the outsider. Perhaps it sees itself as a drama for UK consumption, and unfettered guide to be watched in Brussels or Paris or New York as tales of salutary wisdom. The central ‘truth’ provider in the book apparently has a backstory to New York as an illegal and dilemmas on that side of the Atlantic. He does not so much as pick up a phone introducing us to his other half and is therefore ensnared in the roll call on ill-acted home and away scenes. The Commisioners daughter is defensive at first and does an about turn with our puzzlement of what’s changed.  Not the directors fault, just an ill thought concept complete with token husband who said little in one of Fred’s finest pads.

In Derry’s Guildhall which is externally Belfast’s Custom House, the attendance at the hearings is during introduction and during the inquisition itself without animation. It is a very docile gathering with a few sobs and nods for authenticity thrown in. Collective gullibility is de riguer or the stock of sometimes pedestrian meaningless or minimal exploratory directive, the main problem being the dialogue lifted from the book and its narrow path.

There is little tonality, dimension or felicity (if you thought the troubles were grim, this makes the peace process and peacetime no garden party and moods are apparent – it would be improbable to suggest this weight happens to be in the book?) of temperament on exhibit among the many characters. A French lady has a complicit entreė without much to play with and it is left to lurid photos as a source of reference to illicit relationship, as is the minder come secretary and her friendship of improbable laxity. Far to many of these one dimensioned characters are laid out as the book has limited their scope it would seem leaving it an impoverished story of incredibilty.
It is fairly obvious from early on in this film there is a narrative of dog-eared quasi-logic and poor presentation of an avenue for truth it is inconceivable, except in the absurdity of a fickle and complacent public whose voice takes presence over the real quest for truth in the passages of mind vaults, government record and hastily reformatted evidence coming forward.  

The basic premis of the movie is hamstrung by its central values avenue to truth. There are clearly no winners in this as the story tells if that is its central message then it is valid. It is not valid as a solution which i think, and the director put his backing behind a Truth Commission though when a post preview discussion took place it was not a solid recommendation, more half hearted, what else is there? There is a route which it is the responsibility of Government to confront. Truth being the only route to healing and avoiding repetition of the past by subsequent generations.

Victims are and will have relatives of years turmoil and desire for reality.

  
 sham witness tale in which he willingly implicates himself to a murder or as the story would, now adjusted have him accidentally be the perpetrator of the victims demise. We see the arrival to begin with of the foretold event prior to the victims death and then left back in a domestic scene of the apparent present from which the narrative develops.

From a Detective at the Commission called to reveal his version of the past after an “State your name and your connection to the events. ” some absent minded dialogue editor forgot to include the answer to the second part of the question. Implausibly the Detective instead of relying on absence of memory, a familiar trait, responds as a addled teenager and regurgitates when confronted by a ‘witness’ to the affairs sings high notes akin to a canary in a coal mine. I appears he is about to evaporate in his own declarations. Hardly and scarcely believable without the draining absence of dialogue overlooked in editorial. It is addressed differently, correctly later.
The scenes are somewhat moderated and tension free zones. Whereas the Truth Commission dealt with several languages, those at the forefront of interpreting and thus becoming the person, the victim and truth teller, were in need of psychological trauma assistance. This ‘local’ story is set around one sole story and a noodling acquaintance with files and reams and digitised computer ready copied paperwork volumes. The last you’ll hear of those so-called confidential files about as light a summary as to convince an audience -‘You know there might be something in this. We should have one of those.’ Without evaluating the colossal criminality of the state and collaborators of all hue and political background, military or pseudo academic muses.
  
It’s actually regressive and far from helpful to have this story told in such a doctored way as to seem ‘frightfully’ realistic to the outsider. Perhaps it sees itself as a drama for UK consumption, and unfettered guide to be watched in Brussels or Paris or New York as tales of salutary wisdom. The central ‘truth’ provider in the book apparently has a backstory to New York as an illegal and dilemmas on that side of the Atlantic. He does not so much as pick up a phone introducing us to his other half and is therefore ensnared in the roll call on ill-acted home and away scenes. The Commisioners daughter is defensive at first and does an about turn with our puzzlement of what’s changed.  
In Derry’s Guildhall which is externally Belfast’s Custom House, the attendance at the hearings is during introduction and during the inquisition itself without animation. It is a very docile gathering with a few sobs and nods for authenticity thrown in. Collective gullibility is de riguer or the stock of sometimes pedestrian meaningless or minimal exploratory directive, the main problem being the dialogue lifted from the book and its narrow path.
There is little tonality, dimension or felicity of temperament on exhibit among the many characters. A French lady has a complicit entreė without much to play with and it is left to lurid photos as a source of reference to illicit relationship, as is the minder come secretary and her friendship of improbable laxity. Far to many of these one dimensioned characters are laid out as the book has limited their scope it would seem leaving it an impoverished story of incredibilty.

Conclusion ##2 

It’s rare that a film with little realistic fabric to work with makes it out in Ireland’s film industry but this is a decent attempt at making the best of a bad narrow minded story based on a book which never caught the imagination in the province except it having dealt with a topical current.  All the undercurrents are superficially represented as the film shifts from the despair of the central character to the hurt of a victims family to the crass interpretation and manipulation of history and the present by representatives.  Add in a well oiled flawed Commossioner, twisted plot scenarios around his daughter and his excursions to the under root, not of the troubles but the motorway over and docks where the smell of incoming drugs overpowers.

It is a cinematic journey but unfortunately a film worth a bypass.
John Graham

2 February 2016

Belfast
‘Premiered’ QFT Belfast on 1 February 2016 and shown widely and at that venue from a later date(s) to be advised and at Irish Film Festivals of note.

Rams : A Film Review

  
Rams (Cert 15) Cast. Charlotte Bøving as Katrin, Jon Benonysson as Runólfur, Gunnar Jónsson as Grímur, Þorleifur Einarsson as Sindri, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson as Bjarni. Cert. 15. Iceland/Danish Production, Duration 1hr 32mins.          Budget $1.75m. Director and Writer,  Grimur Hakonarson.

Gummi (Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Júlíusson)

Ice planet

The terrain of Iceland is sculpted by ice unsurprisingly.  So Northern it also is a bleak landscape.  Here in Ram we see the sculpted mountains sacrificed and uninhabitable except by hardy sheep.  The unsurprisingly are central to the story having here been bred to cope with these hostile conditions.  The film will show you the winter as well as the near constant daylight of the more hospitable periods when the locals can meet and share their stories, take part in completions and socialise as only rural communities long settled can invest in themselves and their children.  

For their rural life there is an accepted harshness which collects their natural ancient traditions and provides a continuity not found in cities which they eschew.  They also abstain from authority and assist other in times of trouble.  They are separated by a large span bridge in their remote world.  Across a wide river they can create their own managed existence.

Meet the family

To the story of this settlement the writer takes as a familial motif two bachelor brothers separated by one wire fence and seperated by their hostility or rather festered soreness of an old disconnection from forty years ago when a decision affecting them both was taken. Theirs is a world of rearing rare sheep whose dna presents them with a living and is essential to the survival of the conmmunity.

 Gummi —————————|                         Kiddi ——–|

 
So embrassing for the sheep or the vet?  

Two brothers who share part of the valley and have both prize Rams and Sheep of ancient and cherished value are challenged when one of their stock, Kiddi’s is struck by a lethal disease.  They have to confront this by shedding past conflicts but struggle to amid a despairing close knit community and for their wider survival of income for the inhabitants of this otherwise enriched environment.  It is is fixed in its ways and traditions serving them assuredly until now.  Many consider abandoning the area to its fate, this is a problem which local vet, Katrin, spells out in no uncertain terms.  Survival means not quarantine but more drastic measures.  So the story is set.

I have considered the food and the adulteration of the means of supply as well as our, in the West, tendency to consume too much meat, a habit from feudal times and how evident it is the Chinese; pre-revolution, cultivation of all manner of foods were mainly plant based with little in the way of seafood.  Nevertheless their consumption, still of Kori and nutrient enriched seaweeds is a massive part of even internal parts of China.  The scale of harvesting was and hopefully continues to be managed at sustainable levels, though population levels are again surging forward.  Iceland must also have diversity in its diet and our two brothers have in a sub-component of the film as bachelor basic cooking ideas.  This has a minor adjustment by the more adjustable brother when things change.  He accepts, only in part that things change and makes a new stab at the reality presented. Spot the changes!

Fate enters

Tension is formidable in parts of this saddest of tales.  It is not over played but paced to take in the beauty of the locality and emphasis how different the people’s lives are from the cosmopolitan, city lives familiar, most probably for a lot of the offspring who have left this landscape for education and never returned.  It is a tale of an existence struggling to manage and its traditional animal husbandry is put aside by a remote bureau of food safety and agricultural methods altered not for the best locally but for more external dealings.
Both brothers first tackle the difficulties in different ways and the authorities intervene to cause even more problems.

They need to be prised together to secure the breed from extinction and to save their way of life.  It is as twisted as a Rams horn, this story.

  
Gummi the sensible sensitive one

In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two estranged brothers must come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep.
The surprise winner of Un Certain Regard at last year’s Cannes, this desolately beautiful film follows Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), brothers who live on neighbouring sheep farms but haven’t spoken to each other for forty years. Then disease threatens their beloved rams – and the brothers are forced to communicate once again. Full of wry, deliciously mordant humour, Rams is a real treat.

  
Sooo Bahhd

Conclusion ###3

This is a a very straightforward tale told wit attention and sincerity which is at times bleakly funny in a peculiar conscious sort of way.  Sympathy obviously lured the ward and it is a tremendous depiction of the nature of the place and the characters believable in their resolve.  About fourteen characters shape in and dozens of extras.  No animals were harmed etc. Nor did they act very well.  They have only one look even when having sex.  The curvature of their horns, male and female are a weapon not used except by one bored ram. We should have been forewarned about sheep sex and the (separate) expanses of male nudity. The bros are not afraid of fat from the frying pan cooking.  They are also similar but with different mindsets.  That is a core tension which is an entanglement which nearly destroys both.  It is a fairly ordinary telling of a realistic story and is not a bundle of laughs, more salutary tale.  It was worth seeing and will satisfy curiosity about, rural Iceland, the retention of folklore and the visual night and day spectacular wilderness of the place.
John Grahaaaam

9 February 2016

Belfast

On from 12 Feb — 18 February 2016
Queens Film Theatre Belfast

The Survivalist : A Film Review

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Writer and Director Stephen Fingleton, 2015, Ire/UK, Cert. 18. Duration 108 mins.  Cast. Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré and small plot parts by Andrew Simpson and others.

Entering a Bleak New World

This film was seen with a following q/a with Director Stephen Fingleton, so I begin with an early insight. I had noticed the beginning which is a flashback was a desaturated introduction and then some colour entered although barely making a difference – it was a subtle shift intentionally, confirmed, placed as an indicator distiquishing the following of the flashback as we are taken on a tension filled journey around the environs of a forest in which Martin McCann lives in a wooden shed with corrugated tin roof and among contemporary utensils with a make piece bed and shelving.  He is completely on edge.  He, despite the period he has been here, (more on that and the story later,)  he is still vigilant and carries a two bore musket which is highly serviceable and he also has what might be a shortened Bowie knife.  He is a figure like any frontiersman, hunting daily and without language could be in any forest of the clement kind.  Every day requires the same clarity as the day before.  It is a relentless anxiety.  He is what the French call on the qui vive, on the alert; watchful, and he is his own guardsman with a weather eye for trespassers. Twenty or so minutes pass as we become immersed and familiar with the scope, limited, claustrophobic and insular with little or no awareness of the eight mile horizon which is unseen. Tension is racked up continuosly and his isolation is set.

Polemic

There are few films like this around.  There are very few people in it.  The world the film exists in is a vision of what may transpire beyond a meltdown of our own planets occupation and making, of humans diminishing swiftly and on a downward slope as far as population is concerned.  At the beginning was the word and our planet became one on which mankind foraged and survived across land bridges moving out of areas cut off by the ice age into territories both unfamiliar and unpracticed means of acquiring the nutrition needed to live.  Ireland was a desolate place once and a fusion of two tectonic plates hence the bog land down its centre.  It gave up its forests once occupied for fuel, land, reclaimation and settlement.

The formula, premis is Fingleton coming down on the Collapse side (see obtain the 571 page Jared Diamond book of the same name at cpor.org › Diamond(2005)Collapse-How…) as it is unfolding and clear before 1985 or even earlier we crossed the threshold of planet debt. Stephen Fingleton has the Ulster cynicism gene imprinted meaning his vision is of a collapse scenario. Again I also believe he does not close off a route to recovery, for that is what it shall entail. The best potential for this would be total worldwide empowerment of women which he accepts is one part of the answer. (see also the Chris Martenson book The Crash Course from 2011 and updates for a wide analysis,)   

I attended a talk a day after seeing this which was a concise and very well spelt out analysis with it coming down on the less but ultimately more challenging thought of redress and reining back through advances in population control a lot of which depends on the equality across all nations of women thus could alter the course which would find its level below the present. 10,000 babies an hour added to today’s population. See http://www.garvincrawford.co.uk for a copy of the longer version. The talk will soon be on YouTube.

As illustrated in The Revenant it is very probable the Native American Indian came via. a land bridge along with, as my past review of it raised, their Appolossa horses.  A recent documentary underpins this colossally and with little naysaying, that the Appolossa horse originates, in the time scale of man utilising and forming nomadic connections with, in Kyrgstan and bordering China were they were also plentiful.  To survive there as here required a broad range of skills.

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Huge Narrow Scope

The film begins with a rolling line red and blue signifying population advancing almost vertically come the era of the industrial revolution.  Director Stephen Fingleton then takes his projection of the future as a story, not to say prophecy downward on that trajectory.  Enter the externals, a bit like Margaret Atwoods externals which I later raised with him and he affirmed saying it was a massive influence in writing the story.  There in The Handmaids Tale, read in several different contextual ways all valid, there is a ‘safe’ world where outsiders are used as numbers and for particular functions and within the confines of the ruled ‘safe’ world there are sexual tasks to achieve a continuing product of babies and assist the stability of the Survived.  In the final third others appear as do ghostly reminders of the past.  They serve anonymously to underpin the disease of destructive urges prevalent in hopeless states.  One hand to hand fight is another crossing point.

Meanwhile as is supposed in The Handmaids Tale, there are implied wars existing on the outside and all manner of danger is around.  It is this exterior our characters of a near future period exist within.  For eight years back we are shown in the opening sequence the demise of the brother to brother union and the sacrifice made to survive and then the present post collapse being now what liberals call the new normal is some eight years on in a shed, (it happens to have entirely been filmed in North Antrim and the entire sound track dubbed, itself a very definitive choice.  The soundscape is raw and as light has a surreal incandescence, sometimes beguiling and bewitching the mono soundtrack – there is only one speaker front and central, used in the film performance – a simmering engulfing detail landscape of sound is slowly raised out of the bed of the earth.  No music is used either.  Only a found harmonica and Miljia playing with sound as percussion to show her interior listening heart is conveyed.

Being on guard is for the good reason he is not and cannot be alone.  Someone will come and an encounter happens one day in daylight and he is inside when he hears noises and immediately drops the door bar and locks.  He looks through a tin reflective enough to be a mirror and hazy figures, two women appear to be standing in the middle of his vegetable plot.

Women of Persuasion 

Opening the door he sees two women, both on the limits of starvation.  They are mother and daughter, Kathryn and Milja played by Olwen Fouéré whose striking features of long white hair lean body and softly matured face articulate a knowingness and Mia Goth her screen daughter of an age barely into womanhood.  Her wildness, like the orphan in Les Miserablés and emerging sexuality, her lanky angular awkwardness is open and forming a response to what she sees in this world they now live in.  One where starvation is the norm, where violence happens.  It is where the trees plants flora and fauna are surviving without interruption and Martin McCann’s character, he has no  name in the movie – only names his brother, so we shall call him Orpheus, is asked to provide some of his crop in exchange for firstly trinkets then seeds.  Orpheus makes no demands rejecting what they offer then Kathryn cast up by implication her daughter who is aware of the forthcoming translation and steps forward while Orpheus decides to accept with perfunctoriness the offer.

Seeds are used as perfunctory and commodified trades including bodily fluids as the negotiation just taken place includes a breaking clause.

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A Wooden Bolthole

The three are filmed in the cabin and frank nudity and explicit, perfunctory exchange takes place which summons new reactions and implicit bonds of a joining contract where the three are bound in the survival game.  Orpheus is in charge and his musket a central theme of power.  For her own specific survival and for Milja it is less clear Kathryn what’s to be in charge and to obliterate Orpheus.  To do this will take nerve, conspiracy, swiftness, accuracy, daring and a lot of luck.

This is known as a post event movie and Stephen Fingleton eschews the preconceived barrenness of landscapes here to produce a fecundity of verdant and present forms of life which in his view, as far as mankind is concerned is best expressed, best symbolised by the Inuit tribes and in my own interpretation as a follow-on the Asian Mongolian and Native American nomads whose background was Asian and nomadic life being the link of all.  It transposes as the Ulster Museum struggles to point out a settlement of nomadic types here who became farmers as Orpheus has become.  Here they have and armed struggle group called the Indiegonous Race Etnic Allegiance whose an acronym escapes me.  They are like Peppers Ghost – unlike other dubious armed struggle groups – only appearing at their calling – on stage – deceptively harmful/threatening/pointless and of only fictional preciosity is a-ghastly, flagrantly, inhuman and mythological.

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Other natures

Our planet is challenged is the notion of the film.  Despite the over grave outlook presented by Stephen it is intelligent subterranean almost visceral realism charged with deep emotions of bonding within a family, caring and compassion and love expressed tenderly and unequivocally.  It sanctions goals but they are only to be accepted through agreement.  The narrative places several choices – and it is important to notice these polemic turning points when they subtlety arise.  They throw up questions of mere fate, desire, strength of character and ultimate sacrifice.  At the beginning of this paragraph I alluded to an overload of gravity. Very true. There is an absence of, and wrongly humour, and mere non-visual unspoken longing and bonding.  Only occasionally is there any clue to the bond internally of Orpheus The Survivalist, and Milja.

Milja uses her body to draw them closer as a more perfect bond. The nakedness at times when it’s not part of a earthly comeuppance is in both their state one of celebration of freedom as they bath and have time to breathe.  These times are few and the vocabulary of beauty and existentialist thinking and wondering are virtually minimal as dictates prevail. Nevertheless all thre characters use their bodies as an extra acting device unclothed they are of any time or place or origin giving only identify familiar through bone and flesh shapes.

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This is a tremendous film of quality with a hard path to redeem the ticket and entry to it.  To take in,cab sorb its rough and delicate transience, it’s life force is fragile and starkness of reality is summoned through Survival is uppermost your part of the deal.ccTo engage in its cinematic, provoking challenges.  There is one religious one, of serious contempt, there are bodies corrupted by violence and bloodily as well as the naturalistic settings and their stimuli.


Conclusion ####4

This is a formidable provocative apocalyptic film outside the genre of that overused adj. apocalyptic, it is beyond stereo forms of placement, heavily immersed in monolithic tableaux. Sound is a statement which initially is stronger than the visual as a mechanism of connection.  Then the visually deciphering of The Survivalist himself and how he lives comes in slowly.  In its pace also it moves deliberately slowing our senses down to engage with all its values.  They panoply of choices fighting among the trio is a woman man adventure, a power struggle of equal measure, of natural precedence, meaning nature is the master and cells and skin are interchangeable commodities.  It is, the film, at a cellular molecular level in a lot of aspects and the more you burrow the more you learn or will see.  It is a parable on life’s journey in that sense. It is begging to be seen widely and for the complexities to be drawn out of what appears on the surface only as a simple thriller and contemporary; dystopian and such appendages are not welcomed by either Atwood or Fingleton as the fiction is probably and horrendously contemporaneous as examples such as Isis and they are not alone, show.

One thing Stephen Fingleton mentioned and it features a core thrux of the film is commodity and entity in product which he is viscerally challenged as we all are by.  Except he attempts to make movies about them by I understand distancing himself from those stimuli when escaping (as a Surviavalist might, though without choice to survive this modern animal of entertainment come infortainment.

In for a penny in for a pound.  Except the pound is a barbed wire fence with you on one side and uncivilisation on the other.
I hope it receives the acclaim it deserves and is widely a success given its performances and messages that can be diversely drawn from it.  No reaction will have an equal and as ‘animals’ with a lot in common we continually surprise and alarm.

John Graham

3 February 2016

Belfast

The QFT show the film exclusively before general release around the 12 February 2016 when all sorts of wider audience will be devoured by it!

Their showing QFT is from  Friday 5 February 2016 to 18 February 2016 so it bridges the opening also.

On Friday 5 February Director Stephen Singleton and Martin McCann will be at the QFT screening for a Q/A

On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 February Director  Stephen  Fingleton and key crew will be at those screenings.

So Stephen has a busy schedule immediately before he goes of to other films and some writing already in the plans ahead.

Go see hopefully with the Q/A elements.

Magpie is a prequel short starring Martin McCann in another guise directed by Stephen Fingleton which he advises is free online to view at the link www.magpieshort.com