Belfast Film Festival : Short Films 2017
In order of screening at Queens Film Theatre 1 April 2017.
Mystery, Death, Life and Reflection on all our natures. There is a rather loose rural life skirting each programme in contrast to the dramatic and dystopian type narratives of the previous year.!
The basic parameters of the short films selected to be shown in the Belfast Film Festival season have numerous presences and absences of the Irish film world. Seen through the direction and vision, the film screen can conjure with our local vision as a mythical or unintentional reality. Reality is frequently asserted as a starting point as it comprises characterisation, location, a foothold of a concept which will go forth and tumble and rise before us in a picturesque journey. The journey is sometimes held in a narrow gate, sometimes commonplace, sometimes unfamiliar yet known.
The road and genus loci are non specific (local does not require genus loci in my view – a spiritual sense is enough and the senses combined can detect it) in many giving us a wider view than the Ireland of the origins of the story or filmmakers output. Many of these films have been supported by Ireland based ‘film institutions’ and some with local authority, even Credit Union backing. The locality is in many senses not important for the universality of the psyche has no borders and the themes realise this time after time. It is worth bearing in mind the displacement while seeing contexts and settings we are normally overfamiliar with. Such is the wealth of new filmmaking we are getting used to seeing locally developing progressive waves of filmic thought being swept onto film, digital and otherwise and skilfully, beautifully realised. The acting, cinematography, music, direction and production capabilities are seen here as gaining traction year on year. This season is roaming into different melts of concept and vision than others, therefore directionally original. They stand as individual units too within the season itself and each differentiates between the alternative frequencies of thought they engage. To bring positive critique to each is difficult as there are a range of competencies and instilled vision coming out of them. They each however have a single story on screen and of it as well as having a future to penetrate and become more widely experienced.
I have tried to give a view which is helpful, of personal insight and each will differ according to the expectations of the viewer as it happens to be the case everyone’s view is different and valid. Chekhov said you should write everything – except denunciations. So do not read into these opinions as anything other than impressions.
This is a domestic comic thriller/chiller of a simple narrative form. Well shot and full of colour it has a simple theme of keeping nature including its unpredictability in humans prone to error at bay. Living on the outskirts of town in a nice elegant stone clad brand new house with lots of open space would seem a grand place to bring up your family. The childer refers to the children on the fringes of this dream home. In the house are mother and son. She is anxiety riddled and has a compulsive obsessive disorder she does not take pills for and is incessantly cleaning organising and vexing on her domestic chores. In Persil freshness she hangs out the whites, no colours, (despite her penchant for – directors choice? – red dresses and clothing) which brings her into contact with, at the bottom of the freshly mown green sward garden, four children. Two boys, two girls aged possibly between seven and thirteen. When she sees them and is discomforted by their affinity with their surroundings, they goad her and disobey her retorts which makes her go on retreat and counter planning more strict protocols which in turn test her child’s sense of belief in this obsessiveness. His contribution is to be the brunt of some actions. We see her become obsessed and the huge dreamlike forest becomes in her mind contested space and overwhelms her. The sunshine only serves to enhance the borders and confrontations. It is played heavily for black humour and slickly filmed in a normalised world and it fills the curiosity of how absurd it can get. It does not go too far in its reach and is a fairly decent conversation of the borders of civilised behaviour without going too Gothic, too horrific, to dismiss and it’s good entertainment. Avoiding biblical metaphors it is simply put – cleanliness is next to the forest. I wonder if a male director could have got away with making the woman the brunt of such a waywardness? I add another common frailty in a later review – The Clock Makers Dream about costume referring to this film also. Director / Writer Alison Clarke. Duration 18:43
Tedium takes many forms and film about it is, from the outset dangerous territory without a handle to alter the tedium and vision or groundhog premise. With a world of coffee shops next to workplaces and multiple nuanced choices our principle play is satiated while alongside it, the attraction here is for loner and desk jockey Derek that of interacting with a Coffee shop assistant, Jenny with overdeveloped familiarity, constructing in Derek’s head in its empty spaces outside the workplace scenarios beyond reality. One swallow of coffee or joke does not a relationship make, however foreseen it raises its head in absurdity in an overcooked way. After the inevitable comes the readjustment. None of the aforementioned is sufficient to hold any empathy and it is ultimately lost on a worthless cause in every sense. Director/ Writer Brian Moran Duration 11:00
A long shot
I’ve had several bets on the Oscars and I wouldn’t put money on this story short making it anywhere near the winners enclosure when the turn arrives next year. The sporting juices are satiated in visions of Croke Park Dublin. An unlikely but true location for a soccer match between Ireland and Germany and the iconic stadium is the star as it presides over a flat land North County Dublin. A place where the sun also rises. The setting of a couple, the girl, Sarah, lad, Larry who are sharing a house, was one which took time to get my head around with a bedridden Dad asleep upstairs and downstairs barely a stick of furniture. The sparseness being a disjoint. Dad frail as he is, is called upon for anecdotal tone setting about the rare oul times – pre Johnny Giles up through the Keane era to the present halcyon days, comparable to Italia ’90 when Ireland became European when Ray Houghton’s left foot took Ireland to a confidence never before believed. A wager is conceived by Larry for a change in fortune except the money wagered is not his. The roles are well played and it is quick into its pace while it arrives at its pay dirt result in a shaky state of unease and has a small twist in the tail. It was an unlikely concept held together with some decent dialogue and feeling but it failed to stimulate as a complete cohesive peace in my view. Director / Writer Andrew Jordan. Duration 14:55
More than a friend less than a brother, the observation goes about Cousins which opens its story on a shoreline and becomes disjointed in its indoor outdoor chosen environments. The cousins – unstreetwise Jason (12) and his cousin – risk taker bully Leon (14) who have never met before are tested and soon their bonding becomes a complicit compact with both taking part in a savage brutal violent act which is off the limits of anything either has previously done. As a film construct it is overkill. There are numerous more effective ways of delivering its message but it also not in either character no matter how the idea got stuck in the writers head. Getting unhinged has its signals and though people may not see them the clues should have been more subtle. The lame lane scene is insufficient on this score. It spirals into a confrontation with authority. The young filmmakers are no stranger to the vicissitudes of normal life in Dublin and apparently know no bounds as far as Dublin’s scope is concerned as their theatre of film making marks out familiar places. The fault I have with it is, it brought no more than standard situational inner city struggles while it kept within its own (constraining group work lacking leadership, ownership?) remit – without extending, contrasting its place within drug culture, out of control criminalit. It tries to imitate (unScorsese like – a film handle used) and they need to their game at a remove or two from this with a complexity beyond the easy familiar – which they deliver assured and confidently enough – to allow criticism which holds they appear to have smarts but need originality, twist, presence altered and refocused on societal problems, to intimidate and put the heebeejeebees into an audience as Scorsese can do with all sorts of things including Jesuit Priests. Director/Writer Ciaran Behan. Duration 14:01
A pornographer woos
The title is an overplay of an underplayed act of seduction. A married couple on the beach have the sunshade up, the mother in law in a deck chair, the kids hyper in sunscreen and the reconstructed Michael Smiley as said pornographer fully clothed and reading as he also surveys his wife’s curves and constructs a love poem – stand over John Donne. Melanie McHugh soaks up the sun in a classic black bathing suit and seduces the camera along with Michael as both ignore their family adjacent. When he passes the poem to his wife it creates a central peak and – no spoilers then will follow. It is a sunny smiley film with an almost perfectly formed play on attractions fuel except it never reaches a climax. Dreams become flesh and although it felt awkward at times, like sucking on a boiled sweet, it moves swiftly enough past those minor slips. It is all the more pleasurable that we don’t get to see MS in MS trunks, boxers, sporting a range of bodily delights kept only for his partner MS, and he only speaks a few words in his Norn Ireland drawl. I do like to be beside the seaside and the sangria can wait. Post a love poem and see what you get? Director Patrick Myles. Duration 07:00
The highly original take on having an alter ego or future/past tense embodiment is an instant draw to this excellent short film. Songwriter singer Kerri played by Naseen Morgan is debuting her talent in a club, Voodoo credited actually, I thought it was Menagerie but the Voodoo have ripped off their vibe and look! For an uncomfortable introduction just before she takes to ‘stage’ and the open mike she receives an incoming message from her future self. If only you could get them to tell you whose hot and whose not in the data world and who won the war we could play God. But it introduces actually a good format for a longer tale perhaps when the instructional self is your primary driver and risk is removed. It provides tangible perplexing truths as to whether you are the best judge and need you commit to something to achieve – what? The story is well put together and the mobile phone footage is so good it leaves you comparing the normal scenes with it and feeling short changed. Only a few films I recall have a decent club feel and then sporadic. The brilliant Victoria set in Berlin 2016 has the many sides of an interior. There is a big range in Berlin and it’s not the Bergeron type or the KitKat type club films have yet to go there but nevertheless is close to the hedonistic style this club fetishes over. Director / Writer Eion Cleland. Duration 11:20
Several of these films unfortunately for me don’t fit into the review format I used last year – a)Plot, b)What’s good with it, c)What’s bad with it, d)Verdict. This one does not fit either as it’s too sharp and distinct to narrow it’s feel and the variety of readings it projects. Basically it is a young mans guide to survival when tragedy hits and there are few opportunities to speak of it let alone to peers. So we are transported to the Spelga Dam which itself is a fascinating and camera hunger location. The penned sheep in the publicity shot is a comedic take on imprisonment of the mind!? The two principles – one an annoying and insecure foppish young adult Dikey, whose more ponderous mate, Smurf (on the outside – both hold in hurt memories) go back to the place where their mate took leave of this mortal coil. The fact they go back is a challenge and they look for distractions in conversation and the exploration of the place which is a good choice in taking time to breathe and take in the story.
Once the film settles down – when the vodka bottle they have brought along in anticipation perhaps of a measure of courage how ever negative – takes a part as a token messenger. You’ve the bottle speak – another metaphor, the film becomes mature though falters in its use of ‘imitation’ peril. The symbolism of the Dam holding things back is a deluge waiting to happen in itself whether intentional ( there s a mention of their friend Enda holding things back) or not but figuratively it projects sense and sensitivity into the whole body of the work. The core message is clean and delivered with sensitivity. It is no small measure of the ability to convey such hard felt los and the crushing reality harboured that talking helps. A core message delivered that despite being young, wet behind the ears, holding natural fears, using substances as false props the decisive thing is to bring clarity and purpose to bear and connect with people who listen and look for advice and answers and basically love for yourself and fellow human beings. Director Conan McIvor. Duration 18:00
Darkwoodsmen don overalls, hit the kill button on their cause celebre and plot the demise of an informer. It’s neither done with grace, insight or sense of reality or governance of a terrors that organisation taking on the Stakeknife role of enforcer. They even brought a seat along for a a wait. It couldn’t have been the Larne woods then, where the PSNI ate their sandwiches while the stash of guns were buried. More like the Wicklow Hills which doubles as a conventional hit squad location of choice. It was a miserable film with a cockamayny twist and ultimately forgettable. Director Matthew Brown. Duration 12:53
My father, my blood
Young eyes old witch, middle aged man in longcoat. A child watches their father murder a woman in cold blood. More than and other than the first thought of it being an exorcism it’s fiercely terminal. As they continue to live nomadically on the west coast of Ireland, their relationship begins to break apart. Both in the wild mountainous terrain of home territory. John Robert Brown has crafted a film which is outstanding as a drama mystery. His actors, Daniel – Jordanne Jones, Cillian – Barry Ward, principally, and Hag – Maire Hastings, Siren – Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler, Father – Wesley O’Duinn, Mother – Miriam Devitt, Little Girl – Jade Reidare are the most convincing seen in this season of shorts and of such capable, significant talent they enable the strangeness of this tale to impress on the viewer a real almost Shakespearian sense of surreal otherworld. It is full of the atmosphere of many of the plays without imitating any. It is hard to figure out what is going on. The relationship in the centre is full of mystery as it was revealed to me – the father, referring to the girl as boy, is wishing she was a boy. Jordanne Jones is incredible as the young Daniel and is full of emotive nuance and bewildering mystery as the girl juvenile in a central role which only points to an natural acting talent who is aware of the finer acting needs some of her peers and several a-listers could gain from attaining. In RTE Red Rock an older actress who has similar credentials is Leah Minto as a Garda. Leah calls her part Ash as having street smarts. She is another actress who reads her role extremely well. The space shifting and shortness of this film is its downfall as it is of a potentially wider scope and maybe like Magpie did for Stephen Fingelton act as a calling card for a main feature film. It is shot extremely beautifully and assuredly by Ewan Mulligan though it’s over SFX’d at times. The whole team however deserve credit as it’s not easy to give this look and feel to a drama and give it an Irish feel which is well capable of fitting many stories and maybe reinventing familiar narratives – wildly – as long as the include the talent of J. Jones! Director/ Writer John Robert Brown. Duration 12:40
Here dialogue is delivered by tape to a woman in a place she is either returning to for a break, reflection away from the rat race or here to redress and confront a troubling past. It appears this is partially true as she is familiar with the tapes and within them are an uncomfortable record and it’s not Eleanor McAvoy or Shania Twain. Heartfelt are the revealed troubling accounts she rehears. Times are like Get Back Up or Better Times but this is a remote island, Inishbiggle in Co. Mayo, where there is oddly a faint signal for mobile reception. There is a confusing, for audience and Janine Hardy and the viewer of a sense of reality which is evoked mainly by the landscape. It is play on modern necessity to revisit the past, as opposed to previous generations who had to forego the luxury of this journey. Nonetheless people do find a need to sort out particular parts of their past life’s and move on but the memory is not always reliable and things often turn out to be fluid. Other means of exploring this are of greater effect and while it is a decent shot at a particular Pause in a persons story it is does not sit in the memory for too long. Director/Writer Niamh Heery. Duration 08:17
The immigrants story is colourful as is the case in this experimental drama which incorrectly is described in programmes as being composed of only three shots whereas it begins with the Moira pacing through the tree lined streets of Hampstead to the Heath where awaits a chance encounter with Mark a young, introverted, shaven headed Irishman contemplating the non sense of space he finds in a remote shelter where his counterfoil Moira arrives seeking a light for her Gauloise cigarette (I imagine) like a winged charioteer of the logo she sweeps into the mind of Mark as a gallant inquisitor. The premise is easy on the eye and it is an escapist stylistic work reliant on tweaks and colourist framing eccentricity whchnos old/new school filmmaking and slightly indulgent. The narrative, dialogue is self centred and vaguely Proustian. As an adventure it is sadly overwhelming of the two main participants whose contribution is very engaging but untested in silences, activity or personal connection. Director/ Writer Ed Smith. Duration 19:18
In the life of others there are unknown hardships and family tragedies which never appear on the surface and then only through contracted framed incidences. For a short to take on grieving and loss in through the metaphor and literal reenactment of a Climb on a mountainside in Northern Ireland there is a sense of jeopardy portrayed by the two participants in the Climb. The teacher and the novice climber this is a depiction based on an actual tragedy and carries it with emotional quality and sensitive slow paced revealing how how such things are overcome. Loss by the widow played by Joanne Crawford, with Ian Beattie as the instructor. Some parts of the intended story do not carry. It is easy to miss the element that this for the fictional Julia is a climb on her adventure loving late husbands favourite mountain, Hen Mountain In the Mournes for example. For a true story it is deals with with a degree of moderation and sensitivity which fails to make it push itself as a short film story of far reaching insight. However well conceived and put together it is with the largesse of a consistently efficient film company it fails to deliver in the main part of new vision. Director/Writer Lynne Davison. Duration 09:20
Be prepared for toilet humour of a moderated kind. No harmful or toxic elements are shown, seen and all is piloted very well in the quest to give a set of dating circumstances a new slant. Apprentice dater, the amusingly inept and self-effacing youth Robbie a callow boy wishing to rose to the occasion of a date in a posh restaurant. He is seated waiting for his date to turn up and then sees an Aunt and Uncle who require to know too much. In getting an alternative seat a mate who happens to work at the establishment is asked to direct him to the toilet which is the source of the central plank of the introduction to the protocols of dating. Don’t listen to others for advice being one first rule. Whelehans Wines (Restaurant) of Loughlinstown I am sure would wish to assure future customers that the scenes in the film are entirely fictional and there is no shortfall in their excellent hospitality nor their facilities meeting all the needs and proper expectations of their diners. As a comedy piece it is well directed and well cast with a fresh and good paced unwavering sense of that area of entertainment it is extremely difficult to deliver something fresh, rounded and with a uniqueness despite the heavy measure of iterhaps having only one real joke to relate. It is a short so it is not going to trouble you with the what happened next. Though it has a cute ending. Director/Writer Juke McKane. Duration 09:44
The narrative here is a familiar tale here North and South of migration and return. The take on it here is a young man working his fathers farm part time alongside his brother who we don’t meet and it shows his routine of daily feeding the group in lower fields presumably late autumn. There is another returnee, a young woman about seven years separate their last encounter having grown up together. An overlong sheep trailing intrudes, adds as a needless buffer and it replaces a missing part, a third dimension or diversion – even an introduction – like – taking a shop trolley back to the local one village shop/post office and meeting the person and saying you’ll drop by later. Instead we get an angry almost phone call? What’s that about? It had potential and it realised it partially in the good conversation dialogue of thoughtfulness regarding both these modern young Irish people. It had some solidity therefore it getting the message across but was let down in my view by other choices. Director/Writer Sinéad O’Loughlin. Duration 13:55
When you see another road trip expect human or alien interventions. So when we get the emergency stop it arrives in an unusually disorientating form requiring immediate explanation. The two characters are the girl behind the wheel and what the stop calls for, a partially dressed young woman. The driver at first appears to be in shock but it turns out very different. A male – I wonder again – if the horror and the desperation which is laden on to be a character cinematic shock – fulfilled plus – would be seen as acceptable and necessary to achieve the reveal. I think it would have been scorned as a bit patrightfully. It is a brief piece of nastiness anyway and is of shock value only. No heightened colour or darkness, (? tried to make it as naturalistic as possible so as not to give away the – you have to disclose any level of …. occurs anyway?) no distinct shape or vision in the camerawork or editing and it comes to a stop leaving you feeling disappointed. A momentary Diane Jessie Miller lapse as there is very good work preceding it. Director / Writer Diane Jessie Miller. Duration 05:41
By far this film is the most like a mainstream movie and potentially of a bigger form. Even a mini series. The story is set in New York with a great scene setting and character intro which shows a paramedic crew setting of on a day’s work with Irishman Sean Ryan leaving loose ends on a day’s start with his wife and child. They fit a tangible unit and subject setting up several possibilities and secured in this beginning Séan is revealed as full of anxiety unlike his negro co-driver. The daily routine is far from it and involves visit after visit to familiar haunts of them caring for seriously hurt human beings hanging onto life as they are called to apply first medical assistance which is life threatening – sometimes in both parts of the equation. It is brilliantly realistically shot and the acting too is superb. The part of Sean’s wife is handled empathetically and convincingly as a woman placed in a foreign city in a homemaking unit with the trappings of improved lives emerging put on the precipice through the job Séan does. It is well scripted and for a New York narrative it is unusual in that it follows an ‘ordinary joe’ going about his day job in the city streets. Several films I am reminded of go into the place of seeming to reveal a part of NY unseen by use of an effective core. Ira Sachs film of last year Little Men does it brilliantly.
This is from a Limerick man and it’s won several awards for Peter McNamara and crew and cast who do a mighty fine job.
The title is from – Naloxone, sold under the brandname Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. Naloxone may be combined within the same pill as an opioid to decrease the risk of misuse. When given intravenously, it works within two minutes, and when injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes. This film works in 20mins. and has after effects. I leave it of the roster for my favourite as it is singularly expansive and has is clearly outstanding with a very professional result which I nominate as a Special Award Joscar as I want to highlight other ‘firsts’ deserving special mention. So the origin of this film is also revealed as – While working behind a bar he would hear a wealth of stories from migrant Irishmen but one set of stories in particular stood out from the rest, An Irish paramedic working the streets of New York who would regale him with stories of being on the job and everything gritty detail that it entailed. Fascinated by what he heard he began to write during quiet moments while working in the bar, the blueprint of the Narcan screenplay was ultimately born from these scribbles on the back of beermats and napkins. It’s made. Director/Writer Peter McNamara. Duration 20:00
Second to none
Cartoonified twins are competitors in old age. While they presumably never had any hang ups while growing up and why would they the clock doesn’t lie. One came out first and one has just become the oldest living person in Cartoonville. The expressive and deeply intense animation is broad and well shaped. It puts up a gripping little story on a mere seven minutes that flies by. In the end you are warmed and horrified and made sceptically of all elderly folk who look unsettlingly cheerful. It might even get a 12 certificate as it’s only plasticine/clay?! Director / Writer Vincent Gallagher. Duration 07:10
Mary played by Love/Hate Aiobhinn McGinnity is an inner city Dublin single mum. It’s probably best getting that role out of the way in a short! Niaomi Harris, she alleges, did it in Moonlight. Here there is a difference with Mary retaining her faculties. It could become a hoop around any good actresses neck portraying a subject familiar in so many outlets fact and fictional. Son Mark is in with the wrong people. Dorset Street is typecast as a lonely street of crime and Garda chasing their tails while hell spirals as a flood about everyone’s ears. For the narrative this film takes it to the ultimate test of love and tests the appetite for continued immersion in a face of violence never seen in reality except to those close to and in the locality of actions which see the body bags and those who arrange the internment of their loved ones right in front of them. While it is a very accomplished piece it does unfortunately only unsettle and is of incomparable relation to the street crime seen across Ireland and a constituent of most deprived urban western cities. Narcotics are a normal feature. The same weekend – unplaced out in media were the deaths of five young people in the Belfast City area with probable links to contaminated drugs supplied but the violence meted out was and is a destroyed body. Not shot but shut off with drugs instantaneously. This also in the line of other more savage crimes also having young victims around the same time in the same locality. Narcan fits the spaces and more as far as the complex arbitrary exposure to harm and death with the important key of the Paramedic’s daily trauma clearly setting it apart. Director/Writer Eimear Callaghan. Duration 10:20
The cloak and spectre of death which is a visitor to everyone comes in the (offset) horror genre film short telling the world of a guardian who is not angelic but places herself as the arbiter of all things final. Lady Death has a way about her which is basically too fundamental. In a journey of youthful discovery Lady Death who is twenty something harbinger of doom in her day post – seeing to the soon to be despatched, tortured souls, – is caught in a frail limbo and sees contentment which she only is able to enable through her portentous clients. She has wisdom beyond her years and is herself fixated with life’s carousel though in the converse to us – as she witnesses wrong choices of doubt, self analysis, which death is not intended for. Having scruples she seeks out the vulnerable to become their Gabriel. As writer Director Karen Quinn puts it ‘Death is not the bad guy, life is.’ With her lonesome task carried on young shoulders she meets a young man whose plight in his hands is doomed. The ill-boding stars align to tell this bearded youth of an apocalypse imploding in his mind while around him the world produces its daily beauty and cycle regardless tempting and fate to his conclusion. Karen is of a similar age to the actress and actor and is instinctively sharp on alternative views. She also delivers some great words – ‘Death is not meant for the young’ ‘Fear is a part of life’. Move over Aristotle. While Lady Death and the young man meet on the waterfront, one sees the bright lights of Belfasts central riverside in two shades, the bright fast moving daily hustle contrasting with the lit up colour of the night sky and moon reflecting on the water all that calmer but equally perplexing – the other sees no joie de vivre but I won’t say which one. The cinematographer though does as the film is shot particularly insightfully around the weir walkway and some ‘Cy Twombly’ (there is a lot of referencing him in my my reviews so learn about the cinematic angle if you haven’t already!) painterly colours and vibrancy lifts the mood. Again an insightful choice. There is a sharp moment courtesy of Tesco Lisburn Road near the fair trade bananas which is a non sponsored moment. This is highly interesting, entertaining take on the old certainty by a light hand with a deft crew and only the occasional wobble. (Referring to the backdrop of brick which is too much of a students staple – leaning against walls! and multiple [edit?] to and fro on the bridge ‘encounter’ sequence – it moved too much) But all said it was a very good piece of work and the smoothness of a longer piece may create a breakthrough film. The writing being the chief strength. All to mature and form still hopefully as it leaves you wanting more but not necessarily the same thing. Director/Writer Karen Quinn. Duration 11:40
The territory of Maeve Binchy or a terse Hugh Leonard or even Brian Moore spring to mind in seeing this narrative unfold. The rich seam of the future providing the newly married in an earlier era of say the fifties had authorial potential as well as real possibilities. We have here a Film of a woman returning to her honeymoon hotel to meet with her now estranged husband whose promise of fifty years previously was – whatever became of them – they would return to the Bray Hotel in which they first became a wedded couple. The pebble is a symbol pressed into the hand all those years ago.
Pebbles are strange things and on a woman being brought one with a cross on it after she said, bluebells are best left in the hedgerow, the suitor said ‘It’s a sign the marriage would be blessed.’ For her reply came ‘No Priest can bless a marriage where there isn’t one.’
Many beaches will have similar tales. It is far too literal and unidirectional to see the woman here on the beach with a heavy suitcase in her comfy trainers, with aa dress on and heavy coat to then traipse across to the seafront hotel missing a vowel from its sign. There are a smart young couple dining in the window seat watching each other’s eyes like they’ve discovered this weeks lotto numbers and won’t tell a soul. It only would take a minute to cross the street and get a ticket. All sorts come to mind as this slow work gathers enough steam to boil an egg. Pity it’s sans salt and an egg cup. Basically the film lacks substance and will he won’t he is barely of interest as so many similar tales seem good at first sight on the page as the author has embellished the notion with plenty of asides and meandering to escape the fact it’s a non story of sentimental value for the idly curious. The ‘couples’ place and hotel act well in their assigned parts but it passes quickly with the Sky hardly changing. Director/Writer Jonathan Shaw Duration 14:55
The Clock Makers Dream
Time holds everything in its hands. For a filmmaker, animator the time frame has stopped. The magic begins when the Clockmaker introduces his management to time. Here is a whimsically travelled, very well doctored reality in a kind of visitor Centre Ireland town or village with the clockmaker returning to find all things stopped not least the town clock. George Meilie is cited as an inspiration. Ever since I saw people parading around racecourses a decade or more ago with quite effectively courtiered horses head pieces on to spin the atmosphere and ironically not to frighten the horses, I’ve seen the use in film as a cop out of imagination. The same flaw entered wth the very first film in the set here at the screening, Childer. There are several inspirations and it had me thinking while watching of Jacque Tati whose absurdity was in the same Gallic charm this conveys. It must be the Brittany connection. Even Dali is a bellwether. Our Clock Maker is in a world having not found live ŵhen time stops and this is the sadness of the piece which propels him into action and adventure. So another lesson there? You only find out you have been inactive in your search for true love, or insufficiently charged before time comes to a standstill and ‘the chase’ has also stopped and love is not only sought but needed.
The concept of the stopping of time is cleverly teased out to play with notions of living in the present. Only now existing. No future release tracking of time is needed. Conversely all the above takes time and this is the fascination of momentary belief suspension. See what I did there?! Shocks appear on screen in this arrested time as it is important to realize the resolved does not happen without a time lapse. Take the Irish historical narrative for one. Blow up Nelsons Column and you get to regain 100 square feet of territory in O’Connell Street. Now what name did it have before? If you look back in time as the clockmaker does the past is seen as a precursor to that broken heart you have or that grief you once had. The present is unresting because it starves you of memory and displaces the potential plans of tomorrow. How many hands have you got and where are they to point? The clockmaker remembers things he has made and now remembers for that is all there is left to do. The doll after doll made before clocks turned to him. If time had more time it would be its shadow. If your hands do not gesture you are not alive and moving on. As they say time heals. Director/Writer Cashell Hargan. Duration 13:30
In the holiday season, especially in the Wicklow Hills it’s easy to take a back road and find yourself in a traffic jam. It is a welcome sight when it’s on the screen and your not in it particularly as this script has crafted together a loose collection of screwball half witted and cockamamie,ad as hares traveling folk who each have a story. Which has the story? They all have a part in unearthing it. Form the back seat of a car the child getting on trying to behave as if this was what her friends at school think would least expect her to be subjected too and the sun is splitting the sky and there are so many other kids to play with. No. She passively sits and listens to her Da’s rant. When her Dad gets out of the car to see what’s going on he finds a hay art turned over and Goya black horse lying as dead as it can act on the ground. It’s surrounded by a squabble. When he returns to the car straight away he finds Emma is missing. The instincts kick in as he looks all around to see if she’s gone for a pee or is down the other side resting her legs or talking to someone in another car. No. She has gone. The car driver directly behind is quizzed followed by anyone who oscnear. It develops into a very acerbic, horrifying piece of black comedy and every character plays it for pathos and unbelievable truth. The unbelievable truth being half the stories they tell as if it is factually making sense to everyone. This is the least unformed story of the entire set as a film it is too bloody believable asa possibility and puts every parent on warning for kidnapping in every moment of their lives. So they are in a car and lots of people are caught up in the same very narrow road and all wish to move on. How could a child disappear under this intensely claustrophobic set of conditions? Yes she does and into this come past histories, character unhinged fragility, tragedy, complacency, stereotyping and filmic cliches. The manhunt, the dark impenetrable woods, the pressure of time, the police stubborn static unhelpful authoritarian control, the jeopardy and wild imaginings. If it were not for the ordinariness of the main characters and the ease with which these actors seamlessly act together it would be set for critical mincing being a tale of child abduction in appearance. Yet it rises above the horror of the concept to keep you gripped to the end. So why no award? I left it aside as it was far too short and it weaved everything together in a short space of time without time to be excruciatingly terrifying. It missed a beat somehow and I’d have to see it again to explain that to myself again! Perhaps it was trying too hard to be just plain stupid and comedic? Perhaps it was too well shot? Perhaps it was answering your questions too swiftly. It is very cleverly engrossing and is as another aside a kind of everyman portrait. You know the type – where an everyman gets out of bed – something bad happens and his character shifts dramatically – for whatever reason this side is confronting and totally opposite to the earlier persona and can it change back etc. Director/Writer Darach McGarrigle. Duration 19:45
Overstretched fitness fanatic seen in go-pro enhanced camerawork is diabetic Tom. It overshadows his life as body confidence is blunted and sometimes he does not take his medication. Insulin pricks we learn quickly are a nightmare at times and the need for one in a young adult sportsman when competing for example, is our subject here. The director Adrian Rowe with fellow writer Emma Louise Dodds take a great deal of thought in assembling this narrative so as to 1. deliver a short effective insightful entertainment. 2. Be conveyors of health awareness and advice. You are not alone in other words as a young man whether you are a cyclist, rower, GAA player or netball, baseball player or any active young woman or man. A graph of the line of the sugar levels depletion is deployed aka The Survivalist opening frames come to mind! Another survivor but here in the real world of City life and girlfriend, relationships and the uncertainties of the future. It is great to see this kind of work as well executed as it is here and all perform to make it that reality. It is not a usual subject and it is not that complex with results, once the ‘reveal’ of the medical condition, this is not a spoiler as it is flagged up as being about a Diabetic! so it has a empathetic pull and it is exemplary without being brilliant on the levels of others reviewed here. Don’t take that to hard filmmakers because there is a lot of very strong work here! Director Adrian Rowe Writers Adrian Rowe and Emma Louise Dodds. Duration 13:58
When the seagulls…
The format of this short is a buddy type movie with a twist. All the more so given it involves basically one scene. It is of two men about late twenties who have come to this isolated beach (Norfolk is credited?) to despatch the remains of a friends ashes whose wish they are fulfilling. On the dunes we loook down to the pair, with an empty deck chair set on the rustling maram grass. Setting the scene they both stare out to sea and both become uncomfortable with this act which neither has done before. They converse with many reflections on themselves the person in the urn and even inform us quite accurately, well almost of what remains of remains and the person once cremated. So far so good. It is a whimsical and thoughtful script and process with the more confident of the two, after all he’s carrying the urn share the moment and a degree f gravitas is entered into. The story is well held and it gives you plenty to think about during this short period. Neither overlong nor short this tale has a twist which none will have anticipated.
Suffice then to conclude this is a very good short film of the type of real life narrative which seeks to be more than the contents, appearance of a short entertainment on observance. Observance is there of the two, of young men’s unfamiliar on the most part o loss and how to grieve. I takes it further by becoming a lesson well told and it becomes visual and the metaphors of the open expanses is singularly potent in becoming part of the confinement even for ‘him inside’ while introducing a heavy closure. There are several morality, finality tales with it seeming when the statistics of ourselves are shared, that that is what we are, just numbers. Another spoken one is that naivety is a greater sin than cynicism.
‘The Foggy Dew’ is played on a great soundtrack an the angelus bells provide the tome of sober paused reflection.
Having been to the cinematographic Norfolk coast on many’s occasion I never forget the vast openness of particularly the location of Blakeney Point where the very earth seems not to exist in any semblance of permanence, with tides and sands constantly exchanging their spoils. Eerily it becomes even more ethereal out at the point itself and the producers/director may have seen something of this location in their choice of exit. Director/Writer Alasdair Killen. Duration 13:30
The double of graffiti and glue sniffing give Duncan fewer brain cells to think with and his relationship with his Mother is on a downward trail. It is attendant on the concerns of youngsters while delivering no new outlook or observance that I am aware of. While it has truth and consequences, such a trashed ‘flat’ – very lucky lad getting any kind of flat anyway on an Irish City – it hangs your interest on outcomes you know require redemption from within the family. I struggled with this as either exploiting a very serious section of life. As well asbeing described as a social realist film and taking on very well formed dreamlike/nightmarish effects interweaving them very well into the narrative ilacls thump kudos and delivery of a social ill dismissed. The teenagers have other interests besides these and no contrasts are exploited whether a short or not having the result I didn’t quite get it as a completed piece. It may be that the director is not after a vision of reality and is playing with the themes. Fair enough though talent such as this needs to assert its self fiercely to enter the broader wide long form which is obviously hanging in the air. Director Hugh Mulhearn Duration 15:00
Six pack and crack
Black and white footage is employed with use alongside coloured flashback to provide the consisting local village shop life of an alcoholic mother Val and her estrangement from her 16 year old son Shane. She has used and is used in a relationship with a Russian whose delinquencies are greater. Joe, her partner has an entourage whose drug choices cover the bases. Shane the son would become a punchbag if he were to live at home. It doesn’t stop him from acting courageously to see his mother make other choices. Even so he has demons which make him wasted. The crystal meth environment of home comes with trading in drugs which accrues money which disappears. The money is put to use in the form of a resolution. It provided a great central role for Shane as he tied the content together while his mother portrayed in gripping, stark, tragic state was compelling. Unable to empathize with Joe the villain should not take away from the menace he projects and conquers any misgivings about the ensemble. It was a good film in many aspects and though it delivered twists and turns it was not my kind of thriller. Director Rita-Marie Lawlor. Duration 17:00
Time and again
For two fourteen year old boys the prospect of time travel is not confined to comic books. Two Brian’s appear. The young and older versions. The basic subject is very well trodden ground. Given the chance would you go back and change a life changing event? Would it be possible and these boys try to imagine it might. Even a Stephen Hawking probably would have us take the position – the jury is out and the evidence is filtering through. The Eagle type comic is the subject of ones conjecture while the other is a more irritatingly science/professorial kind. The voice of Brian is adult as he narrates the older Mr Jones. Oisin at 14 is technologically secure and insecure. He has false perceptions and his name choice – Ossian being a favourite of 18th century Scottish poet James Macpherson who travelled further back to the poet Ossian of 3rd century ad is as close as I got to engaging with the entertainment yet irritation coming from the protoscientists. The retelling is poorly achieved from the other characters of Mum and Dad and the absence of a father while a good device to provide the impetus it is shallow in complex and does not work. The Tom figure is a type – the adult who says do us a favour son and don’t be havin’ nightmares – all cosy sort of, so it’s not a difficult challenging watch. The type of safe short the BBC and other screeners favour. Director/Writer Aiden Largy Duration 13:48
If ever there was a film to be had of a party in a back street in Belfast in 1972 as aconveyance was f showing sectarian hatred in the hands of violent men and women it’s not here. The utility of sanders and lerbstone paint also adding false notes. A UDA shooting in an area with rwb kerbs? A late bight party attended only by someone who had lost the plot and completely out of their head on drink morexprobably but not eyes wide open. It was a ridiculous and if harbours any nuances or side issues I did not see them. The cross dressing man on the run stupidity is a crude choice. Given there were trans and LGBT in ’73 as ever, this is something left to perfect. It may have conceivably got its supporters as an on edge of town bars/discos or The Harp Bar as harmless and indicative of a different paradigm was a good point while it never got anywhere close to a Neil Jordan type twist or visual foil. The interior shots if not the dials hue were good and period convincing. The doorbell answered is also a conceited stupidity. So did anyone get shot for having a Party? Unionists, Nationalists, Socialists, Communists, Lecturers, Councillors, Reporters got shot and killed for having Party allegiances but for the other it didn’t make sense as the film failed in large doses. The triviality is not mine, it belongs four square with the films mediocrity. It doesn’t even make it as false history but ludicrous weak history poorly conceived. Director Andrea Hardin. Writer Conor MacNeill. Duration 14:00
THE END OF THE FICTIONAL SHORT REVIEW. MY WORDS AS A PLACEMENT OF OPINION HOVERING NEAR TRUTH HOPEFULLY. Thank you for reading and if I’ve been too tough or critical on those who are responsible for the film content apologies as it’s meant only perversely (positive criticism) to encourage better and if that’s wrong too then I’ve failed to watch it more closely perhaps.
Non-Fiction Documentary Shorts Belfast Film Festival 2017
I have reviewed a few of the separated Documentary films shown a day after in a group with what I found weird results as far as awarding went as these two were in my view very worthy of winning as opposed to those who settled for ‘obvious’ cineworld reasons having missed the wealth elsewhere. Big time low.
The Wee Shop and Seán Hillen Merging views get my Joscar17 Short Doc award.
2 different and joint winners in my mind. Anything that can bring joy and laughter to a small film theatre in the heart of Belfast on a Sunny Sunday afternoon when the choice has been made not to join the promenade on the beach or car chase on the motorway to catch a barbecue or walk the park avoiding dogs is supremely deserving of any number of awards. In The Fashion Show caught a bright light in the world of Ruth Morrow trainee shepherdess and alter ego film Super Mario and Luigi gamer heros were a breathe of fresh air too. The sublimity – (solid to gas to solid again seems appropriate) – of the world of a rural community letting its worries pass into the afternoon sky temporarily was a lovely escape exquisitely creative and insightful. The surreality of the theme developed as a natural phenomenon and was a really enjoyable watch thoroughly well done by a burgeoning talent.
The Wee Shop
In Belfast the corner shop is a disappearing social staple. The Shop around the corner and later You’ve got mail by Nora Ephron are story films of the urban shop while in Belfast the Irving St John who belonged to a deaf family in Euston Street wrote the very funny play Boyd’s Shop which created a very portrait of the community focal point these places were on basically every road and inner city tributary. They even existed in the backstreets and their lights were on until near nine o’clock to provide for the essentials such as milk bread and sugar and non essentials such as cigarettes, lemonade and ice cream, the weekly pools coupon and a florid diet of gossip. The faltering entity is now a shadow of its former self as this short film makes a collection of a small number of stoical shopkeepers lament themselves about the struggle to remain true to the community corner shop provision they sustain on modest returns. Aside from the butchers and Chip shops and street cafes and fast food outlets they are seldom able to compete and this film is a tale which brings mostly dark humour out with the resolute frank telling of past times. Patsy on the New Lodge Road has plenty in common with her fellow shopkeepers Bill and Norman of Sandy Row and the Shankill respectively. The sorry demise of communities driven to the wall by successive governments undermining through lack of investment in all sectors of community life, the housing, schools, infrastructure, transport and a determination to structure destabilisation through housing allocation and lack of provision for families within communities is seen in these very shops which act as a last connection with the troubled communities they serve and served. By giving as one Shopkeeper explained with conspicuous accuracy, the bigger stores are allowed free access to a market through scale and mainly car accessible shopping by Belfast and surrounding Councils. Monster supermarkets out of scale with communities and frequented by out of town bound custom heading to the dormitory habitations which provide identikit soulless housing on former farmland and undeveloped hinterlands of small villages. The film is a marker as were photographs of the same shops and former shopkeepers which provide another outlook and insight to the life of a passing community key. Director Siobhan King Duration 11:00
Seán Hillen, Merging views
This new short documentary portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage. He shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery. The choice of making a work in the small studio of Seán Hillen is a tool adding emphasis to the incredibly interesting subject which is part of film making achievement; the detail the intensely focal frame.
The intensely imaginative world of Newry native, Séan Hillen in his present home of many years in Dublin is entered as if stepping into the imagination itself. From the immediacy of an introduction to the dark outside and the loved fat bastard of a cat getting a food treat offered with profanity, a source of warm engagement and audience laughter enters the film theatre, as The Wee Shop did earlier, with its non stop mix of pathos and humour striking a chord here in Belfast. It is a rare thing indeed to see an artist in a studio and while Warhol identified a niche to have photographers, artists, authors committed to coming to the factory and making their written and visual record of it, itself that became product. Like the late Basil Blackshaw who eschewed the rigmarole of publicity and never courted it Séan Hillen is similarly not keen on intrusiveness. When filmmakers of the aptitude and moxie of Paddy put it to you they want to make a piece about your work it’s a different matter altogether. The work too becomes an artwork. I was reminded of the groundbreaking film following Francis Bacon back from The Colony Rooms to his house and his immediately getting prepared to paint in the wee small hours of the night. Bacon took time to ignore the witness and get on with the work in his mind whereas there is an égalité, an openness, participation advanced here in this film, to welcome in the viewer to the processes of the artists role which attest to their inherent honesty. A lot of art historians, curators, art critics, galleries do not get this work in its collective worth. Some and hopefully fewer now, miss the continued trajectory from the Renaissance through to the prominent British artists, Mark Wallinger and Damien Hirst whose continued work excel propelling renewal of thought.
To carry out an explanation of how he works Séan gathers together an assembly of thoughts surrounding a new piece of work. In common with the photomontage works he has been making for nearly thirty years it is a leap into the unexpected each time it would seem and is as I perceived it a conduit of his mind extrapolating for us our own heralded metamorphic conjunctions on possible truths of previously upheld views. His explanation and it’s not given as a foundation but possible source of our connection with his work, is our brains priority in placing – seeing as believing – first ahead of further analytical deconstruction. The eye tells the mind to believe what it sees. Given the mind is relying on a chemical reaction which is fed though light onto chemicals transmitters and is a part of the brain itself we are in teleportation land. In the depths of the oceans we know of creatures that have no eyes. We are aware of the senses prioritising light and colour followed by sound smell taste and touch so reality exists to be broken down intuitively when we encounter only the two dimensional figurative statement of a photograph. Ireland has a complex narrative as does ever inhabitant of it.
Those in the past have questionable histories, so why not confront alternative functions for those times and perceptions, because memories lie and people do also. Mythology is an art form in Ireland from the pipers lament handed down through millennia to our Newgrange polemic ancestory. We have an Eros of harmony in our lives which is equated, set alongside, that ancient parallel Greek goddess of discord and the sister of Ares. To the turbulence of the universal rules and reliances we bring construct, more often than not based on simple untruths be it, democracy, loving, civilisation and fellow treatment of all living things. To this is the melee we have to call discord, identified with the Roman goddess Discordia. In Séan Hillen’s work – most notably Irelantis this discordance is highly prevalent. The discordance which Séan Hillen relates to and with in the film is his relatively recent knowledge of his having the Asperger’s condition which has performed a cathartic revalation for him to the extent previously unexplained attributes were held at arms length rather than their current state of becoming part of the reasoned dialogue.
To an artist this must be a great benefit as well as placing a perpetual commitment to the Aldous Huxley type of exploration at the doors of enlightenment. Huxley was taught by his father of the possibilities the mind could extend to. The Prelude And Præterita of Aldous therefore were built in his DNA along with the affinities the mind constructs. ‘Seeing’ here is the artwork progressing along those very lines. Such was the source of the Huxley concepts of cosmic and social order to effect a transformation in Western thinking, a parallel must be held appropriate, in us advancing towards recognition of viewpoints we are yet unable to understand but have a belief they are of such magnitude as to affect our present existence in unknown ways, we are basically staking our whole existence past present and future on that construct being manifest. Whether it is true – and these art works as well as many other artists works – tend to that possibility – that we are not yet able to see it – it is what allows us the freedom to make such conjectures. Ireland, Eire has Greek connections to the word Peace the opposite of discord ironically.
There was a palpable stunned silence as the revelatory images became clear and that we were witness to a photomontage which proposed the absurd to not only to be a possibility but had certain other occurrences happened, they could not be dismissed as mere juxtapositions of intangible fluid thought and were reminders how we perceive things alive and active. Advertisements and the land of fictional representation, the apparel label logos, identity symbols and members of the semiotics of visual language. While many are on the parameters of fictional forces there are other ideas and imagery which are disablingly, perplexing and have an inherent, deeply embedded, truth telling ‘voice’, however ‘inconceivable’ they might appear. Our consciousness is at a place where we are incapable of dismissing them, as perceived certitudes divide us and make us what we are. In preparation for God it seems our goal is to seek out beauty in harmony with the universe. This simple aim is difficult for the human as existence is made all the more confounding by the Bible quotation of God being sorry for making us this way… ‘failing’ you becoming ‘sorry’ in the KJB.
Director Paddy Cahill. Director of Photography Basil Al Rawi. Producer Tal Green. Duration 10:00
The Irish Film Festa10 asked of Paddy Cahill 3 questions
Why did you choose to make a film about Seán Hillen?
I’ve been a long time admirer of Seán Hillen’s work but it was last year, as I visited him at his home to buy one of his prints as a present, that I knew I wanted to make the film. I wrote to Seán right after asking if I could make a short documentary about him and his work. Seán has an amazing backstory, which should be told in another documentary, but I was really fascinated by his home/studio where he creates his amazing work.
The film is set in a small room:
How did you work in terms of frame composition and editing?
When we filmed it was just myself and Basil Al Rawi, our director of photography, in the house with Seán. It was very important to me that we would be a tiny crew, although not much more would have fit in the room anyway! One rule I tried to keep was that Seán would only talk or answer questions while he was making work. That way it would be less like a traditional documentary interview. I thought that watching Seán work while he spoke would be more interesting to the viewer. This also gave Basil the freedom to get right up to Seán’s shoulder and compose some really beautiful cinematography.
And how long did the shooting take?
Along with producer Tal Green we were planning the filming for quite a while but the actual filming was over the course of one night only. I wanted the audience to have the same feeling we had when we filmed as if they just dropped in one night, to this unusual house on a normal looking terrace street in Dublin and got to watch Seán create one of his works.
More to follow on the Documentary submissions and the above two repeated.
15 April 2017