Future film talent gets its chance to shine at Brunswick Cinebowl

Local budding cinematic talent was on display this afternoon (Monday) as the BSc in Cinematic Arts final year students at University of Ulster”s Magee campus in Derry showed their work to an enthusiastic audience at the city’s Brunswick Cinebowl.
Now in it’s third year, the annual end of year show put on display a number of technically accomplished pieces from across nearly every genre.
This wasn’t your usual cluncky, rusty obviously amateurish work we’re talking about but some of the best work to be seen at any showcase and any festival; and the good news is that the best is yet to come from this fantastic group of students.

In all there were ten shorts screened on the day.
First up was Stanza with cinematography by Conor Shearer. This was a scenic tour de force with rugid landscapes of wild growing fields amd stormy seas, making the most of local coastal scenery.

Un Amour en Marcaeaux , directed by Tiarnan Hatchell, sees two ex-lovers meeting up again after some time apart. The two reminice about old times and contemplate getting back together. Shot entirely in black and white and with a sound quality reminiscent of continental classics, this is a film with lotsa of potential for more.

The Weeping in the Woods by Jason Reilly is a haunting tale of an isolated Knight making his way through a forest, he is haunted by the spirits in the woods who torment and hound him. 

Male Condition, directed by David McIntyre is a filmatic scream for help for mankind, cuting together image after image of man’s struggle to define itself. The imagery used in this film is as powerful as any seen. With a voice crying out from the screen, “existance remains frail” “ask them to apologise for a past they did not commit”. The film is a cry which every man can identify with, screaming in a load and terrifying voice.

With Sophie Donnelly directing and Ella Mc Daid producing Hurt to Hope is a heart felt documentary about the work of Foyle Women’s Aid directed by Sinead Donnelly. This is a well made documentary espoicing the often undervalued and overlooked work by Foyle Women’s Aid. Without sensation or sentimentality it details the experiences of those who use this vital community resource and is sure to attract much needed attention to this vital resource.

Good Mournin’ produced by Shannon Noble and directed by Peter Shiels begins with an opening sequence of Margaret Thatcher juxtoposed with scenes of torture and graphic footage of a figure tied to a chair, blood dripping from the mouth which, although not gratuatous are reminoisncent of scenese from a Luis Bunuel film. The narrative involves a couple from a mixed background, the girl has brough her boyfriend home to meet her mother, the narrative subtly displays how one slight slip, one unguarded comment gives the game away.

In Losing Your Way , edited by Ruari Campbell, the audience sees Michael, an everyday twenty one year old given a birthday surprise by his friends, in time he indeed looses his way and descendes into a drug habit which his girlfriend struggles to get him off. In time, with his life spiralling out of control and his girlfriend ready to give up on him he eventually sees the light. This is a well made social commentary on the damage that can and quite often is doing in many of the communities that these students are living in.


Slayer is one for all the Game of Thrones fans out there, a medievil drama where the hereoin has to fight ghouls and villain in order to saver her brother from the dragons layer. With no expense obviously spared in the costume and props department this is a well made medieval drame that is bound to please even the most unenthusiastic Game of Thrones fan.


Lost Memories, directed by Conor Barrow, is a story which no doubt many can relate to. An elderly woman sits by a window on her own, with noone to talk to. After she wanders out into the garden, a stumble and a fall, she is heloed by what at first hand seems like a care worker, but is in fact her daughter. The daughter it would seem is being left on her own to look after the mother. As the narrative progresses we discover that the mother was once a talented photogrpher and encouraged her children to take up the same passtime. However since the death of her husband the woman has begun to loose hope. In time we find out that the daughter is the only one saving the mother from going into care. Under preasure from her brother, the daughter can’t cope on her own and eventually the inevitable choice is faced with. Lost Memories is a strong social conscience message driven film. It teaches us that behind every old and frail person who has lost their way there is still a human being and it is difficult to know how to cope when you find yourself in this sort of situation; there are no easy answers.


The final screening on offer at the event was a comedy western by the title of Fun Times in Sinister Pines, directed and produced by Benjamin Porter and Caolan Brolly, a fun, well shot comedy which sees Argyle Magee, Stabi McStab Face, Goldilocks and several other sinister characters battle it out for control of the west. It was a perfect ending to the afternoon and everyone left with a smile on their face.

Of course no film event could take place without an awards ceremony and this was no exception. Winning a prize for his poiniant drama about an elderly women with dementia and her daughter’s struggles to take care of her was Conor Barrow, a fitting winner.

Anyone reading this cannot begin to imagine just how high the standard was at this event and it can only be hoped that these graduates can go on and be successful in their future endevours. Culture Journal Ireland looks forward to being invited to view future work by several members of this class in the near future and believes that screen talent coming out of the North West of Ireland is capable of mixing with the best out there. Students can be assured that if you ever need the spotlight shone on your future projects Culture Journal Ireland will be there to do it.

 

 

 

 

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Derry turns Japanese

A flavour of all things Japanese comes to Derry this weekend as The North West Japanese Society kick off their annual On festival. For the first time this year sees the festival extended from a weekend to a whole week with lots to do including Japanese doll making, Haiku poetry workshops and recitals, a Manga art exhibition as well as a chance to try your hand at cooking Japanese cuisine. Also for all the movie fans there is a screening of the 2016 version of the legendery Shin Godzilla. With all these and so much more to do it promises to be a week of fun activities that everyone can enjoy.

For more information and details of all events go to http://www.japanesefestivalireland.com

Japanese Folklore goes as gaeilge

A generous crowd gathered at the Holywell Trust building in Derry for the launch of a book of Japanese folklore which has been published in bilingual form with stories collected by an Irish poet published in both English and Irish.

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece in 1850 to an Irish father and Greek mother. In correspondence with non other than W.B. Yeats Hearn said, “I had a Connaught nurse who told me fairytales and ghost stories and so ought to love Irish things and do”. In fact a nanny was not Hearn’s only claim to Ireland as his father was from Co. Offaly so to all intents and purposes he was Irish.

Hearn it would seem is well regarded in Japan, however it is only relatively recently that he has begun to be appreciated in Ireland, with a Japanese garden having been opened in Tramore, Co.Waterford in 2015. The book itself is a beautifully designed and illustrated paperback with text in both English and Irish. The only glaring omission being that an opportunity was missed to include some Japanese. For further details on how to purchase the book contact the Holywell Trust or The North West Japanese Cultural Group in Derry.

The Kindergarten Teacher

In The Kindergarten Teacher, which was shown as the closing film at this year’s Foyle Film Festival, Maggie Gyllenhall plays Lisa Spinelli a thirty something kindergarten teacher who is disillusioned with family life and her work. Then in class she notices that an otherwise quiet and unassuming boy in her class by the name of Jimmy is particularly good at writing poems. The problem is that many of these poems come sporadically and out of the blue. Another problem is that no-one seems to be nurturing the boy’s talent at home because his mother is seemingly absent, his father spends next to no time with him because he is busy with his work and his nanny fails to notice the significance of what the child is saying. Alongside her day job Lisa takes a night class in creative writing. As Lisa nurtures Jimmy’s talent more and more it becomes unclear whether Lisa Spinelli is doing so for his benefit or her own. It is only once it becomes clear that Lisa is trying to nurture Jimmy’s talent for his own sake that things turn against her. Part of the charm of The Kindergarten Teacher is that the classroom in which it is set almost becomes a character in its own right. In many of the scenes that are without any, or very little, dialogue you can almost hear Sara Colangelo and Nadav Lapid’s screenplay being read out loud to the audience.

Maggie Gyllenhall is excellent as Lisa Spinelli who you’re never quite sure of the motivation of, displaying characteristics of both light and shadow. Also of note is young Parker Sevak who while still young at five years old, is a wise old head on young shoulders. You can’t help but feel however that this is a talent best left out of the spotlight and allowed to mature, returning in about twenty years from now to reactions of “oh yeah, that was him”.

The Kindergarten Teacher goes on general release in March

The Return of the Hero is a French delight

The Return of the Hero, shown recently as part of the 31st Foyle Film Festival is a French farce with plenty of laughs. Set during the Napoleonic wars it tells the story of Captain Neuville, a dashing, handsome war hero who has fallen in love. Upon being called into action only hours after he has proposed, he leaves his sweetheart broken hearted. 

Despite promising to write every day Pauline falls into a deep depression when his letters fail to appear. In an act of desperation, and hating to see her so depressed, Pauline’s sister Elizabeth decides to take on the role of the dashing hero, at least in pen, and begins writing to her sister masquerading the dashing love of her life. Each letter gets more and more outrageous, recounting all of his exploits (which are probably not really happening. The problem is that Elizabeth is getting just a little bit too comfortable with her new role when matters are complicated by… well, the return of the hero.

What follows are a series of events which creates confusion for all involved with hilarious results. The Return of the Hero is a comedy like only the French know how to make, creating farce out of what is sometimes even the gravest of situations. This film is a delight.

The Silence of Others

How would it feel if you or a relative was coldly and callously murdered and buried at the side of the road in an unmarked grave. Imagine if you will that your grave is then tarmacked over to make way for a duel carriageway. This is just one situation faced by many of the families of people who were killed by both sides in the horrific events which took place between 1936 and 1939 when General Franco launched a coup in Spain against the democratically elected socialist government. Upon victory what followed was one of the most brutally oppressive regimes in modern day western Europe. Throughout the civil war and his fourty year rule Franco’s troops were responsible for some of the most brutal acts of torture and murder. Upon his death in 1976, in order to set up a democratically elected government once again both sides decided on a pact of forgetting. The Silence of Others explores the flaws of this pact as the viewer follows families whose relatives were killed by Nationalist forces during the civil war fight through the courts in Argentina (because it is illegal to do so in Spain) in order to find out what has happened to their relatives. Of course where the film, and perhaps any other film about a war, falls down is in the fact that it does not acknowledge the victims on both sides. Of course the natural and reasonable justification for focusing on the victims of Nationalist forces during the civil war is that they were on the winning side and the fact that the Franco regime, during a dictatorship which spanned nearly half a century, tortured and killed many who simply didn’t agree with their politics. The natural reaction to this of course would be to say that, at the outbreak of the civil war, the republican government was the one in power and their forces were responsible for their fair share of atrocities, including clergicide.

On the whole however the way that the directorial team of Robert Bahar, Almudena Carracedo together with writers Ricardo Acosta, and Kim Roberts treat the material at their disposal is done with compassion and tact, painting a picture of a group of families seeking justice for their loved ones. It can only be hoped that all of those involved in this terrible conflict can create a legacy that Spain can finally learn to move on with.

Review of Cold War

Poland has become renowned for its cinema in recent years, typified by it’s 2013 Oscar winner Ida. From the director of that very movie comes Cold War, a film set during temultious times for a pair of long distance lovers. 

The film sees the leading character Wictor traveling throughout the country trying to band together the best musicians that Poland can get and recording the folk music that they play. The film has a fantastic opening shot of an extreme close up of a French horn, from here on in the film is a visual delight to behold. The ultimate objective (for Wictor) is to create a school of excellence where talent is nurtured for the cultural wellbeing and the future of the nation. Unbeknownst to him the nation is merely interested in propaganda. It is as part of this work that Wictor meets a music student named Zula, they fall in love and eventually hatch a plan to escape their oppressive existence. However they become separated at the point of crossing and instead have to live life apart for a time. It is at this point that the story takes a back seat to a certain extent in favour of visuals.

With exquisitely choreographed scenes of folk dancing depicting what would have been the communist ideal of the time, although shot entirely in black and white the film has a vividness that matches any colour film. While Cold War won’t exactly bowl people over with the plot it does more than enough visually to hold the audience’s attention. 

Why We Cycle

The Netherlands, more than any other country, has an obsession with cycling. It is a way of life, as natural to Dutch people of all ages as breathing. In Why We Cycle; which was screened at the Nerve Centre in Derry recently as part of the Foyle Film Festival, this national pastime is explored more fully. 

In this documentary we aren’t talking about lycra wearing troops of middle-aged men taking up roads or footpaths, ringing their bells as they wizz past unsuspecting pedestrians who are using the spaces provided primarily for the latter while specially designed bike lanes lie empty. Various members of Dutch society,  as well as those visiting the  country give testimony  to how the Dutch fit the ordinary everyday cyclist into ordinary everyday life. 

This documentary tells the viewer how Dutch society has successfully integrated all in their society; from the youngest to the oldest into its mainstream transport system safely and responsibly.

What Why We Cycle does well is promote cycling as a casual pastime that anyone can take part in rather than the “sport” that participated in by dangerous obsessives who want everything their own way; which it is in danger of becoming.

It is a documentary which should be shown in every school, to every town planner and to everyone who wants to stand any hope of building a properly integrated transport system.

The Eyes of Orson Welles

Orson Welles is widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time; his 1941 debut Citizen Kane is thought of by many as the greatest film ever made. In this documentary, director and writer Mark Cousins explores the many passions of Orson Welles, including many unseen before sketches, drawings and paintings. Along the way Cousins guides the audience through Welles’ many interests from his childhood in Wisconsin to youthful foreign trips, 1930s activism and his interest in African American theatre.

For anyone whose life has straddled the two most recent centuries it is hard to believe that Welles, such an innovator in cinematic arts and sciences, has not been around to witness such advancements in the world such as the internet, or, perhaps more thankfully for him has not given witness to the rise of a real life Charles Foster Kane.

The entire feel of The Eyes of Orson Welles reads as it sounds, as if the great maestro himself is looking on; looking on as Mark Cousins and we the viewer intrude upon a life that was. Throughout the film you have a sense that Orson Welles’ ghost (an alternative title perhaps) is following Cousins, but unable to control what Cousins is doing, unable to have a say. Or maybe it’s even the other way around.

As we travel with Cousins we travel with Welles’, through a lifetime of drawings and sketches and photographs, all of which would go on to inspire the many works of Orson Welles.

In between visits to old neighbourhoods, interviews with Welles’ daughter you see clips from Welles’ extensive body of acting as well as directorial work; only through this could many people, unless they be the most enthusiastic of film fan, just how extensive and important to cinema Orson Welles really was.

Although this film might be considered self indulgence to some it is without doubt an important testament to one of the most important figures in twentieth century cinema. A must watch for any film fan!

The Happy Prince

While The Happy Prince, disappointingly in many ways, is not a retelling of Oscar Wilde’s classic and well known children’s story, it is an imaginative and creative account of the last days of it’s celebrated writer. Shown at the weekend as part of the 31st Foyle Film Festival; with one of the film’s stars, Edwin Thomas, who plays Wilde’s long time friend Robbie Ross, in attendance.The Happy Prince is set just after Wilde’s release from prison and follows his life in continental Europe right up to his death which took place in Paris in 1900. It portrays Wilde as a debortous drunk who is thrown out of pubs for creating trouble. He’s on his last penny and has only a few genuine friends left. Rupert Everett, in his directorial debut, is unreasonable as an older Wilde. He is some who seems determined however to reconcile himself with his long suffering wife Constance, the narrative however does leave it open to interpretation if he was actually serious about this or not. It cannot be guaranteed that this is an authentic portrayal of course very few can tell, however as interpretation goes it seems to be the one of the better ones. These are the days long after Wilde’s hayday, although there are brief flashbacks to happier times. Colin Firth, in a relatively low key role plays Regie Turner; one of the few friends Wilde had left in is latter years. Colin Morgan, who shot to stardom as the young Merlin in the hit BBC series Merlin is unrecognisable as Bosie, and also suitably spoiled and uptight, playing the part to a tee. While relative newcomer Edwin Thomas gives an assured performance as Oscar’s longtime friend Robbie Ross. On the whole while not being wildly brilliant The Happy Prince is a good, entertaining story which entertains and interprets real life events in a way that upholds the humanity of real life characters.