Tides makes waves in London

Tides, a documentary about the river Foyle in Derry by Italian director, and some time Derry native, Alessandro Negrini has gained yet more success; this time at the Gold Movie Awards in London where it won Best Documentary. 

At the event in London’s historic Regent Cinema where Negrini rubbed shoulders with the likes of Billy Zane and Sadie Frost, the normally humble Negrini admitted that he allowed himself a certain amount of pride and excitement at the film’s recent achievements, 

“I hope that my film continues to infect people with the desire to listen to their forgotten dreams; to reserect what they have put away in drawers years ago and forgotten about. I hope that in my own poetic way I have helped to tell the story of some of the things that have been put in those drawers. That I have reserected forgotten dreams for people”.

Tides has continued to make a big impression on audience’s across the world; this being the twelfth award it has collected. Negrini, together with his production team of Director of photography Oddgeir Saether, Editor  Stuart Sloan, music by Chris Ciampoli and narration of Emma Taylor have won, among others; the main prize at A Film for Peace Film Festival in the United States, the award for best cinematography at the Sole Luna Film Festival in Palermo, the award for best documentary at the Malta International Film Festival, the award for best documentary at the Mediteran Film Festival in Bosnia, the best screenplay at The Tehran Film Festival,  and The Parma International Music Film Festival. It can only be hoped that film festivals and awards in Ireland can take notice of this truely mezmorising film.

To read Culture Journal Ireland’s review of Tides visit https://culturejournalireland.com/2017/05/09/a-memorable-night-for-a-mesmerising-film-about-a-unique-river/ or follow the links via our archives. 

For more information on Tides visit http://www.alessandronegrini.com

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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.

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!

Foyle Film Festival starts with a bang

There was a packed house as the Foyle Film Festival’s 31st year commenced with a gala screening of Collette on Friday night at the Brunswick Moviebowl in Derry.

The film, starring Kiera Knightly, Dominic West and Eleanor Tomlinson (she of BBC’s Poldark fame) star in this biopic of French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette; known to most simply as Collette. Most people will not be familiar with the subject of this film, however anyone who is familiar with the film Gigi starring Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan might be interested to know that Collette wrote the novel upon which the film is based.

The film is certainly sublime when it comes to costume, set design and cinematography However, what it gains in those things it sacrifices in plot. The film completely ignores two of her marriages, the birth of a daughter and the most prolific writing period of her life; thus ignoring the strong female role that could have been portrayed for that of someone who was manipulated by her first husband and hopped into bed with almost any woman that was around. 

While it is obvious that the film has tried to portray Collette as a rebellious trend setter who broke the mould that society of the day set her; it cannot be helped but to think that the achievements of the real Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette have been sacrificed by this film in the name of sensationalism. It is obvious that the film wanted to get across the fact that Collette was manipulated by her first husband, artist and writer Henry Gauthier-Villars, (also known simply as Willie) (played abily by Dominic West) and the fact that he controlled much of her earlier career; the film could have been braver and more adventurous in doing so. Collette is a reasonably watchable film, however it can’t help but be thought that it could have been a whole lot better. Instead this film tends to do more for the male gaze than the feminist cause.

The Foyle Film Festival continues until Sunday 25th November.

Atrium by Manoli Moriaty And Echo Echo Ensemble 

Whenever you are used to seeing the world from a certain angle you realise that you have a unique perspective on everything that no-one else can quite grasp. 

When this particular reviewer arrived at this particular performance the choice was offered whether to go to the top and work my way down along with the performance, or stay at the bottom and watch everything develop above me and evolve from there. 

.The later was eventually decided upon, made in part because in this rather futuristic venue it might be difficult to see over stairways as the performance progressed. Also vertigo has a nasty habit of striking at the most inappropriate moment.

The performance in question was that of Echo Echo Dance theatre company in collaboration with Manoli Moriaty, a sound artist originally from Athens but who is now based in the UK. The performance was part of the ISSTA (Irish Sound Science and Technology Association) 2018 conference, during which the notion of urban society being a contested space would be explored.
So it was that the performance began at ground level, bodies twisting and turning in slow movement, exploring the environment around them. As these strange creatures in this futuristic jungle become more aware of their surroundings. All the while a soundtrack of hypnotic, almost nauseating music is heard. These strange creatures, like currents of electricity began to explore their steel surroundings, occasionally returning to each other for comfort and warmth.

Soon these strange creatures burst into chitter chatter; as if someone had turned on a switch and they were suddenly realising the power of speech. As you watch this strange urban jungle, where evolution and electricity coexist the onlooker can feel like somewhat of a voyeur; like a David Attenborough programme, watching these newly created electrical beings coming to life and exploring a new world. The interaction between the audience and the performer at times made it seem as if the onlooker was a natural part of the environment and perhaps made that onlooker question; what is their part in this strange world. Nonetheless less the onlooker is left in the end feeling as if they are just that; an onlooker, observing this world of electrical evolution.

Echo Echo Dance theatre company’s dance and movement festival continues until the weekend. 

Little Voices of Fukushima

Little Voices of Fukushima is a documentary which follows the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people in one of the most vulnerable places. It was shown as part of a special event held at Holywell Trust by the Northwest Japanese Cultural Group.

Fukushima isn’t geologically vulnerable because of where it is on the earth; give or take the odd natural disaster. Fukushima’s vulnerability is almost entirely man-made.

The Nuclear power plant at Fukushima exploded on the 11th March 2011, in part due to a Tsunami following an earthquake. It is an event that the world has largely forgotten about and many international news agencies have “moved on” from in terms of big news stories.

The screening of a documentary about this particular event is probably well timed considering that it was only last month that the death was announced of a worker from the plant, two years after he was diagnosed with cancer thought to be contracted as a direct result of the disaster.

Behind the forgotten headlines are children who, seven years later are still suffering from the effects. Little Voices of Fukushima highlights how the very milk that children are drinking is contaminated, well beyond anything that could be considered safe, (if indeed anything can be).

The documentary contrasts this with a similar disaster which happened on 26th April 1986 when the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in what was then the Soviet Union and is now part of independent Ukraine. Children there are still being sent, with the good will of strangers, for respite care from the effects of that particular disaster. 

What Little Voices of Fukushima highlights well are how the most vulnerable people in society are being exploited and mislead by the powerful. An understated documentary with a powerful message.

Buaine na Gaoithe at Magee

It was perhaps meteorologicaly appropriate that there was a fresh autumnal breeze blowing and a multicoloured palate of leaves were rustling outside. The performance that was about to be witnessed by a generous gathering in the Great Hall of the University of Ulster’s Magee College campus is entitled Buaine na Gaoithe, which roughly translates as the swiftness of the wind. The piece has recently been described by it’s composer on the BBC’s John Total Show “A journey that allows you to get out of time”.

The performance was part of the Music@one at the Ulster University’s Magee College campus. Soprano Liz Pearse, Flutist Chelsea Czuchra and Harpist Lindsay Huffington, better known to some as The Damselfly Trio came together to perform the musical collaboration between composer Ryan Molloy and poet Martin Dyar. Given the weather on the day this piece was performed it was apt that wind and string instruments were brought together along with a voice that varied between a soft gentle breeze and a strong powerful storm.

Buaine na Gaoithe is broken into five movements, each one of these movements representative of each of the five poems written by Martin Dyer. The first one A Waiting Tree was comprised of the full trio, the second movement .\n. It wouldn\’t be recommendedIn Gortnagran was a simple vocal recital of the poem in question. The third movement A Merlin in the Sheefreys is a spoken word piece accompanied by the harp and the final movement Her Crossing comprises of the full ensemble.

It could be said that thqqqere’s something rather Avant Garde and new age about this piece as a whole. It perhaps wouldn’t be recommended to someone who is new to classical music. But as you are sitting there on an otherwise riotously blustery day, you can’t help but find yourself in a moment of peaceful serenity.

The performance is also part of an Irish tour which takes in Belfast, Portaferry, Athy, Dublin, Maynooth, Derry, Limerick and Castle are.

Italian cultural night

With the sound of music and language ringing in the ears and the distinct aroma of pizza filling the nostrils, Derry’s first Italian cultural festival took place earlier in the week.

Organised by students of the Northwest Academy English language school in conjunction with the Nerve Centre, the festival had a unique set of events for visitors to take part in. 

You could try your hand at the language with a series of “speed lessons” on everything from eating out, the numbers in Italian, or even the colours. There was mandolin playing as well as an operatic recital.

To top it all off there was a screening of the whimsical short Centro Barca Okkupato about a local community centre in danger of closure and the lengths to which the users of the centre will go to keep the centre open. Thé iceing on the Italian cake was a screening of the classic Cinema Paradiso, the story of Salvatore “Toto” Di Vita and the influence that the local cinema and it’s projectionist Alfredo have on his life as Toto grows from an enthusiastic young boy, to a love sick teenager through to someone who himself has influence on cinema.

Given the amount of Italians who have made Derry their home down the years it is surprising that an Italian cultural night has not been organised before. The Northwest Academy of English, the Nerve Centre and everyone else involved are to be congratulated on a well thought-out program, let’s hope it is the first of many.