The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

This documentary by Feargal Ward has been shown on the Irish film festival circuit for a while now and had it’s television debut on RTÉ 1 last night. It tells the story of Thomas Reid, a Kildare farmer who is approached by the IDA to sell his land so that the American microchip company intel can expand it’s influence in the area. We meet Feargal, siting in his century old farmhouse which has been passed down to him by his family, he is surrounded by newspapers which are sure to go back thirty years or more, to say that he is a hoarder would be an understatement. The carpet, the furniture and décor look of a similar vintage, in short Thomas and his surroundings have seen better days. Thomas however seems proud that he has managed to keep things going for as long as he has, he is a hoarder and is presented as a bit of a hermit, indicated by no means least by the film’s title.

There is a quiet, slow pace to the documentary and the only contact that Thomas seems to have with the outside world, apart from the IDA officials who call to his farm persistently in the hope that he’ll relent, are the people he meets at his local supermarket. The pace of the production, the isolation that our protagonist feels is, in turn felt by the viewer as he is increasingly left to his own devices. Only through the odd interaction with the film makers does the viewer know that Thomas Reid is not totally alone.

At the same time Feargal Ward does not play this as a pure straight forward documentary with obscure, almost surreal courtroom interactions played out in the fields surrounding Thomas’ farm, this makes the proceedings a little bit out of the ordinary and gets the audiences attention, in no way distracting from the narrative.

There is a still, quiet atmosphere throughout the documentary, thus emphasising the isolation and loneliness felt by Thomas Reid, which is only compounded by his treatment by the authorities. This narrative tool aids the director in winning over the audience to Thomas’ plight all the more.

Every so often there is nondiegetic radio footage of Thomas’s case as presented on The Pat Kenny Show, and it works as a narrative tool. It provides just enough information for the audience, who perhaps do not know about the case fully, without the need of a voiceover style commentary.

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid is a heart warming, life affirming David v Goliath tale that draws the audience into Thomas Reid’s world and wills him on quietly and modestly until it’s conclusion. A must watch.


Liam Gallagher: As it was. Liam does it his way

IT was September 2002. The summer had ended but there was still cause for many in Derry, Northern Ireland to celebrate. Oasis, the band who had defined a generation were due to play in Prehen playing fields that sunny September. Oasis, together with a number of bands that formed the “Britpop” phenominon burst onto the music scene like a breath of fresh air in the mid nineteen ninties amid a deluge of dance music. For many this was an event like no other; Derry having been starved of the big acts that came regularly to little brother Belfast.

There were rumours that notorious hell raiser and frontman Liam Gallagher would not show up, having walked off stage during previous shows. It was a tad ironic therefore that As It Was opens with brother Noel quitting the band just seven years later in the summer of 2009.

According to director Gavin Fitzgerald, in a recent interview given for Hotpress magazine Noel blocked any attempts to use recorded material from Oasis days and several parts had to be reshot, so if it is a nostalgiafest you’re expecting Oasis fans then forget about it.

Instead what you get is a look at the man behind the myth of Liam Gallagher, indeed you would have to question the wisdom of the elder brother Gallagher in not co-operating at all. What you get as a result is the story of a man abandoned by a brother he loved and trusted, leaving Liam to pick up the pieces and start again. What Fitzgerald shows the audience in many ways is ‘Liam Gallagher Unplugged’, Liam Gallagher with a new love interest, who also manages him; in every way you could imagine, Liam Gallagher the father, Liam Gallagher the son.

As the view you follow Liam along his path geographically, spiritually, geographically, spiritually, emotionally. As you do you see the rise of the superstar of old. The swagger, the attitude, but somehow with a (slightly) someone who has come to realise (in his own words) that he was a d**kh**d. As another band in the form of Beady Eye comes and goes Liam finds himself alone again Determined not to give up he gathers together a new group of musicians and takes to the recording studio.

Upon completion Liam takes a break in his mother’s native Co. Mayo where a chance snap of a camera phone shows the wonder waller playing guitar in a local pub. This is the catalyst which helps spur Gallagher on. Tour date after tour date sees the former Oasis frontman slowly but surely win back his popularity as well as fans who weren’t even born during the height of Oasis’ fame. It is during this period that the audience is surely left wondering if Gallagher’s new band can’t believe their luck in getting to play old Oasis standards, although again this is only speculation as all evidence of Gallagher’s previous incarnation are erased. From Rome to San Francisco and back again with headlining Glastonbury and the promise of a new album on the horizon, it seems that things are looking up for the former 90’s hell raiser.

Then as the saying goes, ‘events dear boy, events’. The tragedy of the Manchester arena takes place, leading to one of the most poignant moments of the whole documentary. Liam, as ever the proud Mancunian cancels everything else to take part in the Love Manchester gig. Perhaps this is the moment for a reuniting of the brothers, but only one brother turns up. This one moment, more than any other illustrates just how much being from Manchester and the people from there mean to Liam, and how much he means to them.

Interspersed with moments of Liam making his musical comeback are moments captured with his mother Peggy, his son’s from his previous two relationships, Lennon and Gene, as well as what Liam calls the inspiration behind his current success, a recognition perhaps that he is not quite a solo artist, his manager and current love interest Debbie Gwyther. She is everywhere that Liam is and seems to have a calming and reassuring influence. In fact if anyone is responsible for keeping it together on his comeback it’s Gwyther.

What the film shows is a volatile rock star become slowly but surely more mellow with an edge of ever present volatility kept for his brother. Noel hangs like a ghost over the entire piece, not only for reasons already stated but for the simple reason that, as stated, “Liam can’t do without Noel, but Noel can’t do without Liam”. Like some sort of Jackyl and Hyde pairing. As a piece of modern rock biography, As It Was is worth watching alone, but is it actually a good documentary. Well, definitely; maybe!

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.





Troubling times told by those who witnessed them

We all know about the troubles, or think we do. Everyone the world over has some sort of opinion of how the troubles started or who was at fault. As someone who was born in the midst of the chaos, this particular reviewer, when asked about the troubles always explains it as different versions of the same truth. That is to say that each person who lived through the troubles will have experienced the events from a certain point of view and that particular point of view isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s simply the version that that particular person has come to think of as the truth given their own unique set of circumstances. That is not to say that everyone doesn’t come with their own particular set of prejudices but it is up to the interested and impartial observer to listen to each point of view and make up their own mind. Among those observers, who often put themselves in harm’s way in order that you the public were informed of events, were the journalists and reporters who reported on the numerous tragic events so for this to happen. Reporting the Troubles: Journalists tell their stories of the Northern Ireland conflict, does exactly what it says on the tin so to speak. With participation of well known international journalists such as Kate Adie, Martin Bell, Robert Fisk along with lesser known hacks who lived among the people about whom they reported. Each one has their own perspective, their own memories of a particular person or incident which occured during the over thirty years of violence. Each one is heartfelt and sincere and tries to bring attention to some of the many victims of the troubles, it also does what every journalist is often told not to do – it makes things personal. The strength of the book is as has been mentioned already, in the wide variety of reporters who have been asked to contribute. Perhaps where the book falls down is in a way in which the reporters themselves would critique their own work, it highlights one particular incident over another. Another point worth making is that once you read about an incident you have yet to come across you are fairly certain that the next is linked in some way, there isn’t enough of a variety. With that said it is indeed hard to remember every terrible incident, to pick one victim over another. What the book does do well is explore the human, private side of the reporters involved. It allows them to open up to an audience like perhaps not permitted at the time about the events and personalities involved. As someone who grew up during the troubles it is perhaps difficult to look at these events totally objectively, however at times the perspective of the intervening years and unawareness of some events certainly helps. A book best for those with a distant perspective on events perhaps

Black 47 is a harrowing tale with a tongue in cheek twist

Little over a year ago viewers of ITV’s hit series Victoria starring Jenna Coleman, were left aghast and dismayed by the harrowing depiction of the Great Famine; an event which is ingrained into the national pshyce of the average Irish person. People had written to a well known television weekly wondering why they had not been taught anything of this in their schools. They were surprised at their own lack of knowledge about such a harrowing experience in both their own history and that of their nearest neighbour which, at the period of history in question, was part of the British Empire. 

This thought came to mind as the opening credits rolled and the bitter sweet opening scenes of Black 47 appeared on the screen. An autumnal palette of pale blues and greens and muddy earthy brown’s appeared thanks to the cinematography of Declan Quinn. Bitter because of the abject poverty on display; sweet because of the stunning landscaped on view

As the plot unfurls you see skeletons in human form in nearly every shot, so authentic looking its unimaginable that you are merely watching someone playing a part.

 The main plot of the film revolves around Feeney, a renegade ranger who has been ironically fighting for the British in India. Upon his return home he witnesses first hand the effects of the Penal Laws and the Potato Famine; which at this time are at their worst. The land that he returns to is one of decay, despair and desperation. Indeed one of the final times he sees his family is when his brother is shot for stealing and the rest of his family are left homeless when their house is “cleared” (that’s burned down to you and I), with tragic consequences.

It is these events which prove to be the final straw for Feeney as he sets about avenging his family and gaining revenge on those he feels responsible. This leads him to an ultimate confrontation with an old comrade Hannah, who served with Feeney in India and is now sent to track him down along with Captain Pope (played by Freddie Fox of the Fox acting dynesty) and a local villager called Conneely, (played by Stephen Rea). The character of Hannah is a typical adversarial type who has a begrudging admiration for Feeney. He is a soldier himself and so naturally knows the mentality of the man he is pursuing. It ultimately however leads him to wonder what cause he is fighting for. Coneely, (played by Stephen Rea in his usual dour understated manner is in many ways the character through which the narrative flows. He is there as us, as the casual onlooker through which the viewer in the cinema can feel they are playing a part. At one point he says, “I better stay and see how this tale ends”, telling the audience that he is the narrator. Meanwhile Jim Broadbent, in what is a rather small part for him, plays the affable landlord. Possessing land in a place foreign to him, has callous disregard for the people under his care. To him they are part of the problem rather than people under his care.

For some who have been to see this film they are unsure as to whether they should treat it as an off the boil period drama, criticising the more swashbuckling or gun hoe elements; for others the opposite is true.

Sufficit to say as a first major telling on the big screen of the great famine it was never going to satisfy everyone. 

What perhaps most well practiced viewers should see is a well plotted and well shot drama which doesn’t loose the ability to plant it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek. It is also important to note the role that the Irish language plays in this film. Having more dialogue in Ireland’s native tongue than can be remembered for a long time.

In this year when perhaps Britain is in danger of repeating the offence, it would do people on “the other island” some good to witness the consequences of the last time their poor decisions and bad judgement had tragic consequences – before they go making any more.

Review of Holding by Graham Norton

We probably all know Graham Norton for his quirky, sharp-witted, fast-paced chat show, some of us may even remember him for his role in Father Ted as the erratic and chaotic Fr. Noel Furthlong. To his list of many talents and achievements Norton has also added novelist with his debut novel Holding

Holding is set in Duneen where we find P J Collins, a hapless, overweight Garda who has never had much ambition and who people have never expected much from until a body is unearthed on a building site. It turns out that the body isn’t the only thing from the past that has been dug up as this one single event has a domino effect and uncovers the secrets of many of the villages residents.

For a debut novel, Norton’s characterisation is vivid and imaginative. Given his upbringing he has managed to capture the essence of small town rural Co. Cork masterfully and created characters which spring to life off the page and which we are all familiar with, be it the local Garda in the sleepy village with nothing much to do, of the alcoholic whose a shadow of their former self, of the housekeeper who makes a house a home with her cooking and fuss and gossip.

If you are planning on a late holiday in August, you would do worse than taking this gripping novel and welcome the residents of Duneen into your life