News, Film Reviews and Festival Updates from the Irish Film Institute (www.ifi.ie). Irish Film Institute is principally funded by the Arts Council.
Please note: as of September 2014 we've moved our blogs and news stories to www.ifi.ie/category/news/
Trish Long recalls The Crying Game Oscar party at the IFI on March 29, 1993
1993 Ireland was a zone free of mobile phones, gaming, email and the internet. Our home entertainment was mainly driven by VHS rental (for which one needed to schlep to the video store) and limited cable TV. Satellite TV access was in its infancy. How then could a film fan be part, in real time, of the amazing achievement of Neil Jordan's The Crying Game which received 6 Oscar noms? That's where the IFI came to the rescue.
The IFI cinemas had not only screened
The Crying Game but had also helped market its Irish release. Open a mere 6 months (and having revolutionised the cinema-going experience in Ireland) this was the 1st Oscars in its short lifetime. The team came up with the crazy idea of hosting a LIVE Oscars party. Somehow we managed to organise a satellite feed in the foyer; a few hundred people gathered for the Oscars ceremony (which as I recall began at 1am Irish time). There were fully catered round tables, dressed with golden statuettes and the most phenomenal buzz. As well as some of the movie's Irish cast & crew, some of Neil's family attended as did many from the Irish film industry & tons of media, including a few TV crews. It was a true communal experience, staying up throughout the night to watch the 1993 Oscars with a bunch of fellow film lovers, who all felt deeply invested in this movie & all it represented for Ireland.
An earlyish win in the 'Best original screenplay' category received a raucous cheer & was a huge boost to the already buoyant mood. There were to be no more Oscar wins for us that night (it was an Unforgiven year...) BUT 6 nominations and an Oscar led to a wonderful celebration & kickstarted, I believe, a new sense of 'Yes we can' in the Irish film world.
However, the night also shines brightly in my memory for another very important reason. One of the guests just happened to be the recently appointed Minister for Arts, Culture & the Gaeltacht - one Mr Michael D. Higgins (aka The President Of Ireland). With impeccable timing worthy of an Oscar winning actor, he chose that night to announce - live -- the resurrection of An Bord Scannán na hÉireann/ The Irish Film Board.
In the early morning, we all made our way to our homes with a renewed optimism for the future of Irish film and all that it might bring; while clutching our own personal golden statuette candle (20 years later - I've yet to burn mine) .....
Vice President and General Manager, Disney Ireland
and Marketing Director IFI (Aug 1992- Sept 1994)
The Crying Game is screening on Sunday, May 12th (16.10), as part of Neil Jordan Retrospective which runs between May 1st and 30th 2013 at the IFI. #IFIJordan
Previously published as part of IFI20 - Celebrating 20 years in Temple Bar in September 2012.
are uncommon.Mine happened in the
company of the architect John Tuomey,of
O’Donnell and Tuomey, in late Spring of 1986.
Quaker community was offering for sale its place of worship on Eustace
Street, just beside the site for the new bus station for the entire country,
and we went to see it.
took ten minutes – “the big cinema goes here, the smaller in the women’s
meeting room; one projection box for both cinemas; offices on top; the bar and
restaurant go there at the front; the archive and education officer in the
John saw the opened up courtyard in the middle if we raised the roof, which I had not noticed, and the building went from being perfect to beautiful as well.
IFI A.D. 2011
National Film Institute, as it was then called, had a debt, its own building on
Harcourt Street and a very committed Board as it’s rather limited supply of
assets.We had conceived the idea of a
new building some time earlier.As an
eccentric planning exercise we identified a site on Trinity Street that we did
not own, (and could not buy) and commissioned O’Donnell and Tuomey to design a
theoretical film centre to see what we might need.The drawings won an AAI award in 1986.So we knew in some detail what it was that we
wanted.That the Quakers had spent decades
building our exact building was something of a surprise.
Architectural model for the IFI by O'Donnell and Tuomey Architects
Quaker community asked for closed bids which had to describe the intended use
of the building. We proposed the lowest
price we thought feasible – which we did not have – and had to ask the Quakers
to allow a delay in payment while we raised the money to make the
The Opening of the Irish Film Centre, 23rd September 1992
memory, I’m relieved to say, is something of a blur after that. A good deal of blood (much of it mine), sweat
and time - six years - was expended, very much more that any of us thought when
we set about building the place. The bus
station morphed into Temple Bar; we sold Harcourt Street, moved briefly into
Eustace Street, hosted occasional gigs to raise money, spent some time in North
Frederick Street, then Burton Chambers in Dame Street; every time we turned
around the price went through the roof; the toilet block had to be knocked
down; everybody who put money in extracted a price (see reference to blood and
sweat above); when it looked like it was
failing, which was often, everybody knew who to blame; when it looked like it
was succeeding the number claiming credit was greater than the number in the
GPO in Easter 1916.
IFI events: screening of Some Like It Hot in Meeting House Square
truth of course is that it is a fantastic success and a credit to the very large
number of people who committed to the idea; who raised the funds; built the
building and provided services to audiences and the film community for the
twenty years of the Institute’s life in its
Former Director of the Irish Film Institute (1986 - 1993)
Celebrating 20 years at our premises on Eustace Street in Temple Bar, join us for a host of special events, screenings, previews, tours (many of them free!) and the IFI Open Weekend in September - see full IFI20 Schedule online or follow our updates on Twitter via #IFI20.
Celebrating 20 years at our premises on Eustace Street in Temple Bar, join us for a host of special events, screenings, previews, tours (many of them free!) and the IFI Open Weekend in September.
September 1992 marks an important date in the
IFI’s history. It was the month and year that the IFI (or IFC as it was then
known) opened the doors of its newly acquired home after a major conversion of
the old Quaker Meeting House (which dated back to the mid-19th century) on
Eustace Street, Temple Bar. It was the beginning of the latest chapter in the
organisation’s history and has since been the home of one of Dublin’s most
visited and accessible cultural institutions.
In the last two decades the IFI has seen over
3.1 million cinema attendances across 63,000 screenings of over 5,900 different
films. The IFI Café Bar has been kept busy serving over 1.78 million cups of
tea and coffee to audiences that include over 8,000 members. The new landmark
building also provided a home for the IFI Irish Film Archive which is now
preserving 611 different collections with over 26,000 cans of films, the oldest
of which – a Lumière brothers film of Dublin and Belfast – dates back to 1897.
IFI20 Afternoon Talks
The IFI’s home in Temple Bar is all about the
people who come here to engage with our extensive programme, so when we started
to plan our anniversary celebrations, we quickly decided that we wanted the
focus to be on our audience. We want to celebrate the experiences that our
audiences have had here over the last 20 years by reliving some of the big
moments whilst also looking to the future.
So what have we got lined up? A key moment in
the month will be our Open Weekend on September 15th and 16th when we’ll throw
open our doors for two days of free screenings and events for old and new
audiences. The schedule over the two days will reflect the breadth of our
on-going programme and should remind one and all what the IFI has come to represent.
20/20 Landmark Films: Pan's Labirynth
For those who have strong memories of films
that they’ll always associate with the IFI, we’re also presenting 20/20: Landmark Films at the IFI. Instead of picking the big box office hits or a film
from every year, we wanted to select 20 films that have been a part of our
story. Amongst others we’ll be showing Natural Born Killers which caused huge
controversy at the time of its proposed screening at the IFI. As the only
cinema in Ireland with the capability to show films on 70mm, we’ll be re-screening
Hitchcock’s Vertigo (which recently topped Sight & Sound’s critics’ poll to
find the greatest film of all time). Later in the year we’ll be starting a full
retrospective of all of Hitchcock’s 52 films so this should whet your appetite
What Richard Did
You can read more about all of the celebratory
events online but, to name a few, we’ll have a 1992 Day on
September 1st to kick-start the activities, a series of blogs throughout the
month written by guest contributors, the launch of a major research project on
film education entitled Film Focus, a pub quiz, DJs, a pop-up museum, tours of
the IFI Irish Film Archive, Irish shorts from every year of the last 20,
afternoon talks, discussions, archive and family screenings, and the unveiling
of newly commissioned pieces of artworks. To close the proceedings, on
September 30th we’re delighted to screen the European premiere of What Richard Did, the latest film by leading Irish director Lenny Abrahamson.
And let’s not forget that we’ll still manage
to run our usual programme of new releases throughout the month.
So get ready to celebrate the IFI’s birthday
with us throughout the month of September.
Dublin Plays Itself - an exciting project devised by the IFI and the Irish Architecture Foundation.
We could have asked
for no more perfect a day than last Saturday when the sun shone and a gentle
breeze blew through the city and a troupe of keen and curious walkers gathered
in the Irish Architectural Archive’s beautifully appointed premises in Merrion
Square, the first stop of the Dublin Plays Itself walk.
Ogling the oculus at City Hall
They were here to see
Dr Ellen Rowley, Architectural Historian, and I presenting a series of films
made in and about 4 distinct areas in the South city and to walk with us
through those areas comparing and contrasting the full colour present day
environment with the black and white version of yesteryear. The untried and
untrusted plan was at once exciting and chaotic – who would say what? When? How
exactly would we connect the olden
day films with the modern day streets? Would the juxtapositions of old and new
be good and stark – or would they be subtle or maybe imperceptible? And if the
material didn’t inspire any meaningful response would I resort to babbling
about how many people wore hats in the olden days and wasn’t the traffic very
light and do you remember paying into the Grafton with jam jars and isn’t it
funny how you think there’s loads of pollution now but look how much dirtier
the buildings were 50 years ago.
Rowley’s expertise left no room for my woolly rambling. From the start, she
communicated her genuine delight at spotting moving images of lost but not
forgotten monuments such as the enormous cenotaph erected in 1923 outside government
building in honour of Arthur Griffith
and Michael Collins demolished 1950 and the statue of King William of Orange in
College Green – blown up in 1929. She drew our attention too to the changes in
street surfaces and street furniture and really opened our eyes to the city as
we left the IAA and walked through Merrion Square Park (now home to an al
fresco archive of Dublin lamp standards)
and onwards to Trinity College.
Ready to Roll in TCD
At Trinity we screened an energetic selection of feature and documentary
extracts of films made in and about the college and were delighted when author
Christopher Fitz-Simon piped up from the audience to say not only was he
familiar with the film Building for Books (1958) but he was in it! And he
kindly identified a striking young blonde student in one scene as the artist
Next stop was City Hall
– where we the film selection reflected the political resonances of the building and adjacent Dublin Castle and then Ellen talked of the building’s
lofty rotunda, the audacious dome (domes heretofore were for sacred buildings).
And then on to our final stop through the
heart of the Liberties to NCAD’s premises in Thomas Street where we screened
the elegiac Torramh an Bhairilleabout the last days of the Guinness
Coopers and Clubs Are Trumps (1959)
about Our Lady Of Counsel Boys Club, housed in Marshallsea Barracks until
shortly before they were demolished in the early ‘60s.
We finished up, tired
but happy – footsore perhaps but enriched with new knowledge and with a new
curiosity and pride in the city that surrounds us – a living, vibrant museum
that is open to all.
We look forward to
exploring the North City next
Saturday – if Ellen and I can agree on how much footage to include of men pouring concrete, about which she has a weird fetish ( the concrete, not the men pouring it), in the making of the Irish Life Mall.
IFI Curator There are no places available for Dublin Plays Itself (25th August 2012)
"A stark warning" - IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic, Philip Bagnall reviews Detropia.
Detroit has become emblematic of the recession in the United States. Limping on since the auto industry bailout in 2009 the city, as presented in Detropia, is running out of options as well as money.
In Detropia, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady interview various citizens of Detroit to catch a glimpse of the city as it is, and what the residents hope/fear it is going to become. Whether following a citizen video blogger, a trade union organizer, a bar owner or sitting in on meetings with the mayor, the overall message is one of hope balanced with realism. The people of Detroit hope to stay, but both economics (city unemployment is estimated to be about 50%) and practicality (a population of 800,000 scattered over 139 square miles) limit their options. Taking us inside the broken skeletons of fine gothic buildings and public utilities once teeming with life brings home the melancholia that stalks the suburbs. Although it highlights opportunities such as affordable housing for low-income earners, both Detropia and its interview subjects are less forthcoming with their solutions than they are with their opinions.
Like their previous film Jesus Camp, Ewing and Grady effectively capture the feelings of the people they meet. Detroit is crumbling, but there is always potential for a comeback. Though more interested in being polemical that precise, Detropia offers a stark warning against failing to fully invest in the future of our cities.
"Here’s a modern-day, real-life superhero movie" - Marcus O'Sullivan, IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic reviews The Interrupters.
Violence functions like an invisible disease that infects individuals and communities, like tuberculosis or the plague of yesteryear. That’s the premise behind The Interrupters, a film that follows a group of outreach workers aiming to prevent violence by interrupting potential outbreaks before they kick off, verbally diffusing escalating situations.
Chicago has one of the highest incidences of youth violence in America. And it’s a misconception that the violence in these communities is organized, planned criminality. It’s mostly random, occasional, starting over by the smallest verbal disputes or the pettiest problems. By intervening just before the flash point, by getting people to take one step back, the interrupters have managed a 45% reduction in the amount of violence in some communities.
Most of the interrupters are ex-gang members themselves, and all of them are incredibly courageous people. Director Steve James’ camera is right on the front lines, and his intimate access into the lives of the people on both sides of the divide is surprisingly deep. We get to know the lively personalities of the interrupters themselves, and the tragic circumstances of the families they’re trying to help.
This movie will give you an insight into the problem of violence that’s lightyears beyond crime statistics or news reports, and it’s a humbling example of how much some people are willing to give to their community. Fans of The Avengers or Batman take note: here’s a modern-day, real-life superhero movie.
Marcus O'Sullivan (@mwosullivan )
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic
"A handsomely-made and affable reflection on a terrific artist" - IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic, Philip Bagnall reviews Anton Corbijn: Inside Out.
Whether in documentaries or in feature films, we love a story about an ordinary guy who works hard to achieve success. As seen in Anton Corbijn Inside Out, photographer and director Anton Corbijn is one such ordinary Joe, applying his considerable talents to flatter and record the stars of today and yesteryear.
Klaartje Quirijins’ film gets substantial access to Corbijn, his family and those he works with. Bono waxes lyrical on Corbijn’s talent whilst shooting U2 on Sandymount strand, whilst Corbijn himself and his sister discus their childhood as the children of a Dutch Protestant minister. Theirs was a quiet and unflamboyant upbringing, and thus Corbijn became a quiet, unflamboyant man. Inside Outis really a film of two halves. On one side, we get a typically beautiful retrospective of his work; his stark but warm black-and-white tableaus for U2 and Depeche Mode are legendary, and his film work marks him as a director of note. The other half is more concerned with Corbijn the man. His solitary workaholic nature is clear, but there’s not a whole lot else on offer. Though twinged with a certain lonely melancholy, Corbijn’s unfussy nature makes his personal life a rather dry topic to explore.
Anton Corbijn Inside Out will engage fans of both Corbijn’s work and the work of those he shoots. Even if Corbijn himself is a timid subject, his work and his pleasant demeanor mean that Anton Corbijn Inside Out is a handsomely-made and affable reflection on a terrific artist.
"A bottle rocket careening from one catastrophe to the next" - Marcus O'Sullivan, IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic reviews Very Extremely Dangerous.
Very Extremely Dangerous is two movies. One is a entertaining and humorous look at a beer-drinkin’ hellraisin’ drug-takin’ septuagenarian who never stopped living fast and loose. The other is a sad and oftentimes ugly picture of the dark side of the outlaw country lifestyle, and of a life bent on self-destruction.
Jerry McGill was friends with Elvis. He partied with Waylon Jennings. He knew Johnny Cash. He also lived a life of crime for over 30 years. Bank robbing, counterfeiting, assault, probably hundreds of drunk and disorderly charges. He was (and still is) an outlaw in the literal sense of the word, and his capacity for chaos is matched with an equal amount of charisma. The man’s just an entertaining dude, whether he’s rolling with his shotgun, chatting with his pig butcher/chiropractor ‘manager’, or inexplicably painting his nails red with shoplifted nail polish for an upcoming gig.
He’s also a drug addict, and as Jerry’s downward spiral gets worse it becomes difficult to watch him sabotage himself and abuse the people around him. As director Paul Duane himself states, his behavior is partly due to the presence of the camera. Jerry’s an attention-seeker, a bit of a clown, and plays up to his own image. But he’s also terrified of an impending lung cancer operation, and of his last gasp chance at musical redemption.
It’s debatable whether or not McGill’s story warranted this level of attention to begin with, but Very Extremely Dangerous does well to create an unflinching and worthwhile portrayal of such a difficult subject. Jerry’s an aged, creaky bolt of lightning, a bottle rocket careening from one catastrophe to the next, and during the good times you’re just grateful you’re along for the ride.
Food and film share a similar space at the table so to speak. A meal is as much an artistic social
construct as a film and, as author and broadcaster Margaret Visser writes in
her book, Much Depends on Dinner,
‘however humble it may be, a meal has a definite plot, the intention of which
is to intrigue, stimulate and satisfy.’
As such, food and drink often act as invaluable devices for filmmakers,
who can use these either to indicate their characters’ social or ethnic
backgrounds or to create a dramatic platform around which stories can
unfold. In some cases, as in Abdel
Kechiche’s Couscous (2007), a film about a family of Arab immigrants in the
French port of Sète who open their own restaurant, or in Ken Loach’s
recent comedy caper, The Angel’s Share (2012),
which exposes the artistry as much as the pomposity behind the whiskey business,
the preparation or consumption of a dish or liqueur is elevated to a more a
schematic role in the plot. These are
the kinds of films which will form the basis of Feast Your Eyes, the IFI’s
new monthly event which presents its inaugural edition on Tuesday, August 21st
at 18.50 with a screening of Gianni Di Gregorio’s tender yet poignant Mid-August Lunch (2008).
Brought about to explore the role food and drink can play as much in
life as in film, the screenings will be paired with a special menu at the IFICafé Bar which will tie in with the price of the cinema ticket. Speakers both from cinema and culinary
backgrounds will also be invited to open up discussions about what our eating
and drinking habits have to say about identity and taste and how these notions
are presented, or distorted in film.
On Tuesday, journalist and food blogger Veruska Anconitano will
introduce the screening and then take part in a discussion afterwards with
Corinna Salvadori Lonergan, Associate Professor at the Italian Deparment,
Trinity College Dublin. Audiences will
then choose from a menu inspired by the film: Parmesan Chicken served with
Asparagus in Olive Oil, Seafood Risotto or Tagliatelle with Roasted
IFI Cinemas Assistant Programmer
IFI Feast Your Eyes presents Mid-August Lunchon Tuesday, August 21st at 18.50. Tickets are €20. This event is not available to book online, please book your seat when visiting, by emailing the IFI Box Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01 679 3477.
"A fascinating glimpse into Yemeni society" - Marcus O'Sullivan, IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic reviews The Reluctant Revolutionary.
The Reluctant Revolutionary might have been called The Accidental Documentary. Director Sean McAllister initially travelled to Yemen to document the decline in tourism caused by the Arab Spring uprisings. His timing couldn’t have been worse/better, as Yemen eventually erupts into chaos with himself in the thick of it.
The hand-held footage of the unrest is stunning. It begins with the initial hope and patriotism of young Yemenis camped out in the square, quickly replaced by graphic scenes of carnage in the make-shift field hospitals. It’s gut-wrenching stuff, and the mass rally held the day after the violence in response is shockingly courageous.
The first half of the documentary isn’t quite as effective, but still compelling. Qais, the tour guide, is a likable character, fatalistic but cheerful. He’s a private man as well, and McAllister is unable to get him to open up much. Things start to getting more interesting during night-time drives around the city, where the paranoia and secrecy of everyday life becomes evident.
McAllister’s determination on inserting himself into the narrative as a character is unfortunate, and often detracts from the events around him. Despite this, he has given us a fascinating glimpse into Yemeni society, and captured the bloody moment when a country’s fate was changed irreversibly.
Marcus O'Sullivan (@mwosullivan)
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic
IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival run from 16th - 19th August - for more information visit http://www.ifi.ie/stf/.
"A portrait of a unique and intriguing man" - IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic, Philip Bagnall reviews the The Gentleman Prizefighter.
With Ireland’s recent Olympic successes in the boxing ring, the story of prizefighter James J. Corbett a.k.a ‘Gentleman Jim’ warrants telling now more than ever, despite the fact he’s been dead for 79 years!
With The Gentleman Prizefighter, acclaimed documentarian Andrew Gallimore charts the rise and eventual decline of a true pioneer. Corbett, the son of Irish immigrants, began to make a name for himself as a distinguished pugilist in the health clubs of San Francisco in the early 1890s, before overcoming the great John L. Sullivan to become heavyweight champion in 1892. Unlike the 1942 biopic Gentleman Jim (starring no less than Errol Flynn as Corbett), The Gentleman Prizefighter covers all the bases of Corbett’s influence. He was the first successful boxing champion under the newly-formed Queensberry Rules, which are still in use in modern boxing, whilst films of some of his most famous bouts attracted big crowds and helped to legitimize the then-fledgling form of art/entertainment. Corbett also found success on stage and in film after leaving the ring.
Gallimore, working from author Patrick Myler’s book on Corbett, knows the value of a charismatic and flawed subject, and Corbett was certainly both. He could fight and act, but his racism and extra-marital dalliances (including an alleged liaison with Mae West!) made Corbett a divisive figure. Boasting narration from Liam Neeson, The Gentleman Prizefighter shows all sides of Corbett. A bon vivant plagued by prejudices and personal tragedies, Gallimore uses all aspect of Corbett’s life to create a rich, informative and very accessible (even to the boxing-ignorant, this writer included!) portrait of a unique and intriguing man.
Philip Bagnall (@CynicalFilm)
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic
"Fill in the blanks yourself" - Marcus O'Sullivan, IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic reviews 5 Broken Cameras.
The Israel / Palestine conflict is so depressing and intractable that it’s hard to remain sensitized to it. It’s easier to accept this state of war as tragic but inevitable than to maintain outrage against an unchanging reality. 5 Broken Cameras succeeds in penetrating this cynicism with an unadorned and unflinching portrait of a community, a family, and the every-day world in which they live.
Five years ago, Emad Burnat began recording footage in his village of Bil’in in the West Bank, near the border of newly-created Israeli settlements. What began as an effort to film the growth of his new-born son soon expanded into an ongoing documentation of his community’s resistance against the construction of a wall through their land. There is violence here. Men are shot, people are tear-gassed, children are arrested under cover of darkness. Yet, nothing is sensationalized. These are merely natural occurrences in Burnat’s footage of normal village life, like picking olives, playing football, or protesting, day after day, year after year.
This could easily have been a Big Issue film: the importance of land in cultural identity, the courage of non-violent resistance, the remarkable resilience and hope of the human spirit. But the film is more affecting for never addressing these concepts directly, never moralizing or preaching. It simply presents a microcosm of the front line through raw, pure footage, and allows you to fill in the blanks yourself.
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic
'Fascinating' - IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic, Philip Bagnall reviews the Gala Festival Opening sold-out screening of The Imposter.
‘Stranger Than Fiction’ is the official title of the IFI’s documentary festival, so it was appropriate that the 2012 festival began with The Imposter, a film whose subject matter could only be described with those three words.
Nicholas Barclay disappeared from his home in Texas in 1994 in mysterious circumstances. He resurfaced in Spain 40 months later in equally mysterious circumstances. Had this been a wonderful reunion for Nicholas and his family, director Bart Layton wouldn’t have a great tale to tell. However, once he arrives back in the US, some people start to look deeper into the tale of abduction and abuse ‘Nicholas’ weaves, and conclude that he isn’t who he says he is. His family are so willing to accept him that they gloss over obvious clues that all is not what it appears with ‘Nicholas.
It’s a fascinating hook, and from the start we know that ‘Nicholas’ isn’t who he says he is. The ballooning and eventual unravelling of the elaborate lie crafted by over-confident French conman Frederic Bourdin is oddly gripping as Bourdin himself, Nicholas’ family and law enforcement agents set the scene for his odd tale. However, the biggest twists are saved for last, and Layton skillfully squeezes every inch of tension out the story. Raising as many questions as answers, The Imposter is a creepy monument to the power of desperation and self-delusion.
"Change can only come from the inside" - Penny Woolcock, Director of One Mile Away, in conversation with Ross Whitaker, IFI Stranger Than Fiction Programmer.
Can you tell people a little bit about what to expect in One Mile Away?
One Mile Away is a documentary that follows two extraordinary young black men in their attempt to bring peace to their streets. In Birmingham there are two notorious gangs - the Burgers and the Johnsons. They have been killing each other for twenty years although they suffer the same economic and social problems. If you are a young man of Jamaican heritage you are affiliated simply by being born in a certain post code. The film follows the initial meeting between Dylan and Shabba where they discover they actually like each other and their attempts to persuade others to stop hostilities and face the bigger problem. What is different about this film is that young men who are demonised are given a voice instead of other people talking about 'them' as a problem - and they use it in an articulate and eloquent way. There is a surprising honesty as they accept that they are at least partly responsible for their plight instead of always blaming the system. The film uses music to tell the story at key times. Gangster rap is often accused of inciting violence but their lyrics change as the story changes. After the riots in 2011 people started to really question whether their real enemy was each other... This is a closed world and the first time we have access to see what is going on and step inside their shoes.
What was the instigating factor that led you to revisit older ground and make this film?
I only made this film because Shabba telephoned and asked whether I would help him see if a truce was possible. He rang me although I am a white, middle class, London-based film maker in my sixties, I was the only person he knew who knew people on both sides. He also wanted the process to be filmed because he felt it was important to document it. I agreed to help without realising that I was letting myself in for a couple of years of stress and anxiety! But how often do any of us given a chance to get involved in something which saves lives? I couldn't imagine myself saying no.
Did you feel as an outsider that you had a chance of making an impact?
This is not my war and it was not my place to stop it. But every peace process needs a neutral outsider to deliver messages, someone who can move between sides and talk to both. I am sure there are better qualified people out there but in the end it is all down to relationships and trust. There were a small number of people who trusted me - and many who didn't - and we didn't want to let each other down. A lot of the time I felt hounded by both sides and also by the police who were very hostile. It wasn't fun!
Do you feel that documentary film has that potential, to generate change in a positive way?
Yes absolutely. Art can be active in spaces that official organisations are not flexible enough to reach. In One Mile Away the documentary was integral to a process which is still going on and we hope it will inspire others to initiate their own peace movements. This has already started to happen. These little wars are being waged in all big cities and change can only come from the inside.
What has the reaction to the film been?
So far we have shown the film at the Sheffield DocFest and the Edinburgh Film Festival. We had a standing ovation in Sheffield and we won the Michael Powell Award for Best Film in Edinburgh. The response has been phenomenal. Education and music projects have grown out of the film and we hope support will continue to grow. Something tragic is happening on our streets and we shouldn't continue to ignore it. Sooner or later the guns will get closer.
One Mile Away screens on Friday, August 17th at 20.30, as part of the IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin’s Documentary Film Festival (August 16th – 19th).
For more information and bookings, visit www.ifi.ie/stf, or call on 01 679 3477.
"Was it worth it? You tell me" - asks Paul Duane, Director of Very Extremely Dangerous, screening as part of IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival.
Jerry McGill is too obscure to even be
called a cult figure.
Only those who've read Robert Gordon's
seminal It Came From Memphis or seen William Eggleston's dark, outrageous 'home
movie' Stranded in Canton would have the vaguest idea who he is, or those rockabilly
completists who own a copy of Sun 326, Lovestruck, recorded by Jerry and his
band the Topcoats in 1959, his first and only official release. It's not even a
particularly good record (the B-side is better).
So why make a film about him when there are
so many other, probably more deserving musicians out there?
Well, back in mid-2009 I was facing a blank
wall – my first cut of Barbaric Genius, my film on John Healy, had been
rejected, all further funding placed in question and it looked as if it would
never be completed.
So when I got an email from Jerry's fiancée
Joyce telling me that he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer, had booked a
recording session in Memphis next week, and wanted myself and Robert Gordon to
meet him there, I grabbed an idea out of thin air.
The story of a man who blew all his chances
the first time round, who turned his back on a promising music career in favour
of a criminal life, trying to redeem
himself while staring death in the eyes. I knew Jerry was charismatic and a great
storyteller from my phone conversations with him, but could he carry a film?
Out of nothing more than that idea, and
Jerry's insistence that he wasn't going to go quietly into the night, that he
was finally going to follow up his one and only record, myself and Robert
Gordon dragged this film, kicking and screaming and fighting us every inch of
the way, into existence. Was it worth it? You tell me.
"You should create living people, not characters" - Director Andrew Gallimore writes in his blog on The Gentleman Prizefighter, screening as part of IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival.
It begins with an obituary. Twenties sports scribe Bill McGeehan had nailed the story in a few lines of text:
“With the death of James J Corbett another figure from the romantic era of the American prize ring passes into the twilight of the modern demigods. In the romantic days of the prize ring there was little in the game except romance. But the demigods of the game lived on romance. Corbett made the greatest of ring dramas.”
So it’s the life and times of a modern demigod in seventy minutes or so. The film makes no pretence at biography, more a sweep through the many lives of the elusive and contradictory Jim Corbett. Like Hemingway said, you should create living people, not characters. A character is a caricature and Corbett’s an easy man to caricature. ‘Gentleman Jim’ was his creation. Fact and fiction were often blurred and maybe to understand Corbett you have to multiply the puzzles and paradoxes rather than solve them.
All the key ingredients were in place. Newly discovered archive, scenes from long lost movies, photographs aplenty, sports, sex and scandal. Now if only we could get someone who can deliver a line and a straight left to narrate, maybe someone who’s also really, really famous.
What does the film-goer want in a festival? That’s the question I asked myself when I was given the welcome task of putting together a programme for IFI Stranger Than Fiction - writes Ross Whitaker, Festival Programmer.
I suppose quality is number one, then variety and then a certain amount of exclusivity. When I go to a festival, I want to feel that these films are special and unique and this event is giving me an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have.
Early in our discussions about IFI Stranger Than Fiction we made the decision that all films showing should be a Dublin Premiere. This is the first chance that most IFI cinema-goers and most documentary and film fans will have to see these films. I’m delighted to say that in some cases the films are indeed Irish Premieres and in the case of closing film Detropia, a European Premiere, on Sunday, August 19th at 19.00.
In terms of quality, I wanted us to be able to stand beside each and every film and say that this film is absolutely worthy of our audience and will give them an excellent viewing experience. I really like the films and I’m excited to read what others are saying about them (see below). I look forward to hearing the reactions of our audiences.
One Mile Away (Friday, August 17th, 20.30) - “Woolcock has a talent for gaining trust and giving a voice to those marginalised or demonised by the mainstream media” – Screen.
The Interrupters (Sunday, August 14th, 14.00) - “A meticulous account of life and death in inner-city Chicago… has a staggering heft and authenticity,” The Guardian.
Detropia (Sunday, August 19th, 19.00) - “A potent snapshot of a potential future for many American cities,” Variety.
The Reluctant Revolutionary (Saturday, August 18th, 15.30) - “A breathless pace, a sense of black humor and a great central character make The Reluctant Revolutionary one of the most immediate and accessible descriptions of the Arab Spring yet to emerge,” Hollywood Reporter.
Planet Of Snail (Sunday, August 19th, 16.20) - “An absolute gem,” The Observer.
Planet of Snail
The Imposter (Opening Gala, Thursday, August 16th, 19.00) - “A powerful film about lies and deception…that makes some profound and unsettling points about the human mind,” The Guardian.
IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival, runs between August 16th - 19th at the IFI. For more information on screenings and to book in advance (highly recommended!), please contact our Box Office staff on 01-6793477, or visit http://www.ifi.ie/stf/.
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