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Irish round up // JDIFF 2012

We finish up our coverage from the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival with a look at various Irish productions. The Terence McDonald selection documented in their Out of the Past series, Pat Collins’ Silence and the six Irish short films put together by the programmers.

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Terence McDonald (Out Of The Past) – ★★★★

Directed By: Terence McDonald

These “Out of the Past” collections of films are part of an ongoing IFI endeavour to show off some of its archive material. Terence McDonald was an amateur film maker from Derry and a school teacher by trade. Here we get a wide range of his filmic talents: documentary, slapstick shorts and “faux” art-house. The stand out piece for me was The Portable Theatre (1968) which concerned the McCormicks, a traveling show in Ulster. An excellent historic record and a slice of Ireland in the late 60s it shows how the family felt indestructible as they had stayed off cinema and felt the television was no match for them either. Cutting family interviews with recordings of them performing results in a fascinating account of the time. The Man from Aunt (1965) and The Fugitive (1966) show McDonald’s love for the masters of comedy Chaplin and Keaton, while Nebelung (1978) reveals he had a flair for the more avant-garde and surrealist side of cinema. An excellent collection of films and one can only hope they can find their way onto DVD.

Silence – ★★★

Directed By: Pat Collins  /  Starring: Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde

The latest offering from director Pat Collins is not so much a film about silence but more so the sound of silence. It follows Eoghan (Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde) who travels up the west coast of Ireland with his final destination being his home on Tory island. He has been commissioned to record the sound of silence, or rather the sound of the world uninterrupted by man and machine. The piece, as to be expected, is very light on dialogue but this is really trying to explore and examine the many beautiful and varied landscapes in Ireland and the effect they can have on one’s life. There is also some excellent use of archive footage of Islanders from years ago and the use of Ordnance Survey maps to chart Eoghan’s route is very novel. The director told us at the Q&A that he doesn’t understand why people are getting a documentary feel from the movie but I feel it does have elements of a documentary about it. The way in which Eoghan interacts with the people he meets doesn’t seem that natural and feels more like mini interviews than chats that have cropped out of nowhere, this is most evident when chatting to one of the island children “as Gaeilge”. While certainly beautiful to watch and a fantastic exploration of sound, it can feel sometimes like a video piece for a gallery installation instead of the fictional film that the director was hoping to achieve.

JDIFF Shorts

First up was Centre of the Universe by Brian Dunster, a tale concerning a girl who is space mad when she was young. Flash forward 20 years and a man from outer space, not little or green but tall and ginger needs her help in saving the universe. Money is never abundant in shorts so it’s best to stay away from effects as they’ll no doubt look cheap. The acting is fine but the story is pretty weak and unexplored, resulting in more of an after school message. (★★)

Switch was similar enough fare by Thomas Hefferon using a voice-over to terrible and annoying effect with the voice reminding me of the speaking information points from museums. The story is incredible juvenile and ridiculous while the acting is good especially from the lead girl portraying someone in a coma. (★)

Pairs and Spares by Philip Kelly was a bit baffling, it’s incredibly short (even for a short) and you realise what’s going on within about 30 seconds of watching it. With nods to The Big Lebowski evident throughout, it’s not wise to remind people of a brilliant piece of film as they’ll just end up comparing it to yours. (★)

Rats Island is a much bleaker affair from Mike Hannon. It shows how in the recession a man and his son survive on next to nothing in our possession obsessed times. Nothing is really explained as to how they ended up in their present predicament but small clues are shown by way of a battered family photograph possibly alluding to a break-up or death in the family. The relationship between father and son is brilliantly captured in how they carry out their daily routine. What is also magnificent is that it is unclear if this fiction or non-fiction, but regardless it’s utterly captivating. (★★★★★)

Rhinos by Shimmy Marcus is a lovable tale about two people who happen upon each other in Dublin’s Stephen’s Green. Thomas is the bearded Irishman while Ingrid is the beautiful German without a word of English. Their initial conversation is very witty and written excellently, we then follow the pair around Dublin for the day and see their relationship develop. It’s a bit cliched at points and there isn’t much new to offer but the heart and humour at play makes up for any shortcomings. (★★★)

Frontiersman follows different men from the wilds of Co. Donegal and is a superb advertisement for the county. Director Derek O Connor manages to capture the beauty of the landscape and then delves into the character of the people giving them dimension and heart. One man walks hours at a time to photograph abandoned homes from a forgotten age thus showing the resilence of the people both then and now. As we pop into McDaid’s wine bar in Ramelton, we see that Donegal has more than beautiful views to offer. (★★★★)

– apologies for image quality on these. Nothing but hilariously low-res pics anywhere for them…