Review by Maria McGrath
Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JQs3Mklag
At first glance it’s a film that brings you on a joy ride through the party drug scene of Dublin today, complete with the trials and tribulations of chasing your next high, raves in the Wicklow Mountains and close calls with the authorities. But actually it’s a story about so much more. It’s a story of two brothers; it’s a spotlight on the ways in which we dehumanise heroin addicts; it’s a juxtaposition between drug use and drug abuse; it’s a story about good people who spin off the edge of the dancefloor while nobody is looking.
Directed by Dave Tynan, starring Emmet Kirwan and Ian Lloyd Anderson, one thing that was entirely evident in the comments made on the Q&A afterwards, in the overheard conversations in the cinema lobby and in the snap back to the present that came for me when the film ended, was the quality of the acting and directing. Huge credit to all the actors and particularly to Ian Lloyd Anderson who Tynan revealed had lost two stone for the role of the heroin addict big brother Daniel.
Little brother Jason, the film’s protagonist, showcases all the charm of a popular party boy Dubliner whose good time is about to catch up with him. But what’s catching up with him isn’t what you’d expect: denial. Everyone around Jase can see it – his ex-girlfriend, his boss, his party friends, his brother and even strangers in pubs. And the more they see it, the more he runs.
Dublin Oldschool is a journey into the self-conscious in an attempt to recover something that really actually matters and really actually makes sense amongst the parties and the drugs and the people in your life. Although it is utterly a Dublin film in its language, in its setting and in character, the timely addition of poetry narrated by Emmet Kirwan himself brings a universality to the film that means every generation and every pocket of society can connect with the story.
There are many poignant scenes but for me the bit that really stuck out, without giving too much away, was a moment where Jason needed the help of a heroin addict to find his brother and it wasn’t until he spoke to him like an equal human being that this man was able to respond to him. This coupled with the setting, everything happening no more than a couple of minutes walk from O’Connell Street and Camden Street, gave the feeling that the hurt and devastation doesn’t just live in the families and friends of those affected: it lives on all of our streets and on all of our paths in life and it’s a human problem, not a drug problem.
In a seemingly impossible battle, in a lifestyle that will live on no matter what “measures” are brought in, in the simplicity of how easy it is to fall off the edge, the film tells us that there is hope. There is hope of not falling and there is hope of coming back again.
Maria came from Tipperary to Melbourne in 2018. She works in marketing.
The Camino Voyage
Review by Frances Devlin-Glass
The Camino Voyage (2018), directed by Dónal Ó Céilleachair. An Irish-language film, featured at the Irish Film Festival, Sydney and Melbourne 2019. Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJ5S-ifzAQg
Ó Céilleachair’s feature film was as hypnotic as it was soulful. It told the story of five men who rowed from Dublin to Santiago de Compostela over the course of three summers in a naomhóg, a curragh. The boat was tiny, barely accommodating its four rowers and their very small tents and packs in its wicker basket design, covered with caulked canvas. It was a frail craft, but just such crafts took brave men on much longer voyages in the Dark Ages.
What the film demonstrated was that it was possible, that it was gruelling and that the dangers were real. The film had a tragic postscript as one of the men died in this little boat in the following year.
The film generated its own rhythms – languorous and meditative. The first phases of the 2500k journey were the most dangerous, crossing the Irish Sea and the Atlantic south of the English channel, and there was much to enjoy in the opalescent seascapes and sunrises and sunsets and remote locations, like Penzance and Finisterre, and in the dolphins that accompanied the rowers from time to time. There was a little tension in the pitting of tiny craft against looming supertankers in the dead of night, and the expedition may have ended much earlier if they’d not had a powered support vessel. But such scenes of derring do – men in small craft vs the sea – were not enough to justify a 97 minute film. Some other elements created the magic.
The real genius of this film was its slow unfolding of the motivations of the men, and what men they were. To a large extent, the enterprise is quixotic, eccentric, and it is impossible to resist the notion that these men took the journey because they could. We were not spared their pain (especially their blistered hands), their despair at ever continuing on a voyage that tested them physically at every point. But the magic lay in their personalities and what these five ordinary men (two coxed and boxed because of commitments at home) brought to the journey. One was a poet, two musicians, one an artist and one a stonemason – ordinary men, and not so very young or fit either. Very often what made the strokesmanship more powerful was surrendering an oar (one of only four) to a poet or a musician. We were privy to extraordinary musicianship, which gave joy at many of their landfalls, and to meditations on life. These were men brimming with soul and camaraderie.
Although the spirituality which unfolded could hardly be said to be conventionally Christian, much less Catholic, it was moving to see the little craft being taken into the cathedral of St James by a team of men and treated as an honoured guest. One felt one was living in a different century.
It’s a most unusual pilgrimage and one that is a very worthy and uplifting addition to Camino narratives.
Frances Devlin-Glass is a member of the Tinteán collective.
Review by Shauna Stanley
Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQgilokYa_0
“There’s an ironic tragedy between the beauty of this land and the dark secrets it holds.” (Stephen Rea, Narrator, Unquiet Graves)
Unquiet Graves, directed by Belfast filmmaker Sean Murray, highlights the role of British collusion with state police during the Troubles, particularly during the 1970s. It details how members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) – a British Army regiment – were allegedly involved in the murder of over 120 civilians during the conflict in Ireland.
As part of the Melbourne screening, director Sean Murray gave a Q&A where he highlighted that he made the film as part of the healing process and to address the imbalance within public discourse, while also offering a contextual appreciation of these tragic events from the perspectives of the families themselves.
The main focus of the film is the Glenanne Gang and their operations in the so-called “murder triangle” covering an area from Portadown to Coalisland, up to Aughnacloy where there have been more sectarian killings per head of the population than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. The film highlights how the UDR provided assistance to the Glenanne Gang in its targeted assassinations of farmers, shopkeepers, publicans and other civilians. The Glenanne Gang’s involvement in the conflict is traced from the Miami Showband Massacre to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
Murray himself conducts interviews with a wide array of people ranging from family members of victims to journalists and historians – the diversity in interviewees should be noted and is commended.
Anne Cadwallader is a British journalist and author of ‘Lethal Allies’, a book on the scale of collusion between the British government and loyalist paramilitaries. She carried out the work after quitting journalism to join the human rights organisation, the Pat Finucane Centre, as a researcher. The Pat Finucane Centre is named after the human rights lawyer who was killed in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries in collusion with MI5. It promotes a nonviolent ethos, informed by the belief that the Northern Irish conflict arose mainly due to the government’s failure to uphold Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”
Dr Huw Bennett, a researcher on British military strategy at Cardiff University, highlights how the Ulster Defence Regiment is characteristic of the British Army’s “experience in the Empire.” Declassified documents from British government offices highlight how the British government allowed active loyalist paramilitaries into the UDR. According to official documents, the UDR – which was the biggest regiment in the British Army – was the largest source of weapons flowing to loyalist paramilitary groups.
In a striking interview, John Weir, who is both a former RUC police officer and a former member of the Glennane Gang, provides an account of the collusion he witnessed first-hand, providing key details as to how the gang operated.
Stephen Rea narrates, and the film is punctuated with literary devices at the beginning and end. Rea opens with a haunting description of the so-called murder triangle, “The borderland of South Armagh, an area of Ireland steeped in Celtic mythology, where the ghosts of Cuchulain, Queen Maeve, Finn McCool and Cailleach Bhéara haunt the county’s many burial cairns and crypts.” Rea’s commentary finishes with a recital of ‘Strand at Lough Beg’, a poem by Seamus Heaney written in memory of his cousin Colum McCartney, who was shot dead in 1975 by members of the Glenanne Gang dressed as UDR soldiers.
Such an opening and closing to the documentary was purposeful, according to Murray during the Q&A. He referred to a theory in radical documentary making, where directors intend to make the audience leave at the end feeling angry. Murray didn’t want this. He wanted the film to ‘wrap the audience around like a hug.’ The key takeaway from Murray’s Q & A is that he hopes his films inspires his audience ‘not to radicalise, but to politicise.’
Considering the current political stalemate in the North, this documentary makes a great case for the need for an international, independent inquiry into civilian murders during the conflict. For the families of victims, and for true peace and reconciliation, the truth must be told – only then can we move forward.