Lost Lives: Beauty from sorrow by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News 1 October 2019
At Queen’s Film Theatre, Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt welcomed guests to a preview screening of Lost Lives, inspired by the acclaimed book of the same name, one which Lavery described as a monumental achievement: “Lost Lives was always at my side when I was making documentaries.” In the film, they sought to do justice to the book. This included ensuring that every person named in the book appeared in the film.
Do wars really end? A Mother Brings Her Son to be Shot (Sinead O’Shea) by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News 19 April 2018
A Mother Brings Her Son to be Shot, a film directed by Sinead O’Shea and screened at the Belfast Film Festival at the Queen’s Film Theatre, is a story about Philip O’Donnell Jr and his world around him, in supposedly post-conflict Northern Ireland.
Film review: Photo City by Allan LEONARD 13 April 2018
Photo City is a documentary film by John Murphy and Traolach Ó Murchú, about the story of Rochester, New York, becoming the Silicon Valley of photography, with the clustering of image-based companies such as Xerox, Bausch and Lomb, and Kodak. And how this industry has defined this city and its people, even after the demise of the film producing great, Kodak.
It is a story of photography and society.
The documentarians do a fine job covering the breath of photography. The community photographer. The Facebook posterer. The musician/writer/photographer artist. The advertising man. The photojournalist. The teacher. The student. The inventor. The shop floor worker. The museum archivist.
The act of photography permeates the social fabric of the city’s neighbourhoods, across economic status, vocations, and generations.
We learn about the rise and fall of Kodak in particular, who was a dominant employer. Indeed, its annual bonus cheques would generate even more consumption and wealth for local businesses. So as is the case anywhere where a lead company shrinks, so did the prosperity of Rochester with the demise of Kodak.
But the film strikes a chord of optimism. As one participant said, “The fall of Kodak has unleashed talent to do other things.” And we are presented with how the city still attracts and retains those intrigued about photography and image making.
Photo City is a humanist film. It tells the stories of the people behind the camera.
As the photojournalist explained, “The camera is just a tool. What needs to be perfect is the subject matter to evoke an emotional response.”
This is followed by two further deeply impacting stories.
The final scene brings the wider community together, which I found to be both celebratory but also tinged with nostalgia — can the unleashed talent sustain what must be one of the most image conversant populations in America?
The prevailing wisdom of A Love Divided
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
4 April 2014
Based on a true story, “A Love Divided” chronicles the aftermath of a mixed marriage in Co. Wexford, Ireland, where Protestant-raised Sheila refuses to send her children to a local Catholic school. She flees with her two young girls, leaving her husband Sean confused and frustrated.
Good Vibrations is a film about Belfast music legend, Terri Hooley, who was responsible for discovering The Undertones and recording Teenage Kicks (which radio DJ Jonathan Peel famously played twice in a row).
UTV film critic Brian Henry Martin described Good Vibrations as “born, bred and buttered” in Belfast. The film is a total local production, from screenplay, casting, directing and production. This always runs the risk of the output being a bit twee, satisfying for the nearby residents but failing universal appeal.
Not so with Good Vibrations. It is an amazing film.
Brilliant in every way. The acting is top quality, by lead actor Richard Dormer and all others. The contextualisation is handled very well — challenging to set the scene during the Troubles without it getting too depressing. The direction is spot on, keeping the story moving along and ensuring a consistency of performance (just one scene where a female pedestrian walking alongside them was a distraction).
Nick learned about the Good Vibrations film project while finishing another on the film Cherrybomb, in 2008. A lot of time was spent in raising funds to ensure the film could get made.
He told us editing challenges. Any film has a “long film”, that from which you edit. In the case of Good Vibrations, this was two-and-a-half hours long, complicated by their desire to keep adding material! Another challenge was the fact that they were dealing with someone’s legacy (and of someone still alive as well as everyone who experienced the events). The film was “fun to do, but there was stuff not to be trivialised,” Nick said.
Nick expands on this by describing how so many involved with the film, the directors, producers, cast and himself, all grew up during the Troubles and were affected by it:
“We spent a full week watching [the archives]. It was very, very traumatic. There were some very unpleasant things to watch … We were all from here. Belfast made us the way we are: even if you tried not to, you couldn’t help but bring Belfast into the piece.”
Simon Wood from Northern Visions asked Nick whether he was afraid of meeting real people on the street, who might react negatively to their portrayal in the film. “At the end of the day it’s not a documentary. You need to be true to the story,” answered Nick.
Nick described Terri Hooley’s involvement in the film. Glenn (Delaney?) had a series of conversations with Terri over years, and Terri was present on the set during filming, but Nick added that Terri was respectful of the process and didn’t interfere.
In regards to music selection, “it was a pleasure when you were dealing with so many great tracks”. I asked Nick if there was going to be a soundtrack, as well as where we could get an unabridged list of tracks he dealt with. “We’re working on it” and “Spotify” were his replies.
The final comment from the audience was from someone who knew Terri “for a very long time”:
“I always knew Terri as a person with a great love for music. He had a great love for people, so he did. As a matter of fact, he gave me a lot of records, never even charged me for them.”
Nick replied, “I hope that came across [in the film]. Terri has a heart of gold. He’s such a good soul … He undoubtedly did a tremendous amount for the kids here in the 1970s and 80s.”
Good Vibrations is indeed a heart-warming and uplifting story of a man and place in troubled times.