By Eoin Robert Shortiss
Siberia is an experimental fiction film directed by Abel Ferrara, which is heavily reliant on bizarre and disconcerting visuals to make an impact on its audience. The effect of these visuals is aided by the excellent performance of the lead actor Willem Dafoe, who not only acts as the film’s protagonist Clint, but also as several other characters within the narrative as well. The film is intentionally abstract, potent and striking, with the high quality cinematography and framing you would expect to come from the work of an experienced director. I find myself wondering however, if the abstract nature of this film, which is its primary appeal, is actually its greatest downfall. Ferrara’s film walks a dangerous line between being unique and ingenious, and being incomprehensible and uninteresting.
In general, each genre in mainstream cinema often tends to run more or less the same tried and tested formula for its structure. As a result, overexposure to a particular genre can make it predictable and uninteresting, which is one of the biggest disconnects a viewer can have from a film. What initially drew me to Siberia was the ‘experimental’ tagline it had under its name in the Cork International Film Festival programme. From my experience, experimental filmmaking promises to show something new to its audience, so that regardless of a viewer’s overall opinion of the film in question, you can expect that it should at least intrigue them on some level. And on that note, Siberia definitely delivers. The film revolves around a man named Clint, who runs a small bar in the snowy mountains of Siberia. Due to an inner conflict about his memories and his own morality, he decides to leave his establishment and go on a journey of self-discovery. As he navigates the landscape of Siberia, he simultaneously explores his own mind, taking the audience with him as he clashes with an unforgiving climate and his own painful memories. The manner in which this is done however, is what sets this film apart from mainstream cinema. Siberia’s audience is subjected to an incoherent montage, developed from a flurry of protagonist Clint’s experiences, beliefs and emotions, for the entirety of the film. This film has no comprehensive plot or structure for its audience to follow. That being said, I do not think that this is an oversight on Ferrara’s part. David Ehrlich’s review of the film on the website IndieWire, a digital media news site, wisely describes Siberia as “a baffling attempt to project the human subconscious on screen.” I believe he is certainly on the right track here. The only undoubtable aspect of this film is that what the viewer is seeing is largely, if not entirely, being influenced by the protagonist’s mind. Ferrara‘s film is not so much about Clint, as it is a portrayal of how uncertainty about a sense of self can cause turmoil in the human psyche. This manifests in repeated imagery of violence and gore, jump-cuts from moments of peace to moments of intense violence, or prolonged, uncomfortable portrayals of nudity and sex. The problem with Siberia however is that these shocking but attention-grabbing moments on screen are essentially all that triggers engagement with the film. Trying to unravel protagonist Clint’s past amidst the film’s visual chaos is a fool’s errand. Furthermore, the brief and short-lived components of this montage prevent the audience from learning enough about the characters in the film to become invested in any of them. The film’s only saving grace is its absurd visuals and pacing, but looking back, I genuinely do not believe even this is enough to redeem the film as a whole. There is definitely cinematic value in a film that makes its audience think and feel. Without providing the audience with a clear purpose for doing this however, the film is at risk of being unmotivated, and therefore unremarkable. Wendy Ide’s review on Screen Daily, website of British film magazine Screen International, touches on a very similar note, as she writes that “there should be a kernel of honesty and meaning in a film, or it just looks like the insta feed of a well-travelled psychopath.” Siberia tries something new, and overall I must say I found the film interesting. But with this, the ‘experimental’ absurdity of the film will only carry it so far, and when it is stripped away, it is hard to say what, if anything, remains of Siberia.
Despite my own personal opinions of the film however, I believe Siberia was a great choice for this year’s Cork International Film Festival. Put bluntly, I do not feel this film fits within this year’s theme of ‘solidarity.’ In order to make any sort of case that it does portray solidarity, you would need a deep understanding of the film, which I do not believe is possible due to the film’s irregular structure. Nevertheless, it is Siberia’s peculiar approach to cinema that makes it suitable for a film festival. In the modern age, film has become integrated into almost every culture, and film festivals are a celebration of this. The Cork International Film Festival is a showcase of the huge cultural appreciation for film within Cork city alone, and it is a chance for this aspect of Irish culture to be enjoyed by many. Film festivals are a great opportunity to bring attention to the filmmaking abilities of a certain group, but they are also a chance to expose a particular film culture to a variety of filmmaking styles it would never see otherwise. This outside influence is crucial for filmmakers if they want to be able to grow and evolve, and it can only serve to compliment and add variety to their own culture’s experience in filmmaking. Siberia easily falls outside of anything that Irish filmmakers would naturally produce, which just makes it all the richer of a viewing experience. So while I do not reckon Siberia was the best film available at the film festival this year, I believe its true value is not in its overall quality. It is in how Irish filmmakers will be able to learn and take inspiration from this film for their own work for years to come.
"65th Cork International Film Festival". Cork International Film Festival, 2020, https://corkfilmfest.org/the-65th-cork-film-festival-2020/. Accessed 16 Nov 2020.
Ehrlich, David. "‘Siberia’ Review: Abel Ferrara Sends Willem Dafoe On A Spirit Quest To Nowhere". IndieWire, 2020, https://www.indiewire.com/2020/02/siberia-review-willem-dafoe-1202213095/. Accessed 16 Nov 2020.
Ide, Wendy. "‘Siberia’: Berlin Review". Screen Daily, 2020, https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/siberia-berlin-review/5147556.article. Accessed 16 Nov 2020.
Aisling O Connell: The Films of Reason - An Occupation
February 8th – 15th 2021, The Crypt, St. Luke’s Hall, Cork (online exhibition only) Curated by Maximilian Le Cain
Presented by LUX Critical Forum Cork & Cork Film Centre
Film and Screen Media MA student, Aisling O Connell will stage a week-long occupation of the Crypt at St. Lukes Hall. She will inhabit the space alongside The Films of Reason, her latest body of work.
The Films of Reason exist in paint, film and performance. During the occupation, the artist will put herself and the work ‘on trial’. In the absence of live spectators, the work will be the only audience and the camera the only witness. The exhibition will be immediate and shifting, subjected to various live processes. Ultimately, The Films of Reason will be pushed over the boundaries of exhibition, and this process will result in three new film works, episodes, that will be released online as they are completed.
The Films of Reason came about from O Connell recording her dreams over many years, marrying the imagery with classical, biblical mythology, ancient symbolism and Mircea Eliade’s The Forge and the Crucible.
The exploration of occupancy, reason and transformation in the work interrogates this imagery and utilises it to channel the concerns of the body and its relationship to its surroundings, its state.
The body occupied, radicalised. The dependent body, the loyal and the guilty. Bodies performing rituals, rites and absurdities, chasing reason and recognition. External conditions coerce or electrify.
Aisling O Connell is a visual artist based in Cork City who primarily works with film, performance, paint and text. Her studio practice includes research into experimental film and the development of a distinctively personal visual language. She embraces a punk ethos and is deeply connected to the materials she uses. She works to force this materiality out through the medium of film, developing personal symbols, referencing literature, paintings and mythology, and drawing parallels with her experience of contemporary society. Her recent films include Water or Milk and 121, a collaboration with Maximilian Le Cain that was recently premiered as part of a Triskel Arts Centre online film programme. She is currently completing an MA in Film and Screen Media in UCC. She graduated in 2019 from the Crawford College of Art and Design, with a BA in Fine Art.
LUX Critical Forum Cork is a discussion group for artists, critics and curators who have an investment in the future of the moving image.
Cork Film Centre is an organization focused on developing, promoting and facilitating the art of creative film making and moving image art. corkfilmcentre.com
By Ciara O' Donnell
The growth of dubbed films and television is becoming commonplace through unexpected means.
Dubbed cinema has an interesting history. Not all countries, cultures, and genre dub films. Italy originally dubbed over every film entering the country. Anime and the community around it typically prefer subtitles. Americans have been pampered by Hollywood and the majority of films cater to them through the use of the English language.
So, what is dubbing? Dubbing is when the original production mixed audio is replaced with voice overs in other languages. These are recorded during post production in sound stages rather than on set. This makes the films accessible and marketable to audiences beyond borders.
Dubbed cinema versus subbed cinema, cinema with subtitles, can become a rousing topic as it is often preference led. Do you prefer to hear the film as intended? Do subtitles take away from the film? For our deaf and hard of hearing community, subtitles are often desired and needed. This allows them the ability to watch films at the cinema and not just at home. Which leads to the question: What if you don’t know something has been dubbed? Recent changes in technology and dubbing skills, especially with online streaming platforms make it difficult to detect that you are watching a dubbed foreign film or tv show.
There are other considerations for dubbing. In Italy, films that entered the country were always dubbed for the ease of the audience. Subtitles were a rarity. To consider a country having such a culture around this while others hardly considered it is fascinating. Similar to Hollywood before sound, films entering Italian cinema could focus on appearances. With Japan, anime is imported into other countries where the idea is not whether to dub or not. It is dub versus sub for the focus to be on the original voice acting. However, this too has evolved. Films from Studio Ghibli Films and other Japanese art cinema will always be considered films to never watch dubbed but rather subbed. As people become busier and are watching film and television while doing other daily tasks, they simply do not have the time to sit down and watch things with subtitles. This has even created fans and community around American voice actors who dub over anime.
Cinema has constantly been evolving and we have had so many ways to view moving pictures. This includes the nickelodeons, silent films, talkies, modern theaters, television, Blockbuster, Netflix, and other streaming services. Netflix started as a humble movie rental website that allowed anyone to be mailed mainstream movies, art films, older movies, and international films. America has never taken strongly to subtitled movies, and dubbed films can come across as cheesy. The newest evolution in streaming has changed this. Netflix has been curating content that is enjoyable and visually beautiful. Some of this content is foreign and you would not immediately come to this realization. The posters and photos give nothing away. If you click on the information it is also not immediately obvious. How you come to this realization is if you click where it gives it’s age rating. This small section will give you the genres and you can find out where a film is from. However, most people just click play. Netflix’s brilliance is in the mastered audio. It is seamlessly worked over the original films and shows. Only a keen eye and ear would notice the difference and upon simpler inspection of the subtitle and audio options see what the original audio was. When and if the viewer notices the difference they have become so interested in what they are watching that they are invested and no longer care if it has been dubbed over.
By Kane Geary O’ Keeffe
Caru Alves de Souza’s second feature film, My Name is Baghdad, operates as one part social drama, and one part skate video. De Souza’s use of gritty ground level cinematography, courtesy of Camila Cornelsen, and semi professional actors effectively conjures an authentic vision of Sao Paulo’s skate culture. A well written script utilises naturalistic dialogue to convey the feel of skate videos reminiscent of the late nineties, all in the service of addressing relevant issues that run throughout Sao Paulo’s working class neighbourhoods. Baghdad, her family, and her skater cliques are closely followed as they manoeuvre through Sao Paulo’s sense of geographical entrapment, police brutality, and dominating sense of machismo in the local social scenes. Wearing its fem punk inspirations on its sleeve, My Name is Baghdad is ultimately about the bonds of sorority, both chosen and unchosen.
Living with her mom and two sisters, our title character spends her days in working class Sao Paulo at the local skatepark with her male friends. Decidedly androgynous in her appearance and a tomboy at heart, Baghdad feels at home with these young men as we observe their friend group continually work together to develop their skating skills. Throughout the course of the film, the inherently darker face of working class Sao Paulo comes to the forefront, as the male dominated social structures of the metropolis become more apparent to Baghdad. Growing tired of the machismo present in the local night club and skate circles, Baghdad eventually falls in with a group of all girl skaters, and her newly founded bonds of sorority change her life for the better.
My Name is Baghdad boasts a stellar cast of actors both professional and amateur that bring a vibrant skate scene to life. Grace Orsato’s performance as our titular character is an understated one which allows the world of Sao Paulo to inhabit the screen as its own central character without Baghdad dominating the screen. The rest of the cast inhabit what I would consider to be Baghdad’s greatest strength, its naturalistic integration of representation. The decision to work with a racially diverse community of actors, including member of the trans community and the differently abled, imbues Sao Paulo with a lived in sense of community that comes across as genuine and culturally diverse without the film drawing attention to itself as a pillar of representation as is sometimes the case with bigger productions such as Disney’s problematic management of minority characters in its recent Star Wars movies. Baghdad’s diverse community gives us insight into how the hardships of working class life in Sao Paulo permeate different demographics in the metropolis, and is conveyed expertly through the film’s charmingly diverse cast.
One of the hardships that envelops all of the characters in My Name is Baghdad is the sense of geographical entrapment that comes from feeling stuck in Sao Paulo. This is best exemplified on a thematic level by Baghdad’s kid sister Bia, who spends the duration of the film dreaming of leaving Sao Paulo aboard Nasa’s first manned flight to Mars. This subplot provides plenty of humour as Bia attempts to train herself to see in the dark in order to adapt to her notion of Mars’ climate, as well as creating video applications for Nasa with her sisters. While endearing, Bia’s subplot embodies each character’s will to escape the hardships of Sao Paulo. Police brutality is one such social hardship in Sao Paulo’s working class communities and is addressed in My Name is Baghdad to chilling effect. During the film’s second act, Baghdad and her friends are violently searched and profiled by police for no apparent reason. These officers target Baghdad in particular and harass her over her androgynous appearance. Critics Joao Costa Vargas and Jaime Amparo Alves note of Sao Paulo’s issue with Symbolic police violence, “Examples of symbolic violence would be stereotypes related to race, gender and social geography especially at the neighbourhood level that predispose and justify the use of lethal force by the police” (Vargas Alves 612). As such, witnessing the police bully Baghdad over her appearance and association with a male group of friends devolves into stereotype based threats as they assume Baghdad keeps male friends in the name of sexual promiscuity. De Souza’s utilisation of ground level handheld cinematography injects this horrifying scene with a fly in the wall documentary feel that aids in conveying the reality that incidents such as this occur in the real day to day lives of Sao Paulo’s inhabitants.
This day to day life as documented in My Name is Baghdad is also plagued by a toxic sense of machismo present in Sao Paulo’s social scenes. De Souza uses the surface level unity of the skate scene to contrast the troubling gender divisions in the city’s nightlife. In a report of Sao Paulo’s nightclub typography, Claudia M. Carlini & Zila M. Sanchez note that “overcrowding above the maximum capacity and strong sexual competition among the men for the women make these venues more prone to sexual violence” (Carlini Sanchez 1807). This notion of a nightlife dominated by sometimes violent machismo materializes in My Name is Baghdad through a drunken encounter between Baghdad and her supposed male friend Clever. Clever attempts to sexually assault Baghdad in a nightclub after she turns down his advances. This shocking encounter marks a turning point for Baghdad and the film as a whole as Baghdad becomes aware of the toxic male culture that exists within many of Sao Paulo’s social scenes.
My Name is Baghdad places a spotlight on many of the social hardships faced by the working class inhabitants of Sao Paulo. Despite these hardships, the film conjures a mostly optimistic tone through a focus on the bonds forged in youth and the positive effects of sorority. Baghdad’s skater girl friends draw out a more energetic layer of her character that’s reflected in Orsato’s performance. Baghdad’s dynamic with her sisters and mother comes to be defined by a playful sense of contentment in each other's company despite the trials of the outside world. The same can be said of Baghdad’s sisterly skater girl clique, who all thrive in each other’s encouraging presence while also acknowledging the misogynistic forces that prevent them from fully integrating with the male skater groups of the city. De Souza is conscious of the contrast between the difficulties of working class life and the positive bonds forged in overcoming those hardships together.
Ultimately, My Name is Baghdad successfully sheds a light upon many facets of working class life in Sao Paulo . De Souza is assured in her portrayal of the positive effects of social bonds as a means of overcoming very real hardships. Bolstered by immersive ground level cinematography and the natural implementation of a terrifically diverse cast, My Name is Baghdad promises an exciting career ahead for Caru Alves De Souza and her collaborators.
by Méabh Broderick
In a time when the viewing experience of film has been confined exclusively to the home and as a result has become a somewhat solo activity, the Cork International Film Festival’s theme of ‘solidarity’ for their 2020 programme is an apt choice, reflecting something we all need and desire in these most isolating times. These days, the good news is few and far between so I find myself gravitating towards heart-warming stories of solidarity and triumph, something I hoped to find in Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval’s 2019 film Fahim, The Little Chess Prince or simply, in its original French title, Fahim (Martin-Laval), as part of the Family Programme. The film follows the trials and tribulations of gifted chess player, Fahim and his father, Nura, as they are forced to flee their home in Bangladesh, leaving their family behind, in search of asylum in Paris. Forced to adapt to their new world, Fahim finds purpose under the guide of renowned chess coach Sylvain Charpentier, played by acclaimed French actor Gérard Depardieu. Developing the increasingly strained relationship between father and son as they experience the hardships of homelessness and poverty, the film carefully balances familial themes with issues of racial inequality, offering a heart-warming story of triumph and hope in the face of adversity. Whether you consider chess a sport or not, Martin-Laval frames Fahim’s story in a way reminiscent of those found in countless ‘underdog stories’ depicted in sports bio-pics for decades, which would seem far-fetched, if it were not prefaced by the words “Based on a true story”.
As my introduction to the work of director Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval, I was incredibly impressed with the film’s ability to translate the extraordinary true story of Fahim Mohammad to screen with its captivating visuals, engaging script, and truly moving performances. Contrasting the claustrophobic imagery of Bangladesh with the expansive cityscapes of Paris, cinematographer Régis Blondeau manages to capture the family’s desperation and need to flee and the glimmer of hope found upon arrival in France, while simultaneously depicting their isolation in this new land where they are dwarfed by their surroundings. While the depth of the film’s political commentary may fall short overall in order to make room for the ‘underdog story’, the alarmingly contrasting visuals presented between the two countries highlights the global inequality of which millions, other than Fahim, are a victim to. In addition to depicting the harsh reality of their struggles on a global scale, Blondeau’s cinematography also manages to explore the increasing generational divide between father and son, as Fahim quickly adapts to his new surroundings, while Nura never manages to progress very far beyond the words “Bon appetite”. While the films visuals play a key role in building Fahim’s world, it is the strong performances by the extensive cast that truly bring it to life.
Anyone familiar with the sports bio-pic will be aware of the need for the initially reluctant coach who eventually forms a strong bond with our underdog, a role fulfilled in this film by established French actor Gérard Depardieu, who’s character Sylvain Charpentier represents the real life Xavier Parmentier. While filling the shoes of this somewhat stereotypical role, in less capable hands, could likely have fallen flat and blended in with the hundreds of others before him who have taken on such a role, Depardieu’s take on the character convincingly sells the bond he develops with Fahim. However, Depardieu’s performance is not the only one of note. It can often be hard for newcomers to compare to well established performers such as Depardieu on screen, however Assad Ahmed (Fahim) and Mizanur Rahaman (Nura) seem more than up for the task. Rahaman’s performance captures the desperation of his character while trying to shelter his son from the hardships of their situation, while Ahmed’s portrayal of Fahim beautifully conveys the childlike wonder of a young boy in a foreign environment while also being able to tap into the desperation and rejection experienced due to his position. Ahmed’s performance is elevated by his interaction with others, particularly Depardieu’s character and the other children in the chess club. It is through these characters we see the festival theme of solidarity develop.
Mirroring Fahim’s ups and downs in chess with their struggles in poverty and isolation, it is apparent that the film attempts to explore issues of race and inequality throughout. As the film progresses this seems to fade into the background in favour of the lighter tone found in Fahim’s chess success story. However, this would not dissuade me from recommending the film as it is through this element of the story and the relationships it explores, that the film delivers the theme of solidarity. Fahim manages to adapt to his new world with the help of his new friends and chess coach. Even in his lowest moments, he is taken in, and it is because of these bonds that he triumphs in the end. Not only is this a heart-warming exploration of the good that can be achieved in human solidarity, but it is also a reflection on the real life solidarity experienced by Fahim and thus offers a glimmer of hope that such good can exist even in these bleak and isolating times. While not much has been written on this particular film, a great deal can be read on Fahim’s own life, in which his deep connection with his chess coach becomes even clearer. While the real life Parmentier passed away prior to this film’s release, it feels like a fitting ode to the bond Fahim and him shared and the value of the solidarity Fahim experienced from Parmentier in shaping his future. Fahim’s life was changed due to the Parmentier’s help and thus without him, Fahim’s story would have gone in a different direction and would have remained untold, and this film would not exist.
Film festivals every year possess the ability to introduce wider audiences to works that would otherwise fly under their radar. Whether it be in showcasing the works of smaller artists, or in bringing attention to international films for a larger audience, film festivals offer the chance of discovery and exploration of new work and artists that cannot be found elsewhere. While the festival this year was delivered in a much different way, this aspect of the experience was maintained and as a result I was able to discover Fahim’s story for the first time. Though we were deprived of the ability to experience the films collectively, the feeling of solidarity in this time of isolation can be felt through this film and the wider festival programme. For while we are all confined to our own bubbles in Cork this year, the festival brought together creators from all corners of the world, for us to share in the experience of escape even if only for a brief moment.
By Emily Power
As we start a new year, lets look back at the festival circuit of 2020. While 2020 saw the shutting down of many productions, it also brought some gems to the 'silver screen'.
Here are my 2020 film festival circuit picks:
Another Round is a comedy drama, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, which follows the story of four friends who set up a drinking experience to see how low levels of alcohol will improve their daily life. Mads Mikkelsen brings an energetic stand out performance. This film has such a good balance of fun and excitement while not shying away from much deeper topics.
Corpus Christi, directed by Jan Komasa, is the incredible tale of how Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia), a recently released convict, attempts to free himself from his past as he explores his deep connection with his faith. This film has darkly comical moments while holding a mirror to society and making people accountable for their actions.
Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness directed by Massoud Bakhshi follows a young woman who is sentenced to death for accidentally killing her husband. Based off a real Iranian TV show, young Maryam must beg for forgiveness live on air for her life to be spared.
Wildfire directed by Cathy Brady, in my opinion is one of the best Irish films to be made in recent years. This film took five years to make and with a powerhouse performance from the late Danika McGuigan, the story of the intense bond of two sisters uncovering their late mother secrets is a truly captivating watch.
Saudi Runaway, directed by Susanne Meures, follows Muna’s story, a young woman living in Saudi Arabia who is documenting her attempt to flee the confined life she is forced to live, after her arranged marriage. This is an edge of your seat, nail biting watch but it is a story that very much needs to be heard.
Minari is a drama written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. It is a semi-autobiographical exploration of Chung's own childhood. This slow paced insight into the 'American dream' for immigrants will have you weeping.
By Emily Power
Hello, my name is Emily Power. I am a 23 year old MA student from Ireland, studying Film and Screen Media here in UCC.
As a child, I would go to the cinema or rent a DVD from Xtravision. I was always so fascinated by the different stories people told through the medium of film and I knew that as I got older that I too wanted to tell stories through film. As I finished secondary school, I leaned more towards the editing side of film and undertook a BA in Multimedia in the Cork Institute of Technology.
Multimedia was extremely hands on with a broad range of modules such as UX/UI design, photography, film, web design and sound production. While towards the end of my degree, I hoped to narrow in more on film, the broadness of this course allowed me to understand my strengths and weaknesses as well as giving me an understanding of multiply areas with media production. I was also very lucky to avail of the Erasmus program which allowed me to study film in a Darmstadt, Germany. In this college, I was able to study modules that would not have been possible in Ireland such as documentary filmmaking, practical effects and Super 8 film. As I finished my BA, I knew that I wanted to continue studying film and with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it gave me the push to apply to UCC for the MA in Film and Screen Media. So far in this MA, I have been able to study topics and area's of film that are truly fascinating as well as being able to expand on my own filmmaking style with the chance to undertake a creative practice thesis.
Throughout my college experience, I began working as a freelance editor and director. This gave me the best of both worlds where I could work both from home and out on sets. I found my style of filmmaking has also changed throughout college and now going into the professional working world. In my early college years, I focused mainly on either experimental style films or short documentaries. My documentary, 'Keeper of the Lights', ran in the Cork Indie festival and Story! Documentary Film Festival. Seeing my work on screen with people watching was firstly so terrifying but absolutely exhilarating and it really spurred me on to continue working. I continued working freelance, directing music videos for local bands with the music video, 'Gilbert's Dead', winning Best Music Video in the First Cut! Youth Film Festival as well as being selected for festivals such as Cork Indie Art(ist) section, RAMIFF, HER International Film Festival and LockedIn Copenhagen Underground Festival.
In 2019, I was selected to be a member of the Cork International Film Festival Youth Jury, this was such an interesting experience as I was able to see films that I myself would never have probably chosen to see but I am so glad I was able to get the opportunity to see some wonderful films. This experience led me to become a submission reviewer for the Cork Film Festival in 2020 and I was able to view hundreds of great short films. I would highly recommend film students to partake in something like this as you are able to see what is being made by other filmmakers from all around the world.
After I finished my bachelors degree, I was able to find work as a production assistant with Stori Creative, an Irish production company. I continued working them in the area of set design and now I currently work as a producer with the company. Getting real on set experience has been such a great learning curve and has given me great insight to see how professional sets work and the preproduction process.
If I was to give any film student advice, it is all about making connections. Talk to people in the industry, go to festivals and see what's being selected and try to focus on work that will advance your portfolio and make you stand out. With Covid-19, it can be very difficult to make connections but most film festivals now run online networking sessions which I have found extremely beneficial and would highly recommend.
Links to mentioned work:
By Eric Feldmann Sanchéz
Hey, my name is Eric Feldmann Sanchéz. I am 21 years old and study film at Hochschule Darmstadt in Germany.
Ever since I was in High School I was very interested in movies and photography, so the choice came naturally. In Germany there’s not that many public film schools in which you have a realistic chance to get into right after High School, so Darmstadt was my top choice from the beginning.
I would say that my university has a bigger focus on feature films. So a lot of seminars are about the creative process, writing, directing and so on. I enjoy a lot that the university gives us a lot of freedom to try things. It’s definitely not your usual college experience, we don’t have exams or long papers to write, we have different projects to take on that can be very challenging.
When I came from high school I thought that I wanted to do feature films, but with time I discovered that my strengths lay elsewhere. During my time in university I got to see so many different films and start to develop my opinions and what I want to do. I feel like besides the friends and experience you earn, that is one of the most valuable things I got from college so far.
I don’t necessarily have a favorite director or film. My opinion on films changes quite a lot over time. I try to get as much inspiration from as many different directors and films as possible and not focus on one in particular.
The German film industry is very complex and complicated to get into. You have to decide very early what you want and how to get there. There are many different film funds in Germany, but many are tied to a deal, like shooting your film in a certain state in Germany. The German film industry often gets a bad rep for being very conservative, but it is changing with companies like Netflix funding more German TV shows and more innovative content, so the future is looking brighter.
Most of the work I did was freelance for different events. I also gained some experience with an internship in Berlin. I was working as an editor for an advertising film production. In general I can recommend internships a lot, because personally I think that’s the best way to quickly gain experience.
I really don’t know yet what area of film I hope to work in. It’s hard for me to focus on just one aspect, so I try to be as flexible as possible and see what comes along.
By Aidan Kyle
My Name is Aidan Kyle, I'm 21 years old and I'm From Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada.
I've always loved movies. As a kid my parents didn't let me play a ton of videos games or watch TV, but we always watched movies together so they were pretty special. Ever since I was about five, I've been fascinated with cameras. Whenever my parents would try to film me I'd always try and get behind them and see through the lens. When I was about 5 or 6 they started letting me mess around with an old Hi-8 and I would try to re-create movies I liked, or sometimes ones I thought needed improvement ( I remember trying to re-do the 2nd Indiana Jones Movie).
I took film as soon as it was an available class in high school, as it was really the only thing I was ever really really interested in. I loved making films in that class, and quickly became a T.A.. As my graduation started approaching I started looking at film schools, and ended up choosing a local one because of my ties to my city, and because I wasn't super interested/ didn't feel ready to take the LSATs to go to the states (It can be a bit of a grueling process) . I ended up choosing my University (Capilano University) because of its positive reputation locally, and the hands on nature of the program. At 18, I really wanted to make movies, and the idea of getting practical experience instead of just sitting in the classroom really appealed to me.
Capilano was really unique in that they have a flipped system compare to the normal college experience in Canada. Instead of doing your fundamentals and theoretical processes first, it focused on the more hands on approach first, with a diploma and certificate exit window, so that you were able to get your technical training early on, and if you weren't interested in a whole degree you could go out into the field and work.
I had lots of great instructors and despite really enjoying the practical side of things, some of my favourite courses were the more bookish ones, Screen writing and Producing but particularly Canadian Cinema classes and more analytical Production Design and Cinematography classes which forced us to look at films in a different way in a deeper academic sense. I really began to appreciate more atypical film, more explorations of different viewpoints and not simple just films that I enjoyed. A good example of this for me is the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, who's film The Favourite was recently awarded an Oscar among other awards. His early work and in many ways his work on The Favourite plays with how uncomfortable and awful he can make his subject matter while keeping his audience engaged. The first time I saw one of his films I was disturbed, but I also found I couldn't stop talking about it. There was something deeply attractive about how he created these brutal worlds and it made me realize the dimension of emotions and experiences you could convey with film, not just euphoria, but also a kind of fascinating disgust, an enticing horror, or a conflicted attachment to a dark character like in Night Crawler.
Being exposed to different types of filmmaking like this has really influence my style to focus more on the uniqueness of the story, the specialness of the experience. I like to take inspiration from a variety of sources. People like Yorgos Lanthimos and Dan Gilroy, but also other like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Damien Chazzelle, Spike Lee, Richard Curtis, Denis Villeneuve, Greta Gerwig and Hiro Murai. Really one of the greatest things about film school has been the sheer variety of what I've been exposed to, and what films outside of what people conventionally watch that I'm willing to explore in the future.
Canada as an Industry has a pretty decently strong national presence, especially considering we're right next to the Americans with the powerhouse that is Hollywood. In Vancouver, we have a lot of what are called service productions, which are American shows coming up north to Take advantage of our experienced crews and favourable tax credits and exchange rates. They even call us Hollywood North due to the frequency of this. The Tax credits also work in our favour, with the government giving additional breaks for the more Canadian creatives you have involved in your production. There's also a lot of focus in terms of funding bodies, if your a Canadian with an idea there are certain a lot of people around to support it if its strong enough. Depending on what type of film you want to make there's the NFB, The CMF, The Bell Media Fund, The Harold Greenberg Fund, The Hot Docs Completion fund and many others.
We also have a fair amount of domestic production in Vancouver, though most of it is based in Toronto or Montreal, on the opposite side of the country, which is over 4000km away. There are lots of opportunities in Vancouver, it has a fledgling independent scene which has been hurt with the rise of COVID. Normally this year I'd be attending the Vancouver international film festival (VIFF) and the Whistler International Film Festival (WFF), but both have moved online. There is a bit of a sense that to increase your chances you should move to Toronto (or Los Angeles), if you want to work "Above the line".
I'm currently working in what's called factual. It's similar to reality television except in that the action of the shows isn't scripted like one of those housewife shows, and they tend to focus on more activity based things. Activities like fixing cars, Mining, Fishing, or repair based work. I work as an Office PA. It's mostly administrative and logistical position, I assist the production team in making sure we stay financially and technically on top of our shoot. It involves a lot of emailing and filing of paperwork, but while sometimes including a bit of tedium, all of it allows the production to function efficiently at a high level. What I really enjoy about it is the problem solving aspect, every day in the office presents a new challenge and when working in factual with smaller crews and tight deadlines, you often have to be creative to make sure you get all the footage you need to deliver the show in the way you want it. Being a part of those solutions and getting to obverse the complexity of those situations is engaging and really allows me to build my skill set as a producer. No one really knows what a producer does outside of the film world and to be honest I don't think many people inside of the film world could tell you either, but what I can tell you is that being as versatile and experienced as possible ensures that your production will go as smoothly as possible. As the producer your kind of like the glue and being able to navigate all these situations with a cool attitude is the difference between success and failure when the budget is tight and the crew is starting to want to go home. It's a lot harder to see the route up into producer or line producer or coordinator, but I think its just because of the true vastness of the job. Hopefully in a few years I can see myself closer to one of those positions, but for now I'm content to watch and learn as much as I can.
By Geraldine Boyle
My love for photography began as a young teenager. Studying Art & Design in school, I was
obsessed with capturing images and the development process. I studied a Photography evening
class at GCSE level. Spending many nights in the darkroom I never dreamed it would lead to
University, let alone working for the BBC and flying drones.
Art College opened my eyes to the importance of networking, gaining trust and permissions. My
first university project involved convincing the manager of the Royal Mail Headquarters to let me
photograph in the building. I was told it would be unlikely and to prepare a back-up. Instead of
emailing or phoning, I simply walked in, absolutely terrified but pretended to have no fear. To my
surprise, I was welcomed in, given a quick tour and shown the view from the roof. It was a total
bluff but it gave me the confidence I desperately needed.
My confidence continued to grow from the thrill of these challenges. I accompanied police patrols, capturing work
late into the night, on occasions in dangerous circumstances. I followed teenage gangs for a year, gaining their trust and documenting them against the landscape. It
became an obsession. Regardless of the day, the weather, I walked, searching for content with my Mamiya camera. In the end, I was known on a first name basis, and ‘welcomed’ into the groups. The work portrayed the animalistic nature of youths gathering in large crowds to socialise. It represented the way in which they actively constructed their own identity, individually and collectively. I was honoured to exhibit this work with the Royal Ulster 'Mistaken Identity' Academy in Belfast.
After the excitement of university ended and the real world beckoned, I stumbled, trying to
decide on a career path. I did freelance work, shooting family and social events, but it didn’t
bring me joy. My Mother spotted an advert in the newspaper calling for young people to apply
for BBC work experience while studying for a Diploma in media techniques. I suddenly realised
that my background in Photography was a great foundation into the television industry. After a
grueling group interview I was given the incredible opportunity to be trained by the BBC. I
shadowed the Current Affairs office where they filmed Panorama and immediately fell in love
the fast paced work. I was offered freelance work as Production Assistant and a contract
thereafter. Starting at the bottom involved a lot of late nights, weekend emails and being on call
during important filming dates. But, it also gave me the opportunity to experience various
elements of TV. I assisted on shoots, organised logistics and payments while maintaining the
departmental camera equipment. Working on eight productions at once was the norm. It was
fast paced but extremely rewarding, particularly when your name appeared in the credits at the
end of a long production.
My interests in camera operation and new technologies evolved so in 2016 I moved to London
embarking on a new role as Senior Technician. I was determined to combine my passion for
photography, the outdoors and production. My goal was to become a Drone Operator. Once my
mind was set, I knew it would happen, but I had to convince several managers first. It took a few
months of continued effort before training was approved, but I was determined. At one point in
February, I stood outside for four hours in the same spot... flying a drone in figures of eight. At
the time, I had a chest infection and pleurisy but I was adamant to keep going. I loved flying and
filming so much that I stubbornly carried the kit for 2 miles to the designated flying field. The
apparatus was cumbersome and heavy even only a few years ago. After six months of formal
training and exams, I became a Certified BBC Drone Operator; the only female operator in the
department. I was ecstatic! It was empowering to know that I represented my female colleagues.
A mere forty years ago, women were rejected from working in the same department.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to film for the likes of BBC News at Ten, Gardeners’ World, Panorama
and Children in Need. However, I never imagined my drone work would lead me to the shores
of Cork. On a freelance shoot with Vodafone last year, I filmed in Baltimore and Skibbereen.
Although I visited Cork over the years, that experience of working in the creative industry
opened up my eyes to what the County had to offer. The crew joked about how wonderful it
would be to live in such a place... The joke is on the crew, I decided to make it happen!
It’s a truly special time for the film industry in Cork and I’m thrilled to be part of it. I have always
been a huge advocate of the creative industries in Ireland. Covid-19 didn’t stop my plans of
studying an MA in Film and Screen Media at UCC. Rather, it encouraged me. Who doesn’t love
a challenge? In a year where the world has come to a halt, I’m privileged to have the opportunity
to collaborate with like minded people, and expand my knowledge of an industry with which I am
UCC Film Writers
Editorials and reviews by students at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. Compiled and edited by Emily Power.