Last Wednesday night (technically the wee hours of Thursday morning) I had the distinct misfortune of trying to sleep on a couch – that looked a lot more comfortable than it actually was – amidst competing noises coming from the adjacent kitchen; between the fish tank that sounded like Darth Vader on life support to the surely malfunctioning washing machine that sounded like the BFG gurgling Frobscottle, it was clear I wasn’t to be entering my Scandinavian slumber on this particular evening (obligatory Ralph Wiggum reference).
Since I couldn’t find the remote for the television I decided to use my time wisely and ruminate on my latest Film Devour experience.
You shoot it, We’ll screen it!
The genesis of Film Devour began with local film-makers needing somewhere to showcase films in front of an audience; films that were funded rubbed up against films that were made with no money at all. It’s an inherently democratic process and thankfully Film Devour 23 was no different. Films funded by NI Screen were shown along with films made with no money and in some instances, from first time film-makers.
And that’s important because Northern Ireland is largely bereft of events for film-makers to show their wares and crucially, you need an environment where you can be allowed to express yourself and maybe even more importantly, an environment where you can fail. Nobody wakes up as Martin Scorsese or Darren Aronofsky. That takes time, and crucially, hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn’t but also how to find your own voice.
So Devour 23 had 16 films and there’s simply not enough time to cover them all. Also I’ve rambled for like 500 words leading up to this (sorry). So I’ll begin with the double winner of the night, Aidan Largey, for Time and Again which won the Directors Choice Award and Audience Award (sponsored by Forbidden Planet Belfast and Odeon cinemas).
TIME AND AGAIN
Beautifully shot by Aidan Gault, Time and Again tells the story of a child genius and his attempt at building a time machine with his best friend. His reasons for doing so would lead a little too much into spoiler territory but needless to say there is a distant, seemingly disapproving father lurking on the fringes (nicely played by GOT’s Ian Beattie).
There’s a sweetness and refreshing lack of cynicism to Time and Again that was reminiscent of Garth Jennings’ Son of Rambo and as good as Ian Beattie is in this, the film really hinges on the two child performers: David Rawle (who you might recognise as The Moone Boy) and Aaron Lynch really knock it out of the park with believable and funny performances. It was a fitting winner and if you want to check out some of Aidan’s previous work, you can see it here.
The second film that caught my eye was the truly disturbing Soil Engineers by Dominic Curran which probably had the best synopsis in the programme notes:
A Sisyphean fisherman is tied to the worms he fishes with, while carrying out his epilogue.
I’m not too sure that does this weird, Lynchian film justice but had I been able to sleep that night, I’d probably have been having nightmares about worms and that’s a compliment. I’d certainly be curious to see more from this director in the future.
Finally my favourite film of the night was Lady Death by Karen Quinn. Lady Death already caught my eye at this year’s Belfast Film Festival and it stood out again at Devour.
I have to admit a certain bias when it comes to films where Death is a character: I have a secret love for the critically panned Meet Joe Black (which has an amazingly heart-breaking score) and of course the classic Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (The Seventh Seal is a pretty obvious one but I’m not even going to pretend I’ve seen it).
Made with no money or funding and shot in two days, it was arguably the best looking film at the event and that includes the films that received funding. Props should go to cinematographer Stephen Coyle (who also served as editor and composer) for making it look like they had a lot more money at their disposal than they actually did.
Lady Death tells the story of, well, Death (played with grim delight by Katrina McKeever) and she’s sort of lonely. Certain scenes, like Lady Death strolling down a supermarket aisle, were instantly striking and there’s a significant part of that down to the cinematography but first time writer/director Karen Quinn deserves credit too for crafting a story that, though quirky and offbeat on the surface, is really about loneliness and the need for connection with others.
Smaller comedic moments too, like Death watching TV or her encounter with Carla Bryson’s memorably awkward check out girl (which got the biggest laugh), were timed perfectly and it’s important to point out that there was a confidence to all of this that’s hugely impressive coming from a first time director. I genuinely look forward to seeing what the team behind Lady Death comes up with next.
I talked a little bit with the director Karen Quinn afterwards and she emphasised the group effort involved in making the film and it nice to see someone who acknowledges that films can only be made by people coming together. And fittingly that’s pretty much true to the ethos of Devour and it was a pleasure to see it so well attended once again.
Special mention should be made for the Bonnie and Clyde of Film Devour, Corrine Heaney and Brian Mulholland (and everyone else behind the scenes) for bringing this eclectic beast to life once again. It’s something I’m certain you should see if only to remember that there is nothing else like this in Northern Ireland.
PS I eventually found the TV remote in the morning hiding inside a discarded pizza box…so look out for my short, Couch-Surfing Gav Solves Mundane Mysteries, at Film Devour 24 on October 2nd!