A celebration of pre-Brexit films at the Triskel

Cara O'Doherty looks forward to a retrospective of British cinema from the last five decades in Albion - a tribute, at Triskel Arts Centre
A celebration of pre-Brexit films at the Triskel
Distant Voices Still Lives evokes working class life in post-war Liverpool.

AT every turn, we are met with references to Brexit. Every day Brexit features in our newspapers, on our televisions, and whether we like it or not, in our daily conversations. It has become unavoidable. With the ever-present worry of what it will mean, and how things will pan out, Triskel Cinema is giving audiences the chance to think about Brexit it in an entirely different way. Head of cinema Chris O’Neill has decided to showcase five British made films in Albion — A Tribute, which runs from March 24 to 28.

The five films have all been made since Britain joined the EU in 1973, and each one is a landmark of British cinema as O’Neill explains: “I wanted to select five pictures that reflect British life by filmmakers who each have a unique and important voice.”

With the proposed exit date for Britain just a few days away O’Neill felt it was important for Triskel to play its part with this reflective tribute. “With Britain set to leave the European Union on March 29, it was difficult for me not to reflect upon the exceptional movies that have been made since it joined the European Communities, as it was known at the time, in 1973. To illustrate this, we wanted to present a film from each decade that Britain has been a part of the EU. Hopefully, whatever happens with Brexit, fine films will continue to be made there.”

Albion — A Tribute is taking place in conjunction with the British Council. Mags Walsh, director of British Council Ireland, said: “In Albion — A Tribute, Triskel Arts Centre have brought together five diverse films which will challenge, engage and delight. We are proud to be partners in this ambitious season of film and to continue our wider partnership with Triskel.”

Nighthawks depicts London's gay scene in the 1970s
Nighthawks depicts London's gay scene in the 1970s

The first film in the showcase is Nighthawks, which was made in 1978 and directed by Ron Peck. The film focusses on a closeted gay school teacher, Jim (Ken Robertson), who socialises in London nightclubs in the hopes of finding the perfect partner. The film is the first definitive British film to have gay characters at the centre of the plot, rather than on the periphery, and is viewed by many as having cult status.

Nighthawks was heralded for its almost documentary-like quality which gave an accurate depiction of London’s gay scene in the 1970s. This realism is one of the reasons why O’Neill chose this film to represent the 1970s in this Albion showcase.

Heading into the 1980s O’Neill has selected Distant Voices, Still Lives which he says “is both a beautifully poetic and uncomfortably raw depiction of family life in post-war, working-class Liverpool.”

Directed by Terence Davies, the film which is partly based on his own life. Starring Pete Postlethwaite, it was filmed as two separate films and made over two consecutive years. Brought together they show both the early years and the later years of Catholic family in the years following the second world war. This kitchen sink drama mixes music and song and was voted as one of the 100 Greatest British films of all time.

Blue-Black-Permanent is a Scottish film.
Blue-Black-Permanent is a Scottish film.

The first Scottish film ever to be directed by a woman represents the 1990s. Blue Black Permanent, released in 1992 and starring Celia Imrie, is described by O’Neill as “a haunting and lyrical film in which a woman mourns her mother’s death.”

The film’s narrative follows three generations of the one family and is directed by poet Margaret Tait, who was 74 when the film was released. Tait was a prolific short filmmaker. This is her only feature.

Fish Tank is a coming of age drama about a teenage girl.
Fish Tank is a coming of age drama about a teenage girl.

Moving to the noughties, Fish Tank, which was released in 2009, has an Irish connection as O’Neill explains. “Fish Tank is a powerful coming of age drama about a teenage girl and gave Michael Fassbender one of his first notable roles.”

O’Neill has fond memories of the film: “It was one of the final films that I booked to be shown at the Kino Cinema when I was a programmer, I cannot believe that it is now closed ten years.”

The film follows the story of a volatile 15-year-old girl Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis), who becomes fascinated by her mother’s boyfriend Conor (Fassbender), resulting in an illicit affair. The film, which won numerous awards is directed by Andrea Arnold.

The Selfish Giant is the final film in the tribute.
The Selfish Giant is the final film in the tribute.

Bringing Albion to a close is The Selfish Giant, a coming of age story about two teenage boys in the north of England which was inspired by the Oscar Wilde short story of the same name. When the boys are suspended from school, they decide to earn some money by selling scrap metal which leads to all sorts of misadventures.

O’Neill hopes that audiences will enjoy this selection of “incredible movies that highlight what amazing work has come out of Britain in the past five decades.”

With Brexit looming, the future of British filmmaking is uncertain, the consequences ambiguous. O’Neill agrees that there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen with Brexit and this uncertainty is a cause for concern.

“It causes me and many others in the industry to worry. Nobody knows what is going to happen. It could impact on not only filmmaking in Britain but also film distribution in Ireland. Many companies that release films in Ireland are based in the UK. We will simply have to wait and see and hope for the best.”

Albion — A Tribute, Triskel Arts Centre, March 22-24.

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