Earlier this week, a video re-emerged which featured Irish director John Michael McDonagh discussing how he felt about Irish film.
During the interview, McDonagh declared that he wasn't a big fan of Irish films, stating "I don't find them to be technically that accomplished and I don't find them that intelligent. I'm trying to get away from the description of the movie as an Irish film in a way."
He didn't stop there: “You see the problem is they [audiences] know that lots of Irish films aren’t very good and they’re actually hesitant about going to see the movie themselves.So when you’re making a film there, you’re trying to convince the Irish audience: no, it’s not like all those terrible Irish movies you’ve seen before.”
The film that McDonagh was referring to was Calvary, a film which is set in Ireland with an Irish cast and funding provided in part by the Irish Film Board. The film was led by the wonderful Brendan Gleeson, from Dublin.
Here is the video which contained that interview:
The interview and comments caused quite a stir in Ireland. McDonagh decided to release a statement following the video to clarify his points:
"The interview I gave to the Associated Press came about during the recent US press tour where I was intentionally trying to position Calvary for an international audience. I didn’t want it to be perceived as a small, parochial, “Irish” film. I wanted it to be seen as a universal movie dealing with universal spiritual and philosophical issues. This intention on my part has been wilfully misrepresented by a small section of the Dublin media with an axe to grind. What has been most dispiriting to me, however, is the low-level bigotry that has reared its head in the fallout from the interview. I am an Irish citizen, a child of Irish parents, nearly all my friends and work associates are Irish, and yet because I was born in London I supposedly have no right to comment on Irish film.
I genuinely believe that many Irish films in the past should not have gone into production without better screenplays and without greater preparation on the part of their directors. That is my opinion and I am perfectly entitled to it.
I am very thankful to my casts and crews, and to the Irish Film Board for supporting me in the making of The Guard and Calvary, and I believe the IFB, in return, is thankful to Reprisal Films, Octagon Films and Element Films for delivering two of the most critically and commercially successful films to have come out of Ireland in the last 15 years. Films that have been enjoyed by audiences Worldwide.
That success means the IFB’s investment has, and will continue to be, returned with interest, and they can press on with the goal of supporting other filmmakers and creating a financially and artistically viable film industry."
This morning, Rebecca O'Flanagan, a leading Irish producer who has worked on such projects as the Good Vibrations, spoke to Shane Coleman on Newstalk about the comments.
Following a discussion on the comments, O'Flanagan was asked what would be helpful to Irish film. "A gagging order on people going to the international stage," she replied, "and take us all out collectively. I think that would certainly be helpful! For the most part, we're very tight on support of industry."
Here is the interview in full: