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Filmmaker Sinéad O’Shea on her new documentary and cultural musts this October


by Meg Walker
28th Sep 2018

Director Sinead O'Shea

Filmmaker Sinéad O’Shea on her new documentary and cultural musts this month.

TELL US HOW THE FILM PROJECT FIRST BEGAN
I had seen a headline from a local paper on Facebook and thought it might make for an interesting short current affairs report. I’d been making current affairs films all around the world for Al Jazeera, the BBC and RTE. So I decided to visit there, but as soon as I started talking to people like Hugh and Majella, I realised it was a much richer story and that I should try to draw more on my background in literature and film, and make a feature documentary. They were just amazing characters, really compelling and hilarious.

WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES GETTING IT MADE?
The participants and the finances. It was really hard to get anybody interested in making the film. I made it for three years pretty much on my own, hiring camera people and calling in favours. In 2015, Blinder Films came on board, and then André Singers, who is Werner Herzog’s producer. It made it much easier to raise money when he committed to it because he’s such a big name. Then the other big problem was the participants themselves. Nobody ever showed up whenever I came to Derry to do any filming. No matter what the time or arrangement was, they would be guaranteed to be somewhere else. Eventually, I realised this was part of the story itself.

WHAT ARE YOU HOPING AUDIENCES WILL TAKE FROM THE FILM?
I hope it might encourage people to look beyond headlines and see also that stories tend to be very complicated. People can be funny and kind, and violent and egotistical.

THIS OCTOBER, I’LL BE…

Watching
Better Call Saul, and I look forward to The Romanoffs. In film, I’ve just seen Cold War by Pawel Pawlikowski, which I liked, although I preferred an earlier film of his, My Summer of Love. I’m excited for A Star is Born and The Silver Branch, which is an Irish documentary that did well at Canadian festival Hot Docs – that’s a big achievement for a small film, and it’s by a female director. Both my executive producers have new films coming out – Meeting Gorbachev and Vita and Virginia – which look brilliant.

Reading
I’ll have run out of Elena Ferrante, so will be in mourning. I’ve just finished The Days of Abandonment. I’m probably going to turn to  Ryszard Kapuscinski next. I have his book on Iran at home, and I travelled there in 2005.

Seeing
I’d like to see Anu Productions’ The Lost O’Casey in the Dublin Theatre Festival, but tickets are sold out. I’m curious to see Pan Pan’s Eliza’s Adventures in the Uncanny Valley, also at the festival, which runs until October 14.

If I had more time
I’d spend more of it listening to music and with my seven-year-old and partner – he’s a filmmaker too and in New York on a shoot.

Sinéad O’Shea’s film, A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot, about a dissident community in Derry, is out now.

For more must-see films this month, check out the October issue of IMAGE Magazine, out now. 

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