Category Archives: Europe

Creating Mum: Director Anne-Marie O’Connor and Actor Kate O’Donnell on Their Award-Winning Short Film

To say that the relationship between a child and parent is fraught with emotions, most of them far from easy to put into words, is putting it lightly. Yet this is the subject of Mum, a short film that captures a visit from a trans woman to her aging mother. Having already won a handful of accolades, it began screening as part of New Irish Shorts 3 at the Galway Film Fleadh just this past Thursday, July 13th.

Mum is the creation of many talented individuals, chief among them being director Anne-Marie O’Connor and actor and star Kate O’Donnell. In addition to being able to review the short film I was also offered an interview with the two of them that allowed me to gain a better understanding of how this particular work came to be.


First off, congratulations to the both of you on the awards that Mum has won so far, at both the London Independent Film Festival and Global Shorts. To springboard off of that into our first question, as it’s screened as part of “New Irish Shorts 3” at the Galway Film Fleadh, what helps to make this an Irish film outside of the talent involved?

O’Connor: The song that is played and sung throughout the short is Black Velvet Band. It was important to me for this to link the film as it was a song that Kate’s mum used to sing to her and a song that my dad used to sing to me as a child. And although geographically it isn’t set in Ireland, the relationship between Kate and her mum feels very Irish to me and in writing this I felt that Linda was second-generation Irish and that Kate was a product of that upbringing.

I noticed in the credits that Mum was created by the two of you, but that it was only written by Anne-Marie. Could you both go into some detail regarding the creative process?

O’Connor: Kate and I are good friends and have been for years, and as she’s a leading trans actor and activist I’ve always wanted to work with her creatively. We often discuss the way that transgender people are portrayed in film and TV (the fascination with the transition, the no-one-will-ever-love-me storyline, sex workers or outsiders) and wanted to make a short that didn’t fall into those familiar tropes, to have a transgender central character in a universal story.

So I met with Kate and I asked her what story she would tell if she could and it simply came from her saying she’d love to go home and paint her mum’s nails; something she used to do when she was younger but is impossible to do because her stepfather makes life difficult (he’s always been difficult, way before Kate transitioned!). And so we built the story around her own story. It was very important for both of us that Kate was acknowledged in the creative process. So that is why it is created by both of us.

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Mum: A Short Film Review

“Mum.”

It’s a term that elicits a broad range of emotions, with each of our respective childhoods affecting how we react to it. Who we were, growing up, is a significant factor. But what about instances when who we are now is worlds apart from the person we once were?

Having spent much of her career up to now working in television, Mum is Anne-Marie O’Connor’s first short film, and one that she created with the help of star Kate O’Donnell, a transgender actor. Her debut short focuses on a trans character of the same name whose visit home is derailed by the discovery that her mother is in very poor health.

Much like the director, O’Donnell’s limited experience is also in television, where she starred in an episode of the transgender romcom series Boy Meets Girl. As the character at the centre of this short film she delivers a performance that, while uneven at points, always feels painfully real. Continue reading

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part III)

We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about Whiteness, but maybe it’s time just to ask the question directly.

When I say something’s White, what image pops into your head?

Is it something like this?

Or something like this?

Or maybe one of these?

There is a certain image attached to White people, or the very least, generalized to White “culture.” That of the dork. The effete nerd. The bland, out-of-touch suburbanite, fearfully barricading themselves in their comfortable gated community.

And that’s a little ****ed up.

A little.

My day isn’t ruined when I hear a comedian lampoon White folks. I don’t fly into an indignant rage when someone cracks a joke about mayonnaise being too spicy. I certainly don’t think being called “Cracker” carries the same nasty implications as someone getting called “Nigger.”

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t annoy me just a tiny bit. Continue reading

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part I)

FACT: All Asian Americans are Asian by definition, but not all Asians are Asian Americans. The truth is that most Asians aren’t. While they may share an ethnic heritage, as well as many cultural similarities, Asian people who were born and raised in and reside in an Asian country have vastly different wants and needs and priorities than those who were born and raised in and reside in North America [and other non-Asian countries].

I wanted to start out with that quote for two reasons.

First, because it’s stolen from my co-writer’s post last Friday, which was a really good post you should read.

Second, because I think it does a good job of establishing the complicated and sometimes uncomfortable nuance that goes into addressing identity politics. Which is what we’re going to be talking about today and in the weeks to follow.

More specifically, we’re gonna be talking about White people.

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We’ll probably cover my use of this specific gif sometime later…

Before we dive in, I just wanna make something clear.

Race is a social construct – a series of categories that we’ve made up and ones we’ve made up only very recently in the scope of history. The fact of the matter is that there’s no actual place you can draw a dividing line when it comes to human beings and there’s no good reason you’d want to.

Not that it’s ever stopped us.

For better or worse, we have divided the world up into so many arbitrary categories, and those divisions have played and continue to play a major role in today’s culture. In spite of what some folks might suggest, ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away, and if we want to end the unspeakable hassle that is identity politics, we’re going to need to start by actually addressing them.

And here at Culture War Reporters, I think we’ve done a decent job. Continue reading

The Madness of King Donald

“King Donald?

No, that can’t be right.

This is Rome, after all. Yes, Rome in all her grandeur. And the year is 36 AD, if I knew what ‘AD’ meant. Anno Domini, they say, ‘The Year of our Lord.’

Not that I have any idea what you’re talking about. Our lord is, of course, the great and glorious Emperor Tiberius. But this you surely know.

They whisper in the streets that Tiberius only rose to power because his step-father was the mighty Caesar Augustus, but if you were to only see the man, you would know that this is not the case. Indeed, you may find many here who would disparage the great emperor as a fool at best and a madman at worst, but these are nothing but false reports!

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Of course, you may not have the good fortune to see Emperor Tiberius. He is away presently, as he so often is, at his villa in Capri.

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But just because he’s off in some pleasure villa doesn’t mean he’s not working tirelessly to make Rome great again! Granted, our historian Tacitus has recorded the emperor as a temperamental man who goes on rants (such as decrying the Senate as ‘men fit to be slaves’), but do you know what? I can appreciate an emperor who says exactly what’s on his mind.

Not like these purveyors of wicked falsehoods! Continue reading

Timecode: A Short Film Review

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“Actions speak louder than words.”

That’s a difficult motto to live by on a blog, but a crucial one in regards to short films given their limited run time. Considering the fact that you could fit the dialogue in Juanjo Giménez’s Timecode on a single sheet of paper only elevates its importance.

With a handful of award-winning short films [including Rodilla and Maximum Penalty]
already to his name the Spanish director’s latest features two security guards who work in an underground parking garage, one taking the day shift and the other the night. Playing Luna and Diego are Lali Ayguadé and Nicolas Ricchini, respectively, and although their shared acting experience is limited there’s no question of their being talented performers.

Both Ayguadé and Ricchini have impressive careers as dancers and choreographers, and their remarkable control over their bodies causes them to imbue every movement with purpose, whether it’s stiffly brushing past each other or jogging back up a hallway to clock-in to work. This even extends to the corner of a mouth being raised ever so slightly. This largely wordless short film might collapse in on itself with different talent, but the duo make it look effortless. Continue reading

The French War On Religious Freedom

France has long held a ban on overt expressions of religion in public, being one of the first European countries to have banned full face covering in public in 2010. While similar laws have gained traction in neighboring countries, following the tragic Bastille Day massacre in Cannes a number of French coastal towns have passed ordinances banning the “burkini”, a swimsuit for conservative Muslim women.

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No, not that one. That’s a wet suit.

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No, that’s also a wet suit.

Muslim Lifesavers Unveil The 'Burqini'

There we go.

But I’m guessing you can see the problem already. Continue reading