Category Archives: film

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 II)

Last week, I asked what exactly it meant to be White. Today, I’d like to step back and show you what it was that brought up this question in the first place.

It was this image here:

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Now that got posted by a friend of mine. Good guy, but with a habit (in my opinion) of reposting whatever liberal dreck pops into his FB feed without taking the time to question it. Allow me to break down why that image is such festering garbage.

First and foremost, it’s unbelievably racist. Not white-hoods-and-burning-crosses racist (we’ll get to them in a minute) – we’re talking the condescending, insidious racism of White liberal elites.

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“Because I’ll endorse Obama and speak at the Women’s March, but **** Asians and Palestinians.”

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All Asian Americans Are Asian, But Not All Asians Are Asian American

Just to start with, I honestly don’t think anyone expected to see Scarlett Johansson mercilessly gunning down Asians in two separate movies:

Lucy (2014) – “You speak English?” *BLAM*

Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Well, at least they’re armed this time.

That’s a bit of a tangent, but still relevant as this was sparked by the live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation, which premiered in theatres across the country today. It’s also worth starting things out with a diversion, if only because I didn’t want you to get into a breakdown of the title a split second after reading it.

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].

For the purposes of clarity I will be referring to the former as “Asians”, and the latter as “Asian Americans”.

With all of that being said, it should be obvious that Asians and Asian Americans also have very different views when it comes to their shared representation in Western media. Continue reading

How To Not Ruin The Silver Chair

I get why it’s so tough to fully adapt the whole Chronicles of Narnia into films.

Sure you can make headway capturing the magic and wonder of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a well-known story with mass appeal and everybody loves Mr. Tumnus.

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Yet when I stand in the woods holding my package, people get all uptight about it. [Source.]

And while it’s nowhere near as popular, Prince Caspian makes for a good, old-fashioned swashbuckling romp.

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My name is Inigo Montoya!

Do it right and you might have the momentum to try The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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I’M ON A BOAT (the movie)

And that usually kills it.

Not that folks haven’t made valiant efforts. It’s just that Dawn Treader is a much slower story – more of a “travelogue” than an adventure on the high seas. The battles, beasts, and betrayals that mark the other two are noticeably absent here, as are two of the original four Pevensie children, and much of the steam built up by the previous two installments.

And that’s a damn shame. Continue reading

The K’un-Lun of Netflix’s Iron Fist [Within the Larger Context]

Technically my posts are supposed to go up on Friday. As loyal readers may have noticed, and much to my chagrin, my tendency as of late has been to put them up on Saturday, and sometimes even Sunday. This is one of those very rare instances where I’m glad I took some time to get to a particular topic.

See, this Thursday I came across the Comic Book Resources headline “Finn Jones On Iron Fist Criticism: ‘Danny Is Not A White Savior’”, which I ended up clicking on against my better judgement.

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The actor begins by empathizing with those who might be upset about Netflix’s latest upcoming Marvel project, saying:

“I understand where this frustration comes from. I understand the need for more diversity in television and films, especially for Asian actors. I understand that frustration. I agree with it, and I stand in solidarity with that voice.”

I filled my lifetime quota for Well-Meaning White Person™ responses with Tilda Swinton last year, though, so there’s only so much Jones’ attempts at allyship could do to affect me. What really riled me up, to the point where I was going to lean hard into the style of my co-writer Gordon’s profanity-laden rage posts, was what he mentioned a little later on:

“People from all over the world, all different cultures come from K’un-Lun, so it isn’t just this Asian-specific culture. You have people from Brazil there, you have people from Europe there. It’s a multicultural intergalactic alternate dimension.”

Fortunately I’ve since been able to calm down, so let’s take a few steps back and start from the top. Continue reading

Dance Like Somebody’s Watching: Director Juanjo Giménez on His Short Film Timecode

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This comes roughly two weeks after my review, and I made the most of the occasion by trying to unpack so much of what I enjoyed about this particular piece of work. While I was only able to ask so many questions, I hope that Giménez’s answers help shine a little light on why Timecode was considered for this great honour, as well as why it might deserve it.


To start with, it’s almost no surprise that Timecode was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Goya Award given your impressive filmography. Has having written, directed, and produced so much award-winning work changed your approach with each new project?

I don’t think so. I think that no filmmaker thinks about awards or recognition when making a new film. In our case, financing every new project has always been difficult, even if the previous film has been a successful one. The only thing that is essential for approaching a new project is the need to make it.

 It’s notable that much of the work you’ve received the most attention for are your short films. What is it that appeals to you about that particular format?

Timecode is my ninth short film as director. I learned that short films usually fit the way I approach filmmaking better. And what’s more important, there’s nothing wrong with that! That doesn’t mean I won’t make a feature film again, but shorts provide a great platform for experimenting without the financial struggles that usually constrain a fiction feature. Even if I speak as a producer, in terms of financial results, my shorts have always been more profitable than my features.  Continue reading