Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

“Short Shorts” at the 2001 Galway Film Fleadh

Following is a summary of the “short shorts” I saw during the 2001 Galway Film Fleadh. These Irish mini-movies lasted only a few minutes each and, according to the festival program, have “all the impact power of ads, but without a product to sell.”

Agin’ the Wall tells a simple story about Irish Travellers playing handball and the sweet taste of victory. (Seen 11 July 2001)

Chicken is a little tease of a movie. Just when it starts getting interesting, it stops. Two lads are hanging out at the beach near a railroad track. A game of chicken involving a knife leads to something rather unexpected. (Seen 14 July 2001)

Ivor the Insomniac has trouble sleeping. But when you look at his dreams, there’s no wondering why he is, uh, up all night. (Seen 12 July 2001)

Pitch ‘n’ Putt is a hilarious treat for literature buffs. James Joyce and Samuel Beckett play pitch ‘n’ putt (miniature golf, to us Yanks) while waiting for… Godot? (Seen 13 July 2001)

Racism uses animation to ape TV commercials and shopping channels to humorously make a point about Irish attitudes, now that Irish, who are well accustomed to being emigrants, are now experiencing what it is like to be hosting immigrants. (Seen 13 July 2001)

Storm uses time-lapse techniques to create a visual symphony of dancing, flowing, roiling clouds. Pretty to watch. (Seen 13 July 2001)

You and Me Tide apes the Rambo persona by having a gun-toting macho hero type take on the ultimate foe, the ocean tide. And in a flashback we learn just why our man is out for revenge. (Seen 13 July 2001)

Public Interview with Colm Meaney

On the last afternoon of the Galway Film Fleadh, the actor Colm Meaney submitted to an hour-long interview in front of an audience at the Town Hall. Ted Sheehy, a journalist for a British film publication, quizzed Meaney for the first half-hour and then questions were taken from the audience.

Sheehy led the Dublin-born-and-bred performer through a discussion of his career, from beginning to present. Meaney said that he became politically engaged at an early age and joined Sinn Fein at 14 “because that is what you did in the sixties when you were to the left.” (Later, in answer to a question from the audience, he said he was no longer a member but that the party had accomplished some important things for Ireland.) He dropped out of school since he figured it was only a matter of time until he was suspended, since that was what was happening to other students involved in protests at the time.

He got accepted into an acting school and afterwards had the good fortune to get a contract with the Abbey Theatre. At the end of his contract, however, the theater’s’ new director suggested he leave, which he did, and he and moved to London, where he spent a few years doing stage work. His first TV gig was a role on the last episode of the police drama Z Cars. He then moved to New York because his girlfriend (and future wife) was living there, and he got a role for a few weeks as one of a trio of English criminals on One Life to Live. Oddly, the three English gangsters were all played by Irish actors, one of whom was Roma Downey of Touched by an Angel fame.

Meaney wound up moving to Los Angeles, where he got guest parts on numerous primetime programs such as Moonlighting and Remington Steele. He achieved his widest fame, of course, when he was cast in the recurring role of Chief Miles O’Brien on Star Trek: The Next Generation and went on to be a regular on the spin-off Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He finally came back to Ireland when Alan Parker, with whom he had worked on Come See the Paradise, asked him to star in The Commitments, the first of a trilogy of films (based on Roddy Doyle novels) about the trials and tribulations of a family on Dublin’s north side. Interestingly, when asked to name his favorite of the three movies, Meaney said The Van, which was not the crowd-pleaser that The Commitments and The Snapper were.

During the audience question period, Meaney proved to be refreshingly frank and candid. When asked who is the best actor he’s worked with, he did hedge but mentioned Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans) as an example of a fine actor. Asked who the worst actor was, he responded point blank, Steven Seagal (Under Siege). Quizzed about the effect that years of episodic television has on an actor, he said, not much, and referred to his Moonlighting experience by saying, “Bruce Willis is an asshole, he was always an asshole.”

I’m happy to report that the queries from the audience were generally of a high tone and dealt seriously with Meaney’s integrity as an artist and his craft as an actor. Of course, a couple of people had to get in geeky questions about Star Trek. (Okay, I was one of them.) A young English guy had a better question than mine. He wanted to know about the numerous scenes (usually at least one per episode) where the Enterprise is rocked by explosions. Meaney confessed that he had expected at the beginning that they must move the bridge set around with elaborate hydraulics and was surprised to learn that it was all done by moving the camera and having the cast jump about. He illustrated this by giving a humorous demonstration on the Town Hall stage of what a cast member had to do when there was major hit by an alien ship.

In answer to my question, he seemed to feel that his experience with Star Trek had been a good one. While no particular fan of science fiction, he came to be impressed by the genre’s capacity to deal with political and social issues through allegory. He said that he didn’t expect to don Chief O’Brien’s uniform ever again but added that he would “never say never” and would consider participating if a Deep Space Nine movie were ever made.

Meaney’s latest film How Harry Became a Tree had been scheduled to be screened at the fleadh on Saturday night but unfortunately was canceled “due to insurmountable problems with the print.” Filmed in Ireland, it was directed by Serbian Goran Paskaljevik, who previously made the strikingly dark movie about his homeland, Powder Keg (a.k.a. Cafe Balkan). Meaney’s son in the movie is played by Cillian Murphy (Disco Pigs, On the Edge). It is described as an absurd comedy set in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War. (Attended 15 July 2001)