A fantastical weekend for FRAMED!

What an incredible weekend for FRAMED, picking up the ‘Best Short Horror Film’ award from Underground Cinema Film Festival! Very honoured to be in the company of some fantastic filmmakers, and thanks to Dave Byrne and the Underground team for their continuing support of independent filmmakers, in Ireland and abroad.

 

 

AND THIS from Devil’s Night Gallery Film + Art Event!

 

Devil’s Night Gallery is an independent film and art show which takes its name from its two inspirations. The first is “Night Gallery”, a classic, horror anthology television series, hosted by Rod Serling, from the ‘70s. The second is the aggressively independent spirit of the city of Detroit, represented by the ominous “Devil’s Night”. Like the namesake tv series, Devil’s Night Gallery features screenings of short films preceded by an introduction and the reveal of an original piece of art inspired by the film. Film submissions were received from around the world and were narrowed down to 10, from Michigan and beyond, which best represented the experience of the “Night Gallery”. A handful of amazing local artists were selected to create original works of art inspired by those same films. Just look at this incredible work – based on FRAMED – from artist Joyce Swope. Fantastical!!!

Road-tripping Discoveries: Finding Flannery

This past September, while visiting Savannah, Georgia for a couple of days, I trudged my loved ones through the oppressive heat of that hauntingly beautiful city on a quest to find Flannery O’Connor’s house on East Charlton Street, Layfayette Square.

Birthplace of a Genius.

The house is now a museum that honours her memory and work, and we were treated to a wonderful and very informative tour from a fabulous lady, Cody. You can find out more about the house HERE.

Mary (Flannery) O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925, the only child of Edward F. O’Connor and Regina Cline (Who lived until the ripe old age of 99, passing away in 1995). Edward was diagnosed with lupus in 1939, and died on February 1, 1941 when Flannery was 15.

A very poignant moment to learn that Flannery’s extremely ill father spent many a day resting here.

Flannery would entertain her little friends in the family bathroom, sitting in the bath to read stories – until her friend’s parents realised that she was scaring these little girls with ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’, and they weren’t allowed to play with her anymore!

Flannery was also diagnosed with lupus, in 1951, at the age of 26, and although she was only expected to live for five more years, she survived for thirteen more. While battling her illness, she completed more than two dozen short stories and two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear it Away. She died in August, 1964, her third novel unfinished.

Queen of the ‘Southern Gothic’. An incredible woman.

I couldn’t resist leaving a copy of LADY BETH in the FREE LITTLE LIBRARY outside Flannery’s house. The feckin’ cheek o’me!!!

It was indeed a Fright-Ful Friday at Leap Castle

It was a joy to curate the Short Horror Film Programme for Fright-Ful Friday at Leap Castle, an annual event run by the Offline Film Festival in County Offaly. This sold out evening of all things spooky and fantastical took our large group, by bus, from outside the very hospitable Ormond Clubhouse, Emmet Square, Birr, and onward to Giltrap’s Pub in Kinnitty for prosecco and finger food. Then back on the bus for a moonlit journey to Leap Castle for the screening of the short horror films — well received by a lovely, enthusiastic audience.

Horror has very different meanings for fans of the genre – from gothic to grotesque, psychological, visceral and even humour. For this programme, I attempted to include a variety of those emotive experiences, and am also proud to say that all the films are from talented men and women currently working in Irish film. There were 7 films in total.

The Wake

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Written and directed by Rik Gordon. Rik has also written and directed Pigman and most recently, Pure Gold, doing well on the festival circuit.

Chimes

Written and directed by Jannine Benkhardt. Jannine was also assistant director on The Switch, a short film currently screening at festivals.

Under Growth

Under Growth Poster

Written and directed by Evin O’Neill. Evin has also written and directed the short films, Digs for Pennies, Spooks, A Dry Christmas and Invisible.

Inexorable

Inexorable Poster

Written and directed by Zoe Kavanagh. Zoe also directs music videos and is the writer and director of the short film Tides, and the award-winning feature, Demon Hunter.

Mother Father Monster

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Written and directed by Sean Breathnach, and funded by Offaly County Council Arts Office and filmed in Charleville Castle. Sean has directed several short films and his debut feature film “Beyond the Woods” was released to critical acclaim.

The Trap

Paul Reid in The Trap (2018)

Written and directed by Helen Flanagan. Helen has directed short films including Away with the Fairies and The Drive. She also writes performance pieces and facilitate creative workshops with, as she says herself, a suspiciously witchy vibe.

How Olin Lost His Eye

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Written and directed by Damian McCarthy. Damian has directed several short horror films and is currently in post on his first feature, also a horror.

To round off the evening, the owner of this haunting and magical place, Sean Ryan, regaled us with tunes and stories of the spirits that roam the castle corridors. Then, back on the bus to The Chestnut Bar for great chats, and even a complimentary drink! What more could you possible ask for. Frightful and Delightful!

 

 

Book of The Week: I CONFESS by Alex Barclay

On the remote Beara Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland, Edie and Johnny invite a group of old schoolfriends to reunite for a birthday and also to showcase the former convent school they have renovated into a luxury resort. However, as a storm builds outside, and the power goes out, dark events that marred all of their childhoods threaten to resurface… and there is a killer amongst them.

I CONFESS is an intricate whodunnit, layered with flashbacks and disturbing reveals. Because of the ensemble of characters, and the jumping back and forth between past and present, it did take some concentration in the first part of the novel to get a sense of everyone involved, but ultimately, the plot is a good one. An atmospheric thriller.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers, Harper Collins, for the opportunity to read the ARC.

The Hiding Game. A feature Interview with Louise Phillips

Thanks to Net Galley and HACHETTE BOOKS I was lucky enough to receive an ARC copy of THE HIDING GAME, the latest novel from Louise Phillips. The novel, published today, is a gripping courtroom drama and you can read my recommendation HERE.

What struck me while reading this latest thriller are the themes of grief and mother/child relationships that feature strongly in The HIDING GAME, so I asked Louise to expand on her inspiration for the story.

Louise: I was four years old when my infant sister died. A year later, my brother was still born. Both tragedies deeply affected our family. For years my mother kept the unworn baby clothes of my sister and brother in a large cardboard box on the top of a wardrobe, unable to let them go. In 1997, as a young mother, I watched the televised trial from Boston of Louise Woodward, a nineteen-year-old nanny accused of killing the infant in her care. The story never quite left me. Several years later my mother died, and I understood true heart break for the first time. Afterwards I began to reflect on my mother’s life, especially the loss of my infant sister to a cot death, and later, my brother. ‘The Hiding Game’ is not autobiographical, or based on my mother’s life, but within this fictional story I hope a certain commonality of human experience is explored, sometimes within the context of loss, trauma, secrets and lies, and on other occasions, injustice, and murder.

And journeying through the research while holding the emotional anchor of her fictional story?

Louise: In 2016, the motivation to write this novel took me on a self-funded research trip to Boston Massachusetts, where I met with detectives from the Major Crime Unit in Cambridge, forensic pathologists specialising in the area of paediatric neurology, and members of the judicial system. Later, I spent time in Cohasset, a small town on the South Shore. I wanted to place my characters in a fictional world which was both small and powerful in equal measure, where the minuteness of small-town life places everyone under a microscope, especially those considered to be outcasts, or less worthy. The emotional anchor for this story is a simple one. The death of an infant changes everything, and the death of a mother, the break in the mother-child bond, changes everything too.

THE HIDING GAME will be officially launched by Colm Hayes of Radio Nova, and takes place on Tuesday, 6:30pm, September 10th at the Gutter Book Shop, Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 8.

You’re still here, Da, and I see you.

My Da turned 86 last week. His younger self would not appreciate his image being posted here. His younger self was a force to be reckoned with. Fiercely independent, intelligent, sometimes belligerent. We didn’t always get along. We didn’t always see eye to eye. That was his other self. The product of his own pain. That was my other self. The product of my own pain.

This is now. His basic needs are taken care of. He is safe. He is minded. But it’s not him. It’s difficult to visit. It’s difficult to see. But ‘seeing’ him is something I think about a lot these days.

Alzheimer’s has taken his essence, his opinions. His fiercely coveted freewill. His dignity. His independence. His arguments. His past. His now. His future. A fragile man, moving in the shadow of his former life. Shuffling in slippers, wearing clothes he can no longer choose for himself. Eating food he can no longer choose for himself. Taking medication doled out from prescriptions that he never sees. Pacing slower each time. Holding up the walls. Staring out from a life made small by a barbaric disease.

Memories, mind and spirit, locked behind an expression that does not recognise. That cannot read. That cannot concentrate. No reminiscence, no sharing, no conversation. All the things he cannot say. Just the fading slowly – a life in twilight, every sunset erasing another facet of who he once was. The tenement child. The Liberties boy. The eldest. The christian brothers student. The reader. The self-educator. The son. The husband. The father. The brother. The boxer. The drinker. The quick-tempered. The friend. The Grandfather. The Great-grandfather. The golfer. The printer. The father of the chapel. The man who worked for the newspaper. The Frank Sinatra fan. The man who worked part-time until he was in his 70’s. The daily suit and tie. The all his life clean-shaven and shoes polished. All of it, lost. No longer ‘known’. No longer ‘seen’.

But you’re still here, Da. And I see you.

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Caroline is a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland, and author of the novel LADY BETH (Eric Hoffer Award Winner 2019 and Winner of the Carousel Aware Prize BEST NOVEL 2017). Writer and Director of the short film FRAMED (2018), she has also written and co-produced ADAM (2013) and the auto-biographical IN RIBBONS (2015) which has screened at festivals worldwide. Watch IN RIBBONS HERE

 

Chiari Malformation: Coming to Terms with a Neurological Disorder- and keeping my sense of humour!

I gave some serious thinkage as to whether to share this or not, and to paraphrase from the legend, Frida Kahlo, I am not sick… though I may be a little bit broken. In the bigger scheme of life, I see where I am today and count my blessings. Life is short, too short to ponder on what others might think of you – that’s not your business as another popular saying goes – so I’m getting on with things. And more thinkage.

I’m one of the millions who deal with pain, often chronic, on a daily basis – always have. Back and spine issues have been the bane of my life, but also migraines, neuroglia and a host of other maladies that would make me sound like a hypochondriac if I were to list them here! I’ve also battled serious anxiety and depression, some of it, though not all of it, I can certainly link to carrying pain, physical and emotional. I am not divulging this information for sympathy. Like I said, I am one of the millions, but if I am to write about this health issue, it has to be done with an all or nuthin’ honesty!

A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in two areas of my spine, which although is a pretty grim result, actually helped me to come to terms with a lot of the symptoms that have been getting progressively worse. I can handle DDD – I just need to mind my back and take appropriate care to try and slow down the degeneration.

However, other ‘symptoms’ prompted my neurosurgeon to investigate further, and that’s when the real bombshell hit. Something else had shown up, a rare (though the jury is still out on the rare bit, from what I can gather) neurological disorder called Chiari Malformation.

And yes, I was as dumbfounded as you might imagine – WTF??? being the questioning phrase of choice!

So, with this, let’s face it, pretty shitty diagnosis on top of the DDD, and the further examination and treatment plan that lies ahead for me, I decided to try and find out more about this unknown thing that I could quite possibly have had since birth. It can be congenital, with serious complications for infants and young children.

There is a lot still to be discovered about CM, it appears, and information is constantly being updated.

If we are honest, we can all admit to trying Doctor Google for what ails us, but I am steering clear of anything that is not verified and documented by experts. And, I have decided to write about it in the hope that this process might help me to drill down into a disorder I must learn all I can about, but also to share my experience so that anyone else who is presently, or might be diagnosed with this in the future, can at least have a place to check in with a fellow soldier!

So here are the deets! (A brief amalgamation of information I researched from medical websites – without the gruesome graphics!)

Chiari Malformation is a condition named after Hans Chiari, an Austrian pathologist who first described it in the late 19th century. It is a disorder in which the cerebellum is smaller than normal (YES, I do have a rather small head, thank you very much for noticing!) causing the cerebellar tonsils to migrate into the spinal canal. (Mine have travelled 10mm). If the cerebellar tonsils obstruct the opening of the skull that connects the brain to the spinal cord, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid can be blocked, pushing the cerebellar tonsils down even farther and exerting pressure on the lower stem of the brain.

Yes, it all sounds yuck and quite serious, which it is, though I’ve been told that if properly diagnosed and monitored, with accompanying pain relief of the constant and serious type, it can be manageable. An invisible disorder, (because ya don’t look sick!) the condition can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness and balance problems. It can also produce hoarseness, sleep apnoea, weakness or numbness in legs or arms, neck pain, pain across shoulder blades, general body pain, ringing in the ear, trouble walking, blurred vision, mood changes, anxiety, and problems with memory or concentration.

Apart from the sleep apnoea, I have been dealing with all of the above in varying degrees for more years than I can count. Insomnia is also another problem for me, and I can only assume that this too is linked to CM.

Searches on pain management and associated issues of fatigue brought up a couple of helpful links. This LINK for more detailed information and also, this useful LINK from writer and broadcaster, Andrea Hayes, who has also been diagnosed with CM. These are not definitive portals of information by any means, but they may help in gaining a basic understanding of the condition, and in Andrea’s case, her personal account as detailed in her book, Pain Free Life, my journey to wellness. 

So for now, I’m dealing as best I can with it all, staying positive, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about what might be waiting for me down the years. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted! And I’ll keep doing what I do, writing out the thinkage! And if anyone reading this has CM, hugs to ya!