My research interests and ideas for ‘Missing Green’ in an interview with Steven Galvin of Film Ireland. Full interview link – here
Can you tell me about the origin and idea behind Missing Green.
I was always interested in the history of the Coombe/Liberties area and in 2006 I attended a meeting organised by Councillor John Gallagher, (whose voice acts as one of the main narrative guides in Missing Green) concerning St Luke’s Conservation plan. Cork Street and The Coombe area, which were once thriving industrial areas, had become an example of what is called the ‘doughnut effect’. This describes the physical form that cities take on during the decline of their historic centre, with the development of the outer ring leaving a hollow core at the centre. I lived in the area, frequently walking the length and breadth of Cork Street and had an idea for a film based on a girl walking this never ending street/road. Following this, I conducted extensive research into regeneration, social housing and architecture as I wanted to know what happened to people who left their homes as a result of urban regeneration in the Dublin 8 area. My 2010 film, Rialto Twirlers, explored a subculture in Dublin 8 and it seemed a natural progression to further examine the social and psychological impact of urban voids and the process of regeneration by combining my research with an element of fiction. Eventually all these layers came together to create Missing Green.
It’s a film very much about space and how it is shaped, which is something you’ve explored before in your work.
Yes, the idea of what has happened in a space before or the potential of that space really intrigues me. Previous works concentrated solely on empty spaces and the hidden narratives they contain e.g. Covered Road (2006 – Winner – Best Irish Short Darklight Film Festival). With Rialto Twirlers (2010) I captured a subculture outside of their competitive domain in a nearby warehouse in Crumlin, which was originally a storehouse and distributor for books and information during the nineteenth century.
In Missing Green there are significant layers to the chosen space – the history of Cork Street, how Dublin as a city has changed, the triumph of the car and how land became more important then people. It was obvious that the idea of land and ownership entered the urban sphere during the property boom. However, it had always been in the Irish psyche. I recall Jim Sheridan speaking about The Field in a Q&A session at his retrospective at the IFI a few years ago and what always stuck with me from that talk was how he said that many property developers had gone up to him and said The Field is my favourite film. I found this very interesting.
There’s talk of an “interstitial space” in the film – a space the girl journeys through?
Yes, my intention was to merge my research interests with the girl’s journey. The architect Gerry Cahill speaks about an interstitial space, or gaps in the urban landscape. In an interview I conducted with him we discussed Chambers and Weavers Court, a social housing complex that formerly stood on Cork Street. It was never properly defined and was knocked down for the purpose of a development, which never came to fruition. It is now a field, in which occasionally a Circus takes place and where Weavers Court once stood is now a successful allotment. However, more recently a petition has been launched to transform that ‘field’ into a park/green space for the community.
There’s a tremendous sense of loss and missed opportunities at the heart of the film.
There is a loss of a very different Dublin, a very different street – the past going into the future. John speaks a lot about that – he has been a pillar of the community for the Liberties and surrounding areas. I met him through majorette competitions and he is an inspiration really. On a personal note, circumstances change, cities change, people change – whatever happens the wheel keeps on turning but perhaps sometimes it is good to look at what is lost in the past in order to go forward in the present.
Throughout the film there are several mentions of surfaces and what lies beyond them and that sense of past and present.
Cork Street is a very interesting and visual street. Alot of old signage and other remnants of the past, including a tiled building, are still in evidence there. At the same time the allotment also represents a significant change in the city, with people using the earth and going back to basics within a site that was primed for urban re-development.
The music plays a significant role in the film and the journey it takes.
The music/soundscape was composed by my friend Eoin Bradshaw aka Famous Eno. He’s an Irish music producer in London whose main focus is grime, dance hall and bass heavy dance music. My brief to him was to bring an emotional beat to the piece like a heartbeat or a punch – industrial, slightly ominous but occasionally uplifting. Steve Fanagan and I worked closely on the sound design – this was crucial in merging the three elements – drama, documentary interviews and sound.