Thursday, April 13, 2006

Desperate Optimists' Films

Why exactly did Irish performance troupe, Desperate Optimists, switch from making theatre to producing flabbergastingly lush movies? It is a question that Joe Lawlor, one half of Desperate Optimists (the other half is Christine Molloy) finds very easy to answer. “We had a feeling that we had completed what we were doing in our performance work,” says Lawlor. “We were getting dissatisfied and we just wanted to stop before we started making bad work.”

It is such an easy answer. But Desperate Optimists’ great coup has been not just to take what they do into another area – the glossy world of big screen cinema -- but to instantly create a splash. In recent times, the pair have been winning commissions up and down the UK, as well as in Ireland, to create their striking and often delightful short films.

Like many artists in recent times, their work spring from locals organisations and groups and looks at how communities work and live together. But though its roots are folksy, the duo produce films that challenge mainstream cinema for sheer slick beauty. Often, they consist of one long, editless take, during which dozens of people move in a massive and often mysterious choreography.

“We tend to under-direct people, we tell them where to be and what to do, but not how to do it,” says Lawlor, of working with non-professional performers. “The way we work is very much informed by our performance work, so we don't think in a film school way. We have a much greater sense of theatricality of the thing…we try not to cut things up into little bits.”

In their most recent work, set in Ballymun, a camera follows a young man who has recently become a father around a spanking new leisure as he meets co-workers and faces up to his new life.

“We weren’t looking to get all urban and grimy, we are looking for something more poetical and beautiful. The tower blocks had been done to death. And the local people were wary of sticking in a syringe for the sake of it. We wanted to be the first to make a film of the new Ballymun. The couple in the film have a new baby, but they’re worried about whether the future will work out, which we think is how people are feeling in Ballymun.”

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