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‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ Writer/Director Johnny O’Reilly on Upcoming Cinema Release
10 Nov 2016 : Katie McNeice
'Moscow Never Sleeps'
The ambitious and insightful feature releases to Irish cinemas this Friday, November 11th, with an IFTA nomination for Best Script already under its belt and screenings at Galway Film Fleadh and the Cannes Film Festival market.

Following five intersected stories playing out in Moscow over a single day, O’Reilly casts a creative lens over the capital city which has been his home for over a decade.

‘The Weather Station’ helmer spoke to IFTN about his journey from script to screen, the Russian influences on his work, and what we can expect from the Writer/Director in future.

When asked about the highlight of screening to a local audience, O’Reilly explains he is excited to hear what Irish audiences think of Moscow, to engage them in a dialogue about Russia, showcase its beauty and scale, and also to show its native people in a realistic light.

Having lived in Moscow for almost half of his adult life, the Irish Director is hoping to combat the fact that although Russia is the biggest country in Europe and Moscow is its largest city people tend to know very little about them.

Co-Producer Katie Holly has gone on since ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ to produce acclaimed Irish titles ‘Queen of Ireland’ (Conor Horgan) and ‘Love & Friendship’ (Whit Stillman).

It was her involvement in ‘The Savage Eye’ however, which caught O’Reilly’s eye, and led him to approach her in preparation for the project.

When it comes to production itself, given the large cast associated with numerous intersecting stories, the issue of directing multiple teams of actors arises. As O’Reilly walks through the scheduling process for the project, the strength and stamina of Russian theatre, and consequently its influence on film, emerges.

He describes its theatre as some of the best in the world, with over fifty-thousand people sitting in Russian theatres on any given Saturday and practitioners inheriting the rich literary history built on Chekov, Stanislavski and Dostoyevsky to name a few.

In the making of ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ actors could not be blocked off for more than a day or two at a time, given these hectic stage schedules. What he does commend however, is the scale and support for Russian theatre from all levels, which has enabled the emergence of world-class acting talent lending itself to both stage and screen.

On the wider impact of that giant literary tradition on the film, both in terms of his writing and how international audiences engage with it, he touches again on the desire not only to achieve an ambitious dramatic quality, but offer a fresh and accurate perspective of Russian life.

In tune with the major themes of Russian literature, O’Reilly tells us the country’s unique political history means individuals’ attitude to life, and his approach to writing it, is also greatly different.

“People suffer more, there is more cruelty, they rely on each other and they have a government which doesn’t protect them. This also means they have a greater amplitude for humanity; there is more betrayal but there is also more love. That is incredibly attractive for a dramatist.”

In a previous interview, O'Reilly had stated he was eager to screen at Galway because he had made the film for audiences like that, yet the project as gone on since to screen at the marketplace in Cannes.

In terms of his 2015 screening at the Galway Film Fleadh the positive for O’Reilly was bringing ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ to his friends and peers in the industry, as well as generating awareness of the project at home.

“Cannes is where all the buyers are, so there is real commercial potential attached to screening there. We made tales to China, Germany and a few other territories while there.”

'Moscow Never Sleeps' is another example of a successful Irish co-production, following 'Room' (Lenny Abrahamson) and more recently 'Love & Friendship', mentioned above.

As a Writer/Director O’Reilly asserts his projects are always determined by the quality of the script, which for him should be the only starting point. Having said that, he says the relationships he has constructed through Russian finance attached to ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ has given him a freedom he didn’t have before to collaborate in future.

In terms of upcoming work, we can expect two consecutive titles from the director in the English language, although his affinity for and connection with Russia will remain in his work indefinitely.

A list of cinemas screening ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ is available from the official film website.

Visit ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ Online

Tom Collins: “For me it's all about the work, which is about creating a reflection of a modern Irish cultural identity that can travel beyond borders, history and these shores.”
Over €4.6m allocated by Creative Europe to Irish screen industry in 2021
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