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Bloomsday Film Fest: Director Martin Turk and Line Producer Jeremiah Cullinane discuss Kino Volta
12 Jun 2024 : Luke Shanahan
Kino Volta
We spoke with Turk and Cullinane ahead of the Irish premiere of Kino Volta at the Bloomsday Film Festival. The documentary will be screening in the IFI this Saturday, June 12th.

Directed by Martin Turk, Kino Volta is a Slovenian-Italian co-production shot in Dublin and Trieste about James Joyce and Dublin’s Volta Cinematograph.

The documentary follows infamous Irish writer James Joyce and the four Triestine entrepreneurs he convinced to expand their cinema business, and invest in the opening of Ireland's first full time cinema. The filmmakers describe the film not as a “historical documentary about the opening of a landmark cinema”, but rather  “a light, spirited and modern personal search for the spirit of the people involved” with various actors playing the individuals involved in the story, such as James Joyce, speaking directly to camera.

The film’s cast includes Irish actor Roisin Browne in the role of Nora Barnacle. She is joined by 
Daniel Grimston, Danijel Malalan, Nikla Panizon, and more.

We sat down with director Martin Turk and Irish line producer Jeremiah Cullinane (The Flats) to discuss how the project came about, its stylistic approach to documentary filmmaking, and shooting in Dublin.

IFTN: I was wondering if you could both talk me through how this project came about, and the point at which you each came on. Martin, do you want to start us off?

MARTIN: “It's funny, because actually, Jeremiah was on the project before me."

JEREMIAH: “In January 2015, I was pitching another film at the When East Meets West Pitching Forum at the Trieste Film Festival.”

“Right after I pitched my film, this fellow stood up called Radovan (Misic), and he pitched what turned out to be Kino Volta. I listened to his pitch, and it just sounded very interesting. This whole situation of cinema in Trieste, and the way that Trieste was 100 years ago, the multicultural aspect of it, the whole James Joyce side to it…”

“I thought right away that it was something that I could be interested in. I was looking for a co-production, so I introduced myself to Radovan, and we got along really well.”

MARTIN: “A year and a half later, 2016 or something like that, Radovan, the Slovenian producer, called me. Because I'm from Trieste, he asked me if I’m interested, and if I know this story about these guys that worked with Joyce in the opening of Cinema Volta.”

“I had read a little about it, but I didn’t know that much. Radovan didn’t have a lot to start with, an essay from Slovenian writer Drago Jancar was the basis, so he asked me if I would like to write a treatment.”

“I researched a little bit about the material, and I found out that basically there’s nothing out there about this project. There’s information from the letters that Joyce was writing to his brother and to Machnich, but there’s no photos, and no archive. Then I found some articles about these guys, but again there’s very little. It’s very interesting, because I had to make a documentary from basically nothing.”

“I'm not from documentary film, I'm more into fiction, so I decided to use what I know. ‘Let’s try to put fiction inside this documentary’. I think I wrote the first draft, and then Jeremiah gave us some very good comments about how we can improve the script.And slowly, this project comes out of that.”

“But my idea when we started was ‘Okay, there is no archive, let’s create an archive’.”

IFTN: You’re touching on something there I wanted to ask about, the playfulness of the documentary. Could you walk me through your decisions around the slightly theatrical elements of the film?

MARTIN: “I was interested in these people. I was thinking, who are these people? We didn't know a lot about them, so I said ‘Okay, let's create their character’. So I felt very free.”

“I felt ‘let's not make a heavy documentary with a lot of information’, let’s try to be playful because to me, Trieste has this spirit. The Triestine people are very funny. I wanted to make a homage to my city and to this playfulness.”

IFTN: Tell me about shooting in Dublin.

MARTIN: “Dublin was the first thing we shot for the movie. I had never been there, so Jeremiah really helped us with ideas and suggestions, finding the right people to talk to, and places to see. I had some ideas, and he upgraded them.”

JEREMIAH: “I put forth to Martin the kind of places that are associated with Bloomsday activities, and with Joyce in general. So there was Sweeney's pharmacy, the tower in Sandycove, Howth Summit, Davey’s Pub… Martin also wanted an image of the entrepreneurs arriving in Dublin by sea. So we were able to use the Dublin Bay cruises ferry to simulate that.”

“We went to Glasnevin Cemetery for Finnegan’s Wake.”

“And there was Kennedy’s Pub for the Bloomsday Breakfast. People were really accommodating to us. People are very, very enthusiastic and excited to promote anything Bloomsday-ish.”

MARTIN: “There was nothing planned. We were just going and… what will be, will be. There were a lot of ideas at the moment, like when the actor Danijel Malalan sings in front of a Bloomsday audience.”

“But yes, as Jeremiah said, people were really accommodating. ‘Okay, you can shoot there, you can go there’. We were really ready for everything. In the end it was just two and a half days of shooting, but we got a lot of footage.”

“I have to say the DOP Darko Heric was really nice and ready to do everything. Really caught the right moments. He likes this style of nothing being prepared, and so it worked very well.”

Kino Volta will screen in the IFI this Saturday, June 15th, as part of Bloomsday Film Festival. Tickets are available here.

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