3 July 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
'As Lathair' to Open Darklight
18 Sep 2002 :
'As Láthair', the first feature length film by director Paul Rowley, will be the opening film at the Darklight Film Festival on Friday evening, 20 September.

Born in Dublin in 1971, Paul Rowley moved to San Francisco to pursue independent studies in film and video production in 1994. He has produced and directed numerous films, videos, and installations, which have been exhibited widely internationally both in galleries and at film festivals. With collaborator David Phillips, he was awarded the Glen Dimplex Artists’ Award in 2000, the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s annual prize for contemporary visual art. Their tape 'Suspension', initially conceived of as a trailer for As Láthair was awarded a Golden Spire at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1999. He has received awards from the Irish Arts Council for his work in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000, and recently received a development grant for his second feature from the Irish Film Board.

Paul is also one of the founders and programmers for the Darklight Digital Festival, providing a platform for new forms of experimentation in cinema and the visual arts.

The film opens in the final few moments of life. A visually rich and innovative reworking of the Western genre, the film uses a fragmented, episodic narrative to tell the story of a cowboy and a bounty hunter who are locked into a pursuit on foot over the brutal landscapes of Baja, Mexico. Using a highly artistic visual style and a lyrical narration based in Irish folklore, this experimental film parallels impressionistic, multi-layered depictions of Western bravado with narrated stories of displacement and removal to examine both the Western and the West, intensifying the forgotten moments of tragedy found beneath the veneer of recorded history.

Against the stunning backdrop of the desolate desert locations of Baja, a dreamlike narrative is played out through which we become aware of past debts and mistakes, ghostly echoes of which persist. We travel from small bustling market towns to isolated deserted villages, passing between worlds, from a secluded oasis in the center of the desert to the floor of a gigantic dry lakebed. On this parched plain as the characters on screen stand opposite each other for their final conflict, the last pieces of this intricate puzzle come together.

The images on screen are paralleled by a narrator’s voice; a wise woman based on the character of the traditional Irish Seanchaí, or storyteller. Her stories give a voice to those not included in the history recorded by the camera, those communities who once inhabited the places in which the film was shot, those displaced by Western expansion. For example, in one scene by a desert oasis where the cowboy stops to rest, we hear the tale of a village once drowned beneath the surface of the water he now drinks from. The narrator recounts these stories of long forgotten communities with a sense of responsibility which provides a counterpoint and parallel to the actions of the two characters on screen.

Ultimately, these elements come together to examine how our history of organized civilization is also a history of violence and exclusion. The colonial history of the West and the history of cinema are presented side by side to allow points of intersection to develop.

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