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Pictúir Paradiso: ‘Older Than Ireland’ director Alex Fegan on the films that shaped him
30 Oct 2015 : Paul Byrne
We talk to Alex Fegan, the filmmaker behind the thriller ‘Man Made Man’, documentary ‘The Irish Pub’ and this year’s Galway Film Fleadh award winner ‘Older Than Ireland’ about the films that shaped him.

Alex Fegan: What movies inspired me to make movies? That is the question. No one in my family ever made films. My dad's claim to fame is that he barely ever watched a film. Yet, I got into filmmaking early. My first film was when I was about nine years of age and it was called Miami Vice Junior about a few kids who find a bag a cocaine and deliberate over what to do with it. So my earliest influence was probably TV, in particular Miami Vice, The A-Team and MacGyver. Like a lot of kids my age, I also loved Star Wars, Back to the Future, Ghost Busters, but they didn't really influence me to make films. Rather they just transported me to a different world. Then, one night, I remember seeing Duel on TV. I think this made me realise what good simple storytelling was all about, and I felt like it was something I could do. It got me into stop motion animation - easier because you don't need actors - and all the first animated films I made involved something big chasing something small - for example staple extractors chasing small pencils - seriously that's what I used to do while my friends were playing football on the road!

Duel/US/1971

This must be one the best and most complete suspense genre 'first' films ever made. A car, a truck and an open road. What more do you need? This is Spielberg storytelling at its most simple, economical and even he has to watch this film every now and again to remind him of what good visual storytelling is all about. I believe pretty much all Spielbergian-influenced adventure/suspense films from Jaws to Back to the Future, from Indiana Jones to Die Hard can find their genesis with this little gem.

Paths to Glory/US/1957

When I got a bit older I stumbled on this film one evening on TV and thought holy crap. Although it was in black & white, it still hooked me, which was extremely rare. I wanted to see every Kubrick film afterwards. This has the most stunningly depressing, non-Hollywood yet Hollywood ending. The good guy loses. The innocent get shot and then in a final scene, unrelated to anything else, there is a faint moment of humanity that caresses your soul. This film is a mastery of contrasts. It's a study of all that is terrible and beautiful about human nature. It's the most cynical, yet humane film ever made and it's absolutely brilliant. It also has great dolly shots!

Dr. Strangelove/US/1964

Watched this after Paths to Glory and was not disappointed. Afterwards, I made my first proper film with a story called 'Save Us Adolf'. I was 17 and shot it on a high 8 camera, using lego toys I borrowed from friends and then animated them using stop motion technique. It's about the dire circumstances in which an evil dictator might be relied upon to save the world.

Save Us Adolf can be watched here.

Also, the whole thing was made 'in camera' on my bedroom floor, which is a great training for editing, because you can't make any mistakes or you'll have to start again, hence it makes you properly think about shots. You can see the film set at the end of the film on my floor beside my bed. The humming of the 'Animals go by two by two' soundtrack still excites me every time I watch Dr. Strangelove and is a great example of how music can be used to augment tones and characters. Even though I was young enough making Save Us Adolf, I used this idea a lot - and probably every film I've made since, including Man Made Men, The Irish Pub and Older Than Ireland. I also love the wide angle lenses and the way the shots are framed for the background.

Fargo/US/1996

Dialogue, suspense, humour, soundtrack, casting, acting, atmosphere, cinematography all coming together in perfect harmony. Even though the story is a bit daft, this is my favourite black comedy.

Apocalypse Now/US/1979

It's like Coppola managed to recreate the Vietnam war in vivid detail and then told the camera man to just film it. It's a director at the very top of his game, mixing documentary style with poetic cinematography on an epic scale, the likes of which we'll probably never see again for a film on social conscious, mental decay and human nature. There are sequences with no exposition yet the story still moves forward. As a whole though I think the film is too long but it's still a masterpiece and the Ride of the Valkyries sequence is simply incredible.

IFTN interviewed Alex Fegan about 'Older Than Ireland' earlier this year - check out the interview here.




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RELATED NEWS
‘Older Than Ireland’ lands top five spot in Irish DVD charts
27 Nov 2015 
Alex Fegan’s award-winning documentary ‘Older Than Ireland’ available now on DVD
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