Writes Ronan Watters
My ideal film industry is a bit different from what other people might say. It is more of a personal issue. If I asked someone what their ideal film industry would be, I would normally hear a call for better representation of women or races, or greater exposure for independent films. I asked my friend of 13 years what his ideal film industry would be. He gave me a lukewarm answer, stating that he wished every film ever made by Uwe Boll be wiped from the history of cinema. But I then asked him again and asked him to give me a serious answer. He pondered for a minute, then informed me that he would like to see a film about a man losing his job as he attempts to make his way in the world, as this man has a family to feed and bills to pay; or a film about climate change. My friend was now thinking on my level.
When I read Seán Lyons’ review of Green Book (2018) on the UCC Film Writers Blog, he stated that:
“Every Winter, cinemas are flooded with ‘social injustice’ films which highlight a certain area of inequality or oppression, either in the past or present day”.
He thought the opposite of Green Book, describing it as “a film worth seeing”, but his statement got me wondering about films that appeal to me due to the relevance of the issues presented in them. One issue that is hugely important to me is the 2008 Financial Crisis, specifically the European debt crisis. Ireland was one of the several Eurozone states damaged by the Recession. The effects of it were felt in different parts of the country, but small-town Ireland, where I am from, fared poorly.
I was old enough and aware enough of my surroundings to know that things in my town had changed. I was in primary school, so I was in the town every day. I saw people who I had never seen before in the town, thinking they were new and were going to be moving into the new estate that was being built at the time. When I asked my father who these people were, he told me that they were indeed residents of our town, and that they had been for quite some time. When I asked him why I only started seeing them now, he told me that normally they would be working. This was now not the case. These people had lost their jobs and were wandering around aimlessly.
The estate that I thought was going to house these “new residents” was never finished, and the houses that were built were never bought. It became a ghost estate. My father himself lost his job but my mother had work full time. In 2011, they separated. I am not telling this story looking for sympathy as this is not my intention, but this was the daily life of many people living in small-town Ireland. The sting is still felt in some towns. One town close to me still has many derelict buildings that ruin its natural beauty.
The reason I write about these things is because I do not see many films about the Great Recession, nor do I see any films about the impacts it had on people, and specifically working-class people. Bar documentaries, the only film that comes to mind is The Big Short, but that film focuses more on the 2007 housing crash that caused the crisis. Another film that comes to mind is The Company Men. This film does focus on the recession and its effects on people, but the characters in the film all have six-figure salaries and country club memberships, which makes them hard to identify with. There is so much opportunity to tell stories relating to the recession: the emigration of young people from Ireland; the dark future regarding careers; paying for college or paying bills for a house; staying in a dead end town because you can’t afford to leave, or the personal experience of someone who has lost their job. These are all rich, detailed subject matters that deserve to be seen on the screen.
To sum it up, my ideal film industry is a film industry that focuses on issues relating to the current and future generations on a more personal, human level. I feel the issues that I talked about do not get enough exposure or representation in the film industry and I am shocked that many filmmakers do not focus on these issues. The cinema is about sitting back and watching films that make you feel good for sure, but it has also brought some of the most important and human stories to life when they needed to be seen. I want a film industry that focuses on the stories of real people. We already have enough films about superheroes