CinePunked’s resident film historians Robert JE Simpson and Dr Rachael Kelly plus writer Conor Smyth discuss and debate Alan Clarke’s 1989 Troubles film Elephant, and it’s influences on Gus Van Sant’s 2003 Columbine-focussed appropriation of the same name. They’re joined by special guest Kevin Jackson, who was location manager on Clarke’s original BBC film. Recorded as part of the Belfast Film Festival 2016.
Sleeve notes are below.
With Robert JE Simpson, Dr Rachael Kelly, Conor Smyth, and Kevin Jackson.
Produced by Ben Simpson
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This recording is actually one of our early live events, and the first one we held publicly under the CinePunked banner. Run as part of the Belfast Film Festival on 23 April 2016 and recorded in the cosy confines of the Beanbag Cinema. On the screen behind us, Alan Clarke’s BBC film Elephant played, as we talked about it and Gus Van Sant’s appropriation.
We held our conversation just a few days after the anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre on 20 April 1999. While Alan Clarke’s film resonated because of the long history of the Troubles and the numerous punishment killings that took place in Northern Ireland, Columbine became another landmark, an unthinkable situation where someone would shoot down their schoolmates in cold blood. There was a knowing chill in the air as we recorded, aware of the weight that history held over us.
As this pod is being posted it is 5 August 2019, now two decades on from Columbine. Instead of Columbine marking the end to these atrocities in the United States, instead they are on the increase, and in the last week we’ve seen three mass-shootings in the US make headlines. We’ve had this episode lined up for a while, but it seems more timely than ever.
Joining Rachael and me on the recording is Conor Smyth, then blogging as BelfastFilm, later for ThinAir and now, simply as himself. Conor appeared in a number of our early shows before scheduling difficulties got the better of us. Its taken 19 episodes of the podcast for you to hear his contributions, but they were a very important part of us finding our feet and we hope to work with him again in the future.
We were also very happy to have Kevin Jackson take part as well. Kevin was the then chair of the Belfast Film Festival and had a long career as a producer for film and television. A former executive of drama for the BBC, Kevin had been the locations manager on Elephant, and having someone who worked on the film was a privilege we couldn’t pass up. Kevin’s insight and contributions are a real highlight of the episode.
Recording for the show was by Ben Simpson, and he also did initial clean-up work for us. In the last couple of years I have mislaid the master files, and some audio interference is in evidence, which I hope isn’t too distracting. If we manage to locate the originals, I’ll update the file. But for all the inadequacies of the recording – blame me!
In the meantime, join us for a conversation about one of the most striking films in Northern Irish film history, made by one of the great British directors of the late 20th century.