Second part of John T. Davis retrospective kicks off this weekend
Legendary documentary filmmaker John T. Davis, who chronicled the Northern Irish punk scene, celebrates his 70th birthday with the second part of a major retrospective at Queen’s Film Theatre this April.
This long overdue celebration of Northern Ireland’s most distinctive documentary filmmaker and cinematographer will give Belfast audiences the chance to experience the underbelly of the US, Northern Irish politicians, Travellers, airmen and songwriters through John T. Davis’ lens.
PERIPHERAL VISIONS: JOHN T. DAVIS, A RETROSPECTIVE, is presented in partnership with Film Hub NI. It opened on Friday 3rd March with an on-stage event that saw Davis in conversation with his former art school tutor and BBC Arts Show film critic, Mike Catto. This premiere event was followed by screenings of Davis’ films across the month of March.
The retrospective continues throughout April, beginning with Davis’ epic road film Route 66 on Saturday 15th March. This film chronicles the history and closure in 1981 of the iconic highway that, mythologised in music, film and literature, spanned 2,500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, traversed eight states and cut through the heart of Middle America. Through Davis’ camera lens we encounter the underbelly of the US and the shattering of the American Dream. That Route 66 was made in 1984, when in Davis’ words, ‘Just like Route 66, America was grinding and cracking at the seams’, gives the film a strikingly renewed resonance in the current political climate.
Route 66 is followed on Sunday 16th April by Tailwind, which documents the little known history of Northern Ireland’s crucial part in the war in the air between 1939 and 1945. The story is told by participants from Ireland, England, Canada, the United States, Poland and New Zealand. Eloquent, poignant, dramatic and poetic, Tailwind pays moving tribute to the courageous airmen and women who served in Northern Ireland’s war effort.
Screening on Saturday 22nd April is A House Divided, followed on Sunday 23rd April by Traveller. Visual artist Noel Murphy’s creation of the painting The House Will Divide, a portrait of the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly as it was in 2003, is the subject of Davis’ film. Shot with the director’s unintrusive objectivity and distinctive camerawork, it
shadows journalist Eamon Mallie as he interviews the Reverend Ian Paisley, John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
In 1965 the photographer Alen MacWeeney began a two year project photographing and recording the songs and stories of Travelling Communities in Galway and on Dublin’s Cherry Orchard Halting Site. Over thirty years later, he and John T. Davis teamed up to co-direct Traveller, a visually exquisite film which documents MacWeeney’s attempt to find the Travellers in his photographs. The film is shot in rich black and white, offering as it unfolds a series of glimpses into Ireland’s enigmatic ‘hidden’ culture, and raising unsettling questions about mainstream perceptions of and attitudes towards this stubbornly independent people.
Co-directed by John T. Davis and Uri Fruchtman, Hip to the Tip, screening on Monday 24th April, charts the glory years of Atlantic Records, one of America’s most important recording labels. This was a time when every Atlantic release was ‘hip to the tip’, when jazz, R&B and soul recordings by African-American musicians topped the charts, when every artist wanted to be on the nation’s coolest label. The film features interviews with Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Ruth Brown, Rufus Thomas, Steve Cropper, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and the key Atlantic founders.
PERIPHERAL VISIONS concludes on Thursday 27th April with Heart on the Line, Davis’ unique take on the lyrics, lives, dreams and attitudes of Nashville’s songwriters, the largely unknown men and women whose art is the lifeblood of the country music industry. The film features performances and commentary by major songwriters such as Harlan Howard, ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clements and Whitey Schafer as well as unacknowledged but equally gifted composers like Junior Lee Farrell and Danny Jackson. Complementing Heart on the Line will be a screening of mshiikenhmnising, the pilot film for Davis’ current work in progress.
Full details and booking on queensfilmtheatre.com.
Special thanks to Northern Ireland Screen, the Irish Film Institute, Peter Strain and Yellowmoon.