Northern Ireland Unseen On Screen
Factotum's posters pay homage to Northern Ireland films that never made it off the cutting room floor. Click Play Video for an online exhibition with Stephen Hackett and Richard West
Stephen Hackett and Richard West, the hirsute duo behind the Factotum art collective and its free monthly art house publication, The Vacuum, think they have found a lost generation of Northern Irish film. Unbeknown to most cinema goers recent offerings like Hunger and Five Minutes of Heaven were very nearly preceded by titles like Dafty Wains Go Buck Mental and King Billy’s Pink Adventures - and Hackett and West reckon they've got the posters to prove it.*
Northern Irish Unseen On Screen is an exhibition of never before seen film posters from Northern Irish films that either didn't make it off the cutting room floor or simply failed to make a mark. After years apparently buried in the back rooms of movie houses and production companies these impressive, polished promotional posters currently adorn the walls of the Black Box café and gallery space.
Having opened as part of the now finished 2009 Belfast Film Festival, perhaps Hackett and West seem to have lost interest in the exhibition. Or maybe they’re just tired. They look a bit knackered, God bless 'em.
‘We were asked by the film festival to put on an exhibition, and this is what we came up with,’ says Hackett.
What they have come up with is some literally unbelievable promo posters. Gay romps with William of Orange, musicals about Cullybakey - I'm no movie expert but it's hard to imagine the head of MGM sanctioning some of these efforts. Hackett and West certainly seem to think they are all genuine, though.
‘They’ve come from all kinds of different places,’ explains West. ‘Some of the films that they are taken from were only ever production ideas, but others obviously got to the stage where they needed to produce a poster to get finance for the film.
‘The basic premise of the exhibition is that these are films that never really made it into the public consciousness. Obviously it’s very difficult to make films. There’s an extravagant amount of time and money that goes into the process and things can go wrong. But the Northern Ireland film industry is getting bigger, with more and more films coming out, so we thought it would be a idea to go back and look at some of the films that never quite made it.’
Hackett and West are no strangers to controversy themselves – their joint God and Satan issues of The Vacuum in 2004 tweaked the moral judgement bone of certain politicians, who branded the pair devil worshippers and saw fit to drag them through the courts with much pathetic fanfare – and some of the film posters seem designed to shock those of a weak constitution.
However, Hackett and West are adamant that some of the films did see the light of day - though, unfortunately, not in Northern Ireland. It appears that the aforementioned film about King William of Orange continues to be shown in the Netherlands, and a spoof comedy Dafty Wains Go Buck Mental, the artists say, is shown in French universities as an anthropological case study. But most, like their posters, seem to have been forgotten about.
‘A lot were produced on Beta tape and laser disks,’ explains Hackett, 'made before the days of DVD or YouTube, so they’re extremely rare. They didn’t get much international distribution.
'Films like Touching Brian is a romcom, but all of the films were made by Northern Irish filmmakers for Northern Irish audiences, so they're distinctly Northern Irish, although they’ve taken on a life of their own elsewhere. We would love to get our hands on some of them.’
And so, I'm sure, would many other Northern Irish movie lovers. Though it looks like they'll have to be satisfied with the posters.
* Before you go scouring ebay for a copy of An Ulster American Folk Park in London (or write in complaining about the disloyal insinuations in King Billy's Pink Adventures) CultureNorthernIreland would like to remind its readers of Factotum's well-earned reputation as PR wags (and not in the Victoria Beckham sense of the word). Last year they brought A Century of Spin to Belfast Exposed, and this time around they seem intent on throwing a promotional curve ball worthy of Edward Bernays...though some might say they've ended up looking more like Larry Flynt.