Film is about communicating, we’re all agreed? You can’t have secret films, either. Well, you shouldn’t have secret films. Especially not if they’re good.
In the case of His & Hers, a winning, deceptively-simple Irish documentary from director Ken Wardrop, screening at the London Film Festival as part of Cinema Europa, it’s amazing any information has leaked out about it at all. The “press kit” is a single paragraph - in yellow type – about the director which doesn’t actually mention the film, while the director’s home page on imdb.com doesn’t mention His & Hers either.
A trawl around the websites of various Irish state bodies eventually coughs up the info that the production company is Venom Film, and its website reluctantly delivers a His & Hers microsite. Given the lengths most people will go to promote their films, this is taking laid-back to its more horizontal extreme. Or perhaps it’s simple confidence in the face of excellence.
Winner of the Galway Film Fleadh’s overall Best Irish Feature award this summer, His & Hers interviews 70 women from the Irish Midlands in their own homes. Cut precisely in short, individual bursts, even if the overall effect is gentle, the film is a cradle-to-grave look at women, from a red-haired baby in a cot to a 90-year-old lady staring out of the window of a nursing home.
His & Hers has the sweetly seductive nature of a Once; the audience is lulled into these ladies’ parlours, as it were. Over 80 minutes, it comes in waves: from the little girl who’d like a dog but tells us “my daddy prefers fish because they don’t make any noise” and on to the teenager whose father is teaching her to drive. “I haven’t knocked no-one down yet,” she says proudly.
These straightforward, open, rural women date, they have hopes for the future, they plan families, they have families – boys, mainly, with Wardrop following a daddy’s girl-to-wife, mammy and widow thrust. An Irish proverb quoted at the outset indicates the terrain by revealing that “men love their girlfriends the most, their wives the best, and their mothers the longest”.
It’s only after you’ve left their front rooms, their cosy pine kitchens, that you realise you’ve watched the whole of life fly by, with its biggest hopes and dreams there, naked to the eye.. These capable women, the “ladies of the Irish midlands”, are an easy lot to be around. One elderly lady talks about what she’d do if she won the lottery, before admitting, “well, I can’t win the lottery, because I don’t do it”.
That little gem - “you can’t win if you’re not in” – might be worth noting for the many, many young directors out there putting their hearts and souls into their films but selling the whole venture short on the marketing. As I write, I don’t know if His & Hers has any distribution deal or sales agent as the production company uses an answering machine and the yellow bio isn’t up to much. There are pictures of a party on the His & Hers website but no stills of the film.
Leaving the fate of your brilliant picture to the hands of the fates – that maybe a blogger at a festival will have a few hours to fill between films on a Friday night - is a bit too softly-softly for this cut-throat film promotional world we’re all living in right now.
Or perhaps His & Hers simply just has the luck of the Irish, and that’s all you need….