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ARRAS 2021

Kieron J. Walsh • Director de The Racer

"No hay razones para lanzarse a la guerra por una frontera"


- El director irlandés, que se pasó por el Arras Film Festival, nos habla de su última película y de su nuevo proyecto, Skintown

Kieron J. Walsh  • Director de The Racer

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Having notably turned heads with When Brendan Met Trudy and Jump (both presented in Toronto in 2000 and 2012 respectively), Irish director Kieron J Walsh attended the 22nd Arras Film Festival with his latest opus The Racer [+lee también:
entrevista: Kieron J. Walsh
ficha de la película
, which screened in the European Discoveries section (and which is set for distribution in France from 22 June via Épicentre Films), and with his project Skintown, which he pitched in the 10th edition of Arras Days Development Grant initiative.

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Cineuropa: How did you manage to achieve such remarkable levels of realism in The Racer, given that you’re not really a cycling enthusiast?
Kieron J Walsh: The screenplay was initiated by Ciaran Cassidy who got me interested in that world. I read it, I started to research the topic, and once I’d set off down that path it was impossible to stop: I watched all the films there were on cycling, I read huge quantities of books, I spoke with lots of different people… For four or five years, I immersed myself in the cycling world. Obviously, I watched a few races too: the Giro, when it came to Ireland, the classic races in Flanders, etc. I developed a fascination for the sport – not least because of the Tour de France - which is probably the hardest and most extreme sport in the world, no doubt harder than climbing Everest, even. What really interested me was the figure of the racer, the servant, the wingman; the guy who isn’t allowed to win, whose salary isn’t particularly impressive (especially in 1998, which is when the film is set) and who doesn’t receive any glory. This type of character really intrigued me because these racers are highly respected within the peloton and within their teams, but outside of these, no-one knows who they are. I asked myself how such a man could be satisfied with his life. That was the starting point for the film, followed by the fact that in Dublin, everyone had this idea of the Tour de France as a really glamourous event, a spectacular sport with great champions. But the reality was far less pretty, sordid even, and it was only after the 1998 Tour de France that it became clear things weren’t quite what they seemed, and that there was something deeply rotten about it.

You do show the darker side of the sport, EPO, etc., but you never judge your characters. It’s more of a family study conducted from the inside.
I’m not in a position to judge anyone in that situation. In 1998, everyone or nearly everyone was doping on the Tour de France, so if you wanted to be competitive, taking drugs was almost an obligation. I don’t in any way approve of sportspeople taking drugs, but at the time it was hard to get away from. Maybe things have changed now, who knows… And there’s doping in lots of other sports too, not just in cycling. Either way, I felt sympathy for Dom, my main character. I felt sorry for him, and I wanted him to succeed in extracting himself from this terrible situation; I didn’t want to judge him or moralise. Because what he needed was help. But no-one could really give it to him. I’ve spoken with lots of professional cyclists and former professionals who’ve played the part of the wingman and they’re all good, big-hearted people, though they do seem a bit lost in life.

Drugs also seem to feature in your next project, Skintown, which you’re pitching at Arras Days’ Development Grant event.
It’s true (laughter). Ecstasy. It’s another period film set in Northern Ireland in 1994. At that point in time, just before the cease fire, teenagers growing up in the area were used to military helicopters circling almost endlessly, soldiers in the streets, and a great deal of sectarian violence. It was all part and parcel of "normal" life, so lots of youngsters wanted to leave the country. My story revolves around two teenagers who dream of moving abroad, and who also discover ecstasy. They’re presented with an opportunity to earn enough money to be able to leave, by selling ecstasy in a new rave club whose regular client base is composed of paramilitaries. It’s a crazy idea but they decide to go for it. It all takes place over the course of one night: they succeed in their enterprise, but they pay a high price for it… There are already films out there about the conflict in Northern Ireland, but none of them explore the coincidental arrival of ecstasy in the country or the advances made in the peace process.

What would your ideal schedule be for Skintown?
I’d like to film it next September. We’ve already secured support from the Irish Film Board, Screen Ireland and Northern Ireland Screen. The film mostly unfolds at night-time, which costs more in shooting terms. We’re yet to wrap funding and it’s slightly more complicated than usual because the two main actors are young and unknown. But I believe it’s important to capture that era now, because of Brexit which is reigniting issues in Northern Ireland again. I hope the film will send a positive message to young audiences: there’s no need to wage war over a border, a religion or the land where you live.

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(Traducción del francés)

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