Mothers: a critical and original look at China’s one-child policy

A still from 'Mothers' by Huijing Xu

A still from ‘Mothers’ by Huijing Xu

The incredibly brave documentary Mothers by Huijing Xu lasts an hour but scars for life. Returning to his native northern Chinese village of Ma, Huijing Xu trails government officials, camera in hand and films them doing their job: enforcing the one-child policy and policing the administration of birth control and sterilisation on all women of child-bearing age.

Thirty years after the one-child policy was implemented along with hefty fines for those who don’t adhere to it, this harrowing “day in the life of” shows how policies from the top filter down through the layers to the village streets where on a local level neighbours and friends are compelled to interfere in each other’s most private sphere.

Check out my full review of this documentary, which received a special mention at the Sheffield Doc/Fest last week.


NCR: Not Criminally Responsible


NCRHe was driven by the voices in his head, she was driven by an errand to run. Their paths collided, a mind snapped, a blade lashed out, a victim fell, her life forever changed. It was 1999.


NCR takes the viewer on an agonising journey into the depths of mental illness and its very tragic consequences for both the sufferer and those around him.

This documentary runs at the Sheffield Doc/Fest today and tomorrow, catch it if you can! Read my full review over on DocGeeks.


Mirage Men: and now for something completely different

A still from Mirage Men, which will premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest

A still from Mirage Men, which will premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest

This week has been so hot in Ireland eggs were frying on stones and Toblerone has been melting on window sills before 10am. To compound my exquisite good luck, I’ve also been privvy to some exclusive previews of the Sheffield Doc/Fest which opens this week.

The first documentary I was enthralled by was called Mirage Men. The film, which will premiere worldwide this week at the festival, is easily one of the most intriguing documentaries I’ve seen in a while.

Correctly described as a blend between Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the Manchurian candidate, Mirage Men spins a dark yarn of unexplained phenomena and of belief manipulation by higher powers which will leave you wondering which part of what you’re seeing and hearing is real. And you may never find out.

To read my full review and to see the trailer, head over to DocGeeks.

The Marble Lady: the face of scleroderma in Ireland

“If…cancer, my particular cancer was put in front of me and scleroderma was put in front of me I’d pick cancer. Strangely. I’m better from cancer, I’m not going to get better from scleroderma.”

Unpredictable, irreversible, progressive and as yet, incurable , scleroderma is considered the deadliest of all connective tissue diseases. It’s estimated that 1 in 10,000 people will develop it.

From the Greek words “Skleros”, meaning hard, and “Derma”, meaning skin. It develops when the body produces too much collagen and hardens. Few people know about it yet in most cases it’s a life-changer and in some cases, it can kill.

Last year, I produced a radio documentary about this little known auto-immune condition, telling the story of patients in Ireland, mainly women and a handful of men, who suffer from this rare, debilitating and life-threatening auto-immune connective tissue disease. Read more of this post

Off the bookshelf: To Kill A Mockingbird

MockingbirdWhen you hit the third decade of your life, many of life’s “firsts” are often behind you in terms of cultural discoveries. So it’s with immense joy that I discovered for the first time the incisive, sarcastic and downright funny prose of Harper Lee, she of “Victoria Beckam’s baby” fame (ducking for cover here – there was also a Pulitzer I hear).

I never had to study this book in school, we were too busy being force-fed Montesquieu and Sartre for baccalaureat regurgitation… same old story across the world, different language I guess. Anyway, I’m very glad I got to pick up this book in my own time. If you read it and hated it at school, pick it up again and give it a second chance. If you read it and loved it, read it again. If you have never read it, like me, get thee to a book shop and purchase it.

It’s got it all – immersion into other times and places where the seasons and food aren’t the same, loveable quirky characters, intrigue, social critique, human disappointment, tragedy, crimes – it’s a thriller told through the intelligent voice of an inquisitive child who never ceases to remind the reader of what the world was like at 7 years of age. I never wanted it to end. Sadly, it did.

As Goes Janesville, so goes the rest of the world?

As Goes JanesvilleThe premise of ‘As Goes Janesville’, recently released on DVD, is an age-old story: small town prospers around big corporation, big corporation packs bags and leaves thousands without a job. Now what? This is where the action starts. The story of contrasts emerging from this well-rounded and complex piece of work, far from being a generic remake of David and Goliath, is both timeless and timely, generic yet unique.

It’s the result of a number of years work by director Brad Lichtenstein and team, who started filming in 2008 in Janesville, Wisconsin after the controversial closure of the General Motors plant that put thousands of locals out of work and became the cause of much political wrangling thereafter. Read more of this post

Life of Pi: thalassotherapy for the soul

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

At long last I have found a film that has transcended the book that inspired it. People who know me will probably be shocked by this admission, as I’m a staunch supporter of films created by the mind’s eye and the powers of the imagination. Preferably fed from the pages of a hard-copy book. Musty old library dust-smell optional.

Life of Pi was an irritation to me, on paper. I tried several times to get stuck into it and failed miserably. The intro droned on for far too long in a confused manner, randomly skipping from Pondicherry to the Piscine Molitor in Paris, without giving me a hint for the beauty of what was to come. Because I’m highly bound by the sacred made-up OCD rules of “thou shalt not skip forth”, I just never got past the hurdle and never really bonded with the aquatically named Piscine Patel. Which was very frustrating as the feedback from beyond the ridge was fantastic… Read more of this post