Adventures In Education
then you discover all these stories unfolding, then youstart shooting more, and more and more… You’re For the past two years, Derek O’Connor has been
working without a big crew, you have a camera, it’s working closely with Letterkenny Arts Centre on a
cheap to shoot (Folk! was filmed, as are the majority of series of innovative arts education programmes.
documentaries these days, on digital video), and you Currently based in the US, here he offers the fourth in
have all this access… Then it’s six months later, and a an occasional series of reports for Donegal Culture.
fifteen minute film has become a forty minute film, andnow a feature.” Roxy Toporowych’s journey mirrors that Roxy Toporowych is a twenty-something Ukranian- of an entirely new generation of DIY documentarians; American (first generation), originally from small-town get a camera, find a cool subject and well… let it roll.
Idaho, now based in New York City and an aspiring Fact: The past few years have been an incredible time documentary filmmaker. Over the past three years, for documentary filmmaking – whereas non-fiction she’s clocked up hundreds of hours working on her films had previously belonged to the outer margins of first feature, a portrait of the Ukranian folk dancing the distribution circuit, nary a month passes these days community in New York City, entitled Folk! Anybody without a new documentary feature making a splash.
out there who might think the subject matter sounds Blame it on anything from the success of Fahrenheit a tad dry possibly isn’t that au fait with the Ukranian 9/11 to the availability of cheap technology and community in NYC – a combustively colourful and explosion of reality-based television. The perceived creative bunch, and the backbone of the city’s wisdom used to suggest that the prevalence of reality alternative arts scene – we’re a long way from TV would debase and destroy the medium. Instead, it’s Riverdance territory here. The proof can be found in had the opposite effect; feature-length documentaries the movie itself; a fascinating, funny and vivid portrayal have become bold, more audacious and wilfully idiosyn- of a people and a passion for dance that, like all the best cratic – compare and contrast, by way of example, such documentaries, proves more dramatic, compelling and recent notables as Jonathan Caouette’s nakedly autobio- balls-out entertaining than the majority of fictional graphical freeform psychodrama Tarnation (compiled features being produced right now. “I got out of film from years of Caouette’s Super 8 and video diaries, and school,” says Toporowych, “and I had spent a few years edited using demo iMovie software) and Ondi Timoner’s doing crappy jobs in film. I was getting really mad at remarkable Dig! (the twisted car-crash rockumentary myself for not being creative, not doing my own thing – detailing the rivalry between Portland bands The Dandy I really needed to make something.” Having trained as a Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre). Music and Ukranian folk dancer since the age of five, Roxy had her performance movies are notably flourishing like never subject; before long, what was intended as a fifteen- before, liberated from the formulaic VH1-isation of a minute short promptly ballooned into something previously moribund genre – it took nearly twenty years, considerably more epic in scope. “You start to shoot, after all, to escape from the shadow of Spinal Tap.
There has been an outrageous amount of essentialmusic docs in recent months, with many more set forrelease; Jeff Feuerzeig’s The Devil And Daniel Johnston,Margaret Brown's Be Here to Love Me: A Film AboutTownes Van Zandt, Greg Whitley’s New York Doll (anintimate portrait of New York Dolls bassist Arthur‘Killer’ Kane’s brief return to glory with a reformedDolls, cut short by his untimely death from cancer)…The list goes on and on. Time and again, it all comesback to a camera, a subject and an eye for a story –which is why you will watch Roxy Toporowych’s Folk! – and, when you get the opportunity, you really, reallyshould – and leave with a newfound respect for theworld of Ukranian folk dancing. “I feel so lucky,” shesays. “I’m really happy that I started making a documentary when I did. Growing up, I would search F E A T U R E S
however, the reality of the situation became painfullyapparent; for all the talk of how the broadband willchange our lives (apart from giving the powers that belicence to dig up as many roads as possible – you can’tcomplain, after all, because once we have thebroadband, after all, there’ll be jobs for everyone),Ireland still hasn’t gotten its head around the internet.
How do I know this? Because I now spend a fair todecent amount of every bloody day trawling through theweb in search of information to share with my fellowimmigrant brethren – and it ‘aint easy. As one of theleast tech-savvy people imaginable, the notion of myengaging in the creation of a blog has been the subjectof much hilarity; here’s the thing, though – if I can do it,anyone can do it. And nobody’s doing it. The Irish web presence is still, by and large, incredibly bitty. It’swonderful to be able to tune into radio stations on-line – and search for documentaries to watch, they seemed so waking up in Jersey City and being able to tune into hard to track down. Now there are all these crazy, Highland Radio is a curiously reassuring thing, although amazing films, and there’s an audience there that truly listening to RTE Radio One tends to lead to anxiety appreciates them. I’m able to make a film like Folk! and and/or severe agitation, something to do with the have complete creative control, do it my way and in my accumulated effect of Ryan Tubridy and Pat Kenny.
own time. It’s not about money. It’s about making a cool The best source for free news happens to be The Irish documentary – and anyone can make one.” Independent (you have to pay for The Times, althoughtheir arts supplement, The Ticket, is available for free), A longer version of this article originally appeared in although Kevin Myers’ new column is only available in the print edition, which suits us just fine.
Here’s the thing, however – as a medium for expression, for collaboration, for simply getting the word out there,the potential is nigh on limitless. Right now, there’s a Letter From NYC
criminal lack of imagination, of lateral thought, beingused by the Irish on-line presence, particularly amongst Former Arts Centre Employee Derek O’Connor offers
the arts community – website after website offering the latest news from across the pond…
perfunctory listings and information. The number ofdecent Irish arts-related blogs, for example, can be I must apologise – I’ve been on the blog for several counted on one hand… Google Sinead Gleeson’s Sigla weeks now. The newest twist on our New York or Belinda Mc Keon’s Empire State View, for starters, or adventure has been a retreat into a virtual universe take a gander at West 47, Galway Arts Centre’s on-line called ‘Planet Ireland’… And it’s a very, very strange literary journal (the future of all those labour-of-love place indeed. It works a little like this; I’m editing a new DIY small-print publications? Why not…) The blog (that’s an on-line journal, for those who live in opportunity to get your information out there on a truly blissful ignorance of the joys/evils of the internet), one global scale is at your fingertips; if I can do it, it’s fair to aimed at all the Irish folk across the globe missing the say that, with a little assistance and perseverance, news from home – it’s called Blogorrah, and you’ll find it pretty much anybody can… As a recovering luddite, I at The inspiration behind its say give it a try, I’m hoping to experience the Earagail creation was one’s current state of affairs; suddenly Festival virtually sometime very soon. Best to the finding ourselves far from home, we’re always keen to Letterkenny massive, hope all is well, looking forward to keep up with current events – riots in Dublin, police corruption in Letterkenny, idle chatter from Steve’schipper in Ramelton, stuff like that… rather swiftly,


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SD Newsletter from Mel Dubovick, NSDA Regional Coordinator – Southeast US August 2006 Botox helps woman through vocal cord disorder By Erica C. Cline | Lifestyles Editor “Trish Wheeler has adductor SD, a vocal cord disorder that impedes her ability to speak. With the injections of Botox in her vocal cords, however, she has regained the use of her voice almost completely. A metaph

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