Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Blair McClendon + Dónal Foreman

Listen here.

Earlier this year, when it became clear that theaters in New York might not be re-opening for some time, we turned to a number of artists, writers, and filmmakers we admire and asked, simply, “Who would you like to talk to about cinema?” Even in the absence of moviegoing, the potential for interesting conversations remains, dialogues unbuckled from the constraints of a publicity cycle, where the occasion is not, say, an upcoming release, but rather the aesthetic and political exigencies of our moment. This week, Blair McClendon speaks with Dónal Foreman.

“It is difficult to wrestle with what we inherit. Dónal Foreman’s 2018 documentary The Image You Missed takes the form of a letter to his estranged father, Arthur MacCaig, over a decade after he passed away, and operates in both the mode of the leftist essay film and that of the memoir. Foreman draws from his archive—of his father’s films as well as his own—to reconstruct a picture of a politically committed artist, though what concerns him is whether the conditions for that kind of activity have disappeared. The filmmaker who sides with a movement for liberation, but who does not tend towards propaganda, is forced to negotiate their utility to the cause. The Image You Missed offers a path ahead, refusing to rest on the presumed universalism of a ‘father-son’ movie and refusing to give in to a glossy retelling of the Troubles. It is, instead, an investigation of images—reflections of his father in a pair of sunglasses, murals of IRA members—and how they have circulated, in their time and ours.

We spoke about the challenges of working with received representations and received forms, about trying to make work that is new even as it draws upon older traditions. ‘You began when certain things seemed possible, when armed struggle was an image you could believe in,’ he says to his father in the film. It is hard to discern what is possible today through the haze of a burning world, but Foreman’s work reminds us that we already live in the aftermath of previous fires. We will have to discover what was missed if we want to know what will carry us forward.”

- BM

Blair McClendon is a filmmaker, editor, and writer. His film work has played at festivals around the world, and he was most recently an editor on The Assistant. Like many others he lives in New York City.

Dónal Foreman is an Irish filmmaker, critic, and programmer living between Dublin and New York City. He is the writer, director and editor of two features, Out of Here and The Image You Missed, and is currently in post-production on his third.