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A Walk In The Park
With his award-winning debut Parked set for an American release, Darragh Byrne talks to Roe McDermott about the potential of Irish cinema, the social and economic resonances of his film and working with Irish acting stalwart Colm Meaney.
Roe McDermott, 11 Oct 2011
Friendly but fidgety, director Darragh Byrne has the air of a man who’s efficient, but overworked. Constantly running his fingers through his hair and apologising when he suddenly disappears to take a call, it appears the Irish filmmaker is still adjusting to being in great demand. But with his debut feature film Parked the winner of multiple awards at film festivals in Paris, Brussels and Boston, he may have to get used to it.
After making documentary films for over 20 years and running a production company, it was a combination of passion, love for storytelling and the aid of Irish filmmaking initiatives that eventually brought Parked to fruition. Having met writer Ciaran Creagh in 2007 through the Irish Film Board’s Catalyst project, which funded Conor Horgan’s award-winning post-apocalyptic drama One Hundred Mornings, Byrne began working on a script about a man living in his car, not realising that three years on, it would resonate with all those affected by and aware of Ireland’s economic crisis.
“To some degree, having a documentary conscious, I think I would have been thinking that there were certain things a little askew a little bit before that time, before 2008. I mean the peak of the recession was really 2006 and the subsequent recession in 2007, so in the ether of that the film emerged. But it wasn’t a conscious examination of Irish society now. I wouldn’t like to think of it as a very issue-driven film. It’s very much a story of a man living in his car, and a kind of triumvirate of characters who come together and are of out of step with the world generally. Somehow they manage to learn something from each other and come out the other side.
“But internationally and in European terms, people have an idea of what Ireland is and what’s going on here in terms of recession. In Rotterdam where the film went down really well but audiences would ask, ‘Are things really that bad in Ireland, are people really living in their cars?’ So of course if you were to look at the film as a snapshot of Ireland now it wouldn’t be an accurate representation. It’s not supposed to be that. The economic situation did inspire some new facets to the audience reaction that I wasn’t expecting.”