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Feel the power
Ian Power, director of the uplifting Cork-based film The Runway, talks to Roe McDermott about the community spirit of 1980s Ireland, how the Celtic Tiger made us lose our sense of welcome — and the Colombian pilot who became an Irish boy’s ET.
Roe McDermott, 07 Jun 2011
With the release of the award-winning Snap and One Hundred Mornings just behind us and Brendan Gleeson’s dark comedy The Guard hitting cinemas this summer, 2011 is all about impressive Irish films. The latest offering is Ian Power’s warm-hearted comedy The Runway, an uplifting tale about a Colombian pilot whose plane crashes in a quiet Cork town in 1983.
As the locals come together to build a runway for the pilot so that he can get home, the mysterious visitor in turn helps the struggling townspeople build up their own sense of pride and community. He becomes something of a father figure to tweenager Paco, played by the charmingly cheeky young actor Jamie Kierans.
For award-winning commercial director Power, the tale of a young country boy becoming caught up in an extraordinary adventure held a special appeal, having known what it was like to be a bored young lad in rural Ireland himself.
“Everyone talks about growing up in the country like it’s this magical place, but as a kid you just find it boring!” he winces. “I moved down when I was six and it was such a culture shock, it was weird. When I saw ET at seven I thought it’d be so much easier to have a friend drop out of the sky than try to make a whole new set of friends. So combined with seeing that story about the pilot on the news, I thought it’d be fun to make a film using the pop-culture reference of ET but to have it be about this adult pilot who’s a completely inappropriate friend for a young boy!”
Though he lacked as many playmates as he might have liked, Power remembers a palpable sense of support and togetherness in the country, despite the harsh realities of Ireland 30 years ago.
“I grew up in Wexford in the ‘80s, and rural Ireland is almost hard to describe now. In my head it always feels like when you see footage of Russia or an Eastern Bloc country. That’s what it felt like, in a restrictive way! But at the same time, there was never any sense from the people that they couldn’t pull through it. There was something very optimistic about the ‘80s that I remember.”