Episode 1 The Arts Show


Episode 1

This month's show features the Art of the Troubles exhibition at the Ulster Museum, political cartoonist Ian Knox and photographer Bobbie Hanvey.


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Transcript


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Welcome to The Arts Show. As elections loom on the near horizon,

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we'll be looking at the art of politics.

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This year is also the 50th year since the launch of BBC Two.

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We'll be dusting off some moments from the archives a little later.

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Here's what's coming up.

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Created for BBC Two Northern Ireland, we look back at Alan Clarke

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and Danny Boyle's groundbreaking Troubles drama Elephant.

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Renowned political cartoonist Ian Knox invites us to join him in his

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studio, where he combines artistic ability and social commentary.

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Veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie gives us

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his take on the thought-provoking exhibition

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Art Of The Troubles in Belfast's Ulster Museum.

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And, Noel Thompson meets a man who has been documenting life here,

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including our politics, since the '70s - photographer Bobbie Hanvey.

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I'm here in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast,

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home to the Northern Ireland Political Collection,

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a huge body of local political literature and artefacts.

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John Killen is librarian here, author of The Unkindest Cut:

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A Cartoon History Of Ulster in the 20th century.

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How far back do cartoons go?

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In our context, the cartoon really is

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an 18th-century manifestation

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of political satire.

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It goes back to James Gillray in the 1770s, '80s, '90s.

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There are two that he did in June 1798,

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during the Rebellion, United Irishmen In Training,

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and you can see he's already using the very coarse features

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that were very prominent in the 19th century.

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It's almost we're monkeys.

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-That's right.

-Simian.

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The simianisation of the Irish face.

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They knew who they were writing for,

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and they were writing for a specific audience.

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That specific audience was the literate

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classes in the United Kingdom.

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With the spread of printing and newspapers and magazines in the 19th

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and certainly into the 20th century, it becomes how we view ourselves.

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This illustration, it's a little book, printed in Belfast, 1892,

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and it's called The Diary Of An Irish Cabinet Minister.

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You can see this melee, a sort of free-for-all.

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-All hell has broken loose.

-This is local.

-This is local.

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This is where we begin to look at ourselves.

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The people change, but the politics don't.

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That seems to be the way.

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There's a cartoon by Rowel Friers that appeared in the Irish Times

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showing the ballot box in one hand

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and the Armalite in the other.

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-That's 1982.

-OK.

-60 years earlier, in Punch, we have this cartoon.

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There's the ballot box again.

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There's the ballot box again, and the pistol.

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And the fact that the likes of Rowel Friers,

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I grew up on his political cartoons,

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and Ian Knox is the current social commentator,

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did they have to have a huge knowledge

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of previous cartoon history?

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Is that almost coming with the job?

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The two that you mentioned,

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they have their own intellectual view

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of not just life, but of art, as well.

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And it's a symbiotic combination of that in the cartoonist.

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And that's what gives their personal slant on the issues of the day,

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but also the way they depict it in art.

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-And, of course, they have to be funny.

-They do.

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The best cartoons would bring a laugh or anger in an instant.

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Cartoons are very much like a joke.

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If you have to explain it, it's not worth telling.

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The punchline has to be got immediately,

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and the best cartoonists are masters at this.

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John Killen, thank you so much.

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We're going to bring Ulster cartoons right up-to-date.

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You may not know him, but you will most definitely know his work.

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Cartoonist Ian Knox has been documenting political life here

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through his cartoons for nearly a quarter of a century

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for the Irish News, and you will know his work

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from BBC Northern Ireland's

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former political programme Hearts And Minds.

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We went to his Belfast studio to witness his quick wit

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and his even quicker drawing skills.

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Order, order, order!

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Order!

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It's a matter of pride for me that I draw things the way I want.

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It's ideas-driven. It's a high form of activity. But it ain't art.

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I always hope my mirror to what the world will be really distorted!

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That's what I do.

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I'm a distorter of the truth, and a bringer of the truth,

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but I do it through distortion.

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And the more distorted, the better.

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I like surreal worlds,

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that the punter sees something bizarre and weird.

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People like a fantasy world in a political cartoon.

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They like to be taken slightly away from the grim reality

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into a slightly different kind of grim reality.

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The political cartoonist knows which props to throw into corners

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and how to light the thing, how to make the composition work.

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Satire's about getting at the truth, it's not necessarily...

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Although you may go overboard to caricature it,

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you're not actually trying to come up with

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something that isn't the truth.

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If you were, people would soon get fed up with it.

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Edwin certainly was quite statuesque in his individuality.

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He doesn't have a short neck.

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I construct the character I want to be in my cartoon.

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And I give them the personality I think they ought to have.

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I don't study them to see what they're actually like.

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Nigel Dodds, looking the way he does, he makes my job much easier.

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He has something of the night about him, I think.

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I definitely think of him as somebody who you would see

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as the light's beginning to fade

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somewhere in North Belfast, near an old ruined building.

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Gerry Adams is one of the very few upper-teeth men.

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And, of course, Ian Paisley is probably the only person

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who's caricatured all around the world, as he was,

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with his mouth open.

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He's never shown with his mouth closed.

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That's what caricature's all about, really,

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finding that thing which is unique and putting it down,

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and not just the way it is - the way it isn't.

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I do four of these each week for the Irish News.

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Which is as much as I possibly could do, I think.

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I'm getting on, you know.

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I operate on panic, due to basic laziness.

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So, if there wasn't something like a deadline,

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I would never, ever do anything at all.

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So, there's panic, and then there's insight, then there's genius.

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And then there's the drawing, and then you relax until tomorrow.

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Political issues are fascinating.

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The world is all about political issues.

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It's not a job I would ever in a million years want to do.

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I wouldn't be any good at it.

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I can't organise anything.

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I'd be totally useless. I'd only make the problems worse.

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But that doesn't stop me

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having a go at other people who get it wrong, as well.

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I draw for a paper which is predominantly nationalist,

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or non-unionist, and yet nearly all the feedback I get,

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rightly, from politicians is from unionists.

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They're the ones who want originals, not the nationalists.

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There's a kind of discipline about nationalists

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which means that the cartoons are not quite as funny.

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The whole world of unionism is much wilder and wackier.

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Well, we have this extraordinary Keystone Cop-type day

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with the UDA driving into Larne and taking it over

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and doing pretty much what they wanted.

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So, it struck me that all the money that's been pumped into the UDA,

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they should really invest in a fleet of their own official cars

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so they could go on patrol up front.

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I suppose I want people, when they see the cartoon,

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to think, "He's got it exactly right."

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And, "That's very funny," and to laugh and be entertained by it.

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I don't expect to change their point of view. It'd be nice if they did.

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The way I do it is I mainly slightly subvert their preconceptions.

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That's the most, I think, I could aim for.

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But the day I actually think that I'm changing people's minds

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is the day that you can send for the guys in the white coats.

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Because that'll never happen.

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And if I ever think that that's happening, I'm going to jack it in.

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Currently running at the Ulster Museum in Belfast

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is a major exhibition, Art Of The Troubles.

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In partnership with Wolverhampton Art Gallery, it's a challenging

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and sometimes controversial body of work.

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Eamonn Mallie was a reporter here throughout the Troubles.

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He gives us his personal reflections from the very unique perspective

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of both a chronicler of the era and a 20th-century art lover.

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What we see here is a combination

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at the hands of FE McWilliam, the Banbridge sculptor,

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is a marrying together of the beauty of the female form

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and the ugliness of war.

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This piece of work is more emblematic, I think,

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of our Troubles than anything else

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we have in this exhibition here in the Ulster Museum.

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This is the equivalent of Pablo Picasso's painting of Guernica,

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bombed, in northern Spain.

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McWilliam captured the end product, the horror, the ugliness,

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the grotesqueness of violence arising from the Abercorn bombing

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in this particular piece of work.

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Some of the artists who are hanging on the walls,

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they're not art as we would readily identify with the Troubles.

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For example, Terry Flanagan.

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Terry Flanagan was a beautifully lyrical landscape painter,

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and here he is portraying a dead figure.

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This was a response, we're advised, to the death of Mr Flanagan's friend.

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CROWD CHEERING, DRUMS AND FLUTES PLAYING

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The artist Joe McWilliams is a very political painter.

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He's done Gerry Adams, he's done Padraig Pearse,

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he's done a lot of the Irish figures of history.

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In painting Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson, the artist

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is focusing very specifically on his take at a particular

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moment in time on the Democratic Unionist Party

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and, clearly, it is not a very edifying take.

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Clearly, he has very considerable - from what I see here -

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contempt for these individuals.

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Sammy Wilson, the Lord Mayor of Belfast -

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he's like the court jester.

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There is something menacing about this mirror image, almost,

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sitting on Ian Paisley's shoulder.

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And yet you get that in contrast to the guffawing, avuncular,

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larger-than-life Paisley,

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the television image which people would know of Ian Paisley.

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I can only conclude that the artist is conveying another message.

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If you notice, there's a yellow streak

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down the middle of Mr Robinson's face.

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But who knows? Not a very flattering triptych, I have to say.

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This painting by Conrad Atkinson

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is living proof of how times have changed.

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For the better, I should say.

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In 1978, there was uproar

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when Atkinson wanted it hung on a wall here in the museum.

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There was an objection by the trustees, there was

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an objection by staff, I'm told, et cetera, et cetera.

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It's hanging here today. Would anyone notice? I doubt it.

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The world is changing. What's happening now?

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Martin McGuinness dining with the Queen.

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CACOPHONOUS METALLIC BANGING

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This exhibit piece of art is called An Bhearna Bhaoil.

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Now, An Bhearna Bhaoil means "the gap of danger".

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This is a tying of history and reality on the ground together.

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The banging of the bin lids was the quickest way to get the word out

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to people who might have been wanted by the police,

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who might have been hiding in a so-called safe house.

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So, in a sense, these bin lids were the Facebook

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and the Twitter of that era.

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It's the genius of the artist, Locky Morris, to see how

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this simple bin lid could be seen in a sense of otherness.

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That's what distinguishes the ordinary artist

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from the extraordinary.

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EXPLOSION

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Having come in to see the exhibition for the first time,

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my visceral response was one of tension.

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Tension in my chest.

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Maybe it's because I lived through this period.

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Maybe it's because I was there in the aftermath of so many

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of the killings portrayed here, of the shootings, of the bombing scenes.

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So, hence this sense of tension for me

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as a living reporter, as somebody who, thank God,

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survived the era, the period.

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And the Art Of The Troubles exhibition continues

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until 7th September.

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Now, when a politician gets their photographic portrait taken,

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it's a rare chance for us to look them squarely in the face.

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But they may end up revealing

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an awful lot more than they'd bargained for.

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Noel Thompson went to Downpatrick to meet a man who has had many

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of our local politicians staring down his lens over the years -

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Bobbie Hanvey.

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We live in an age when we're bombarded with moving images

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of politicians 24 hours a day.

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But a single moment frozen in time can define for ever

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the way we think of a person.

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If you go somewhere like that, look,

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-you can do different things, you know?

-Yeah.

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'Bobbie Hanvey has used the power of the portrait to explore

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'the torturous political landscape of Northern Ireland,

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'as I discovered on a shoot in an old hospital ward in his home town.'

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Don't blink.

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CAMERA CLICKS

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What do you think has helped make you a successful portrait photographer?

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The way I look.

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I'm not threatening to men, I'm not threatening to women.

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I don't look great,

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I'm not good-looking,

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and no matter how unattractive some of the people that I'm taking are,

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they always feel better when they look at me!

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HE LAUGHS

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Isn't that strange?

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Are you always trying to get people to reveal something of themselves

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that has not been seen before or that has not been seen publicly before?

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-I try and get the dark side of people.

-Mmm.

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You know? I don't know how I do it.

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I'm successful a lot of the time. Sometimes, I can't get it.

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Yes. Not everyone has a dark side. Or do you think everyone does?

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Everybody has a dark side.

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But if people knew you wanted to take their dark side,

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maybe they wouldn't be so happy about posing for you.

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Most hard men and paramilitaries like their dark side to be seen,

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because that's how they're known.

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And I say to some of the paramilitaries

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when I'm taking them, "Look at me as if you were going to kill me."

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Close your eyes a wee second, there's dust in your eyes. Duck.

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Got him! An old trick I learned in Belfast!

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HE LAUGHS

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Over five decades, Bobbie has worked in many different genres,

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from daily news to longer-term projects,

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like the last days of the RUC.

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Where do you rate your portraits in that body of work?

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I'd rate them at the top.

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Because that's what I really wanted to do, photograph people close up,

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getting into their eyes, even getting into their soul.

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Sometimes I managed it, and sometimes I didn't,

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-but that's it.

-Let's go and look.

-OK.

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So, there you have Ian Paisley up at the level of Carson at Stormont.

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Tell us about the background to this picture!

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It was September 1985.

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Got his number and phoned him up and I said,

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"Dr Paisley, Bobbie Hanvey here.

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"Yes, my friend, what can I do for you?"

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I said, "I want to put you up in the air, 40 or 50 foot,

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"in a cherry picker, beside Lord Carson's statue,

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"and I want to go up in a cherry picker, as well,

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"and take you like that."

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He says, "When are we going up?"

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Bobbie has shot portraits of paramilitary leaders on all sides.

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This one of Buck Alec Robinson

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and Gusty Spence reveals something unexpected.

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So, this is a photograph of two generations of loyalist gunmen.

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What message did you want the picture to get across?

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They just look like ordinary people.

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You know, they look like us.

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-Alex looks like an old man, which he is.

-He is.

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And Gusty's just happy and pleased to be there

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and there's no dark side to Gusty in that shot, you know what I mean?

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-They do what they have to do.

-They've convinced themselves

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that there's a just cause for what they're doing.

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'Other portraits reveal something very different.'

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Cathal Goulding, chief of staff for the Official IRA.

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How about that? When he looked at me, it was like me looking at death.

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Death.

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And the eyes are the things

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in that Cathal Goulding shot that stand out.

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You say they're dead eyes?

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It's like looking at death.

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Very nice man.

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I liked him.

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Do you feel that they liked the thought of being recorded

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for posterity, that a good photograph of them is something

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that will always be a record of them and their ego?

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It's not them and their ego, it's them and their tradition.

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A lot of people mightn't like them, but they had the support and,

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whether we like it or not, they ran Northern Ireland for 30 years.

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Nobody could stop it.

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I don't want to photograph politicians any more.

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Why?

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Because I don't believe them any more.

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I think people were more honest during the Troubles.

0:20:490:20:52

And is that what you think or what you try to capture with your lens,

0:20:520:20:56

that honesty, that rawness?

0:20:560:20:58

There's an awful honesty about brutality.

0:20:580:21:01

OK. Let's have a look at me here.

0:21:030:21:06

I look like bloody Keith Richards in that one!

0:21:060:21:09

HE LAUGHS

0:21:090:21:10

Originally commissioned by BBC Two Northern Ireland,

0:21:220:21:25

it's a film with no story

0:21:250:21:27

and very little dialogue is spoken for most of its 40 minutes.

0:21:270:21:31

But it was produced by a future Oscar winner, Danny Boyle,

0:21:310:21:34

and directed by revered film maverick Alan Clarke.

0:21:340:21:37

25 years on, Elephant is now at cult status,

0:21:370:21:40

considered to be one of the most striking and dramatic portrayals

0:21:400:21:44

of the Troubles.

0:21:440:21:46

In 1987, Danny Boyle, then head of the drama department

0:21:520:21:56

at BBC Northern Ireland, invited director Alan Clarke to Belfast

0:21:560:22:01

to discuss a new screenplay for a BBC Two drama about the RUC.

0:22:010:22:06

One of the writers, Chris Ryder, took him on a tour of the city.

0:22:070:22:11

Here you were, driving along a suburban street.

0:22:120:22:14

Then all of a sudden there would be a house and I would have told them,

0:22:140:22:18

"Well, at three o'clock one morning, somebody hammered the door

0:22:180:22:21

"and as soon as the front door was opened

0:22:210:22:23

"the person in it was gunned down."

0:22:230:22:25

What struck him was the calm brutality of it all.

0:22:250:22:28

Clarke went back to Danny Boyle with an idea for a very different film,

0:22:300:22:34

showing a series of sectarian murders

0:22:340:22:37

with no explanations and no real beginning or end.

0:22:370:22:40

It would mirror the deadly stalemate here,

0:22:400:22:43

the unmentionable elephant in the room.

0:22:430:22:45

Elephant was the first time I'd ever stood in front of a camera,

0:22:450:22:48

the first part I'd never got in any kind of a film.

0:22:480:22:52

So, it made it all the more exciting for me on the day.

0:22:520:22:54

I had to walk along here, nice and gently,

0:22:540:22:56

without drawing any attention to myself particularly.

0:22:560:22:59

I had to ring on that doorbell and then I had to wait

0:22:590:23:02

for what felt at the time like an eternity

0:23:020:23:04

before somebody actually came to the door and answered it.

0:23:040:23:06

GUNSHOTS

0:23:110:23:13

But Alan Clarke was fastidious in exactly

0:23:130:23:14

how he wanted you to do what he wanted you to do.

0:23:140:23:16

I can remember talking at one point, saying to him,

0:23:160:23:19

"Do I know this guy? Do I hate this character?

0:23:190:23:21

"Is there venom behind what I'm doing here?"

0:23:210:23:23

He said, "Absolutely not."

0:23:230:23:25

He wanted nothing. he said, "No expression at all."

0:23:250:23:27

A documentary is people,

0:23:270:23:29

is one in which people portray themselves.

0:23:290:23:32

A drama is one in which actors are paid to portray other people.

0:23:320:23:37

OK.

0:23:370:23:38

And the poor guy died about there.

0:23:380:23:40

It's kind of a shock to see it.

0:23:430:23:45

It is a shock to see it.

0:23:450:23:46

And to see how simple the whole thing was.

0:23:470:23:51

You really did feel like you were...

0:23:510:23:54

It felt like you were looking at something very real.

0:23:540:23:56

But when you saw it in the end, it was quite stripped bare.

0:23:560:23:59

You felt kind of naked about it, I think.

0:23:590:24:03

Elephant was largely improvised on location,

0:24:030:24:06

a product of the director's imagination.

0:24:060:24:08

It was an unusual film, because, A, there was no script,

0:24:080:24:13

so we didn't really know what was happening.

0:24:130:24:15

Most of the crew didn't know from day-to-day

0:24:150:24:17

exactly what we were going to shoot.

0:24:170:24:20

GUNSHOT

0:24:200:24:21

The content was very unsettling for the crew

0:24:240:24:27

and I know a lot of crew didn't really want to work on it.

0:24:270:24:30

He spent a lot of time on his own, walking up and down

0:24:310:24:34

with a big coat on.

0:24:340:24:36

I don't think he was very well at the time, either.

0:24:360:24:38

Elephant was broadcast in January, 1989.

0:24:400:24:43

The following day, there were outraged accusations

0:24:430:24:46

that it sensationalised sectarian killing.

0:24:460:24:49

We wanted to try and bring to the attention of everybody, really,

0:24:490:24:53

who should be concerned about Northern Ireland

0:24:530:24:55

that the situation is continuing.

0:24:550:24:57

Some days you would have had tit for tats,

0:24:570:24:59

two in the morning, two in the afternoon..

0:24:590:25:02

By stripping away all the propaganda, all the explanations,

0:25:020:25:05

the justifications, the "what about-tery"

0:25:050:25:08

that you had in Belfast, this was just a way to show that,

0:25:080:25:11

underneath it all, the core of it all was this regular, relentless,

0:25:110:25:16

coruscating sheer violence

0:25:160:25:19

with no rhyme nor reason in most cases.

0:25:190:25:22

It was becoming normal, and he was trying to show

0:25:220:25:25

that it wasn't normal, and I think that got a reaction

0:25:250:25:29

cos I think it made people think,

0:25:290:25:31

"Gosh, really, this isn't normal. This isn't a normal way to live.

0:25:310:25:35

"This isn't a normal society we're living in."

0:25:350:25:38

Clarke had been suffering from cancer throughout the shoot

0:25:380:25:41

and died the following year.

0:25:410:25:43

But for a film that was only shown once on television,

0:25:430:25:46

Elephant has been incredibly influential.

0:25:460:25:49

You talk to any director and they hear that you've worked on Elephant,

0:25:490:25:52

they're quite... They ask you questions.

0:25:520:25:55

I think a lot of film-makers took to heart

0:25:550:25:59

a lot of what Alan did in that movie.

0:25:590:26:01

In 2003, director Gus Van Sant

0:26:030:26:05

won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival

0:26:050:26:08

for a film which borrowed heavily from Alan Clarke.

0:26:080:26:11

Depicting shootings at a US high school, his Elephant uses

0:26:110:26:14

the same unflinching tracking shots of victims and killers.

0:26:140:26:18

The camera just sits there.

0:26:200:26:22

It looks and it looks and it looks

0:26:220:26:24

and it won't let you tear your eyes away.

0:26:240:26:26

He was a very political film-maker.

0:26:260:26:28

In this case, he had a very, very precise point that he wanted to make

0:26:280:26:31

and I don't think you could have made it any better.

0:26:310:26:33

Well, that's almost it from The Arts Show for this month.

0:26:480:26:52

You can join me live on Twitter now and you can keep up-to-date

0:26:520:26:55

with all arts and culture on BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra

0:26:550:26:59

weeknights at 6:30pm.

0:26:590:27:01

I'm back in May, but we leave you with another moment

0:27:010:27:05

from the BBC Two Northern Ireland archive.

0:27:050:27:08

In 1993, a fresh-faced up-and-coming comedian

0:27:080:27:12

who knew how to spin the comic art of politics made his appearance

0:27:120:27:15

on the arts show The Hungry Eye. Good night.

0:27:150:27:19

APPLAUSE

0:27:190:27:21

Thanks very much. At the minute, we've got

0:27:210:27:23

a new battalion of the Army over here on our streets

0:27:230:27:26

and because they've taken their helmets off and put their berets on,

0:27:260:27:29

they're now called the Frank Spencer Regiment.

0:27:290:27:32

What's actually happening is, instead, at the checkpoints,

0:27:320:27:35

of them asking you for ID, they just stand at the window and go...

0:27:350:27:38

HE GIGGLES

0:27:380:27:40

And all the boys are having great fun with it in Belfast.

0:27:420:27:44

The lads are at the checkpoint, they go, "Excuse me.

0:27:440:27:47

"You got any means of identification on you?" "No, I haven't, mucker,

0:27:470:27:50

"but I'm Betty and she's Jessica. Know what I mean?

0:27:500:27:53

"Ah, go on, give us Phantom of the Opera."

0:27:530:27:55

"Tell you what, you stick the roller-skates on,

0:27:550:27:57

"I'll tow you down the road."

0:27:570:27:59

It's true. It's true. And also, I've noticed, culturally,

0:28:000:28:03

it's really, really good. Thomas the Tank Engine is actually now

0:28:030:28:06

in Irish over here, and I was thinking for Northern Ireland

0:28:060:28:09

they shouldn't have it in Irish, they should just abbreviate it.

0:28:090:28:12

For Northern Ireland, it should be Thomas the Tank.

0:28:120:28:16

Or maybe just Thomas the Saracen.

0:28:160:28:19

I think Ringo Starr could have a lot of fun with that.

0:28:190:28:21

It was a boring day for Thomas the Saracen

0:28:210:28:24

as he escorted the Republic of Ireland team to the ground.

0:28:240:28:27

Oh, there's a police checkpoint with the two Land Rovers,

0:28:270:28:30

Annie and Clarabell.

0:28:300:28:31

"Hello, Annie." "Hello, Thomas. Any means of identification?"

0:28:310:28:35

"Didn't you know, Annie? I'm in the Masons?"

0:28:350:28:37

"Oh, sorry, Thomas. On you go."

0:28:370:28:40

It's true.

0:28:400:28:41

APPLAUSE

0:28:410:28:43

Featuring the Art of the Troubles exhibition at the Ulster Museum, political cartoonist Ian Knox and photographer Bobbie Hanvey. Plus, a look back at Alan Clarke and Danny Boyle's seminal Troubles era drama Elephant.


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