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KATRINA & THE LOST CITY OF NEW ORLEANS by Rod Amis
New Orleans is the Lost City of America.
Rod Amis, publisher of G21: The World's Magazine, once believed one of the best bartenders in New Orleans, tells the story like no one else could.
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AFRICA FRESH! New Voices from the First Continent
An anthology of African writing only featured on the Internet until now, this book features the collected works of writers for the G21 AFRICA section of generator21.net. The eight writers represented here are from around the continent and present an exciting look at cutting-edge fiction and reporting from the first continent today.
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G21 INTERVIEWS: GLEN HANSARD & JOHN CARNEY: Media Editor's final interview is with Glen Hansard, of the Irish band The Frames, who is at the center of John Carney's debut feature "Once." View the trailer of the film here.
New York, NY, USA - Fashioning a hybrid from two cinematic genres can either pay off or be a profound failure. In the case of John Carney's debut feature, "Once," he succeeds handily. Maybe that's because he enlisted his longtime pal and former band member, Glen Hansard, lead singer of Ireland's hot rock band, The Frames, to play the lead character in his entrancing folk-rock fable.
Hansar d formed The Frames in 1990, as part of Dublin's expanding rock scene. Merging folk with rock, the band maintains a balance between energetic and pacific through Hansard's crisp songwriting, authentic vocal delivery and the simple yet somehow original song structures.
Hansard quit school at 13 to busk on local Dublin streets, but first garnered solo attention as guitar player 'Outspan Foster' in Alan Parker's film "The Commitments." He then presented the television show "Other Voices: Songs from a Room," which showcased Irish music talent. Last year, he released his first solo album, "The Swell Season," in collaboration with Czech singer and multi-instrumentalist Markéta Irglová, along with two other friends. Then he made "Once" with Carney directing and Markéta as the other lead; it won the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
"Once" is a very matter-of-fact tale of a street musician who meets a girl, a Czech immigrant played by Markéta Irglová, near Dublin's city center where she inspires him both with love and with music. But as the film merges two love stories - one about his love of music and the other his love for a woman - it becomes neither a concert film nor strictly a love story. There are performances and touching sequences but they never become too melodramatic or predictable. And since Glen Hansard's music is so great, this makes for a fine debut.
G21: So, John, your attempts at being a folk-rock singer failed; is this where your film career emerged?
JC: Well, I come from a reasonably musical family. My older brother was a music lover and made it his thing to go out and discover weird bands in the '70s and '80s that no one else knew about; he brought their [recordings] home and exposed his younger brothers, myself and Kieran, to this obscure music. So we had a piano and he brought a guitar and it was put under the bed, and I wasn't allowed to play it but I went and played it when I wasn't supposed to. Like at 2 o'clock in the morning, I played his guitar.
So I always played music. Then I met Glen when I left school and I joined his band and we played together in The Frames for a few years. But basically I got bitten by the whole film thing and I went off to try and seek my fortune as a film director in Ireland which is kind of an odd thing to do at the time because it was pre-Irish Film Board. There was no money and it wasn't state subsidized and it had just Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan; they were the two lads and they had their houses up in Dalkey overlooking the hills... so it was a funny time.
I made a couple of films, and myself and Glen met up a number of times along the way. Our paths crossed and we said we should do something together; you know, "I'd love to use a couple of your songs in my film" or I would take him and say, "I'll shoot a video for you or your band. Is there someway we can kind of share what we've done and let our two artistic endeavors kind of cross over?"
But it never happened and there was never anything to do together so I came up with this idea simply of a busker and an immigrant, in what is kind of a musical, because I wanted to try and do something that would get this musical thing out of my system. I love music and I'd stop writing scripts and go off and write at the piano and stuff for like three hours. I'd waste three hours or four hours a day just playing Billy Joel songs at the piano and I would be like "what the hell, I just wasted hours doing that. I got to put this into something," so I wrote a musical film.G21: How did you get started, Glen?
GH: Well I have this uncle in my family who was a very charismatic character. My mother comes from a family of 13 kids and he was one of the younger of the 13. He was like this amazing guy and it was a very working class family and he had this character, he did a bit of acting and was a musician and all the girls loved him. He was very good looking. He had the kind of, he had gray hair, all the family loved him, the women loved him you know. He was kind of a hero to all of us as young boys.
At one point during our lives, he disappeared and my mother was like "Yeah he's gone away" - it turned out he had taken a car and driven it across Europe filled with something illegal, and had gone to prison in Turkey for many years.
His nice guitar got left in our house, and his car, which is a four door amazing Ford Explorer, had been left in our garden and I was kind of wondering where he was. My mother kept stopping me from taking the guitar because I would just take it out and have it on the floor and be like [strum noise] and I just really enjoyed the sound of it, [but] she kept on putting it back.
It was a really nice guitar like a Gibson Hummingbird, a beautiful instrument. She thought I would wreck it but after a year of slapping me on the wrist and putting it back she realized - my mother was a real Leonard Cohen fan - maybe it would be a good idea if she'd teach me "Bird on a Wire" and when he got out of prison and came to the airport when all the family was there to greet him, there would be his nephew with his guitar playing him a song - as if to say, you have been a good influence on the family . So that was kind of how it happened. I learned to play "Bird on a Wire" on the guitar. I taught myself.
G21: How old were you at the time?
GH: I suppose I was about 9 or 10 and I went to the airport and of course as he came through, it was a big deal, he came through the arrival stall and the first thing he said is "my fucking guitar!" [laughing] It was wrecked because obviously I'd been dragging it around the flat because I had no idea that you keep this thing precious.
But it was completely anti-climatic because he took me into his band and I played music with him. Then at the same time my school teacher advised me to leave school at the age of 13, which was a couple of years later, and take on the goal basically of being a street musician. He said the best place to start your career would be the streets because it's the bottom rung. It would teach you everything you need to know. I learned to play a couple of chords from my uncle, and being a street musician is where I got my education.
G21: John, what gave you confidence that Glen could actually carry the film; he's an act but not necessarily an actor.
JC: Well, being a director, I originally thought I would get Cillian Murphy to do the role because I know him and he can sing, he's quite a good singer. I thought you would do the usual thing - get a good actor who could half-sing and maybe train his voice, which is one way of going. [But] it certainly became clear to everyone involved in the film that we should do it the other way around: we should get someone who can really sing and half-act and I'll trust that I could do something magical with that, and I really didn't have to do much.
I knew Glen for long time and, really, being a director you know there's a million different styles of acting. When you look at a person, you decide to employ a certain approach and style and directing a non-actor or someone who acted a little is really knowing them and knowing their personality and putting them into a situation where they're comfortable to read your lines and bring this character to life. An actor can take different directions but I kind of just knew him. I figured he would be great by the end of the day.
G21: Glen, what gave you that confidence?
JC: He didn't have much [laughing]. Glen said, "If I'm rubbish just sack me on the first day." [Talking to Glen] You were worried.
GH: I was terrified for a few reasons. I didn't want to suck for his sake and I didn't want to su ck for mine. I'm a really comfortable person behind a guitar but in front of the camera it's a whole different ball game and I didn't know if I could do it. So I really needed him to tell me the truth.
Am I rubbish? Are we pulling this off? Is it going to work because if it isn't, then let's just pack it in . Because I thought really when they chose me, John was just jumping on the nearest person.
I was thinking that if John had really wanted me to play this role me would have asked me at the beginning and maybe I'm the rebound [choice], but at the same time it made a lot of sense. This would be something where I was dealing with my mates. And it was a big deal with loads of people telling me this and that. It was a very obscure scenario which I never felt attached to at all. Whereas John was like "Look, let's just do it and if it's shit we'll just shelve it; if it's brilliant we'll sell a few DVDs to make the money back." That was the logic so we basically had to look at it with an open mind.
G21: One of the best scenes involved the two singing at the dinner table. Is that kind of something you two lived through in real life?
GH: Oh yeah, that's a typical evening in our lives. That's actually my flat where we shot in. My mother is the one who sings the Irish song and all the people in the room are friends. There were no extras in this film. We just got all our friends to come, so actually we just threw a really big party and John spent an hour of the party telling people to shut up while he filmed something. It was really just a get-together with friends and family. One great thing I love was, here was an opportunity to get all the people you love in your life in one room that you could document forever.
JC: But it's not a documentary...
GH: Even the extras were people from the set so basically everyone got used.
JC: I spent three years in working for TV because it paid well and every extra got paid $100; there were only three takes. So coming back to make "Once" was a really great because it's was what I really thought filmmaking was about.
Films should be about the real world so it was great to have a situation where - because we had no permits for shooting the opening scene [on the street] - that the actor who played the kid that grabs Glen's busking money, he actually got chased down the street because no one who saw it knew he was acting. I was shooting so far down the street that no one saw him. We basically had to go rescue him from the guys who chased him down.
G21: The end is so bittersweet. What do you think happened to the guy and girl?
GH: I like to think that the guy goes back and works things out with the girl [his former girlfriend, now living in Liverpool] because he really loves her. This guy was kind of lonely, then this girl [Markéta] walks into his life and then he finds him writing songs and playing the guitar, something that he wasn't used too. She basically woke him up out of a long, long sleep. I like to think he does the right thing and goes and gets back with his [former] girl, but he keeps this [new] girl in his heart.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: If you missed the film trailer at the top of the page, here it is again.]
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