Niall McKay: The Bass Player – A Song for Dad

It is one of those films where you wonder if this is going to be private OR personal = something that would have been better to keep in the family circle OR a film with a universal appeal. The latter is absolutely the case and the reason is obvious – Irish director Niall McKay is a skilled storyteller and the character he brings to us, the bass player, his father, appears to be charming and charismatic in a very relaxed and reflective way.

The narrative is quite simple. Niall, the director and son, goes to Zürich to help his father pack his things for a return to Ireland after the death of the woman with whom he lived. Jim, the father, tells wonderfully how he met her, and in general these conversations on the journey, between father and son, are quite light hearted and warm. It is very often a son who asks his father to give him some tricks on Life. The father says, he can’t, but he does so anyway to a son, who is just about to get married, and who makes his proposing to his dear Marissa, on camera. The same goes for the wedding. The two also go back in time to talk about the mother, who took her own life. Yes, there are dramatic events in this family story but they are always presented in a decent manner that makes you able to reflect and make parallels to your own life. And in this way the film becomes moving through a tone that is never aggressive but always full of respect.

Irish can be difficult to understand, and I was happy that the director provided me with a subtitled version.

Ireland, 62 mins., 2008/9, taster and director-interview on sites below

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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