When Kate Dolan was a child, she dreamed of one day making a horror film, a dream which manifested into You Are Not My Mother. The thrilling debut feature from the Irish filmmaker premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this year, and has since won awards in France and Boston, been nominated for six IFTAs, and enjoyed a wide-scale cinema release in her home country.
To learn more about the ins and outs of this spooky spectacle, GCN sat down with Dolan to discuss the filmmaking process, along with the impact of Irishness and queerness on her work.
In her own words, Dolan describes You Are Not My Mother as “an Irish film, unlike any other Irish films you’ve seen before.
“I think it’s particularly a very different depiction of the North Side of Dublin,” she adds. “I am obviously an avid North Sider, so I’m advocating for cool horror film representation of the North Side.”
The film follows a young teenager, Char, whose mother goes missing only to return with an unrecognisable personality. It’s got all the “thrills and excitement and suspense and dread as a horror movie,” Kate says, but it also allows viewers to dig deeper into the theme of coming of age in a family that holds a traumatic past.
In terms of how the plot of the film was developed, Kate explains: “Irish folklore had always really interested me, and particularly the way that the stories that we hear about Irish folklore were always told to us as if they’re real.”
She had explored old tales of people burning and drowning their relatives because they were not who they thought they were, and then “wanted to make a story about a young person experiencing that. So like your parent not really behaving in a way that you’re used to, be it physically or mentally.”
Nach bhfuil muid gleoite?? ???✨ https://t.co/Y7v1V1ZWXa
— Kate Dolan (@caatdolan) March 17, 2022
It is clear that the relationship between Kate Dolan and our Emerald Isle seeps into her creative work. Speaking on this, she says: “I feel like Paganism and our old cultures and old traditions and rituals, they still permeate into our modern culture […] Like the fact that loads of people will still wave at a magpie that’s in their garden”.
“Irish people have a connection to the mystical in a way that other cultures maybe don’t as much,” and this perhaps aids her creation of paranormal films.
“I want to obviously, as an Irish person, show our culture in a way that interests me on screen and bring out those things that people might not know.”
— Kate Dolan (@caatdolan) February 24, 2022
Similarly, queerness seamlessly infiltrates into Dolan’s work, whether it be deliberately or subconsciously. While You Are Not My Mother does not necessarily have overt LGBTQ+ themes, there are subtle elements that resonate with queer audiences.
The film’s protagonist, Char, gains an ally throughout the film, and although Dolan didn’t initially notice it while writing the script, others helped her recognise that she was instinctively writing two queer characters.
“I remember we were in an early script meeting with a script editor, and the script editor was like, ‘What’s going on with the girls? […] Is this a romantic thing?’ And I was like, ‘Oh I haven’t really thought about it that much, but yeah, I guess it kind of is in a way’,” she recalls.
“Obviously, I’m a queer woman so I suppose it just bleeds into what I’m doing naturally, without me kind of forcing it. Because that’s me, and my experience that I’m drawing from.”
Dolan adds: “It’s not about queerness, because the story’s not about that. So it’s just like they’re queer. They’re queer characters populating this world.”
These subtle nods to the queer experience are easily missed by an untrained eye, and Kate jokes, “It’s funny, some people really notice it, and then some people are like, ‘Oh, I didn’t pick up on that at all.’ And you’re like, ‘You’re obviously not gay then.’”
You Are Not My Mother has enjoyed an array of success since its first screening earlier this year, with Kate Dolan saying having its premiere in Toronto was “a dream come true”.
The feature also picked up a Jury Prize at the Gérardmer Fantasy Film Festival in France, a Best Sci-Fright award in Boston, and was nominated for six IFTAs. In March, it had its Irish release, which was a real full-circle moment for the filmmaker.
— Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) (@IFTA) March 4, 2022
Speaking on the home screenings, Kate said: “When I was a kid, my dream was that I would get to make a horror movie when I was a grown-up. So I’m just thinking of little baby Kate absolutely delighted being like, ‘Oh my God, your film’s in a cinema? That’s so cool.’” Not only that, but the movie played in Odeon in Coolock and IMC in Santry, both of which Dolan frequented in her youth.
Watch the trailer for You Are Not My Mother, created by Kate Dolan, below, and keep your eyes peeled for upcoming screenings both in Ireland and abroad.
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