Women, Film and Humanity

Interview with Paul Murphy, British film maker, by Khalid Ali, Film and Media Correspondent

Paul Murphy is an an Irish-born, London-based award-winning film director. His ability to swap between drama and comedy in telling stories is his way of understanding our collective unconscious, and what makes human beings tick. Paul’s films tend to focus on women stories exploring subjects such as domestic violence, women friendship and solidarity. In this interview, Paul talks more about his approach of using film to initiate a dialogue between film makers and the audience.

 ‘STOP’ is one of his short films that showed a woman suffering from domestic abuse but cannot escape. Paul elaborates:For me one of the ideas of ‘STOP’ was that we assume we know people by the merest of details; how they look, talk, how they carry themselves, and so on. We judge people every day and make value judgements based on largely superficial things. And based on those judgements we unconsciously act. With ‘STOP’ I wanted to make a film about two diametrically opposed women, in terms of class, race and culture, who on the surface, have nothing in common. But a series of incidents leads them to understand that they share more in common than they could ever have realised. It’s this common humanity that links them; exchanged empathy and caring allows them to open-up, and to tell their darkest secrets to each other. They are absolute strangers but are still connected in an experience that shakes women, relationships and families to the core.

I also liked the idea of how a woman who thinks she should have her life figured out by now, is taken to school by a young kid from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’, a girl who on the surface would know nothing about the complexities and nuances of life, but in reality the girl is mature and wiser beyond her years than the older and supposedly more experienced woman.

On its wide exposure in film festivals and impact, Paul says: ‘STOP had a successful festival run, playing as Official Selection and in competition for Best Drama at several international film festivals as well as home grown festivals here in the UK, and won a few Best Actor Awards for both actresses. It won the Film London Best of Borough Awards, and the film also came second in Shooting People’s ‘Film of the Month’ where judge, David Oyelowo said; “beautifully performed and nicely shot, this film satisfyingly and impressively plumbs deep emotional depths in a very short time”. The film played at many women and human rights themed festivals, such as ‘Underwire’ and ‘Let’s All Be Free’ in the UK.

Gypsy’s kiss’ is another short film that Paul made where domestic violence is explored this time from the perspective of an older Caucasian woman. Paul reflects on his inclusion of women from different race and backgrounds: ‘It has always been my aim to be as inclusive as possible in my films and to reflect the society that exists around me. Both ‘STOP’ and ‘Gypsy’s Kiss’ are set in London, one of the most multi-cultural cities of the world. To favour a story primarily about one race or ethnic group would seem to be disingenuous and not reflecting the London I live in. With that in mind my films are populated with characters of different backgrounds, religion and race. Dramatically too putting characters of differing opinions, cultures and backgrounds together makes for more interesting, telling and satisfying drama.

We are all different and yet all the same. We share very similar emotional lives, experiences and situations. Certainly, the circumstances, characters, and flavours are unique to each person but the experiences we all have whilst on the adventure that is life, are ultimately the same.

We often experience horrible and defeating experiences in isolation and believe that no one else has ever felt this way or that no one could understand how we feel. At these times, we are all connected with fragile humanity. At these moments as humans we transcend boundaries of race, religion and creed. It is in this moment of transformation, where we finally have the courage to be vulnerable, but also to open-up and share our experiences, and accept and indeed stand up for ourselves, our lives and indeed the part we play in them’.

Reflecting on the possibility that he might be labelled as anti-men director, Paul says: ‘Looking back on my work I can see a grain of truth to that critique. Hopefully not, but it is true, men are the antagonists in most of my short films, so there’s an interesting dynamic going on there. I’ve never really considered why that is, perhaps I’m trying to atone for sins I’ve committed against the various women in my life over the years (laughs). But again, I think it is due to my mother making a very strong impression on me from an early age; I was mesmerised by her power and influence, realising that there is rich ground from which to mine dramatic stories. As a giver of life, head of the household and ultimate tower of emotion and love, my mother, and I feel women in general are the stronger sex, more in tune with the nuance and ebbs and flows of life and the lynchpin of all creation’.

To read more about Paul Murphy and to watch ‘Stop’, click here.

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