Entertainment

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Irish director Ben Cleary is hoping his Oscar-nominated short film will stand out from the crowd

Claire Muprhy and Michael Cogley

Published 23/02/2016 | 07:21

Actor Matthew Needham appears in a scene from Stutterer, directed by Dubliner Ben Cleary.
Actor Matthew Needham appears in a scene from Stutterer, directed by Dubliner Ben Cleary.
Director Ben Cleary, from Rathmines.

While the Oscars will be all about Saoirse and Leonardo, one Dublin director is hoping his short film will stand out from the crowd.

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Stutterer, a movie created by Ben Cleary (inset right) from Rathmines, has been nominated as Best Live Action Short Film.

The film - starring Matthew Needham and Chloe Pirrie - has cleaned up at a range of film festivals throughout the year.

Ben (32) said that he was inspired to write about a man with a speech impediment after witnessing the struggles of a childhood friend. "I had a friend growing up who had a severe stutter - that must have stuck with me," he said.

Director Ben Cleary, from Rathmines.
Director Ben Cleary, from Rathmines.

"I initially saw something online about a gentleman who had a severe speech impediment.

"He managed to get to the point just fine - when speaking face to face. But when he got on the phone his stutter came back quite badly.

"This image struck a chord with me - an extreme close-up of his mouth struggling to speak. I had an idea to investigate how (a stutterer) navigates through today's world.

"So I thought about doing a voiceover of what his inner thoughts would be like - the dichotomy between the witty eloquence of his inner voice compared to the reality of being unable to communicate."

Ben said that he sent on a copy of Stutterer to his childhood friend, to ask his advice and get his thoughts on the film.

"I speak to him occasionally - I wouldn't like to name names," Ben said. "I sent it to him a couple of weeks ago, and I was a bit nervous about how he would react.

"I wanted him to realise that I was trying to treat the subject with sensitivity. He really liked it, and he sent me a really nice message."

Ben said that he wasn't prepared for the emotional reaction that the film would have on its audience.

"It's really nice when you watch it in a theatre.

"People come up and say it affected them - that's special to hear," he said.

"Most of my research was online. I read up a lot on it and watched videos of people. I would be sitting at my desk, seeing these brave people struggling to speak - in the hope of reaching out to other people - and I would be sitting at my desk in tears. It was quite moving."

Ben's tux on the night has been designed by Sligoman Cian McAuliffe, of Beggars Run in London, and he said that his family - parents Shay and Lou, brother Oliver and sister Annibel - will be staying up throughout the night to watch the ceremony.

"I know my parents are too nervous, but they'll be cheering me on from home," he said.

The Academy Awards ceremony is on Sunday night.

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