Interview with CARDBOARD GANGSTERS director Mark O’Connor

‘Cardboard Gangsters’ is a new Irish film set in Dublin’s Darndale housing estate, it tells the story of a group of young men, who are small time drug dealers and find themselves coming up
against the real deal.

The movie has already won awards abroad at film festivals and the trailer has gone viral online, knocking   up almost one million views on social media. 

We caught up with the director & co-writer Mark O’Connor, whose previous movies include ‘King Of The Travellers’ & ‘Between The Canals’

How did Cardboard Gangsters first come about?
John Connors wrote the original story and then asked me to come on as director. I said I would if he let me re write the script. John bravely agreed and I worked on it for 9 months. We brought in our producer and the rest is history!

The film is set in Darndale, did any of your chats with the locals influence the film?
John’s from Darndale and a lot of what happens in the film is loosely based on real stories from the area. Yes we went around the neighbourhood together during the writing process and discussed different things that had happened in the area and we tried to be as authentic as possible.

The film is of the same genre as RTE’s Love/Hate, why do you think Irish audiences are so interested in drug gangs and the crime underworld?
Crime films and characters have appealed to the general public right back to early films like The musketeers of Pig Alley to the 1930’s films like Scarface and Public Enemy right up to today. I suppose its the glamourous – outside the law – lives that criminals lead on screen which audiences fantasise about without breaking any laws.

The entire soundtrack features Irish artists with many of the rap artists from Darndale where the film is set. Was this important to you?
Very important. It wasn’t about putting musicians from Darndale in just because they were from Darndale. We were just lucky that God Creative is from Darndale and his music was the perfect fit. Modern Irish rap and dance is thriving but you won’t find much of it playing on Irish radio. You have to dig deep but when you do, you find absolute gold!

Do you think its important for local stories like this to be seen in cinemas?
Local stories which reflect our language, our time, history and our sense of character and place are necessary for enriching Irish culture and bringing awareness to societal problems.

Critics have noted some of the violence in the film, how difficult is it to get the balance right when showing violence on screen?

We never wanted it to be graphic, but definitely based in reality and authentic to what has gone on in Darndale and other such communities. We also wanted to portray the damage this does to families and loved ones of victims.

The film has won awards at recent film festivals, how are foreign audiences reacting to the film?
The reaction abroad has been amazing. People in Manchester loved it and in LA too. We’ve only screened at two festivals outside of Ireland and won awards at both. It is very surprising that foreign audience are taking to it in such a positive way. Our festival run is only beginning

The film joins the recent batch of great films made in Ireland, why do you think the Irish film industry is undergoing a renaissance?

There is a lot of great teaching in film colleges from Ballyfermot to IADT. Irish are natural story tellers and arts are huge in the country so its a combination of many factors. Maybe the recession helped too!

CARDBOARD GANGSTERS is in Irish cinemas from June 16th