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IFI Documentary Festival Review: The Curious Works of Roger Doyle

IFI Doc Fest

Regarded as the ‘Godfather of Irish Electronica’, Roger Doyle has been composing music for over five decades. As a collaborator with actress Olwen Fouéré, and filmmakers Bob Quinn and Cathal Black, Doyle has created brilliant soundscapes that add further dimension to the visual realm. Director Brian Lally’s film reveals a man  who makes music because the life force within him demands it — a theme that is evident throughout this aurally pleasing film.

The documentary centres around the development and staging of Doyle’s first opera, Heresy, which debuted in 2016 at the Project Arts Centre. Described as a “musical highlight of his career”, the electronic opera is about the life of Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno who was charged with heresy for his beliefs of cosmic pluralism.

Using this central event, the film backtracks and weaves through the years of Doyle’s life and works capturing along the way its origins, growth and reach. What results is a robust account filled with interesting archival material — including a scene with Doyle operating an early version of the Fairlight CMI.

There are also several interviews with notable players in the Irish entertainment industry, and one of the most touching scenes is from Abie Philbin Bowman, the brother of the late journalist and bon vivant Jonathan Philbin Bowman. Wonderfully edited, the sequence recounts how Doyle composed a piece of music to accompany a recording that Jonathan left on Doyle’s answering machine in 1988. The resulting piece, Coathanger Kisses, makes for a poetic and touching moment in the film that sums up the musical mastery of Roger Doyle.

An important documentation of a man who has devoted his life to exploration and innovation in his field — a man who experiences life through a veil of sound.

The IFI Documentary Festival runs from September 26-September 30.

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