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Friday People: Brian Henry Martin

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

Brian Henry Martin (42) is a documentary filmmaker and film critic who helped found the Belfast Film Festival. He lives in Belfast with his partner Lisa Ruddy, his stepson Finn (15), son Max (10) and his and Lisa's daughter Tallulah (6)


Lisa and I met when I was making my first film Swimming in Wicklow in 1996 – she was the producer.

We had a great time working on the film and were great friends but at the time we were both with other people.

We both went off and got married to the other people and had sons and didn't see each other for about 10 years. Then we met up after we were divorced and it all just fell into place.

She's a very smart woman and is currently a PhD student at Queen's University.

The thing we have in common I think is that we have a great sense of humour – even in the darkest moments we share a laugh.


Tallulah is the absolute apple of my eye and I'm happy to spoil her. It's different raising boys and girls especially for fathers. They bond with the boys and have great relationships but the love you get from your daughter is amazing.

The kids have embraced technology so much now. They use iPads and are online all the time. It's so futuristic and that's the biggest shift from my era. I was the last generation to handwrite in school and we used chalk and blackboards. Anything the kids wish to know now is at the touch of a button.


This is a bit sad because my best friend died in 2002. His name was Michael Burns and we were flatmates for about five years. We met in film circles and immediately got on. He introduced me to all sorts of things like ground coffee – I'd only ever had instant before that.

When I was starting off my film career trying to get into documentaries Michael was a sound recordist and up-and-coming director. He was really talented and had a great aura about him.

When I was really struggling to find my place and getting a lot of rejections, he was the person who always believed in me and said that I would make it. I never believed it but he always did.

There isn't a day that goes by that I walk to work and don't thank him for his support.


My father has since passed away but mum is still here. Dad worked in the shipyard so I grew up under the shadow of the cranes in east Belfast.

Dad went to work at 14 because he didn't have any other choice so he always talked about education and giving yourself a choice about what you do as a job.

He introduced me to my two great passions; we would watch western films with John Wayne in them and watch Liverpool Football Club and swear at referees together.

Mum came from Cavan which was a very different background. She's in her 80s now and just doesn't stop. She has a great zest for life. She gets up and goes to different places, shows and goes on holidays. She's full of life and really inspirational.

I'm the baby of three. My older brothers are called Peter and Jack. They're still in Belfast, although we had all gone and lived in different places but ended up back here.

The idea of working in the film industry in Belfast was a bit of a joke so I don't think my parents were too keen on it. It all changed with the ceasefire though and things have turned on their head.


It's a tragic one. It's Monica Galetti from Masterchef. She pulls the best faces, demands the highest standards, and cooks the best food. What more could any man want? She's tough but so professional and I love watching her.


I don't go to anyone because I'm not good at taking advice – I'm not good at giving it either. I just follow my gut. I get it wrong of course, but it's just what I do.


David Barker who is a documentary cameraman who came here from Manchester in the 1970s to work for the BBC and he's still working today. He's a brilliant photographer and has made a huge contribution to the TV industry in Belfast.

I've been working with him for 10 years on documentaries all over the world and he never ceases to inspire me in how he looks at a location with a fresh eye. He makes me better.


I would ask Oscar Wilde (left) as I need to have a wit and a gossip at the table. Then I would ask Elvis – I was obsessed with him as I grew up and I loved that he actually had a great sense of humour. Next I would have the queen of Italian cinema, Sophia Loren. I love all things Italian, especially Italian food. Finally I need a cinematic genius, someone who was a writer, director, actor, performer, producer and did everything, so that would be Charlie Chaplin.

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