Cumann to present special advance screening of
Ard Laoch na hÉireann,
a new short film from Irish director Paul O’Halloran.
As well as the Cumann’s commitment to the Irish language, we also strive to introduce and celebrate various aspects of Irish culture. Whether they are ancient stories of Irish saints and scholars, the popular oral traditions of sean nós and béaloideas or descriptions and demonstrations of various Irish crafts and customs such as thatching of cottages or the gathering of neighbors for a meitheal, our members are exposed to both the language and to a broad range of the cultural aspects of Ireland. However, every so often we are excited to introduce something new to our members. We are proud to announce that we have special permission from Irish film director Paul O’Halloran to screen his brand new short film Ard Laoch na hÉireann (The Hero of Ireland) as part of our Lá Gaeilge program. Our annual Lá Gaeilge is fast approaching and is scheduled for Oct 25th at the Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury. The event promises to be as enjoyable and educational as ever, with classes and other fun activities planned throughout the day.
Paul originally hails from Swords, Co. Dublin and currently resides in Virginia. He recently completed a successful round of crowd sourcing with Kickstarter and his latest film project is currently doing the rounds at various film festivals. In May, his short film was selected as Best Film at the Mason Film Festival held by the George Mason University. The film is a period drama set in 1918 Dublin and provides an intriguing view of Post-World War I Ireland, a time of rising Irish nationalism. The film follows a young boy who is ostracized for having an Irish father who served in the British army and the dynamics of their relationship when he returns from the war. Attendees to the Lá Gaeilge this year will get an special advance viewing of the film, and Paul also invites people to view the trailer at the end of this post and to send him your feedback on the film’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheHeroofIreland).
Michael Graham: What was your inspiration for the story behind Ard Laoch na hÉireann?
Paul O’Halloran: The film was inspired by my great-grandfather, a career soldier who served in the British army during the First World War. As an Irish immigrant living in America, I wondered how someone like my great-grandfather could be both an Irish nationalist could be a British war hero. He gave so much in a terrible war, only to experience discrimination from both Irishmen and Englishmen when he returned home. I chose the father-son dynamic to allow audiences to explore this concept in its simplest form, through the eyes of a child, without the politics, biases and history.
The Celtic flavour in the film came from my own interest in Celtic mythology. I can’t get enough of stories like CúChulainn, The Children of Lir or Fionn mac Cumhaill, which are so ingrained in our culture that I think it is one of those unique things that makes us who we are when we think of our own Irish identities.
MJG: Was your team mostly Irish or was there an international flavour to the project?
POH: Yes, our production team was 100% Irish! Even more than that, the whole team was local to where the film was shot. Our pre-production and post-production team had some Americans onboard, such as in audio, art and animation. But I have to say the best thing about the project being international was the Kickstarter! We had people from all over backing the film – Ireland, US, Canada, even Brazil!
MJG: What has been the response so far to the project?
POH: The response has been simply fantastic. Audiences have really been enjoying the story and our young lead actor, Mark Ennis, is generating many fans! (His ego will be glad!) The use of Irish language in the film has been received very well by American audiences at every screening so far; something I had not anticipated would be so popular. Audiences are also responding very well to the ‘alternate’ view of Ireland. So many American films on Ireland are about some tall, dark and handsome Irish rogue from down the country who romances some girl, so I was glad to show something different: A stark look at a violent Dublin, and I think audiences are liking that.
MJG: What are your future goals for this project?
POH: I really hope that Ard Laoch gains enough success that people can see another side of Ireland. As an immigrant to the US, I’m always delighted by Americans’ enthused attitudes towards my country, yet I’m always surprised at how limited the cultural scope is on Ireland. Ireland is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, yet I am not from some idealistic farmland area, where we sing Irish ballads, dance the Céilí and live in a thatched roof house — I’m from a very urban, blue-collar, grey, industrial city. It’s so interesting to me that people always look at Ireland as being a beautiful, peaceful little island when really if you think about it, Irish national identity was forged from hundreds of years of poverty, violence and dislocation, and from the turbulence of rebellion. I want to show another side of Ireland, more evocative than stereotypes of rolling emerald hills.
MJG: Have you anything else in the pipeline?
POH: Yes! I have written a feature screenplay that I am looking to make. It is a light-hearted drama/comedy about a young Irish guy, stagnating in the height of the recession, who suddenly has the opportunity to emigrate to greener pastures in America but struggles at the thought of leaving his massive, closely-knit (and insane!) family behind. It is a very Irish film set in my hometown in Dublin!
MJG: How did you end up at George Mason University from Dublin?
POH: I had immigrated to the USA about 5 years ago and had originally lived in St Louis, MO. After some years there I lived in Minneapolis, MN and then finally Virginia, so I have been around! The decision to move to VA was influenced by my wife’s career, so once we were here I began looking at my options for schools and I lucked out that GMU was a fantastic public school in the region.