I’m a ‘townie’, through and through, born in the ‘Core’ of Dublin 8. I know concrete, decorative railings and the privet hedges that serve to border our tiny plots of living space in a built up society of mortgage holding, tenancy and homelessness. I know the still, stale air of narrow laneways and boarded up shops and houses; and grey rooftops, covering, cocooning, or confining the moving masses who everyday, battle the traffic, the hustle and the raw humanity of modern city life.
And for what? To earn enough shekels to keep a hold of the concrete box, and the decorative railing and the privet hedges…?
I don’t know the rural way. I don’t know the life of the small farmer. Or at least, I didn’t.
So what do you do with 30 acres on the side of a hill in north Kerry?
Pilgrim Hill is an astounding feature debut from writer, director, Gerard Barrett. Breaking some rules, as the fellah says himself, the film soars to the level of connecting with every person in the audience, no matter what your background. It is dark, sometimes bleak, but that is life, my friends, and anyone, everyone, will empathise with the character of Jimmy Walsh, portrayed with a truthful, still eloquence by Joe Mullins.
I’m always disappointed by the ones who call themselves ‘filmmakers’ yet, abandon projects simply because the money doesn’t materialize, or the funding is refused. Good stories go untold because of their lack of commitment to the art. And it is an art. So how inspiring is this young filmmaker to the rest of us?
Gerard made the film on a shoestring budget, a loan of €4,500 from his credit union. He chose a cinematographer whom he believed could understand how to shoot his vision, Ian D Murphy, and with a red camera, a crew of four, a cast of five, and a loan of a farm, he made Pilgrim Hill in seven days. He decided not to go through the production company and state funding route. There would be too many rules to follow, and he knew he would break them. So he made his film, his way, and it works beautifully.
Pilgrim Hill is a labour of love. Filmmaking that grasps at the soul of humanity and understanding of a very common dilemma; the entrapment of man by blood and land. And Gerard Barrett is a man to watch. A recent recipient of the IFTA Rising Star Award, his next feature project will have an urban setting and will be centred around, as he says himself, his observations that not all parents should be parents. Now there is a film that we all need to see…