Four female directors will showcase their work at the Dingle International Film Festival tonight, writes Majella O’Sullivan.

It’s a male-dominated industry but four women are flying the flag for female directors and will showcase their work at the Dingle International Film Festival this weekend.

All four are either from or living on the Dingle Peninsula and are part of its growing and vibrant film community.

They have all chosen the path less travelled and followed their dreams, drawing on the rich historical and cultural traditions of the peninsula to fuel their imaginations.

Their short films will be screened at St James’s Church tonight.

Áine Ní Chíobhái, Baile Riach, Dingle

A loan from her local Credit Union enabled Áine Ní Chíobháin make her documentary/drama A Tragedy in Kerry.

Behind the camera: Meeting the makers at the Dingle Film Festival

At 30, Áine, who hails from Baile Riach in Dingle, is the youngest of the female directors whose work is being shown at this year’s Dingle International Film Festival.

She knew she had a strong story that confronted one of the atrocities of the Civil War that happened in Kerry and she didn’t want money to be the issue so approached the Credit Union.

Áine researched, directed, wrote and produced the 20-minute film, which was part of her Masters in Creative Media at the Institute of Technology Tralee.

Prior to a two-year stint in Australia, Áine worked as a researcher for independent film companies and also worked with a production company based in Belfast.

“When I came home from Australia, I wanted to stay in Dingle and pick up freelance work. I also wanted to go back to college and develop my skills in this field,” she said.

Based on an excerpt from Dorothy McCardle’s book, Tragedies of Kerry, the film investigates the story of Tom Sullivan, an IRA volunteer who was shot in Ballyferriter in February 1923.

She investigated Sullivan’s story from official documents archived at Cathal Brugha Barracks, diary entries of a local IRA column, a poem and the accounts of local historians.

“I picked his story because he was local and I thought that maybe enough time had passed to look at what happened objectively as a student of history,” she said.

However, when she started researching it, she found people are still apprehensive about talking about this part of our history.

“I wanted to put it into the film festival and hide in the background but at least it might start a conversation about the Civil War.

“It’s part of our psyche and who were are and I think it’s important that we acknowledge our past.”

Elaine Kennedy, Dingle

Actor and director Elaine Kennedy is a firm believer that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Behind the camera: Meeting the makers at the Dingle Film Festival

Elaine, 38, studied screen acting at Bow Street in Dublin three years ago having put her dream on hold since she was a teenager.

Born and raised in London to parents from Ballydavid and The Maherees in West Kerry, Elaine moved to Dingle when she was 20 when her parents relocated there.

Although she had secured a place to study drama in London, she shelved her plans but says the urge was always there.

Her short film, Uisce Beatha - The Water of Life picked up the Best Film Award at the Underground Film Festival in Dublin in September and at the Richard Harris International Film Festival in Limerick in October, where she was also nominated in the Best Actor and Best Director categories.

It was also shown at the Chicago-Irish Film Festival earlier this month.

An award-winning wedding and portrait photographer, Elaine is based in Dingle where she has picked up a number of acting roles including Pick Up with Aidan Gillen, which premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival in February.

“I decided to write my own screenplay based on a true story about an event that happened between me and my dad,” Elaine said.

“I knew it was special and I thought it would be a good place to start.”

Elaine attended the Fisín workshop with Gerry Stembridge at the Dingle International Film Festival and although her screenplay became a finalist in the competition, it didn’t win.

“I self-funded it anyway, using my own savings, and then I started submitting it to film festivals but bringing it home again to the Dingle International Film Festival means a lot,” she added.

Elaine wrote, produced, directed and acted in the 11-minute short but brought in lots of help from friends for the project.

She’s hoping to continue her career both as an actor and a filmmaker but continues with her photography to help fund it.

“I’m living proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams,” she says.

Colleen Grace Herlihy, Binn Bán, Dingle and Tampa, Florida

Colleen Grace Herlihy is a latecomer to the film world but after cutting her teeth on her short film, Life is Short, she’s determined her first foray won’t be her last.

Behind the camera: Meeting the makers at the Dingle Film Festival

An attorney at law by profession and now recently retired, Colleen, 65, spends her time between Tampa, Florida and Binn Bán, Dingle, where she and her husband also have a home.

Her short film tells the story of an American woman who travels to Kerry to scatter her grandmother’s ashes on the site of Kilmalkedar Church, before learning the truth of her grandmother’s immigration. 

She based the story on her own relationship with her Irish grandmother, to whom she was very close, and on the questions she should have asked her. 

“I had been wanting to make films for a long time but never had the opportunity,” said Colleen, whose film came about as a result of a submission she made to Fisín, a short film competition run at the Dingle International Film Festival.

“I submitted an idea to Fisín and although it didn’t win, I decided to go ahead and make the film myself.

“And this will definitely not be my last film,” she added. Colleen says she received huge encouragement and help from local filmmaker, Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin, and from director and actor, Elaine Kennedy, whose films are also being screened during the festival.

“There is a great film community in Dingle and everyone just pitched in. I had the idea but I could never have brought it through to conception without the help I got.”

She says her age was an encouragement to do it.

“I have two daughters aged 22 and 25 and I wanted to show them it’s never too late to follow your dreams. There are endless possibilities and we can always create something,” she said.

Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin, Ventry

Filmmaker and author Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin already has around 40 half-hour documentaries under her belt, all made for TG4.

Behind the camera: Meeting the makers at the Dingle Film Festival

Do Mhargadh Déanta was the second documentary she directed and was first released in 2002.

This compelling film provides oral accounts of the custom of arranged marriages and examines how they impacted on the lives of the families involved.

“In this society up to 70 or 80 years ago, arranged marriages were the norm for people who had some property,” she explains.

“Marriages were contractual matters and they were respectable and they worked as well. No model is perfect but it is as good as anything else when it has societal support.”

Brenda took up filmmaking only after her retirement, not content to be consigned to the “dunghill”.

“I was principal of a Gaelscoil in Dublin and absolutely loved it but I didn’t like the idea of an enforced retirement.

“So I said, I’m going to get out as soon as they let me out and do something else, I didn’t know what,” she said.

She was invited to contribute to a film that was being made for TG4 and in the course of its production the thought occurred to her that she could do this.

“In the end, cameras, editors, they’re all guns for hire, what you need is an idea and the ability to direct that idea.”

She pitched her first idea to TG4 and it was accepted. Since then, the ideas have flowed, mainly inspired by Corca Dhuibhne - the Dingle Peninsula - and its customs and people.

Her latest project looks at protestantism in the area.

She believes it’s no coincidence the peninsula has spawned so much creative talent.

“I think it’s the times that are in it. The formation of TG4 encouraged people in these areas to think in terms of the visual.

“A lot of people choose to live here. There’s something magical about this place and there’s something in the peninsula that makes it a good place to live so I suppose, it’s a fortunate conjunction of events,” she says.


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