By day, she’s a busy mum-of-three and a granny who works as a clinical administrator in a Cork city hospital. But in her spare time, she's a power-lifting champion who can lift five-times her own body weight.
Now the remarkable story of how Karen Barry took up power-lifting in her 40s and went on to compete in the World Championships, breaking personal bests and Irish records along the way, is set for its world premier at this year’s IndieCork Film Festival.
Lift, a feature-length documentary, was filmed over three-years by Stanley’s Deathpark Productions, the London/Dublin-based production company of Carrigaline natives Ken Williams, a copywriter based in London, and Denis Fitzpatrick, an assistant director based in Dublin.
Since 2012, they’ve made several award-winning short films which have screened at festivals in Ireland and abroad. But Lift is their first venture into long-form storytelling.
Mr Williams said he knew Karen some 20-years ago when they both worked in his uncle’s bar, Rosie’s in Carrigaline, and reconnected through Facebook years later.
“She was a right character back then and one day, in a local paper, I saw a story about her lifting weights and I thought ‘that’s nuts’,” Mr Williams said.
I thought it would be a good excuse for a trip home, so we went down to film with her for a day, for a five-minute piece, and we got chatting and she said she was heading to a competition in Cardiff
“We had no budget, this was totally self-funded so we followed her to Cardiff and it just kind of continued.”
Lift traces Karen’s late discovery of the sport which changed her life, and follows her journey over the last three years which saw her overcome organisational disputes and dramas, to compete in the World Championships in Minsk.
“The striking thing for us wasn’t just the achievements themselves but the fact that Karen was a novice at the sport, only arriving at it in her late forties,” Mr Williams said.
“We instantly knew that there was a great story here worth telling - a family woman that you would wave to on the street but who can also lift five times her body weight!”
His directing colleague, Denis Fitzpatrick, said they were delighted to see Lift being screened before a “home crowd”.
IndieCork co-director Mick Hannigan said they were delighted to land the premier.
“Lift tells the inspiring and, dare I say it, uplifting story of an extraordinary ‘ordinary’ woman. The best stories are those of the heroes and heroines in our midst,” he said.
Lift will be screened in the Gate Multiplex during this year’s IndieCork Film Festival which runs from October 6 to 13.