Whenever I first started theFILMblog one of the things which got me off the ground was my extensive of the Belfast Film Festival in 2009. So it always raises a smile to think two years on I'm still plugging away and still marvelling at one of true highlights of the cultural calender in Northern Ireland.
There was perhaps no better way to kick off the 2011 Belfast Film Festival, for myself, than the world première of, globally acclaimed Northern Irish film-maker, Terry George's new short film, The Shore. After years of striking big in Hollywood with such excellent releases as the Oscar nominated In The Name of The Father and Hotel Rwanda, George returns to his home country for a genuinely heart-warming comedy drama.
The story revolves around Irishman, Jim Mahon (Ciaran Hinds) who fled the country to the USA, 25 years prior, after The Troubles kicked off in the province. Once he returns with his daughter by his side, he reunites with past friends and loved ones as well as facing various personal demons and moral dilemmas which haunted him from the moment he left.
Terry George does a brilliant job of letting you really engage with these, eccentric and all too familiar, characters in the all too brief 30 minute running time. However, I think with the central character especially, a lot of this almost magical wonder can be attributed to the deeply personal and down to earth performance of the brilliant Ciaran Hinds. A truly under-appreciated actor on the world stage today.
Furthermore, the film served as a brilliant demonstration of how the country has moved on in the past 30 years while still not forgetting its somewhat rich and chequered past which came before it. That said, never let history get in the way of a good story and with The Shore it truly didn't. From the moment the cameras rolled there was an element of intrigue and tension but in keeping with the spirit of the majority of people in Northern Ireland it there was a lot of knowing humour thrown into the mix also. Especially in a truly fantastic scene involving four of the characters running from a lady on a horse - who is mistaken for a dole officer - across a beach which kind of needs to be seen to be believed.
Despite George himself admitting as such in the Q&A which followed the film, you could instantly tell he invested a lot of himself and his own personal memories of the area into the film. This wasn't just a movie set in Northern Ireland, this was a film about Northern Ireland by a man who understands the country and that the majority of the people living here are just live for having a bit of craic (the word: "craic" to any readers out of town is our way of saying, "having a fun time"). Visually it was an extremely tidy feature, beautifully lush and extremely pleasurable to witness on screen.
Terry George returns home to give audiences a truly heart-warming tale of reuniting with past friends and loved ones, as well as facing up to personal woes and unfinished business before its too late. Only real complaint? It was too bloody short - yes being a short film that is kind of the point I know. Best Northern Irish film in a long time, once again demonstrating the immense amount of resources the country can give to cinema outside of features simply based on the Troubles and a ship which is famous for sinking on its maiden voyage. More please...
The Shore will quite likely not receive a full release in cinemas across the UK. However, if it happens to appear at a film festival near you in the coming year, I sincerely implore you to see it.