Oscar shorts: An evolution of films about Northern Ireland
Terry George’s filmmaking career has taken him all around the world, including shooting the Oscar-nominated “Hotel Rwanda” in Africa. One of his latest projects, “The Shore,” brought him back home to Northern Ireland –- very literally, as part of the film was shot down the street from his childhood home outside of Belfast. The film made the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ latest cut for live-action shorts.
“The Shore” stars Ciarán Hinds as a man returning home for the first time in 25 years since fleeing to the U.S. during the Troubles, the period of violence in Northern Ireland that began in the late 1960s. He takes the journey with his daughter and makes the bittersweet visit to his onetime best friend.
The film, which is just shy of 30 minutes long, has joined a collection of movies about the Troubles that George has worked on, including 1993’s “In the Name of the Father” and 1997’s “The Boxer.”
“I really view it as a continuum of the work I’ve done on the Troubles,” George, 59, said.
But “The Shore” deals with “the reconciliation side of it,” he added. “We’d never gotten to that in my other films.… So this little story, for me, has the sense that I have of Northern Ireland now, that people have moved on and want the communication to begin.”
It was also a chance for George to explore comedy more so than he had in other works. In fact, it was inspired by a humorous story his uncle told him and Daniel Day-Lewis while the two were traveling around Belfast researching “In the Name of the Father.” His uncle told the filmmaker about a friend's return to Ireland after leaving during the Troubles, initially leading his friends to mistake him for an unemployment inspector. The story became a scene in the film that George says has gotten the most laughs at the film’s several festival screenings.
“Laughter’s the only barometer you can judge the audience with in a theater. Usually with the films [I make], there’s a deathly silence –- the intensity of the films kind of washes over people. So to go in there and have people laughing, it was quite magical,” the writer-director said.
The film reunited George with fellow Belfast native Hinds, whom he had directed in “Some Mother’s Son.”
"He has a wonderful sense of the people there, being from Belfast," George said.
In addition to featuring multiple cast and crew members from Northern Ireland, the film was a family affair for George. His daughter co-produced the film, his son was one of the assistant directors, his sister did costume designing and most of the extras were extended family members.
In the small project free from studio involvement, “I had total control,” George said. “Other than my daughter bossing me around.”
“The Shore” has an iTunes distribution in the works, and George also hopes the film will air on British and Irish television.
– Emily Rome
Photo: Ciarán Hinds stars in Terry George's "The Shore." Credit: Aidan Monaghan Photography