First night success augurs well for ‘Pilgrim Hill’ in the county

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

YOUNG film writer/director Gerard Barrett is hoping to clock up another success this Sunday when his film “Pilgrim Hill” has its Limerick premiere in Athea Community Centre.

YOUNG film writer/director Gerard Barrett is hoping to clock up another success this Sunday when his film “Pilgrim Hill” has its Limerick premiere in Athea Community Centre.

The film had its national premiere a few weeks ago in Ballybunion where Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan was a special guest – along with up to 550 others.

For Gerard, the night proved to be a runaway success – with demand for tickets outstripping seats. But best of all from his point of view, people stayed on in the foyer after the film, discussing it in detail.

“I wanted people to talk about it. It is a film of moments and everyone in the audience found those moments and they found their own personal ones too,” Gerard told the Limerick Leader.

“The film is raw and real and to be honest I think some people didn’t realise it would be that raw. It hits a nerve and makes you think of people you know like Jimmy Walshe, the main character. . Minister Deenihan said to me afterwards that it was so real and almost documentary-like.”

Now Gerard is hoping the film’s connections with Athea will generate the same level of interest for this weekend’s screening.

“Pilgrim Hill” – Gerard’s first feature-length film – was shot in and around Athea and Ballylongford earlier this year. And Gerard’s parents have strong links with Athea – his mother comes from Knocknagorna while his dad is a Knockdown man.

Gerard is hoping too that Athea audiences will recall one of his previous films “The Valley of Knockanure”, which tells the story of the song of that name, and which was also screened in Athea.

“Pilgrim Hill” – written during last winter’s severe weather – tells the story of Jimmy Walshe, a bachelor farmer living in rural Ireland and caring for his sick father.

“I think we all know people like Jimmy,” Gerard explains. “Many of us have uncles and aunts like Jimmy or even close neighbours. People like Jimmy never saw or benefited from the Celtic Tiger nor were they the cause of the country going bang, but they have to deal with the consequences like all of us. These are people who exist in the background of society and it was important for me to tell their story. Sometimes their lives were taken out of their own hands and they just had to get on with it. You have to admire that most of them did just that”.

“I wanted to highlight the loneliness that bachelor farmers go through in rural Ireland,” Gerard goes on. Their lives are so tough, incredily tough and I wanted to shine some light on it. The only way we can help these people is to talk about it and to discuss it. That is what I hope this film will do because these people are the backbone of our society. They live in total isolation and sometimes don’t talk to anyone for days on end.”

For Limerick audiences, there will also be the pleasure of seeing some of their own on the big screen.

Joe Mullins, from Kilfinane plays the lead role. “Joe is an amazing actor,” says Gerard. “He captured the character the way I wanted it and I believe he will go from strngth to strength in the business from now on. He is a wonderful theatre actor and now he can add film to that list.”

West Limerick men Michael Mortell, Johnny Corkery and Michael O’Connor also feature.

Gerard Barrett hopes “Pilgrim Hill” will meet with success on the world’s screens. “The film is in huge demand,” says Gerard. And he plans to to enter it into festivals around the world.

A previous, short film of his “The Valley of Knockanure” won awards at the Kerry Film Festival.

Following its premiere in Ballybunion, Pilgrim Hill has also been screened in the Classic Cinema, Listowel.

The film will be screened this Sunday night, November 6 in Athea Community Centre. It begins at 7.30pm and the audience will include some special guests.

Tickets cost €10 at the door.