‘Good Vibrations’ Raises Curtain on the 12th Belfast Film Festival

Stars from the local and international entertainment industry will flock to the Ulster Hall tonight for the highly-anticipated World Premiere of Good Vibrations – the opening premiere of this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The film’s cast and crew will be joined by special guests such as Snow Patrol for a Gala red carpet evening.


Good Vibrations is the locally filmed biopic of record shop owner and godfather of Northern Ireland’s 70s punk music scene Terri Hooley. The film boasts an ensemble cast of local actors including Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley, Michael Colgan and Adrian Dunbar.


The film’s creative team also hails locally with husband and wife directors, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn; scriptwriters Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry and David Holmes who worked on the music selection and score. The film was largely shot in the shops and alley ways of North Street, Belfast, where the Good Vibrations Record Store was established.


Tickets for the World Premiere have been in such high demand that Belfast Film Festival has arranged an additional screening tonight at the Ulster Hall along with another at the Movie House, Belfast.


Commenting on the Gala Event and the opening screening of the Belfast Film Festival, Michele Devlin, Belfast Film Festival Director said –


“We are absolutely thrilled to be showcasing this landmark premiere on our opening night. Securing Good Vibrations is a real coup for the Belfast Film Festival and shows just how far the city has come. The global interest in this World Premiere is a real indication of the high profile Belfast Film Festival now enjoys and the film’s production demonstrates the world-class level of Northern Ireland’s Film Industry.”


The Belfast Film Festival is funded by Northern Ireland Screen supported by DCAL and by Belfast City Council. To view the full Festival Programme and to book tickets for the screenings and events visit www.belfastfilmfestival.org


7 Replies to “‘Good Vibrations’ Raises Curtain on the 12th Belfast Film Festival”

  1. I managed to snuck into the Cannes preview. The movie might be worth seeing as an anthropological curiosity, but, as a fully-formed feature film, it’s lacking in all key categories. Plot is ignored in favour of chunks of key moments in Hooleys life which is presented as legendary. Yet for the most part the portrayal is unremarkable – and legendary only in terms of the myths he propagated around himself, so the whole biopic promotion seems pointless. His life long association with the music industry was only as a fan and amateur protagonist. Yet the film hangs his legendary status not only on the myths but also on the fact that he stumbled upon a band (the Undertones) and passed them on to a U.S. record major whereby they achieved moderate success. Attributing the success to Hooley rather undermines the ability of the band themselves. I am not accusing the Directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn of being socially irresponsible, because, as filmmakers, their responsibility is to present their vision, not to teach a history lesson. However, by adopting this approach, they rob the movie of potential dramatic tension. Good Vibrations becomes a sporadically interesting glimpse into the rather tame and parochial world of music nerds. Those wishing for a full-on, comprehensive look at the Punk era will be disappointed. The Directors do have some good ideas that result in a few inspired scenes, but the story – at least what there is of a story – is flaccid, and the characters are porously presented and developed. The directors may sympathize with them, but they never get the audience to that point. There is also some lazy film making, the flying scene sequences stir memories of similarly bizarre moments in The Big Labowsky. It’s possible that Good Vibrations’ target audience (old punks and hippies now in their 50’s to 70’s) will adore this movie. David Holmes’ music supervision is likely to give the film short-lived cult status among record collecting nerds and may be seen as an interesting but embarrassing period piece.

    1. Can’t help but disagree Francesca, I thought it was a great film. Yeah, Hooley’s not that important in the grand scheme of the music industry (though by their own admission, Therapy?, Snow Patrol and Ash and many others wouldn’t exist without him). However the film isn’t really about Holley’s achievements with the recording industry. In fact the central thesis of the film is that Hooley is a mad idiot who messed up constantly in a glorious way.

      However, he created an cross cultural movement for young people to interact with people from the other side that they never got to meet anywhere else. And they didn’t talk politics, they got pissed and rocked out. Regardless of whether he ever sold a lot of albums, he brought thousands of people together and gave them a break from the shithole that was 70’s Belfast (and gave a bit of hope to people from the rest of the North)

      As for the rest, I thought the directing, acting and script were all top notch. The script doesn’t quite nail the final moments, but the dialogue’s funny, the structure’s fairly tight and there’s not much fat.

      1. I have done some further research since my last post. This music bringing a generation of people together notion is errant nonsense. There were twenty one bars, lounges and discos all within 2 minutes walk from the Harp Bar -Hooleys punk hangout (happy to list these if anyone is interested). In fact there were two large discos in the city centre the ‘King Arthur’ and the ‘Celebrity Club’ catering for up to 2000 kids between them, whilst the crucible of punk the Harp bar held only 200 at best. Disco music was the most prevalent music in Belfast at the time so if music did bring a generation together it could not have been punk it must have been disco.

  2. PS, I can’t see how you can say the film is about “the tame world of music nerds” The music nerds are threatened, beaten, shot at and in some cases blown up. It’s arguable that the film leaned on the Troubles too much, but it’s much less tame than the equally brilliant 24 Hour Party People (the most similar film I can think of)

  3. I suppose the first two questions that occur when thinking about a biopic review are “Does the subject deserve a biopic?” and “Can it be told in such a fashion that it has a universal appeal?”. In the case of Good Vibrations, the second feature from directorial team Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa, the answer is a resounding “Yes!!”.
    Telling the story of record shop/label owner Terri Hooley, Good Vibrations starts with the young Hooley losing an eye at the business end of an arrow. His world changes instantly. The first song he hears on the way to the hospital is Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light”. The film continues to follow an equally dark and humorous tone.

    At the height of the troubles in Belfast, Hooley decides to open a record shop in what was The Most Bombed Street In Belfast. There was some stiff competition for that title at the time. It is at this point that the film, and indeed its subject, really takes flight. Hooley had seen his myriad of friends separate and divide into two sides. He felt part of neither. On seeing the punk band Rudi performing at the Pound bar in Belfast, he realised that the emerging Punk scene was as oblivious to religious divide as he was. This was his calling.

    As the film documents his grand business plan, love and marriage, fatherhood and Teenage Kicks in an ever increasing round of brandies and Guinness, Hooley appears to be on the cusp on greatness. But ultimately, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is a trait of the one-eyed anarchist.

    Good Vibrations succeeds on a number of levels. The script, by writers Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry, is pacey, natural and expresses the humour of Belfast and its inhabitants where others have tried and failed. David Holmes soundtrack is dizzying as it careers from Girl-groups, through Reggae and of course, to Punk, and is as biographical as the film itself. The music is the man and vice versa.

    But top credit must surely go to Richard Dormer as Hooley. Already familiar with playing complex and arguably insane characters (he portrayed Alex Higgins in his self-penned one-man-show, the brilliant Hurricane), he inhabits the role with convincing ease, from Hooleys unusual gait to the mild campness of many Northern Irish men, a product of too many hours at the mothers apron strings while their fathers worked to provide.

    The look of the film is worth mentioning. The colour palette is spot-on. Not in a ‘cinema 1970s’ fashion but the earthy browns and greens add a realistic quality to the film. And yes, the Undertones really did dress like their mothers still bought their clothes for them.
    There are so many scenes that will remain with me forever. Hooleys epiphanic Rudi gig, the beautifully played scene when he slips on the headphones to hear *that* song for the first time and the very subtle hint at his “I punched John Lennon” story. But its not all larks and laughs. The central story of his marriage to Ruth, played with a deft touch by Attack The Block’s Jodie Whittaker, is such a tragedy of circumstance that it could get a tear out of a stone. And it did with me…

  4. Mmm. Francesca Felstead? Firstly, made up name. Secondly, I think you’re a frustrated actor who didn’t get a part in the film. Lol.

  5. I have to disagree with Francesca, I believe that the directors, producers and writers of this movie did have a social responsibility to take an issue as dangerous and complex as sectarianism seriously. Over the 30 years of the civil strife in Belfast many thousands of individuals and organisations worked at great personal risk to oppose sectarianism e.g. community workers, social workers, youth workers, The Peace People etc. This movie does an appalling disservice to these heroic people in suggesting that the owner of the Good Vibrations record shop was some kind of messianic figure who delivered Belfast from a sectarian hell. Considering the amount of public money used to support this movie the least we could have expected was some semblance of accuracy and not the flippant approach to an issue that resulted in thousands of deaths. Where is the evidence that Good Vibrations brought opposing religious groups or bigots together? The punks appear to have been people who found common ground in a music genre and fashion style and by nature were not sectarian. There were opportunities for punks to address Belfast’s sectarianism in the late 70’s when there was a fledgling Rock Against Sectarianism movement trying to get underway similar to the UK’s Rock Against Racism but the punk bands did not want to get involved! So Belfast’s punks hid from the serious issues of their city in the Harp Bar were they would not be bothered by real life. However this does not make the movie that different from other rock/music movies which usually have a social/political redemption/justification as a subplot and Good Vibrations’ entree here is no different. You know the ending from the very first and so its up to the lead to carry the weight of “Good Vibrations is more than just a shop it’s a way of life ” ballast, which Dormer pulls of admirably, so its “mission accomplished!”. I believe that it is worth mentioning that punks were irrelevant to the armed elements of the Belfast conflict and were not singled out for attack by paramilitaries for being punks. Most of the violence associated with the scene was for the most part punk on punk.

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