Director Linda Bhreathnach tells Film Ireland how the idea for her latest film just wouldn’t leave her alone and how she set about making the idea a reality. Native is a story about a migrant worker returning home after many years abroad. A film about immigration and homecoming and a film which is ultimately about rising above the suffering inherent in life. Native will be screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
The idea for this film wouldn’t leave me alone so, in the end, I went about seeing if I could make the idea a reality. Native was inspired by a short story written by my sister (Bridget Bhreathnach). The story was so beautifully written and told the story of an immigrant (played by Patrick Bergin) in such a sensitive and insightful way, it conjured up so many clear images in my imagination of how the film might look.
I wanted the film to be beautiful but not pretty, to have a ruggedness to it, a wildness. Connemara, where it’s set, is such a unique and interesting landscape and I wanted to show the darkness and barrenness and to show that these things can be incredibly beautiful. In the same way that sadness can be beautiful.
I don’t like when things are too perfect, so I didn’t set out with rigid expectations. Although I had a very clear image in my head of what I wanted the film to look like, I wanted to create a film in an organic way. I think this helped a lot because we had very limited time and a limited budget.
Seán T. Ó Meallaigh (Director of Photography) and I have been very good friends for years and he has the most beautiful eye for photography and is a poetic editor. I cast him in my last film, Adulting, and during that we decided that we would make something together in the future. Seán was really into the concept and brought so much to the film. We used the natural light in Connemara, which is naturally dramatic because of the cloud coverage and strong winds and I think this translates to the screen.
When I met Patrick Bergin I told him about the story and he loved the idea. We decided to shoot it in March when the weather got a little better, although it still did rain for much of the shoot! One of our filming days was on an island, which was quite difficult as we had to cross this stony old causeway to get out there. The causeway is covered by the sea when the tide is in so we had to race against the clock to get it shot in time in order to be able to walk back off the island again.
I was very lucky to have met an amazing producer and writer from California, Marina Donahue, at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh, she was so supportive and hugely important to the film. We are currently developing a feature film written by Marina, about the travelling community in the 1970s and how the ‘cruelty men’, as they were called, would often take children from the camps and then put them up for adoption. It’s a very powerful and important story and I’m proud to be a part of it.
The music was composed, created and produced by this gifted Catalan musician who is based in Galway, Moisés Mas Garcia. The music was so important because the film has no dialogue and the composer really needed to understand the story. Moises has a deep understanding of the theme of the film and this helped him to create a musical story to match the images on screen.
We also had Foley Artists in Russia work on helping to create a wonderfully rich ambient sound to go with the film. It was pretty amazing to see footage of these artists working on Native all the way over in Russia and watching the images of Patrick in Connemara and trying to recreate the sounds of the water and of his footsteps. There was something remarkably beautiful about that to me and the work they did really helped add another layer to the film.
There are hints of Irish music, but only hints. It’s subtle and you can hear beautiful Irish elements like the bodhrán. It was really really important to me that we had the bodhrán because of its primal sound and how linked it is to Ireland. The music overall creates a landscape of its own to match the Connemara landscape and the landscape of Patrick’s character’s journey.
I think the elements of story, place and sound all combine to create a story that can be understood by anyone anywhere. At least, I hope they do.
The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017