I Used to Live Here, the critically acclaimed and award-winning feature film from Frank Berry, is available to purchase on DVD with the film currently available to download across various digital platforms.
The film follows Amy, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.
Featuring performances from a mostly non-professional cast including Jordanne Jones, Dafhyd Flynn, James Kelly and Ross Geraghty, and filmed on the streets of Killinarden in Tallaght, West Dublin, the film offers a striking dramatic representation of a real-life community on screen.
Thanks to the good people at Wildcard Distribution, we have a copy of the DVD to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, complete the following:
The title of Frank Berry’s 2011 documentary is Ballymun _____.
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org before Monday, 5th October when the Film Ireland hat will gently sing the winner’s name. Please include a postal address.
I Used to Live Hereis currently available on digital platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Wuaki and will be available to purchase on DVD in stores across Ireland and on Amazon.co.uk and the Wildcard Distribution website.
Frank Berry’s I Used to Live Here has been released in Irish cinemas to tremendous acclaim both here and internationally scoring pieces in The Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter. Featuring a non-professional cast of local people in Killinarden in West Dublin, the film takes a fictional look at the tragic phenomenon of suicide clusters.
Franks explains how the film was born out of an article in The Irish Times in June 2011, Breaking the Ripple Effects of Suicide and We Must Give Young People a Reason to Live. “It really struck me as subject matter for a film. My first step was to contact the writer, who happened to be Dr Tony Bates, who was the founding member of Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health. We met. I explained that was I largely from a doc background – I wasn’t sure how I was going to go forward but I was really interested in making a film about this subject. He showed me loads of encouragement – he talked to me about his background and why he worked with young people. He introduced me to the work they were doing at Headstrong.”
From there Frank met with youth workers from the Killinarden Community Council Youth Project – a very significant meeting as Frank recalls. “They talked about young people in the area, they talked about a series of tragedies that occurred in the area over the previous years. I talked about what I was interested in doing and the research I had been doing. They suggested I start by going down to the community centre once a week and get to know the young people – so I hung around there for a long time. Then the October mid-term break came about and I offered to do a camera workshop – that was the first time they’d seen me with a camera. After that the workshops became more regular and we would develop it further – taking the camera out on to the streets. Everything was very much a softly, softly approach. That’s how the film eventually developed.”
Despite a history of making documentaries behind him Frank came to the conclusion that the subject would be better served in the realms of fiction. “I just didn’t want to put something real up on the screen for fear of contributing to exposing the audience, particularly teenagers, to real cases,” Frank explains. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing that – it requires a particular type of handling and I just felt I couldn’t provide that. But I really wanted to put something up on the screen because the reality of when a suicide tragedy occurs in a community and the effect it can have on other members of that community and to other young people in crisis, I just felt really strongly that this needed to be common knowledge. So I thought why don’t we make it fictional but be truthful, so that it had something to say about the world. I would try and make it as realistic as possible and recognisable as a world we live in but – as stated within the film – not based on any real tragedies. As an audience, adults and young people can sit down and watch the film and take something from it that’s true and real but not actually be depicting anything that actually happened. In this way we could use it as a discussion point.”
The result is a powerful piece of social realism marked by an impressive display of naturalistic acting from its cast. Frank points out that he didn’t sit down and say I’m going to make a piece of social realism. “That never occurred to me. I do love social realism and I’m very drawn to those films. I knew this would be the genre I suppose but I wasn’t adhering to anything in particular – any rules as such. The whole process was really about following where it took me. Once you sit down in front of people, opportunities and different directions present themselves and you collaborate and learn from it and take different directions.
“I wanted it to be realistic so we could put it up on the screen and the audience would be able to take the issues in the film seriously. That they would be able to feel and discuss that this does happen. That was the driving force behind the realism. The way I did that was that I included everybody involved in the film – and there was an open door policy; whoever wanted to get involved in the film could. We never had “casting” or “auditions”. We put people in different places that suited them over a long period of time and the conversations that took place over that time all found their way into the film. It was kind of an indirect way of directing. Everyone knew what film they were in, everyone knew what we were doing. We took the word “acting” out of the process. They would read the lines over and over again and then I’d say put the scripts down and let’s see how far into the scene we get without looking at the script. The idea was for everyone to be as comfortable as possible and say the lines without acting. I believe that if a script is realistically written, if I have a scene and the dialogue is real and I’ve allowed them to change lines that they don’t feel comfortable with, then by the time you get to that stage they understand the film, they understand the scene. Then they bring their own emphasis to the lines, their own intonation, colour and flair and their own words. The script on the page starts to sound like real conversation. In this way they were able to really act – they weren’t inhibited by the word acting, thinking this is not me, I’m not trained, this isn’t something I can do. For the most part the process worked.”
The two leads are particularly impressive, carrying as they do so much of the emotional weight of the film. Jordanne Jones plays Amy Keane, a thirteen-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, and Dafhyd Flynn, Amy’s friend who is the victim of bullying. Frank admits that “as soon as I saw them both on camera I knew that they were extremely good – they had that relationship to the camera but also it was their personalities and the relationship I had with them that make their performances so powerful.”
Carrying around her emotional burden, which she keeps locked inside, Amy’s mental health is an issue the film sensitively tackles and provides the point of discussion Frank referred to earlier – a discussion that contributes to the awareness of mental health. “Some of the people I spoke to knew about mental health and spoke eloquently about it, while others didn’t know about it. If you don’t know you have it or what it is, how can you take care of it?”
Frank continues, “there’s also this idea that mental health equals mental illness – that there’s not these degrees of mental fitness for example. Young people need to be more aware of their mental health and ask why am I feeling this way. It was important to put this into a film, showing Amy carrying around what I later discovered to be deferred grief, which is a common in teenagers. She’s carrying around what she never came to terms with – the finality of the death of her mum. At the end of the film she connects with her pain. I’m not saying she gets over it but she understands why she’s feeling the way she’s feeling. That’s a big step. I think that we need more young people to be aware that there’s a reason why they don’t feel great, which comes through awareness and discussion and relate to it in their own lives. There are many young people who, of course, are aware but I feel that there are a lot of young people who would benefit from that.”
DIR/WRI: Frank Berry • PRO: Frank Berry, Donna Eperon • DOP: Colm Mullen • ED: Frank Berry • MUS: Daragh O’Toole • CAST: Jordanne Jones, Dafhyd Flynn, James Kelly, Ross Geraghty
Neo-realism is a piece of film-terminology largely lost on the modern cinema-audience, save those with more than a passing interest in cinema, verging on an academic one. The meaning of the term could, on a very base level, be interpreted to refer to a very particular era of black-and-white filmmaking in post-war Italy. The fact is, like the Dogma-95 troupe or the surrealists, neo-realism was a screen philosophy that was/is adoptable and potentially of benefit to anyone willing to utilise its paradigms, those being on-location, shooting using local non-actors, telling a story that is thematically prevalent on a local level. I know one highly accomplished film-studies professor who gladly declares Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets to be the best neo-realist film in existence. As far as the term travels, Frank Berry’s I Used to Live Here, is an accomplished neo-realist picture on every level, in that it is compelling, it is local and it is tragically necessary.
I Used to Live Here tells the story of Amy Keane, a Tallaght teenager attempting to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, and finding temptation in the idea of suicide while experiencing the local outcry of love for another teenager who takes his own life during the course of the film. The film, while officially written and directed by Frank Berry, is an unofficial compilation of experiences of suicide from the Tallaght community, with the script formed largely on a mixture of first-hand experiences of survivors of victims and deducible symptoms leading up to a young person taking their own life. Needless to say, the results are moving, relatable and overwhelmingly real.
Frank Berry’s major achievement here is how claustrophobic the film becomes despite being shot mostly outside. As Amy’s options seemingly dwindle, at least to her own perspective, the shots grow closer as though to relate her blindness to the arms aching to embrace her loneliness that surround her constantly. In these moments, I was brought to mind of Eric Steel’s excellent 2006 documentary, The Bridge, in particular the sequence where Ken Baldwin, a man who survived his own suicide attempt having leap from the Golden Gate Bridge, relates that, as his feet left the bridge, “I instantly realized that everything in my life I thought was unfixable was totally fixable – except having just jumped.” I Used to Live Here, like all great neo-realist films, bears a very poignant, deliberate message that culminates in the closing moments, and is crucially told depicted via the more ardent elements of filmmaking, i.e. – script-structure, editing, framing and acting. It is a message and a delivery that I’d dismay to ruin here by revealing too much, but suffice to say hat’s off to Dafhyd Flynn for subtly delivering the film’s finest performance and equally to Berry for keeping his cards so close in order to deliver a damning thematic blow in the closing moments.
I Used to Live Here is a film that has grown organically from the graves of a generation of suicide victims in Tallaght (where the film is set) and beyond. Shot locally, with local non-actors, this timely, poignant and ultimately necessary representation of the darkly mysterious and faceless menace of suicide and suicidal tendencies in communities will prove especially moving for some and should be considered essential viewing for everyone, regardless of their cinematic tendencies; cinematic tendencies considered, this is a vital 87-minutes for anyone who has dismayed at the potential power of cinema of recent years.
The two young lead actors of the upcoming feature film I Used to Live Here have been awarded scholarships for the Bow Street Young Filmmakers Academy in Dublin.
Jordanne Jones and Dafyhd Flynn, both making their acting debuts in the film, have been selected for the honour on the strength of their work in Frank Berry’s feature. The film explores the phenomenon of suicide clusters, dealing with the fallout from the death of a teenager in Tallaght and its effect on the wider community.
Director Berry spent months among the young people and adults at the Killinarden Youth Centre, first as an observer, and then conducting acting workshops based on scenes from his script. It was during this lengthy process that Jordanne and Dafhyd were selected for their roles in the film, and the pains taken by the filmmaker have paid off with a film that has an air of utter authenticity, provided in large part by the stunning work of its two young leads. To carry a film that deals with such a serious issue would be a difficult job at any age, but both young actors make light work of this burden, giving remarkably powerful and unaffected performances.
I Used to Live Here opens in cinemas on Friday, April 3rd.
Wildcard Distribution has acquired the rights for I Used To Live Here, the powerful new feature film from Irish writer-director Frank Berry. The film, which won the Best First Feature Audience Award at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh, will be released in Irish cinemas on Good Friday, April 3rd.
I Used to Live Here is a fictional film that examines the disturbing phenomenon of suicide clusters among young people in local Irish communities.
I Used To Live Here follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.
Featuring performances from a mostly non-professional cast including Jordanne Jones, Dafhyd Flynn, James Kelly and Ross Geraghty, and filmed on the streets of Killinarden in Tallaght, Dublin, the film offers a striking dramatic representation of a real-life community on screen.
Produced by Frank Berry and Donna Eperon for Write Direction Films, I Used To Live Here will be released in Irish cinemas on April 3rd 2015 by Wildcard Distribution, Cert: 15A.
Amy Keane, a thirteen-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. I Used to Live Here takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people. Featuring performances from a mostly non-professional cast, and filmed on the streets of Tallaght in west Dublin, this film offers a striking dramatic representation of a real-life community on screen. From the director of the award-winning Ballymun Lullaby and researched with the assistance of Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, I Used to Live Here sensitively explores the tragic phenomenon of suicide clusters, a phenomenon that is affecting a growing number of communities around the world.
Speaking to Film Ireland, director Frank Berry said, “It means a huge amount to have I Used to Live Here premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh. We made the film with a lot of belief, and we’re very grateful to Gar and Miriam for sharing in that belief, and giving it this platform.”
Director Frank Berry will attend the screening.
Director: Frank Berry
Cast: Jordanne Jones, Ross Geraghty, Dafhyd Flynn, Nikita Rowley, James Kelly, Alicja Ayres