Patrick Brendan O’Neill took time out to answer a few questions about his film The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea. Structured as a visual hymn and meditation, The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea is a journey through the spirit of abundance in nature, filmed in County Kerry, Ireland, this journey follows in the poetic footsteps of a vision, in the light and presence of our rich cultural heritage, which is celebrated and shared with Pádraig Ó Fiannachta our guide.

Thanks for speaking to us Paddy, can you introduce us to your film?

The title The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea comes from a line in a play entitled Prometheus Bound written by Aeschylus ( 525-455 BCE ), where he describes the sparkling of the sun over the ocean as ‘anarithmon gelasma tas thalassa’. As with all human endeavour, we relate to life and nature via our conditioning. Almost all experience is filtered through language as a mechanism of the mind. What does this title or creative description of Aeschylus illustrate? Is it a bright rich scintillating trope? Or does it also contain darker deeper tones, to act as a check against vanity?.

We navigate through life and encounter what it is to be alive, coming to terms with all that is on offer, through social interaction with our own kind, as well as our interaction with Nature, Space and Time. The key stone philosophical question of antiquity was ‘what is the good life?’ – this is a theme for the film, as we observe the characters of the film in various settings. The splendour of the natural world. Amongst ruins from another time. Within the environs and descriptions of language, poetry and contemplative thoughts. All wound into the aesthetic that is sound and cinematography, keyed to inspire or provoke the viewer’s imagination and feeling.

Irish Consular General to NYC Barbara Jones, Fr.Pádraig O’Fiannachta, Susan Sarandon (first screening of the film in Soho House NYC)

Can you tell us about the genesis of the project?

My freind Paris Kain and I wished to celebrate the riches of Fr. Pádraig O’Fiannachta’s way of life. He possessed a Scholastic Intellect, being a master of Greek, Latin, Welsh and Irish. He felt beauty was revelation as an article of his Faith. He lived a simple life, while tirelessly publishing and promoting the literary talents of others as well as his own.

We wanted to pay tribute to age, venerate the humility and wisdom that often times only those of such lived experience can share. So we conceived a film where he is not the central character, consciously wanting to steer away from the typical anthropocentric narrative; instead wishing to share some of the energies which support his calling, language, landscape and light, with him as a guide.

 Patrick Brendan O’Neill and Rosario Dawson at Soho House LA screening

It’s a very meditative piece – what was the thinking behind its structure?

The film visually references classic themes that poets have visited from Ovid and Virgil to Dante. One being that of the journey into The Underworld, a quest. The cave of Plato. Perhaps when we encounter the death of a loved one, the frail foundations of who we are are moved. Then questions are asked and mediations undergone. The journey of the film has no particular destination. It is not a straight line per se, in fact it is circular in nature, as we revolve around the ‘tree of life’ and revisit time and again central questions of value and importance that the modern material world oftentimes distracts us from.

The film also takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment ‘Laudato si’, our narrator is a young lady, Kelsey Lang McCarthy, whose beautiful voice softly shares The Pope’s reflections. These serve to lead us deeper into active contemplation of our essential relationships, with other’s with ourselves, and ultimately with Nature itself.

Dominic West

You were blessed to have three-time Oscar Nominee J. Ralph on board.

Indeed. Ralph received an Oscar nomination for his song “Before My Time”, performed by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell from Chasing Ice. For his contribution to Racing Extinction, he received his second Oscar nomination for his song “Manta Ray” co-written and performed by Anohni (F.K.A. Antony of Antony and the Johnsons). For his contribution to Jim: The James Foley Story, he received his third Oscar nomination for “The Empty Chair”, which he co-wrote with Sting, who also performs the song. In the entire history of the Academy Awards, only seven songs from documentaries have ever been nominated for Best Original Song.
I co-directed the film with a dear friend Paris Kain; he and J. Ralph are close friends for many years, I have also known J since I moved to NYC back in 2004.  We wanted to transport the viewers to another space by design…somewhat interrupt any cliched ideas with regard a soundtrack that might numb our audience via cliched stock responses, hence the design of the music was at an angle to some degree from the visuals to further enhance the modernity of the journey, or, in other words, the universal aspect of the meditation.

Michael K.Williams

How has the film been received so far?

The film had its first screening in Soho House in NYC to a select audience; the actress Susan Sarandon was present and became a fan of the film and of Fr. Pádraig, who, at 88 years of age, had travelled to NYC to be there. It was then chosen by the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, who acknowledged it as a work of Art, screening it on December 21st 2015.

The film premiered in Ireland at The Omniplex in Tralee, where President Michael D.Higgins and the first Lady Sabina Higgins were in attendance. Over the course of the summer season there were 52 cinema screenings in Kerry, followed by 6 screenings at The Triskel Arts Centre in Cork. Aer Lingus showed the film on their inflight entertainment on Transatlantic flights from August to October and Tg4 aired the film on Christmas Eve with 68,000 people tuning in to experience it. The Irish Independent film critic Hilary Adam White gave the film four stars.

As of February 2nd the film had its worldwide release on iTunes. We also launched our website that day with a link to the iTunes page.


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