Feel-good family film rooted in Galway

Fidil Ghorm which will be screened next week at Galway Film Fleadh tells the story of 10-year-old Molly and her efforts to wake her father from a coma by playing music. Written by Patricia Forde and directed by Anne McCabe, it was produced by Indreabhán company, Abú Media. Its director Anne tells JUDY MURPHY how it evolved, even as Covid was at its height. She shares her delight at finding the perfect young actress for the role of Molly and says Irish is thriving in the country’s Gaelscoileanna.

“A lovely, feel-good, contemporary family movie,” is how director Anne McCabe describes Fidil Ghorm, which will receive its Irish premiere at next week’s Galway Film Fleadh.

The Irish language film, written by award-winning young people’s writer and current Laureate na nÓg, Galway’s Patricia Forde, centres on Molly, a 10-year-old girl whose world is shattered when her father falls into a coma. Molly believes if she can learn to play the fiddle as he does, she can wake him up.

When she meets a cranky old fiddle player, Malachy, who has “magic in his hands”, she tries to persuade him to unlock the secrets that would help elevate her playing to that level.

“I got a text out of the blue in 2019, asking ‘do you want to make a movie?’,” recalls Anne of her involvement in Fidil Ghorm (Blue Fiddle).

The text was from Bríd Seoighe and Pierce Boyce of Indreabhán-based production company Abú Media.

Anne and Abú have worked together previously, most recently on TG4’s series Sloinne about Irish surnames, and on RTÉ Faoi Bláth, a TV series about Ireland’s wildflowers.

A former commissioning editor with TG4 who previously worked as a producer/director with RTÉ, Anne has vast experience in making documentaries and dramas.

In the 1990s, she directed JJ Biker, “which was also about a little girl with an ill father”. Made for RTÉ, its cast included Brendan Gleeson and Liam Carney. She subsequently directed TV3’s crime drama series Deception, and she also worked in Ros na Rún.

Fidil Ghorm began life as a one-page pitch, written by Patricia Forde.  Abú applied to CINE 4 funding so she could develop that one-page idea into a script. CINE 4 is a partnership between TG4, the Irish Film Board and Broadcasting Authority of Ireland which supports the development of Irish language feature films.

That application was successful, and once the script was completed, they sought financial support for a feature-length production.

Normally, CINE 4 approves two films annually but in 2020, Fidil Ghorm was the only one funded, Anne says of the movie, which had a €1.5 million budget.

Because of Covid restrictions, she and Patricia “met in our gardens and for coffee”, working through the script.

“All stories are about characters and that’s what Patricia does best,” says Anne. And the two women have a similar attitude to stories, in that, “if something gets you in your heart, that’s what we want”.

Anne explains that Patricia had originally started writing Molly’s story as a novel but it wasn’t working. Once she penned it as a film script, it flowed.

In mid-2020, the finished script was good to go and the casting process began. All involved with Fidil Ghorm knew they had to find the right person to play Molly. That would have been difficult at any time, but Covid made everything harder.

“It was a huge challenge,” says Anne, explaining that “we emailed every Gaelscoil in the country, looking for a girl between nine and 12, someone who could play an instrument, ideally the fiddle”.

Pictured: Edith Lawlor as Molly and Aindrias de Staic who plays her father Ruairc. Both are superb fiddle players.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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