Monday 25 September 2017

Patrick's Day demons are all my own, says director

Film director Terry McMahon.
Film director Terry McMahon.
Moe Dunford in a scene from new Irish film ‘Patrick’s Day’ directed by Terry McMahon
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

HIS new film has been hailed by critics and mental health experts as one of the most important movies in contemporary cinema.

And Patrick's Day director, Terry McMahon, this weekend revealed his own battle through personal and professional lows before finally seeing his "boyhood fantasy finally come true".

The Mullingar native admitted he was devastated after the release of his first film Charlie Casanova in 2011 - which he describes as "one of the most despised films in history". He talks about his own struggle with mental health and the responsibility of movie-making.

"After Charlie Casanova, I presumed that no one would ever be stupid enough to allow me to make a film again," Mr McMahon told the Sunday Independent as he sipped on a double espresso in Bleeker Street Cafe Bar in Dublin's city centre, just hours before the official Irish premiere of Patrick's Day.

"I was going to make another film on my phone if necessary," he laughed.

Despite the backlash, he has no regrets about his film debut. "It was an angry film, holding a mirror up to a rage-fuelled, ugly nation," he said. "Subsequently, I think the Anglo tapes sounded exactly like scenes, scripts and monologues from my film."

But Mr McMahon wasn't the only champion of Charlie Casanova. Irish film producer, Tim Palmer, also saw it's potential and "took a punt" on Mr McMahon's second film "when no-one else would".

And so far, it has paid off.

Patrick's Day, starring Moe Dunford as a young man with schizophrenia who falls in love with a woman who has her own mental health issues, has already received rave reviews, standing ovations and prestigious awards from Cork to Galway to New York City.

Last week, the new movie also won the Manhattan Short Feature Film Project for 2015 and, as a result, will screen in 50 cinemas across the US.

Mr McMahon said: "Coming from a small town, there is no birth right, no precedent, no sense of possibility or indication that you would ever enter this impossible realm, much less become an actual practitioner. I never thought for a second that this would happen."

The narrative for Patrick's Day, also starring actresses Kerry Fox and Catherine Walker, came to Mr McMahon in his late teens when he worked as a carer in a psychiatric hospital.

"I saw firsthand how loving, decent and noble people were, but I also saw the opposite of that, from both staff and parents and guardians".

Although he said lots of good people worked there, he found it "frustrating" to watch patients and residents being "shut down" by some visitors.

He was also frustrated by the rejections of some patients' sexual aspirations. "Imagine the thought of someone interceding on your natural rights and believing that for your benefit, it is better that they quell those aspirations because the consequence might be more damaging to your mental health.

"I remember thinking at the time, 'I don't know how, but I'm going to have to reflect that in some way'."

The humble writer also revealed his personal struggle with mental health, which helped him develop the script and the characters.

"I too have felt suicidal, like I'm in a dark room and it seemed like there was only one way," he said.

"I even tried to starve myself, but the body's need for food takes over and you don't have the courage to do what you really wanted to do: to never wake up".

But eventually, he realised, like in Patrick's Day, "you are not alone".

"I wanted to make this film for somebody sitting at home in a room by themselves, somebody who is scared to reach out, who thinks their fears are just their own.

"The film seems to be giving a voice to that," he added.

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment