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Enniscorthy film on Traveller life selected for Galway Film Festival

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Michelle Ann and her daughter Alice.

Michelle Ann and her daughter Alice.

Ann Michelle Connors and daughter Alice.

Ann Michelle Connors and daughter Alice.

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Michelle Ann and her daughter Alice.

wexfordpeople

A short-documentary film about the everyday lives of the Travelling community in Enniscorthy has been selected for the Galway Film Fleadh next month. Directed by Robert Tyrell and produced by Joanne Heffernan, Halted was shot last year after the filmmaking duo received funding through Wexford County Council’s New Voices bursary. Robert, who is from Camolin, and Joanne both graduated from the National Film School at the Institute of Art and Design + Technology (IADT) in 2013 and have continued to work together in the intervening years.

Passionate about creating a film culture within their home county, they used the bursary to create the 12-minute film about a section of society which remains misunderstood even in areas where they have strong representation. Joanne, who is a native of Enniscorthy, explained how the idea to create Halted came about. 

“I was born and raised in Enniscorthy but moved to Dublin for university in 2009 and was living there until I moved abroad in 2018,” she says. “When I moved back home to Enniscorthy after being away for so long I realised I had forgotten how big the Traveller population was in the town. I was working in a local shop and was dealing with customers from that part of the community and I felt like I didn’t know that part of the community as well as I should have.”

Thus the idea for Halted was born and an application for the New Voices bursary was submitted. But having received the funding and technical support from the council, Joanne and Robert had to find of way of gaining the trust of the local Traveller community, enough trust for them to make a film based on their lives. 

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"We began filming in 2021 but felt quite boxed-in during the pandemic, it was difficult to go around knocking on people’s doors,” Joanne says. “Then we made contact with the FDYS Centre in Enniscorthy and spoke to Robbie Sludds and Mary Helen Connors, they were passionate about the idea and were keen to see more integration between the Traveller community in the town. They almost took us under their wing.”

Having sounded out potential interviewees for the project, Robbie and Margaret Helen introduced the filmmakers to the four people who would ultimately make up the cast of Halted: Ann Michelle Connors, sisters Boo and Aly Murphy, and Andy Connors. But rather than attempt to cram as much as possible into the short run time, Robert and Joanne took a more focused approach, concentrating on the small minutiae of their subjects daily lives.  

“Mary Helen was going out and holding the initial meetings for us and talking to those who had expressed an interest in being featured in the film,” Joanne says. “We decided to be specific in what we film, we focused on Ann Michelle’s interests, her daily visits to the Holy Well, the two sisters playing handball, and Andy, who is in his 80s, passion for painting wagons.”

Describing themselves as being “absolutely delighted” to have the official premiere of their film at the Galway Film Fleadh (July 5-10), Joanne said they are hopeful of having a Wexford screening of Halted later this year.   


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