Oscar hope for west Cork Irish-language film

Oscar hope for west Cork Irish-language film
A scene from Song of Granite on the life of sean nós singer Joe Heaney made by Cork filmmaker Pat collins. The film is Ireland's submission for the foreign-language section of the Academy Awards.

A FILM directed and produced by a West Cork man has been selected as Ireland’s submission for next year’s Oscars.

Drimoleague native, Pat Collins’ Irish-language docudrama, Song of Granite is listed as the Irish entry in the Foreign Language category being put forward for this year’s awards. If successful, the director will be whisked off to LA early next year to attend the glittering event.

Nonetheless, Mr Collins, who owns Harvest Films, currently has other priorities as he prepares for the cinema release of the film next month. The production blends together traditional narrative episodes with documentary footage of renowned late sean-nós singer Joe Heaney.

“Cinema was never a big thing for me as a child,” the father-of-three admitted. “The nearest cinema was Bantry and and we didn’t have a car, so I think I had the chance to go just once before the age of 15. I did love music though. In my hometown, there was always music in the air, so I’m very fortunate in that respect.”

News that Pat is a contender for the Oscar’s shortlist has spread fast in Baltimore where the screenwriter/director lives with his family.

“As soon as you mention the word Oscar the world takes notice. Anything that creates awareness of the film and attracts viewers is a positive thing. If this makes gaining funding easier then great, but it will never change me in terms of the types of films I make.”

He ruled out a move to tinsel town adding: “While I’m a big fan of cinema, the industry doesn’t really interest me. I definitely won’t be spending my days hanging around with movie moguls. When you have kids your priorities change. I prefer writing scripts and helping out with the kids’ soccer and football training. If I was 25 and single things might be different but at this stage of my life West Cork is where I’m most happy.”

Song of Granite tells the story of Heaney’s life and an exploration of music and song.

The film was very much a family affair, co-written by Pat’s wife Sharon and featuring two of his sons Joe, aged 13 and Paddy, aged 10.

“The boys appear in the schoolhouse scene,” Pat said. “Like any other kids, they were just happy to get out of school for a while. While my wife and I are both involved in film our household isn’t what you would imagine it to be. Film is rarely part of our dinner table conversation. Our son Joe loves film but Danny, aged 16, and Paddy are very much into their sport.”

The director said he is glad his film is promoting the sean-nós tradition abroad.

“In the past sean-nós singing in Hollywood films is represented by a guy in the corner of a pub singing for about 10 seconds. In Songs of Granite, however, it’s central to the movie. Joe Heaney made his living working as a doorman in a wealthy apartment complex while teaching singing at a university. Only in the last two years of his life was he able to do what he loved full-time. Had he not moved to New York he would never have had that opportunity.”

Making a film about the musical legend was a long-time dream for Pat.

“I’ll never forget hearing him on the radio for the first time. His voice had this hypnotic quality”

Song of Granite was produced by Pat, Alan Maher, Jessie Fisk and Martin Paul-Hus. The script was penned by Pat Collins, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde and Sharon Whooley.

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