Behind the Scenes - A Terrible Beauty

A Terrible Beauty” producer Dave Farrell and actor Colin Farrell take a very personal view of history in a film that has evolved into a living history project.

 Q: Dave and Colin, filmmaking seems to be a family affair for the Farrells. How did this come about?

 Dave-- Long story, but I will give you the short version.  I had retired at 50, too early, from a completely unrelated business and was looking for something else to do, preferably in the arts. Simultaneously, my brother Keith decided to go to film school in Bournemouth having worked as a journalist.

 Colin--I always had a strong interest in films and my cousin and I used to play around with making little action movies when we were young. So when the time came for me to choose what to do in college, it felt natural to enroll in a film production course.

 Dave--So I decided to follow in their footsteps!  It has been a great privilege to work with both of them on various productions over the last 7 or 8 years.

Q: “A Terrible Beauty” tells the story of the Easter rebellion in Dublin in 1916 from a very personal perspective. Why did you use first-hand accounts to drive the story?

 Dave--We looked at various ways of telling the 1916 story and, in fact, the final film bore little resemblance to the original treatment. As we waded through statements given by various people in Ireland and the U.K., it became apparent that there were three sides to the story, as there always is in conflict--the two sets of combatants and the civilians caught in the middle. There was poignancy in the statements that brought to life what had happened. Using them, I think, brought us inside the events in a way that other forms of storytelling can’t.

Q: You ignored the leaders of the rebellion and the major location, the GPO in Dublin, why?

 Dave--The leaders and executed of 1916 have been well covered by other filmmakers and, in some cases, myths have been created about what happened. The reality was that the two most ferocious battles were the ones at Mount Street Bridge and North King Street. Militarily, they were also the most successful. Focusing on these two battles allowed us to tell the story from the ground up rather than the top down.

 Colin--The GPO is always seen as the major location for the rebellion but this isn't really the case at all. It was the headquarters for the rebels but, in terms of actual fighting, there were other locations which saw much more action than the GPO. In reality, the insurrection was spread out widely across the city.

Q: “A Terrible Beauty” has become a living history project that you direct, Colin. Tell us about “A Terrible Beauty 1916-2016” and how it evolved. 

 Colin--When it came to promoting the film ahead of its first TV airing on TG4 (Irish language channel) last April, I was looking at interesting ways to add to what we had done with the film and maybe generate a little publicity for it. I thought it would be nice to tell some more little known stories about the 1916 Rising.

 Dave--In a 90-minute feature docudrama, we can only tell a small number of the great stories we unearthed. We were approached by various people who had either seen the film or had heard about what we had done. Some of the families we already knew from our research, others brought us new stories.         

 Colin--After it aired, we started to get a lot of emails from family members eager to tell the story of their relative’s involvement. We quickly realized that these were important stories that needed to be told and that prompted us to start the living history project

Dave--This work has now taken over our lives, at least until 2016 and maybe beyond. So we set up an online portal where the families of 1916 participants could tell their stories

Dave and Colin Farrell will be among Solas Nua’s special guests at the Capital Irish Film  Festival from Feb. 5 through Feb. 8, when “A Terrible Beauty” closes the festival. They will join us for an audience meet and greet at the Goethe-Institut after the show. Get your tickets at Eventbrite

--Pat Reilly, CIFF director