IT may seem hard to believe given recent conditions but in 2005, when Ken Loach arrived in West Cork to shoot The Wind That Shakes the Barley, he actually got some excellent weather for the duration of the shoot.
It was indeed an exciting time for people in West Cork as the Hollywood machine rolled into various towns and villages like Bandon, Timoleague and Coolea, giving streets a nostalgic makeover.
North Main Street in Bandon featured prominently in the location shoot and it was masterfully transformed by the film crew to give it an early 1920s look.
There were also many eyebrows raised by visitors when the ‘British Army’ marched up the street on one of the last days of filming in Bandon!
The cast was made up of some great actors, including Corkman Cillian Murphy alongside Liam Cunningham and Pádraic Delaney. Cillian played the part of Damien O’Donovan who, along with his brother Teddy (played by Delaney), fought against the oppression. However, the two brothers later find themselves on opposite sides following the signing of the Treaty in 1922.
While the critics across the water weren’t too keen on Loach’s take on Ireland’s struggle for independence, it didn’t stop the movie winning the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
It was the first Irish film to win the prestigious award and it was also Loach’s first time winning. ‘Our film is a little, a very little, step in the British confronting their imperialist history,’ the director said in his acceptance speech.
Loach has fond memories of his time in West Cork during the shooting of the film.
‘Despite the mosquitoes and getting wet on many occasions, it was an extraordinary time,’ he recalls.
‘The people were inventive, good-humoured and very committed to telling the story. The group of actors and participants in the film made it their own. It was an experience that – I think – changed us all,’ he told The Southern Star.
‘From Cillian Murphy, Pádraig Delaney and Orla Fitzgerald, to the smallest parts in the background, they were all there and made important contributions. And don’t forget the Irish, Scots, Belgians and English crew – a fine example of international co-operation.’
Winning the Palme d’Or was for Ken an award for the whole team and ‘one in the eye for the British establishment, who hated the film’, he said.
‘The War of Independence was the culmination of the struggle to free Ireland from British rule. The Civil War that followed was engineered by the British ruling class to preserve as much of its interests as possible. Both of these events were of enormous importance to the people of both countries. We felt that the true story, with the great possibilities that were not realised, had not been told,’ added Ken.
The film will be shown as part of the Fastnet Film Festival in Schull on Thursday, May 26th at 8.30pm in The Royal Cinema (hotel), followed by a Q&A with actors Orla Fitzgerald, Aidan O’Hare, Frank Bourke, Martin Lucey, and casting director Oonagh Kearney. Tickets are €5. See fastnetfilmfestival.com for more.