The award-winning Float Like a Butterfly has hit local cinema screens to rave reviews and writer-director Carmel Winters said she couldn’t have done any of it without the people of West Cork, writes Brian Moore.
FLOAT like a Butterfly has been described by those who were lucky enough to take part in the making of the film as a soul- touching experience that could only be created in West Cork.
Writer-director and Lisheen resident, Carmel Winters summed it up when she said: ‘This is a film about beating the odds and of triumph. It is a film for the people and I couldn’t have made the film without the people of West Cork.’
The award-winning film tells the story of a young traveller girl, Frances, (played by Hazel Doupe) who idolises her hero, Muhammad Ali, and dreams of becoming a boxer just like him.
The film is set in 1972, the year Muhammad Ali came to Ireland and the same year that Frances’ father returns after a seven-year prison sentence.
Filming took place all over the region including Ballyrisode Beach, Skibbereen, Ballydehob and Goleen.
However, while Carmel always knew where she wanted to film this story of a strong young woman who proves her worth and strikes a blow for her independence, both she and her wife Toma, the film’s production designer also recognised the extraordinary community of people who they knew would give it depth and poignancy.
Toma said: ‘This was a great opportunity to work with the community we know and love.
‘Everyone gave so much of themselves. For the production design, it was important to recreate the 1970s in rural Ireland and people turned up with personal effects, heirlooms and items that we could have only dreamed of before we began. We even managed to find a scrapped 1970s car on the road to Castletownbere.’
With locations from Goleen to Ballydehob and all points in between it was the responsibility of two other locals, Schull residents Hilary McCarthy, the location manager and Helen Wells, the production office manager to ensure that everything ran smoothly and to schedule.
‘I had never done anything like this before,’ said Hilary as she remembered just a few of the extraordinary predicaments she found herself in when filming was underway.
‘High tides, padlocked gates and port-a-loo placements were just some of the items that I found I needed to factor into my daily life during the filming. But everyone in the area were, as they always are, incredibly helpful and did all they could to assist in any way they could.’
However, it wasn’t just behind the camera that the legions of local talent made their presence known.
‘We put out the call and over 100 people turned up for the fair day scene, which was one of the most fun, moving and incredible days I have ever had filming,’ Carmel said.
‘We have local families taking part as well as a number of talents you’ll easily recognise.’ Two such talents who shine bright on the silver screen and will be well known to anyone who has ever visited Schull or Ballydehob, are Pauline Cotter of Schull’s Fastnet Film Festival, who plays a shop keeper in Goleen and Caroline O’Donnell, of Levis’ Bar in Ballydehob, who plays Aunt Rosie and who appears with her then 10-month-old daughter, Johanna.
‘It was a wonderful experience,’ said Pauline.
‘There was a complete community of people who gave their time and energy to make the film what it is and the support the professionals gave the volunteers was incredible.’
It was also Caroline’s first time in front of the camera.
‘The whole experience was a wonderful time not just for myself but for my daughter as well. We will always have a record of this special time we spent together making a film,’ Caroline said.
‘West Cork is full of creative people and the community gave some much of themselves, we are all extremely proud of the film Carmel has created.’
Fifth year student Hazel said: ‘Filming in West Cork was pure bliss. This was my first time so far west in Cork. I couldn’t imagine anywhere more perfect to have shot this film.’
‘I will be definitely going back to that part of the world for years to come,’ she said.
Carmel added: ‘I’m a different person after making the film.
‘It was like climbing a mountain and I would have not been able to do it without the people of West Cork who helped to make the film what it is.’