Interview: Scannain talks Patrick's Day with director Terry McMahon

Terry McMahon made headlines and also managed to divide the film critics with his debut film Charlie Casanova. He had fun with that and is now back with an equally compelling follow-up Patrick’s Day. We caught up with him to discuss the film and how Ireland reacts to films that make you think

Hi Terry, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Let’s start with where the idea for Patrick’s Day came from?

I worked in a home for people with mental health issues many years ago. Parents and guardians would visit at weekends and despite  loving their offspring they would immediately shut down if they had any sexual aspirations. The question of right to intimacy came from that.

Where you worried about how it would be received?

Yes. We chose to enter a difficult and complex private realm where everyone has protective moral certitude about what is right and wrong, but the profound response to the film has allayed those worries

Does it bother you that films you make get a better reception outside of Ireland?

I have only made two films. Charlie Casanova was a hand grenade and when the pin was pulled it caused mayhem and I was attacked but that was the nature of that film. Patrick’s Day is a very different kind of film which was embraced at home and abroad culminating in the “Best Film” award at the Galway Fleadh

Do you think that Irish society is open to dealing with controversial topics in films?

We are a beautiful but bizarre people and successive government regimes seem to have almost killed our collective spirit so it remains to be seen if audiences are willing to become immersed in political or humanist cinema of this kind. It would be wonderful to think people want to get off the armchair and fight for our rights, on all levels, including the right to intimacy

If there was one thing you could tell people to encourage them to see Patrick’s Day, what would it be?

The one common thing we keep getting back from audience members is that they cried in the cinema for the first time in years. To hear a cinema quietly sob is quite a sound.

What are your future plans? 

We were stunned to learn that Patrick’s Day has just won the Screen Directors Guild Finders Series award. The Directors Guild of America pick one movie a year to put on the world stage and they’ve picked us. They’ll fly us to Los Angeles for a red carpet screening at the DGA on Sunset Boulevard followed by a week of meetings to secure American distribution and plan future films. Patrick’s Day producer Tim Palmer and I have already been developing two other projects – an unflinching proactive prison drama called The Dancehall Bitch and a comedy drama with heart and balls called Oliver Twisted, so we’ll be discussing them as part of the trip. Outside of that I am just doing what everyone else is doing, fighting hard to survive in these very strange times.

It seems what started out as a fight for survival and recognition has turned into a thing of dreams for Terry. Patrick’s Day will be available for selected viewings over the next few months. Check out the Facebook page for more detail.