The film follows nine year old Sophie (Susie Power) as she and her wayward mother Harriett (Siobhan O’Kelly) travel through a modern Irish landscape to meet Sophie’s father (Michael Power). Sophie has never met her father before and when they end up at a bustling horse-fair she is excited by the prospect of her new ‘happy family’. Things fall apart when her mother starts to drink and Sophie realises that everything isn’t as it appears
The film was inspired by director’s Friel’s childhood and his mother’s struggles with mental illness. He says, “For me this is a very interesting time in the development of a child, the moment in time when there is a switch, when the expectation to be ‘looked after’ evaporates and is replaced with a realization that in lots of ways you are on your own. It’s this point that I wanted to focus on as a theme for Sophie At The Races. I hoped to show the love between a mother and child, the tragedy of the situation they are in but also the resilience of childhood; how the out-of-the-ordinary becomes ordinary when you live it every day.”
Alan Friel studied Fine Art before turning his attention to Filmmaking and this fine art background flows through Sophie At The Races and his other short films. A natural storyteller Alan threads together his depiction of everyday people with the classic warmth and lyrical quality that characterizes his film and commercial work. Alan lives in London and is currently developing a number of feature length scripts.
Sophie at the Races is produced by Fiona Kinsella at Jumper Productions, with support from the Irish Film Board. It was shot on 16mm by noted cinematographer Robbie Ryan over four days on location in Buttevant at the Cahirmee Horse Fair
The Tampere Film Festival has taken place every March in the Finnish town since 1969, making it the oldest short film festival in Northern Europe. Each year the festival shows approximately 500 films to an audience of over 30,000 people. Previous winners of the festival’s Grand Prix include Ruben Östlund and Nick Park.