FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
IFTA AWARDS 2024
That They May Face The Rising Sun
Capturing a year in the life of a rural, lakeside community in Ireland in the 1970s, THAT THEY MAY FACE THE RISING SUN is an adaptation of the final novel from John McGahern, one of Ireland's greatest novelists.
Director: Pat Collins Writer: Pat Collins, Eamon Little Producers: Brendan J. Byrne, Tina O'Reilly
Q: What was the genesis of this film, and how did it evolve over the course of development to production and completion?
- Pat Collins (Director, Co-Writer): "You could say the genesis of ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ goes back to when I directed a documentary about its author John McGahern, back in 2004/2005. We filmed over the course of a year and the completed film John McGahern: A Private World was shown on RTÉ in 2005 - about a year before John passed away. For many years I had thought of making a film of the book – and in 2014 I asked Madeline, John’s wife, what she thought of the notion of adapting the book for the screen and she was encouraging. It was my favourite of McGahern’s novels. For me, it was, I felt, the book that best captured the world I had grown up in. The characters, the landscape, the rhythm and rituals and the pace of living that I had experienced, the interactions of neighbours, the kindness and love, the sudden bursts of anger or the thunderous silence. In 2015 myself and Éamon Little set about working on a first draft of the script. Over the next 6 or 7 years we kept working on the script. We had to lose some of the darkness, some of the light - but there were certain aspects of the novel that depended on faithful adaptation. The presence of the natural world, the passing of time, the adhering to suggestion rather than statement. That was a big thing for McGahern. The film changed again during the edit, with Keith Walsh. We edited for over 6 months - reducing and refining - letting scenes breathe, getting the pace right."
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
- Pat: "Primarily I hope that they enjoy the film as they are watching it. Hopefully in a cinema. That they become immersed in the world of the film. And that it stays with them. And ideally they would feel like going to see it again!"
Q: What’s the most interesting/inspiring piece of feedback you’ve received from people who have seen the film?
- Pat: "There were three screenings at the Gothenburg film festival last week – and they were all full houses. And the Swedish audience was reacting to it in the very much the same way that the Irish audience might. They were laughing in all the right places. The print was un-subtitled – but they seemed to get everything. I think they have better English than ourselves. It gave me confidence that they is an international audience for the film. We are off to Santa Barbara this week for the North American premiere and hopefully they will react in the same way. When John McGahern was talking about the novel he said “…it’s a particular place that people know and love well. I do believe very strongly that one room can become an everywhere…when you start with the universal, an everywhere - you get a nothing, and everything interesting begins with one person in one place… and time is passing.”"
Q: Can you speak to the growth in the Irish film industry in recent years and how it helped your film get off the ground?
- Pat: "When I started making films in 97/98 there were far fewer opportunities. The growth really comes from Michael D’s initiative in reviving the film industry back in the 90s, the creation of the Film Board, of TG4, the encouragement of the independent TV sector. It was a hugely exciting time. But it takes a long time to create a culture - I think we are really seeing the fruits of it now. It’s important that the culture of film isn’t exclusively spoken about in terms of ‘industry’ though – or in terms of the ‘entertainment’ industry. Cinema is an important art form – and there should always be room to foster that within this country. I wouldn’t have lasted the course if it wasn’t for a combination of all the various funding bodies in this country – who all stepped in at crucial times - Screen Ireland, The Arts Council, TG4, RTÉ, BAI – they have all been hugely important at various times. But there is no denying that Screen Ireland is the major player in terms of feature films and feature documentaries and their support is crucial. I’m very happy that we were able - with producers Brendan Byrne and Tina O’Reilly and Exec producer Philip King - to get this film financed from within the island of Ireland."
Q: To what extent was your on-screen talent vital to the success of the film?
- Pat: "Before this film I usually worked with a combination of actors and ‘non-professional’ actors. But after exploring both approaches for this film – we decided to create an ensemble. We held script readings with established actors and through the casting director Maureen Hughes we asked Sean McGinley to come in and Lalor Roddy and Brendan Conroy, John Olohan and Ruth McCabe. From that foundation we created the community of ‘Rising Sun’. I met Barry Ward for a coffee in Dublin and after talking to him for an hour I decided that he was perfect for Joe. Kate we cast after a search in Germany and Phillip Dolan who plays Jamesie – I met Phillip at a singing festival in Knockcroghery in Roscommon. I really enjoyed working with them all. They are a terrific cast."