Ireland and Irish culture have been in vogue for some years now, even though
their popularity have tailed off somewhat off late. We have had River Dance,
Lord of the Dances and several other leg shaking extravaganzas here over the
past couple of decades, there was a delightful and well-attended Irish music
festival that did good business at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque for a few years,
and there has been an Irish Film Festival here for a half a dozen or so
Next week’s installment of silver screen entertainment from the
Emerald Isle kicks off tomorrow, at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, with a screening
of Gerard Hurley’s The Pier. The film opens the Haifa and Jerusalem sections of
the festival on March 29 and March 31 respectively.
The Pier is a
low-budget effort, and that comes through loud and clear throughout the film. It
is an intimate story based in a small village on the southwest coast of Cork in
Ireland and, despite Hurley’s protestations, appears to have a strong
autobiographical element to it.
The basic elements are true to life.
Jack, the main character, is an Irishman who returns to his homeland after a
long absence in America.
Hurley has lived in the US since the age of 17
and The Pier is the first film he has made in Ireland.
The director also
hails from the neck of the Irish woods where the film was shot. So one wonders
if Hurley’s relationship with his own father was anything like the tempestuous
association between Jack and his dad in the movie.
“I had a difficult
relationship with my father... no, I’m just joking,” quips Hurley.
film is not autobiographical, but it is personal.”
He adds that there is
something of a documentary element to The Pier, too.
“Things are not good
in that part, and other parts, of Ireland today, with immigration and high
unemployment where I come from.”
Hurley says he was also keen to
highlight a social problem.
“The father and son in the film have problems
expressing emotions to each other, and that is a problem in Ireland.”
Pier was made on a tiny budget of just 100,000 euros. Mind you, that was quite a
step up from the finances Hurley had at his disposal for his directorial debut,
2008 drama Pride, about an Irish traveler living in America who returns from
prison and tries to win back his wife, after a life of trouble and abuse
The shoestring budget meant that Hurley had to be resourceful
in the extreme, and shot some of the scenes very close to home in the Big
“I built four of the sets, that were used for shoots in Ireland,
in my basement in New York,” says Hurley. “I have done so many jobs in my life
so far, so I have learned to manage with what I have. Still, it would be nice,
one day, to have a big budget, and just to do what I love – making
Hurley is certainly no spoilt Irishmanmakes- good-Stateside
“I would like to have lots of money to make my films but I
really love this work, and I am willing to do anything to make it work. I’ve
already got a couple of projects in the pipeline. I love writing
The storyline of The Pier has plenty of facets to it. In
addition to the dysfunctional fatherson relationship, there is Jack’s platonic
relationship with a New York woman who is struggling to get over a recent
divorce and whose grandmother came from Jack’s part of Ireland.
film also addresses something of a potential minefield – the deep divide between
Catholicism and Protestantism in Ireland. One of the characters in the movie, an
elderly lady called June, is aghast when Jack tells her his father asked to be
cremated – a heinous crime for a Catholic to consider.
While Hurley says
he didn’t exactly set out to open a Pandora ’s box, it is a subject he feels
very strongly about.
“I am fascinated by religion, but religion can cause
so many problems. For instance, in the film, June is a good woman but she takes
a very heavy approach to religion.”
That may also be partly due to a
“I think younger people in Ireland tend to take religion
less seriously,” observes Hurley.
Much of The Pier’s charm comes from the
coziness and the somewhat off-the-cuff presentation.
Most of the
characters who appear in the film are not professional actors and, betwixt some
highly emotive exchanges between father and son, there are some lovely,
unpolished scenes in the local pub. Naturally, there is plenty of scenic
While The Pier was a homecoming for Hurley, in more senses
than one, he says he doesn’t really care where he works, as long as he’s making
“The bottom line is that I just have to tell my story. That’s the
bottom line for me.”
There are five other movies in the Irish festival,
including Tom Hall’s darkly comic Sensation, Conor Horgan’s post-apocalyptic
drama One Hundred Mornings and Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s 1950s drama Stella Days
starring Martin Sheen.