A Northern Ireland-produced film, which presents an unusual perspective on the plight of refugee children, has been selected by the 33rd Cinemagic International Film Festival for Young People in Belfast.
It will compete in the official festival competition for Best Short Film for a Children’s Audience, to be judged by a youth jury. It will be in competition with films from Portugal, Czech Republic, France, Norway, Germany and the USA.
In the film, the solitary little stranger of the title is portrayed by a faceless paper doll, who is discovered on a railway line by a group of young people. They rescue and protect her, shield her from harm and offer her friendship and safe refuge. They take her to the summit of a high hill, steeped in history, where they set her free into a new future.
The film was produced in the summer of 2021, under socially-distance Covid 19 restrictions. It marks the second phase of a large-scale performance project.
The storyline underlines that the fact that this anonymous little stranger is one of thousands who arrive alone and friendless into our communities.
Director Patrick J. O’Reilly (artistic director of Tinderbox) and choreographer Sheena Kelly(community engagement artist for DU Dance) created a powerful, non-narrative dance-theatre portrayal of a global human experience, which is, sadly, becoming increasingly urgent. It was shot on location in Dungannon and the surrounding area.
An integral element of the film is a specially commissioned soundscape by composer, producer and DJ Isaac Gibson.
The production team linked up with two inspiring young people, from Eritrea and Afghanistan, who had travelled alone to Northern Ireland from their homelands and settled here. One had been travelling on her own since she was ten years old. They generously agreed to share their individual experiences, which fed into the film’s narrative.
Little Stranger’s creator and writer is Jane Coyle. She describes the encounter which motivated the project:
“On a cold December night in 2018, I stopped to speak with a refugee family, huddled against the railings of the luxurious George V Hotel near the Arc de Triomphe.
“As we parted, the little girl, whose name was Asha, held out her hand, with a smile that could have lit up the city. I will never forget the touch of that small, warm hand, dry with dirt from the street. I conceived Little Stranger for her and for millions of children and their families, relying for survival on the kindness of strangers”.
The performers are members of Sutemos and Suteminis, two multi-cultural youth dance groups,run by DU Dance. Kelly is the groups’ founder and director. They are based in Dungannon, a town which has welcomed families from many countries and enabled them to build new lives. The dancers are aged between eight and sixteen years and have family roots in Lithuania, Poland, East Timor, Portugal and Dungannon.
Credits: Writer – Jane Coyle; Director – Patrick J O’Reilly; Choreographer- Sheena Kelly; Sound design/composer – Isaac Gibson; Camera/editor – Brendan McCarthy
The production was supported by Community Relations Council NI and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.
Screening: Saturday 8 October at 1.00pm
Venue: Belfast Barge
Click here to book tickets for the screening on the Belfast Barge.