Friday, 4 December 2009


It was a case of “All Aboard” as 75 people from all areas of Inishowen eagerly made their way onto two McGonagle coaches last Wednesday and headed to Belfast for the first Irish screening of the long awaited film A Shine of Rainbows.

This was the first opportunity for local Inishowen people, who were involved in the making of the film, had to see the finished product on the big screen.

Aideen Doherty, the Area Manager for Community and Enterprise with Donegal County Council, who was instrumental in bringing the film to the peninsula was keen to point out that this is a screening and not the premiere. “This event here in Belfast is the Northern Irish Screening and part of the Cinemagic International Film Festival. Inishowen will hopefully have the premiere of the film some time early next year somewhere in Inishowen. This will give everyone a chance to see the movie” She tells us.

Aideen, like everyone else on the two coaches were all looking forward to seeing people they knew on screen. The bus had its fair share of local celebrities. Adam Downey played Jack, Kelly and Laura O’Hara Farren, who were in the school and Michael Gomersall, who doubled up for John Bell. Paul Carlin and Dennis Kelly both spent a lot of time on the bus and boat scenes and Christine Carlin was a visitor to the orphanage “I had a great time on the set, it was a great experience” she says.

The Movie House Cinema in Belfast had an area set aside for the filmgoers and light refreshments were served to a melodic backdrop of music from the Henry Girls, who, because of their equipment had got there earlier on their own and set up. The Henry Girls had performed at the opening night at the Los Angeles Film Festival in September where Aiden Quinn was the guest of honour. The band Lorna, Joleen and Karen McLaughlin collaborated with LA composer Keith Power and wrote their own original material for the film and their music is a vital part of the chemistry of the film and gives it the authentic Irish feel.

Lorna tells us “Its a very exciting time for all us Inishoweners to get a chance to see Inishowen in its full glory.” By the time curtain was called the auditorium was completely full. The lights went down and the audience fell silent. As soon as the film started it was like seeing an old friend. The scenery was so familiar “Wow, we see that scenery every day. We are so lucky.” Said one enthusiastic viewer in the row behind. The makers of the film stress that there were very few scenes that required computer graphics. “The only times were when a rainbow was introduced to a scene, everything else was as Vic filmed it.” Tina Pehme, the director tells us.

The film was enthralling throughout (see Film Guide) having magical scenes, drama and humour in bucket loads which held everyone’s attention all throughout the 100 minutes of local cinematic beauty. After director Tina said that as soon as Aideen had shown her the peninsula, there was no doubt in her mind that Inishowen was to be the backdrop of the film. “Idea came about in 2000 after reading the book written by Lillian Beckworth. It is set in the Hebrides of Scotland in the 1950’s and the Inishowen landscape matched that perfectly.” She tells the audience after the film and continues. “We got some of the sets looking really authentic. After we had built the King Fingal standing stones they looked so real that we even had tourists coming along and taking their photos next to them and asking us for the history.” The realism comes across on the film too with added special effects around the stones to make them that bit more scary for children to enjoy.

The attention to detail was astounding. Every item in the film had been carefully selected for it’s period credibility and items of clothing had been made especially for the film. The Moville Clothing Company made the authentic shirts and local sewers like Anne Marie Monagle took great pleasure in creating the extra items. “I really enjoyed making the clothes and it was fun getting them just right.” She says, “Especially the neck ties and curtains in the cottage where Marie and Alec lived with Thomas. I would say that though as I made those.” She laughs.

The film crew also know how lucky they were with the weather. “It was filmed in one of the driest recorded periods for Inishowen. The local papers thought it was hilarious to see us with the rain towers brought in especially for some scenes.” Tina continues.

John Bell was at the opening and giving answers to questions asked by members of the Cinea Magic Film Club “It’s far more challenging than being asked questions by adults.” He confides. He was asked what his favourite moment when filming? “I really enjoyed the shaking bits.” Says John. “ I had to pretend that there was an earthquake and wobble about. All of the effects for that scene were added on later.” He replies. “It was great fun, although you do feel a bit daft at the time.”

Could there be a follow up to the film? “It’s definitely a possibility says Tina. The book didn’t have a sequel so there is nothing to stop us developing the relationship between Alec (Aiden Quinn) and Thomas (John Bell) further.” She says just before John jokes “We could do a horror film and call it “A Shining of Rainbows.”

Tina laughs and continues after saying that she had missed John’s jokes. “The film has won two awards so far, the Children’s Jury Award at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival and Best Dramatic Feature Heartland Film Festival and there is talk of the film being released by the Fox network so it will be seen worldwide. Vic Sarin is already opening the film in India as we speak, so it is already being seen by a wide audience.” She concludes.

Everyone is talking about the film as the coaches are being boarded outside of the cinema, which is always a great sign.

“The film is so family friendly and sweet, Malin head looked great, as always.” Says Christina Galbraith. As the McGonagle coaches smoothly head back to Inishowen to drop off a very fulfilled film audience Aideen Doherty sums up the feelings of the night.

“The film captured a moment in time for Inishowen that we will have forever.”

Read the Review

Read more about filming at Malin Head



From the opening scenes where Thomas (John Bell) had his crayons broken by school bullies, you knew he wasn’t going to have an easy time of things in the stunning new film A shine of Rainbows, shot locally in Inishowen.

Tomas is a frail, shy eight-year-old boy who has been living a solitary life in a drab orphanage, sad, friendless and alone. Then a joyous burst of colour comes into his world in the form of Maire O'Donnell (Connie Nielson), whose smile and spirit light up the darkest room and Tomas's heart. Tomas is soon on a boat, full of Inishowen extras, sailing to wind-swept Corrie Island (or as we know it Malin Head), where he meets Alec, her reticent husband who cannot hide his disappointment with the boy. What follows is a depiction of childhood shyness and insecurity. Thomas has lacked a reliable male role model all through his life, which leads him to have a fear of men and especially pipe smoking silent men like Alec. This doesn’t help Thomas’s already intense stammer as he attempts to communicate with the new authority figure in his life.
Maire introduces Tomas to the wonders of his new world and this is where the glorious Inishowen scenery comes alive on the screen. She shares with him the secret of the seals, the mystery of the stone giant and shows him that you can find magic anywhere- if you really look.
In this rugged and enchanting world that Director Vic Sarin portrays through his lens, Tomas thrives. He befriends a pair of island children and rescues an orphan seal pup that join him on his journey of self-discovery. Slowly, Alec too begins to see in Tomas what Maire always has.
Tragedy is never far away though and it won’t be long before you are reaching for your hankies. At some points the film is unrelenting and truly heartbreaking, but all the more memorable for it. The films intentionally slow pace sets the scene extremely well about an uncertain boy maintaining hope and believing, against all odds by overcoming inner-obstacles.

The family attraction for the film mixed with our glorious local scenery and a fine collaboration between the Henry Girls and musician Keith Power who do the musical score for the film, makes it a wonderful cinematic experience. What we have here is a thoughtful family film that doesn’t cop out on harsh realities, giving a little something to old and young viewers alike. The award winning film will be on general release in spring 2010.

Read about the first screening in Belfast

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