Behy NS Film Club win film-making award

The young film-makers of Behy National School, Ballina, watched the awards ceremony of Fresh Film Festival online on Wednesday last with baited breath and thumping hearts.

Their film Orphan Girl was among the nominees for the Young Film-maker of the Year award. They had hoped to attend the film festival in March but alas, their big day out in Limerick was cancelled when coronavirus struck.

The Fresh Film Festival committee decided to run the festival as an online event and the junior competition was broadcast last Wednesday last (March 20), and it was a great boost for the sixth class film-makers of Behy NS to hear their film declared the winner by Young Offenders star Demi Isaac Oviawe.

Like sixth class children all over the county, this has been a tough year for the Behy group. They are missing out their last few months together and all the events and fun that comes with that. So it was a welcome boost to see the film they had worked so hard on together receive this wonderful honour.

And indeed it is an honour. Fresh International Film Festival has been run for the last 24 years. It is grant aided by the Arts Council of Ireland and Limerick City and County Council. It is also supported by Red Giant, the Radharc Trust, RTÉ and the Broadcasting Association of Ireland. It promotes film-making by young people and runs junior, senior and international competitions annually. Many adults now working in the film-making industry began their journey in the Fresh Film Festival and maybe some of the talented film-makers from Behy NS will do the same.

Their film was created for the Mayo Forgotten Famine Girls Memorial, organised by Ballina historian Terry Reilly. The school collaborated successfully with Terry on a previous film, The Battle of Ardnaree, which won the top prize at the FÍS Film Festival. The children recreated the story of Winnie Nealis, one of the orphans featured in Terry’s book Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls. Winnie, from Dromore West, ended up in Ballina Workhouse during the Famine. At that time there was a need for female settlers in Australia. The Earl Grey Scheme was set up to meet this need. Winnie and many other Irish girls travelled to Australia under the scheme. Like most girls, she began life there as a domestic servant before forging her own independent life. She had a turbulent life, experiencing many highs and lows along the way. The young film-makers tell her life story from her arrival at the workhouse through to her life in Australia.

The children would not have been able to make their film without help and support from a number or sources. They are indebted to the Rodgers family in Drumore West Workhouse, where they shot their workhouse scenes. The Rodgers run a wonderful art studio in the workhouse and were most supportive and helpful with the project. Great support was also provided by Ballina Costume Company (costumes), Harrison’s Bar and Mount Falcon (locations), the Jackie Clarke Collection (props), Mark O’Donnell (music), Maureen Leonard Dodd (acting coach), Veronica McGuinness (make-up), Pat Cunnane and Pamela Flannery (Film Club organisers).

The film can be seen on YouTube at https://cutt.ly/EyIK846. The Fresh Films 2020 Awards Show can also be viewed on YouTube.

Orphan Girl will be featured in the upcoming Crinniú na nÓg, the national day of creativity for children and young people under 18, on June 13. The film will be used in a programme being created by Fresh Films for RTÉ to be broadcast and hosted on the RTÉ Player.

*Pictured above, members of the Behy NS Film Club after showing their film to Australian ambassador Richard Andrews as part of the Mayo Famine Girls Memorial.

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