New documentary Fr Des will premiere at Galway Film Fleadh



HAVING premiered as a work in progress at Docs Ireland 2021, the final version of a new film about the life and work of late West Belfast priest Father Des Wilson will have its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh tomorrow night.

Directed by Belfast filmmaker Vincent Kinnaird and with narration by Stephen Rea, Fr Des – The Way He Saw It will be screened at the Pálás Cinema in Galway on July 7 at 8pm, followed by a Q&A with the director and the guests.

Affectionately known to many as “the people’s priest,” Father Des was driven by his faith and a socialist, humanitarian outlook, spending his life helping those in need even as the troubles erupted.

In the midst of civil strife, he followed the example set by Jesus in caring for the oppressed. Although ostracized by the Church hierarchy for a period due to some of his activities, he continued to work for justice and against inequality until the end of his life in November 2019.

The film’s narrative is told primarily in Father Des’ own words, with contributions from Stephen Rea. The Oscar-nominated actor was a huge supporter of Des and was involved in a number of his community theater productions over the years.

“Des was not afraid to point out that the authorities had a definite policy of segregating people as a key part of their system, and that the mythology of the two tribes – Catholics and Protestants as enemies – was a way practice of keeping people in their place and keeping control of political borders”, explains Vincent Kinnaird.

“For decades, Des has collected the opinions of, and maintained a dialogue with, Loyalist and Republican working class groups. Such communications between these groups have been stifled by the mainstream media in Ireland and Britain. But the links were there.”

The late Noelle Ryan, Frank Cahill and Father Brian Mullan, who were hugely important people in Father Des’ life, feature in the documentary through archival footage. Other contributors include the Reverend Brian Smeaton, a Church of Ireland minister on the Shankill Road in 1969, civil rights activist, MP and community activist Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, and Ballymurphy resident Eilish Rooney, a leading figure in the Transitional Justice Institute at the University of Ulster and a key figure in the Springhill Community House founded by Father Des.

Kinnaird adds: “Des’ incisive, knowledgeable, philosophical, practical, pragmatic and humanitarian approach and perspective should be heard. For this reason, the film was made with many great filmmakers as collaborators in a collective effort. .

“Interviews and footage with Des in the documentary took place between 2011 and 2018 and form the film’s narrative, along with other footage and archival material collected during this time.”

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