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Filmmakers return to Tyrone roots for new movie

Some of the cast and crew of ‘A Bend in the River’, pictured in Main Street, Sixmilecross last week. PHOTOS: Michael Cullen

Several years in the making, New York based author and filmmaker Colin Broderick has started shooting his new feature film set in Tyrone.

The Altamuskin native progressed to the principal photography stage of the new project just under three weeks ago. Shot in the Sixmilecross, Altamuskin, Dunmoyle and Augher areas, ‘A Bend in the River’ is the story of a local writer returning from America to his roots in Tyrone after 30 years.

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Starring former pro-boxer John Duddy and the IFTA winner John Connors, the independent film has attracted a plethora of screen and production talent.

In a case of life imitating art, the project has seen both Broderick and Texas based cinematographer Shane Kelly return to their roots in Tyrone.

Born and raised in Sixmilecross, Kelly is a long-time collaborator with director Richard Linklater, with the Oscar winning 2014 drama ‘Boyhood’ among his lengthy list of credits.

Speaking at the halfway point in filming in Sixmilecross Main Street last Thursday (April 12), Colin Broderick said the initial buzz of the project had given way to the shock and sadness following the tragic death of family friend Anne McCann in Altamuskin last week.

“We had an amazing first week,” said the director. “We had been enjoying the buzz of the community only to be hit by a terrible tragedy of the loss of our good friend and neighbour Anne.”

After pausing production for a time, Broderick said he felt the best thing to do for the community was to “keep moving and just get it made”.

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Getting into character before filming in Jackie’s Nisa in Sixmilecross.

In the works for some six years, ‘A Bend in the River’ has undergone numerous variations. Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper in ‘House of Cards’) was originally linked to the lead role, while Josh Lucas was also tied to the project for a time. However the Tyrone native said in the past number of weeks, everything seemed to come together. 

As well as securing the auspices of Shane Kelly, John Duddy, and John Connors, he has managed to bring on board Cork producer Julie Ryan (’Young Offenders’) and Kathy Kiera Clarke (‘Derry Girls’).

He’s also ‘kept it local’, recruiting Beragh screen newcomer Nicola Boyle and his brother Brendan into key roles.

Johnny McConnell, a stand-out performer from Broderick’s debut feature ‘Emerald City’, also returns.

“None of this would have happened in any other version of the movie,” said Broderick. “I felt it wasn’t ready, the time wasn’t right. “But I feel the stars are sort of aligning, this is the moment it’s going to happen.”

Describing the support among the local community for the project as “incredible”, the Altamuskin native said, “Everywhere we turn, people just open their doors. My parents are cooking for half the crew! I think at this stage they feel they’re about to adopt John Duddy and Johnny McConnell.

“It has just been amazing. I feel a movie like this could never have been made properly if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m from here. People know and trust who I am and know I’m going to do right by the community in how I portray them. I feel if I do this right, then I’ll have earned my place in Altamuskin,” he smiled.

“The heart of the movie for Shane and I is the fact we are making a movie about a guy who has been gone for 30 years, coming home and how he sees his home. We’re very connected to the material emotionally.”

John Duddy with some admiring fans.

Although he still returns to his parent’s home in Sixmilecross several times a year, Shane Kelly said the extended stay through his involvement had helped him feel like a local once again.

He agreed with Colin Broderick that the film has strong parallels to their life stories.

First reading about the project in the Ulster Herald, he said, “It’s something I needed to do. It would have been a terrible shame not to come back and do it.

“This is first thing I’ve made in Ireland really since I left 27 years ago. After college I went to London and then Seattle and then Los Angeles and then Austin, Texas, so it’s nice to come full circle to where I grew up and actually make the only movie that’s ever been made here – to our knowledge.”

Feeling relaxed and enjoying the sense of being home, he added, “It’s great to be able to run up and see my parents without the pressure of having to leave within a few days.

“It’s really nice to live as a local again.”

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