Dungannon has been chosen as the location for a new film focusing on the impact of displacement and migration on a child.
Local children who are members of a local dance school also feature in the Little Stranger film, which will be the subject of a panel discussion next month at the Eastside Arts Festival in Belfast.
The film will be shot on location in and around Dungannon, along the disused railway line, in a backstreet in the town centre and on the Hill of the O’Neill.
The first phase of the project was a four-day workshop held in Dungannon in February last year, when young dancers – aged between seven and 17 years – from the town’s multi-cultural youth dance groups Sutemos and Suteminis worked with their director Sheena Kelly on ‘translating themes of loneliness, confusion and enforced exile into the vocabulary of dance and expressionist theatre’.
Three of the North most established independent production companies – Powerstone, Tinderbox and DU Dance – have been working together on Little Stranger.
The creative concept of Little Stranger began with an encounter by the writer Jane Coyle on a Paris street.
She explained, “On a bitterly cold night in the winter of 2018, I passed a refugee family, huddled against the railings of the luxurious George V Hotel near the Arc de Triomphe, and stopped to speak to them.
“As I said my goodbyes, the little girl held out her hand to me, with a smile that could have lit up the city. I will never forget the touch of her small, warm hand, dry with dirt from the street. I conceived Little Stranger for her and millions of other children and their families, relying for survival on the kindness of strangers.”
Director of the film Patrick J O’Reilly said the breathtaking views from the Hill of the O’Neill in Dungannon has had an impact on his vision for the film.
He said, “The land continues for miles, and beyond to the horizon. I feel tiny and insignificant in this vast world. Imagine if your only option was to walk forward into the horizon, leaving behind everything you knew, walking into the unknown. This overwhelming feeling is what I am trying to capture in Little Stranger. The shocking reality of displacement is explored through the eyes of a faceless little stranger, looking out at a strange new world.
“Dungannon, where our dancers come from, is a town where people from all over the world are living and working in an important historic location. We want to capture the energy of a place that celebrates and unites cultural ideas and differences.”
The premiere features on the programme of this year’s EastSide Arts Festival in Belfast and will be streamed on August 14.
Paul Jordan, from the Community Relations Council NI which has supported the film said, “The project involves young people in Dungannon coming together under professional tuition to develop this dance-theatre performance piece, thereby improving social interaction and building confidence.”
Phase two of the project has received additional funding from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. After its first screening at EastSide Arts Festival, the film will be offered to film festivals across Europe.