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Terry George

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The Long Road to Peace -- and a Short Film Nomination

Posted: 02/13/2012 5:11 pm

Eighteen years ago, when I was working on the script of In the Name of the Father, I went on a research road trip around Northern Ireland with the film's star Daniel Day Lewis. The civil strife known as The Troubles was still simmering and we experienced police searches, roadblocks, bomb scares -- exactly what Daniel was after for his research. We stopped for a break at my uncle's house in the the beautiful little fishing village of Killough in County Down. I'd spent every summer of my childhood in this village and so many of my extended family had fled there from Belfast because of the violence that the village was often nicknamed Georgetown

Over tea my uncle Anthony told us about an incident that had happened a few weeks previous when his boyhood friend Peter and his young daughter appeared unannounced at his front door after a 25-year exile in New Zealand. A hilarious misunderstanding ensued involving a video camera, a group of mussel pickers, a horse, and a much-feared government agency. I laughed 'til tears ran down my face. And through the next 18 years, as I worked on numerous films and TV shows, I continued to laugh at the memory of the day the exile came home. I loved that story and tried to shoe-horn it into a couple of scripts with no luck.

Then in 2010, after an intense and frustrating period of studio work and stymied development projects, I decided to take a break from the grind. The war in Ireland had ended, a war I'd written three movies about, and now I wanted to celebrate the peace, so I sat down and wrote a variation of the exile's return story, adding a love triangle, and serious misunderstanding that led to years of exile and silence and then the long overdue reunion. I showed it to my daughter Oorlagh, now a film producer, and said, "Let's do this ourselves as a short film. We'll recruit local actors and film it outside our front door in Ireland." And that's what we did. Oorlagh raised the budget, I recruited some very talented local actors including Ciaran Hinds and the cinematographer Michael Mc Donagh. Over six gloriously sunny days in August (a record amount of sunshine) we waited for the tide to drain out and strolled out and shot our little film among the mussel and oyster beds of Killough Bay. My son Seamus was one of the ADs, my sister Catherine did the costumes. The multitude of Georges in the little village packed the pub as extras. I even managed to include the cemetery where my mother and father are buried. It was the most joyous experience of my career -- a small group of filmmakers telling a joyous story in a beautiful place that had suffered the scars of a terrible war and now needed to heal.

Our little film The Shore is the story of one small act of reconciliation, yet it mirrors the courageous achievement of the people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, who after 800 years of division and bloodshed came together to talk and make their peace with one another. What they have achieved -- a functioning government where old enemies, Paisley and Adams, McGuinness and Robinson, now sit together in government -- is a shining example to the world

And just to prove that from a small seed something great can grow, on February 26th there's a party in the local pub in Killough, complete with red carpet arrivals and evening wear, as The Shore joins the other four short films in contention for the Oscar . You can check them out at some 200 cinemas across the US. To find a local location go to http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/.

Terry George has two previous Oscar nominations, for In the Name of the Father and Hotel Rwanda.