It’s a long way from the walls of Derry to the streets of Harlem.
But art bridges the miles in an instant.
Eileen Walsh and David Dryden are two independent film makers based in Derry and this week they are bringing their first screen venture, “Together in Pieces” to the first ever Hip Hop Film Festival NYC which takes place in Harlem this week from Wednesday to Saturday.
“We're pretty excited about this,” said Eileen Walsh who, together with David Dryden is one of the principal figures behind Foxwall Films.
She said that limited screenings in Ireland had been hugely successful.
“All our Q&A sessions have gone on for nearly two hours, which isn't bad for a 25 minute film. “Audience discussions have been really interesting and animated. At one venue the staff actually asked us to leave because they wanted to lock up the venue and go home! So we're really hoping for a great reaction this week in New York,” she said.
Earlier this year “Together in Pieces” was selected for the biggest Irish film festival in the U.S., the Capital Irish Film Festival in Washington D.C., where again it had a fantastic reception, Walsh said.
“There is a delegation travelling from Washington to see the film in New York, including representatives from the Northern Ireland Bureau, as well as dignitaries and business people from within the Irish American community. S this is hugely exciting for us as first time film makers.”
The film, according to a release, tells “the new story of Northern Ireland” and documents its changing political landscape through the prisms of graffiti and murals and sectarian slogans.
It was filmed in Derry with funding from the Community Relations Council. The executive producer was John Peto of the Nerve Centre in Derry/Londonderry.
The film features interviews with Bill Rolston, Emeritus Professor of the University of Ulster and world expert on Belfast’s sectarian murals; Linda Watson of Caw Community Group; international graffiti artist Man One from Los Angeles; Michael Doherty of Mediate NI; Jeanette Warke of the Cathedral Youth Club; Donal O’Doherty of Street Art company, UV Arts.
The film climaxes with former president Bill Clinton as he addresses the people of Derry in Guildhall Square, urging them to “finish the job!”
The film specifically examines how political murals and slogans are prolonging the healing process in Northern Ireland and how they sit cheek by jowl with a new wave of street art and graffiti.
Walsh said that while the film tackles issues about the conflict, she and Dryden wanted to take a fresh approach both in content and style.
“The way we have dealt with the whole idea of sectarianism - we have used graffiti and Hip Hop, which go together,” she said.
“That makes it very appealing to a youth audience.
“The kind of film we wanted to make was a modern film that would appeal to young people, not one that uses archive material from the Troubles. It’s all new footage and we were trying to do it in a different way from the kind of stuff we have been used to seeing about Northern Ireland.”
“’Together in Pieces’ is an effort to reflect the changes that have happened and are happening in Northern Ireland in recent years.
“Derry has come from being the birthplace of the Troubles, and now internationally Derry is seen almost as a world center of peace and reconciliation. People are looking at us and what we are doing, but we still have a way to go.”
The documentary is being screened in a prime time slot at the festival and Walsh said it was a real coup for the film to reach such an audience.
“It has been really well received overseas, even though we made it for a Northern Ireland audience. We are really excited about screening the film at this festival, and we are honored as white people from Northern Ireland to have the film at a festival for Black film and music, especially in light of the political situation in the U.S. at the moment.”
The screening of “Together in Pieces” takes place on Saturday August 6 at 12.30 p.m. at the National Black Theatre in Harlem.
Walsh and Dryden will hold a question and answer session directly after the film.
More at the Hip Hop Film Festival's website.