John duddy

Acclaimed Connors doc for Craic Fest

John Duddy in “A Bend in the River,” which closes CraicFest 23 on March 6.

By Peter McDermott

“Endless Summer” got a standing ovation and won the audience award at Dublin International Film Festival. “Which is great,” said director John Connors, “because we’re in a great group of people.”

Previous audience winners have won an Oscar or gotten Oscar nominations.

The film, also known as “Endless Summer on a Cloudy Day,” will open CraicFest 23 on Thursday, March 4. It tells the story of Jade McCann and Anthony McCann, a daughter and father who were diagnosed with different forms of cancer.

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When he told his partner at Clusterfox Films, Tiernan Williams, about Jade’s story, he “asked me what did she want to do, what was her dream?”

“I said ‘to be a documentary filmmaker,’” Connors remembered in an interview on Monday. “So he suggested we follow her. It started as an exercise to help her along her journey a bit."

Both Jade McCann and Anthony McCann, who were from Greystones, Co. Wicklow, died after the completion of the film.

The filmmakers worked the project for a year and a half. They could’ve finished earlier but Jade wanted to continue. “It was helping her,” said Connors, the “Love/Hate” breakout star who has gone on to other high-profile acting projects, as well as producing and directing. “It was keeping her going, giving her purpose.”

Williams and Connors had intended to film a straight documentary, but they integrated content from Jade’s online presence in the story-telling, too, in ways that ultimately showed up the “toxicity and shallowness” of social media.

In addition to the enthusiastic thumbs-ups from audiences in Dublin and at other film festivals, several artistic celebrities have gone on record with their admiration.

Musician Finbar Furey called “Endless Summer” a film of “disturbing strength and passion.” He added, “It opens your eyes to the love around you with great friends and family. You come out thinking in a completely different light. It changed my life.”

Actor Aidan Gillen has described it as a “powerful examination of how illness can affect a family or more importantly how a family can affect illness,” and how “goodness in family and life can be concentrated into something almost divine when we know that our time here might be limited.”

He said it shows how “ordinary people become extraordinary people when they face the toughest of challenges.

“This story is full of simple, honest truths. and life-affirming,” Gillen said.

“There’s a lot of nutrition for your soul in it,” said Connors, whose next project with Williams is a feature film, “The Black Guelph,” due for release on Jan. 1, 2022.

Jade’s mother Kim and Eoin, her brother, “are really loving the response” the film is getting, the director added. “They see it as part of her legacy and Anthony’s legacy also.”

Connors also features in John Duddy’s latest collaboration with Colin Broderick, “A Bend in the River,” which will close the Craic Fest on Saturday, March 6.

Duddy said on Monday, “It’s about a writer who returns home from New York from being away for 26 years. Basically he’s going through some struggles in his life, a bit of writer’s block, and he wants to find some way of putting words on the page.

“A lot of things he was running away from are still sitting there waiting for him when he returns,” said the professional boxer turned actor.

It is set in Broderick’s County Tyrone, and the Derry native Duddy can relate. “It’s about coming home. Is home a place or is it a state of mind?”

He added, “Belfast, Tyrone and Derry are different places but there are a lot similarities in the heart and the feelings.

In the six weeks living and working there, Duddy said to himself “Oh my God, I never thought of Tyrone as my home.”

However, “it was very close to being home and it was reminiscent of what I grew up with, certainly a little more rural, but even me as a kid on the outskirts of Derry City, our backyard looked over the hills of Donegal. We would get our bicycles and head off down to Buncrana or Letterkenny. It was a great trip down memory lane.”

And it was nice too to get to drink the “proper tea,” after 17 years in America, he added with a laugh.

For tickets and full details about CraicFest 23, click here.

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