Tg4 will screen the Irish language version of ‘Doras Phriosúin / Prison Door’, the short film made by Kevin McCann with Dermot Healy, the late Cavan novelist and playwright on September 28th at 10pm.
Interviewed for RTE Culture Filmmaker Kevin McCann wrote
“I directed Dermot Healy’s screenplay for Prison Door and have many cherished memories of collaborating with the man once described by Roddy Doyle as "Ireland's greatest living writer. Irish artists, especially those of us from the border, hold the name of Dermot Healy up high. He was a beloved novelist, poet, short story writer and playwright. The late Séamus Heaney called him "the natural heir to Patrick Kavanagh".
What struck me about Dermot was how he spoke with nature’s tongue. Silences, mutterings, long 'hmmmms' and musical tones were welcomed into the spake. In a conversation with Dermot, other parts of your spirit were speaking to other parts of his.”
Dermot Healy lived much of his life in Cavan, before moving to Sligo with his second wife Helen into a picturesque cottage right on the coast. For 26 years, they enjoyed the sound of the sea and a view of Benbulben sitting behind a limestone sea-ledge known as Serpents Rock.
According to Helen, Dermot had a galvanised roof put on their cottage to hear the rain. Serpents Rock is a timeless place. With an old friend from Cavan, Skinny McArdle, he had fought back Atlantic waves by building cages of rocks to protect the road which ended at the cottage.
Mc Cann writes “In 2012, I drove over to see Dermot to discuss working together. After showing me Lisadell House, Streedagh Beach and Ellen’s Pub, we ended up in Yeats’ Tavern. Over dinner, I listened to him proudly recount labouring jobs he had earlier in his life.
He then told me about working in a prison and how he noticed some inmates never left their cells for daily 'time out of cell’. We delved into this mystery and found the makings of a "nice little film". When I asked to take his photograph there and then, he purposefully placed his proud arm on the table, like a chieftain showing his sword.
Dermot’s script for Prison Door was filmed in the historic H-Block prisons near Belfast. He had hoped to play a small role, but health reasons prevented this. My last text to him confirmed that our film was wrapped. He replied "Good work. Well done, Dermot."
His work is mainly based on the border and northern region of Ireland, and explores themes of human existence such as identity, faith, struggle and nationality through drama and documentary for the screen and radio. As well as writing and film-making, it extends to radio drama, documentary, comedy and music.
He runs the production company Maccana Teoranta, north and south of the Irish border since 2005 and is a 2010 graduate of the European EAVE Film Producer programme. His work in drama and documentary for has been featured on the television and radio broadcasters in Ireland and his films has been screened in festivals across the world.
In 1999, his film ‘Testing Time, Teddy Boy’ explored a drastic dilemma faced by an Ulster farmer unprepared for the impending Celtic Tiger Ireland. In 2009, he produced a documentary ‘The Boys of St.Columbs’ for BBC/RTE, which followed the lives of several great Irish figures, including Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and John Hume, who have helped transform modern Ireland and who all attended the same small school in Derry. He produced a half hour drama ‘Volkswagen Joe’ based on a play by his father Brendan McCann set during the troubles. His work for radio - a soap opera called ‘COMA’ featured 10 actors from the border region. He made “Prison Door’ with Dermot Healy and it is the last work written by the late Dermot Healy.