Lakelands: The first real movie about Gaelic football has been released
Lakelands is out 5th May 2023.
Lakelands has officially been released in cinemas, and it's the first time that viewers will see a movie that properly depicts Gaelic football in all of its glory and shame.
We love to romanticise our sport here in Ireland, and for good reason, because there's nothing like it in the world in terms of the community aspect, the togetherness, and the way a whole village or town can join as one in search of a common goal.
However, especially at club level, Gaelic football presents certain pressures, contradictions and challenges unlike any other sport.
Co-directors Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney have been immersed in the sport for most of their lives, and even met each other for the first time at a training session.
The possibility of creating a movie that could really showcase the intricacies of our sport was something that excited the co-directors.
"I think other films and TV shows have kind of had Gaelic football featured in a small part, but this is the first cinematic depiction that focuses on the culture around GAA, and club football specifically, so it is a first in that regard," said McGivney.
"We've definitely seen it as a massive opportunity to attempt to depict that world, and the fact that we grew up playing it and how big a role it is in our home community and home town - I played senior football for 12 years and up to very recently, so there was a practicality there of having access to the pitch and a GAA-mad community."
Given their relationship with the sport, the temptation to stray away from the darker sides of the game could have influenced them, but McGivney says that they wanted to shine a light on every aspect of the GAA.
"I just think our guiding light was always to be as authentic as possible and not get too caught up in what people's perceptions would be," said Higgins.
"We felt that it would be a disservice to sanitise it, or depict it as anything less than we felt was accurate, so that was the guiding light for us.
"A big part of it was highlighting all of the positives from it, like the community aspect, how the character's friend group are all from there - there's so much good that it does, but we didn't want to condescend to the audience at all."
The movie is centralised around Cian, a local club footballer who loves the sport and works on his father's farm, but has a bit of devilment in him, that often sees him on the wrong side of authority.
After a night out - that he should never have been on as he was in preparation for the first round of the league - Cian picks up a serious head injury.
From there, we watch as this young man succumbs to the pressure of both Gaelic football and Irish society, and puts himself at risk for the 'betterment' of the community.
"Gaelic footballers are often misunderstood. Just given the obsessive nature of the sport, it's all encompassing, and it can be claustrophobic at times, because it's so unique to Ireland," added McGivney.
"You're training three or four nights a week, it's taking over your summers, and there is a claustrophobic element to it, because you're doing it in your community, and all eyes are on you.
"There are so many positives from it, there are challenges for footballers, and we would be doing club footballers a disservice by not shining a light on the more challenging aspects of it.
"We wanted to portray the sport in all its glory, and we couldn't do that without showing the negatives as well as the positives, in all its glory."
Whether it's a cultural thing or something wrapped with Gaelic football from its inception, the 'get up and get on with it' attitude can be a poison in these small pockets of the country.
Young men in particular are very susceptible to defaulting to this persona, and the sport can be guilty of accelerating that sort of mindset, which potentially endangers people.
Cian’s world was shattered. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces.
🎟️ Lakelands is out in Irish cinemas now, proudly supported by Screen Ireland.#IrishTalent #IrishFilm pic.twitter.com/Fcaqa5YIe0
— Screen Ireland (@ScreenIreland) May 5, 2023
"It's probably something that we don't fully understand ourselves, and I think we were very keen to hold the mirror up, and let the audience take from the story, however they might.
"I think it is very much engrained in the Irish psyche and Irish culture that 'get up and get on with it' reaction. It's almost an inability to articulate your emotions and potentially perceive it as weakness, and I think that's perpetuated through Gaelic football then," continued McGivney.
"We found from playing it and from writing the story that there's so much pressure placed on these club footballers, but ultimately the real pressure comes from within, it comes from themselves.
"If you look at Cian the character, like any time he could take a step back and push back, he instead heaps all this pressure on himself, and I think that is an Irish thing, that we are almost afraid to push back, and [we] just take the pressure."
The actual footage of Cian playing the sport is interesting as it is only ever at club training, and not at matches, something which was purposely done by the writers.
"In earlier drafts there were matches and we almost found ourselves writing this kind of typical sports movie, where there's an anticipation of a big final or game, and we felt that we were losing the examination around the culture of it," said Higgins.
"So we kind of brought it back to more the 'life around the football' and that unlocked it for us, it allowed us to get into the characters and the relationships a little bit deeper.
"It worked for the story for us a little bit better, like in many sports films there are many sporting clichés that you can get sucked into when it becomes that march to a final, and if you win or lose, it's been done that many times, that it's hard to give that fresh feeling to it."
McGivney continued: "It was a conscious decision to have it around the first game of the league, which is often a 'nothing' game, but Cian feels the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"It would have been a bit of a cliché to have it around a county final. For us it was a much more honest depiction of the culture to have it around the first round of the league against a team who aren't necessarily their biggest rivals, but the weight of the world is still there."
Lakelands is out on cinemas across Ireland now.
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