Monday, March 3, 2014

The Miraculous Tales of Mickey McGuigan

DAY 8: Our second film in the True/False Film Festival was The Miraculous Tales of Mickey McGuigan. Here is a synopsis by the screenwriters:

Do miracles exist? Mickey McGuigan, a 73-year-old Northern Irish farmer turned writer, is going to take us on a journey to find out. Miracles may defy logic, but millions around the world believe in them. In Ireland, it's part of the traditional world of folklore and magic that people hang on to. If your cow's got Ringworm, you call a man with the "cure". He may heal the animal by spitting on it. And if your child won't stop screaming for days, a woman with the "gift" may silence it with the use of a simple piece of string! You'll meet Father Conlan, a Catholic Priest who, though paid as a parish priest, spends all his time healing the sick. There's a 6-month waiting list of people desperate to see him. One day, 38 people turned up at his door, unannounced, hoping to be cured. We'll also encounter John Purcell, a Romany Gypsy, who converted from Catholicism to become a Protestant Evangelist. A fire-and-brimstone preacher, who claims to be able to cure anything. That includes cancer, and hundreds flock to his ministry. Mickey's our guide on this cinematic adventure through a hidden part of rural Northern Ireland, where anything is possible. 

The charm of this film was in its Irish characters, especially Mickey McGuigan himself, whose grizzled face was lit up with Irish mischievousness. The "faith-healers" in this film were not flamboyant characters. They just quietly did their curing ritual when asked. John Purcell was a fiery preacher, but one had to admire the degree to which he had simply given his life over to other people who looked to him for healing. He believed that God had given him a gift, and it was not one that he had sought. He felt obliged to use it for the benefit of others, not himself. None of the healers in this film took money for their "cures."

Mickey McGuigan
As seems to be the case in most True/False films, the filmmaker did not betray a strong bias or agenda.  He  was respectful toward those he filmed and left it to you, the viewer, to decide what you thought and felt about what you were seeing. What I felt mostly was compassion for the people we saw. 

One of the neat things about the True/False Film Festival is that the director of the film is usually on hand to do Q&A after the film, and that was true in this case: Daniel Vernon, who is an award-winning filmmaker, was there and answered questions. We were not able to stay too long, however, because we had to line up to get our Q-number for the next film. If you have tickets for the films, you don't need to Q. We had tickets for films on Saturday and Sunday, but had not been able to get any for Friday, so we had to get in line for all the Friday films. We got into them all.

Another neat aspect of the True/False Film Festival  is the sense it gives you, through repeated exposure to both films and filmmakers, of what is involved in making a film, why people do it, and what a fascinating and arduous process it is. This aspect has added meaning for us because my granddaughter, Katie Shay, seems to be moving toward a career in film-making. She has been admitted to the Film Program at Stephens college. Music is still a strong interest, but seems less likely as a career. Her goal at the moment is to be a cinematographer. So this whole weekend, we were imagining Katie doing this. It was interesting to note that hardly any of the filmmakers we saw were over 30, and several were women. 

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