Make it happen.
Those were the words of author Colm Toibín when the chances of pulling off the Brooklyn premiere in his hometown appeared slim. Yet, make it happen they did. After months of lengthy discussions, problem-solving, technical issues and ballroom renovations, crowds of people finally converged on Enniscorthy to witness Brooklyn make its return home.
However, the true homecoming was the arrival of Colm himself, who served as guest of honour at the important event. For the proud Enniscorthy native, bringing the story back to his hometown was extremely important.
‘It’s just amazing coming back down here with the film and it’s great to see how the audience feels about it,’ he said. ‘It feels great to see places such as Johns Street, Court Street and the Athenaeum and to see the way that it’s captured and lit.’
Colm’s sense of pride in Enniscorthy was evident throughout the evening as he spoke to hordes of reporters and fans about his novel during numerous interviews and panel discussions.
‘First and foremost, the book is for people you know and the place you’re from,’ he said. ‘I think that really matters to everyone and it certainly matters to me.’
Although the novel version of Brooklyn is based in Enniscorthy, shooting the film in the town was not always a certainty. However, when Colm told the director to take a look at the place, the decision was soon made to set up the cameras there.
‘They had to pick the place that would work best for filmmaking,’ he explained. ‘The director went down on his own and drove around. He then said that we can shoot in the town and not only that, but we can shoot the beach scene in Curracloe. It looks absolutely fantastic. People all over the world will want to know if they can come to that beach.’
According to Colm, the Enniscorthy community couldn’t have been more welcoming to the film crew when they arrived to shoot the scenes. Brooklyn and its stars attracted plenty of attention from the local and wider community, particularly Saoirse Ronan, who plays Eilis in the film. Although she was unable to attend the premiere last week, Colm was quick to sing her praises as an actress.
‘She’s not anyone’s girlfriend, daughter or sister in this film. It’s her film and it’s a great part for her,’ said Colm. ‘We were really lucky that she was free to do it. She can do something in a second with her face that it takes me 30 pages to do. It’s been wonderful working with her.’
Based in 1950s Ireland, the film follows Eilis as she makes the journey from Enniscorthy to Brooklyn in search of a new life. Pervading throughout much of the movie is the theme of homesickness, which is partially based on the author’s own experiences.
‘I went to Texas and was there teaching for 14 weeks and I got a bit lonely. So, when I came back, the whole idea of what it is like for so many Irish people going away was on my mind. I then started the book,’ he explained. ‘It was my own life in that I had those feelings of wishing I was home and wanting to go home.’
The idea of experiencing and getting over homesickness is one that many people can relate to. Although Brooklyn is set in 1950s Ireland, Colm believes that it is just as relevant today
‘I don’t think it makes any difference whether you get a letter from home or Skype home. When the Skype is over and you close the computer, the feeling of “I’m here and they’re there” is still the same.’
Colm was not the only star to grace the red carpet at the Riverside Park Hotel for the occasion. Also present on the night was actress Eve Macklin, who plays Diana, and Gary Lydon, who stars as Mr Farrell in the film. Commenting on his involvement with Brooklyn, Gary said that he was honoured to be part of it.
‘There’s a sense of pride that people are talking about your home place,’ said Gary, who grew up in Wexford.
According to Gary, who came to the event with his two sons, the film should be commended for its bravery.
‘It stays with the characters and doesn’t feel the need to be brash or try to sell the film. It trusts the characters and trusts the story and that will make it successful,’ he added.
Chairman of Enniscorthy Municipal District Cllr Paddy Kavanagh echoed the thoughts of all in attendance when he said that he was ‘immensely proud’ of Colm.
‘I’m delighted that he brought it back to his own,’ he said. ‘The reviews so far are all positive. Wouldn’t it be fabulous for Enniscorthy if Brooklyn won an Oscar? It’s mindboggling, actually, the potential that it has if it goes to the top.’
(First published in the Enniscorthy Guardian: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/newrossstandard/news/evening-of-movie-magic-at-brooklyn-premiere-34163198.html)