Town of Strangers by Treasa O’Brien │ 82mins │ Ireland, 2018
Please note that this film can only be viewed in Ireland │ Once purchased, films will be available for viewing for 48 hours.
glór is delighted to present a short summer season of online film – Summer Out West showcases three critically acclaimed films unique to the west of Ireland.
Town of Strangers by award-winning Irish filmmaker Treasa O’Brien is a ‘hybrid’ feature film using auditions, observational documentary and magical realist dream scenes. It is a documentary of the imagination, with many scenes transcending the genres of documentary and fiction, going deep into the experience of migration and home through cinematic methods.
A stranger arrives in the town of Gort and announces that auditions will be held in the town hall for a new film. “Come and tell me your stories, your dreams, your lies, your memories, any gossip. All genders, nationalities and languages welcome. No acting experience necessary” is announced by the director via a loudspeaker on her van as she drives through the town. One by one, people sit into an armchair on the set of a kitchen, surrounded by old props found in the Town Hall that could have been from John B Keane’s The Field, which had been produced by the local theatre group the year before. And they tell their stories…
“A charming, beautifully composed piece” Donald Clarke, The Irish Times
“Delightful and sincere entertainment” **** Donald Clarke, The Irish Times
“Extraordinary …absolutely beautiful… really stopped me in my tracks” – Seán Rocks, Arena, RTÉ Radio 1
“Fascinating” Cara O’Doherty, The Echo
“Stunning” – RTE culture
“A sensitive and engaging depiction of human connection, with all its fragilities, and, in doing so, beautifully reflects on contemporary rural Ireland.” – Loretta Goff, Film Ireland Magazine
“Beautiful, poetic. Town of Strangers leads us to reflect on ourselves, what it means to be an immigrant, how the passage of time makes us all strangers, somehow, in our own fleeting lives. The formal innovation and lyrical confection create a strange alchemy.” – Joshua Oppenheimer, Dir. The Act of Killing
So many documentaries you see now are exploitative or sensationalist. Town of Strangers, on the other hand, was complex and unresolved, mysterious and restrained, just like most real people.” RTÉ Something for the Weekend
When I made Town of Strangers I was searching for a cinematic language that would transcend the binary of documentary and fiction and find a way to express the lived experiences of people who experience a displacement through migration or through a hybrid cultural identity. The resulting film is formally innovative in how it works with the casting call and ‘making-of’ as a performative space, and in its treatment of first-person filmmaking. Many of the fictional scenes I attempted to make with the people I met through the auditions are used for their ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentary value, and ironically, my own emplacement as director is semi-fictionalized within the film, inventing a poetic truth of my engagement with the people and place in the film, that is nevertheless based on my real lived experiences.
On another level, Town of Strangers is a human rights film about migration and identity in our times. It is a cinematic and philosophical exploration of the lived experiences of ‘the other’, people who make their home in a small town in the west of Ireland, in the age of austerity politics, the refugee ‘crisis’, and the rise of nationalism and rightwing politics in Europe and the USA. The town of Gort (population 3000) where I made the film is known for being the town with the most ‘non-Irish’ inhabitants and for being the town ‘worst hit by austerity’. I spent time working in refugee camps in Greece while making this film, where I made several short films about the journeys people were making, working with them as co-makers. Town of Strangers explores the aftermath – the shifting sand between the migrant’s longing for home, and their efforts to belong in their new home. This is what makes it a film for our times.
Treasa O’Brien is a filmmaker, writer, artist and sometimes curator. Town of Strangers is her second feature documentary. She has exhibited internationally in film festivals, social centres and galleries. Her astropoetic essay film Memoirs of a Spacemother was made while on residency at Galway Arts Centre and exhibited as part of the 4person show Making Space during Galway International Arts Festival 2019. Her first feature documentary Eat Your Children (co-directed with Mary Jane O’Leary, 78mins, 2015) has been touring in Ireland since its premiere at Dublin International Film Festival in 2015. Her debut short fiction film N25 won Best Director at the NAHEMI Eat Our Shorts festival in BFI (2010) and was bought for broadcast by RTE ShortScreen. In 2015-16, Treasa worked in refugee solidarity camps in Greece and made short films working with people seeking refuge including Noor at the Port (6’, Ireland/Greece, 2016) was selected for London Film Festival, London Short Film Festival, Berlin British Short Film Festival and Wanda Festival of Moving Image Belfast 2017. The Blow-in (9mins, Ireland, 2016), commissioned by the Goethe Institute, shot in Gort and the Burren, is part of the Town of Strangers project. The Blow-in had its Irish premiere at Cork Film Festival 2016 and was nominated for Best Film Award at Exile Film Festival, Paris, March 2018. Treasa is the founder of Stinging Hornet Films, under which she produces her own films and some co-productions and collaborative projects. She studied filmmaking in Goldsmiths, London (MA) and visual art in Limerick School of Art & Design (BA), participated in ESoDoc and Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School. Her films have screened in the Lebanon, Greece, Mexico, Palestine, Italy, Germany, France, UK, USA & Ireland. She teaches and writes about film and has a PhD in Filmmaking by Practice, gained with a full scholarship award from Westminster University 2014-18.