Above: Young Ella Grealy made her debut in the film.
A sensational community and team effort saw a small group of maverick film-makers, actors and creatives produce a remarkable feature-length film in the Dargle that is certain to make waves locally and internationally.
Rare Blood was shot on a miniscule budget over 16 gruelling days on location in Dargle, at Hillhouse Guest House and Inversanda.
Screened for invited guests at St Ives recently, the film received a warm reception, followed by a keen question-and-answer session.
Director Brett Halliday explained that when all the official funding avenues had dried up (and doors closed in their faces), he, co-producer and co-writer Gillian O’Donoghue and their crew rolled up their sleeves, got stuck in and set about making it happen.
This often meant talented local individuals taking on multiple functions, working for very little and sacrificing a great deal of time – be it work, family or school time to make it happen.
Some examples of this are editing and cinematography by Devin Carter; photographer Barry Downard working his magic with lighting, photography, key grip and gaffer; a stellar contribution from line producer Wendy Moulton; Sizwe Mzisi acting as runner, grip and actor, and Peter May popping up all over the show as driver, transport co-ordinator, “voice of Irishman” and “Double for Mr Clarke”.
The storyline is, briefly, as follows: A woman, Keira, marries into a family of narcissists who believe they are privileged to possess a type of rare blood that makes them exceptional. Keira is not perfect and, worn down by years of husband Panos’s abuse, seeks comfort outside the marriage. When he discovers she has been communicating with another man on Facebook, he becomes unhinged, extremely violent and is determined to either evict her from the home or kill her. His sinister sister becomes his accomplice in all of this.
But let’s not give away more of the plot – fear not, there are many more twists and turns.
Through a brilliant performance by Brendan Grealy, as Panos, and his wife, Annie Robinson, as Keira, the tension is ratcheted up and the psychological aspect to this thriller goes through the roof.
One person who worked on the set commented that at times it was quite difficult to watch because the dynamic between the two was so convincing.
Mark Mulder and Fiona Ramsay made telling contributions and 13-year-old Ella Grealy made her debut, making this a real family affair – Brendan and Annie are her parents.
Others in the cast include Graham Clarke, as Keira’s ill, but dedicated father Patrick; familiar face Ashley Dowds; newcomers Gary McKenzie and Sizwe Mzisi as local cops, and Hlengiwe Zondi as the family’s long-suffering domestic worker, Victoria.
This is Halliday’s first feature film. He has directed four short films.
He commented: “Owing to financial restraints we had to film efficiently and creatively, which we achieved with multi-talented cinematographer, Devin Carter and renowned South African photographer Barry Downard. The colour palette and art direction by well-known advertising creative Gillian O’Donoghue gave the film layers, mood and tone, which was especially important for a film of this genre.”
Clearly proud of the outcome, Brett is keen to pass on praise for the production quality to the actors and crew, and is bullish about the opportunities to take the film to the international market and get it seen by as many people as possible.
He also mentioned further opportunities that were on the cards for those who took part in this remarkable Midlands production.