Tackling the taboo: new Derry film examines sexuality and football

Actors (l-r) Fergal McSwiggan, Andy Doherty and Miche�l McDaid, who all appear in 'False Nine'.
Actors (l-r) Fergal McSwiggan, Andy Doherty and Miche�l McDaid, who all appear in 'False Nine'.

Derry film-maker Séan Coyle recently showcased his new film ‘False Nine’ during the Foyle Pride Festival to acclaim from those who have viewed it.

Now he is hoping the film, which takes on the hot topic of the complex relationship between football, sexuality and homophobia, will reach a wider audience via festivals across Ireland, Britain and Europe.

A scene from the film 'False Nine'

A scene from the film 'False Nine'

Séan, who, along with fellow film graduates Colm S. Herron and Michael Breslin set up Bennigan’s Film Society, wrote the script for ‘False Nine’ and also directed the film.

Along the way, and despite the lack of a budget, local people involved in film production and acting came on board, such was the goodwill and belief in the project.

The story itself centres around two footballing brothers from Derry, and was filmed in the Brandywell, Daisyfield, as well as at a number of other locations including Bennigans Bar for the pub scenes and Sean’s own house.

Séan said he wanted to make a film that tackled prejudice. “With the rise in hate crimes and hatred generally across the world we felt this was a film we wanted to make,” he said. “We wanted it to be rooted very much in LGBT issues, against intolerance, which should never be accepted.

“I wrote the script at the start of the year but making a no budget film is difficult.”

Séan said a number of his friends working in film and TV read the script and volunteered to work on the film for free. Several local actors then also came onboard.

“Because the crew worked for free the film really is down to them,” Séan said. “Otherwise it wouldn’t have been made. I was phenomenally grateful that so many talented people decided to work for nothing, and gave it their dedication and experience. They made the film what it was.

“The people who all helped make the film liked the message, liked the story.

“It’s an issue that has really been brushed under the rug and it’s only now it’s being focused on internationally. You have tens of thousands of footballers, and the likelihood is a percentage of them will be gay or bisexual, but not one of them comes out and the only ones that have are usually retired. We knew we were tackling a very big issue, and the message is one of anti-intolerance.”

After the film shoot wrapped, the painstaking editing process then began and Séan and Colm S. Herron spent the next two months editing. The finished product was then screened at the Bennigans. “I was bowled over by the response. I was confident it was a decent piece and was happy with the finished piece but as soon as we hit play I had a rush of nerves and couldn’t watch it. But then I thought, ‘you spent this long making it’.

“We got a round of applause and really good feedback, people talking about the performances and a lot saying it affected them emotionally. It was really nice to get that feedback as so much work had gone into it and people had given their time to work on it for free.”

The plan was always to ground ‘False Nine’ very much in Derry, although the theme itself is universal.

“We wanted to make it colloquial, and we wanted to show Derry, and local actors Micheál McDaid, Andy Doherty and Fergal McSwiggan were in the lead roles.”

False Nine shows what can be done when you marry an intelligently crafted and thought-provoking script with a talented production crew and actors. Andy and Micheál deliver powerful performances in this expertly crafted short. It’s obvious all those involved here are at the top of their game and had great passion for the project.

Séan said he and the others involved were delighted after the film was included in the official Foyle Pride Festival programme. “A friend of mine Caoimhe McNulty produced the film. She was also involved with the Foyle Pride committee and she said that it was totally relevant to what they were doing and secured a little bit of money for the actors. It was amazing to be involved with the Pride Festival.”

It is now hoped the film will reach a wider audience.

“To get it into any festival would be a major achievement,” Séan said. “I’d like people to see it, feel something about it, have an opinion on it.

“We are planning to enter it into festivals. It would be just such a bonus. We have looked at schedules over the coming months and we have a few deadlines for submission over the next few weeks. We are looking at Foyle Film Festival and a few others in Europe. Any festival would be amazing. The message is that broad and universal, and the dream is a wider release.”

Bennigans’ Film Society are now also developing a new project aimed at bringing together a collective of film-makers from Derry and the wider north west area.

“We are hoping to develop a network because it is tough to get a film made here. Because there is not a lot of funding for films and arts generally in the north west, we thought why not get people together to make films on a small budget or for nothing.”

Eventually, the aim is to showcase the films and the talent that exists locally, and hopefully reach funding decision makers or investors to demonstrate what local film-makers can do with nothing, in the hope they will realise the potential.

“We want to get people who love film and who want to get involved in film together,” Séan said. “There are so many gifted people in the north west in the arts, but without funding they don’t really get the chance to show what they can do. If we pool are resources hopefully we can help put their work to the forefront.”

Anyone wishing to get in touch with Bennigan’s Film Society can do so via their Facebook page, ‘Bennigan’s Film Club’.