Making the Universal Story

By Daisy Carrington, Contributor
April / May 2005

Colum McCann’s writing is so intensely visual that adapting his work to the visual realm is a delicate task indeed. This year, Gary McKendry, a young director from Northern Ireland, succeeded in the task with help from Colum and several pints of Guinness at their favorite Irish pub. The pair have been so successful in their efforts that they have secured an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Short Film (Live Action).

The film, entitled Everything in This Country Must, is set in the hills of Northern Ireland. Outwardly, it is a story about a man and his horse. Inwardly, it deals with the emotional trials of those who inhabit the land as well as those who occupy it. Every aspect of the film — the setting, the music, the dialogue — possesses an understated beauty.

“For me, it was about not forcing the story, not forcing the judgement, not forcing the emotion or a point of view. I just wanted to tell the story,” McKendry said.

Both writer and director seem comfortable with the change in medium, accepting that the point of an adaptation isn’t to recreate the work word for word. “A book should only ever be a book,” Colum explained. “When you finish it, it’s done. Now make a f — king film.”

Though the duo hail from different ends of Ireland, they have a unity of vision. Mainly, neither feels it is their duty to judge the conflict, nor to make it a story exclusively about Ireland.

“There’s plenty of Irish making Irish films,” McKendry maintained. McCann concurred, “We wanted to make a film that said, `hey, there’s no answer here,’ We wanted to make a universal story about pain and dignity.”

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