Wildfire plays with hot topics too close to home

This week finally commenced the first public screenings of Wildfire, a critically acclaimed Northern Irish film five years in the making.

Written and directed by Newry-native Cathy Brady, it presents a bleak view of generational trauma through the experience of two sisters.

Kelly (played by the late Nika McGuigan) returns home to her sister Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone) after a year of being ‘missing’. Can’t-stop-looking chaos quickly unravels their reunion, and pain from the past boils to the surface once again overflowing into gritty, hard-hitting cinema that is uncomfortably close to home.

The film opens with statement scenes from The Troubles – but this is not your typical Troubles-inspired tale. Wildfire seeks a bigger conversation without bias about the long-lasting effects of inherited trauma from such events. There are no sides here – just two sisters with an unshakeable bond, broken and bound by their infinite grief that transcends the cruel and rural compounds of which they find themselves.

Speaking at the Q&A session at QFT, director Cathy Brady recalled her own experience as a child of the ceasefire and how her peers all had stories to share of how The Troubles had affected their lives, without being direct victims of any violence; ‘I started thinking why are so many troubled, without being involved in The Troubles’.

This sparked the catalyst for her debut film that saw her win Best Director at this years Irish Film and Television Academy and Awards (IFTA’s); ‘I wanted to make a film that only I could make’. While the film received financial backing from various bodies throughout the UK and Ireland, five years passed before it came to fruition. Yet Brady was clear on who she wanted to star from the very beginning.

Nika McGuigan and Nora-Jane Noone were handpicked by Brady and attended many workshops throughout the five years before anything was filmed. Reminiscing on the almost animalistic stand out dance scene in the bar, wherein Kelly and Lauren let down their guard to Van Morrisons’ Gloria, Nora-Jane said; ‘It was electric’.

Besides the film’s obvious statement about Troubles-induced trauma, there is perhaps a more familiar thread throughout that unfurls the realities of sisterhood and what it means to be a strong woman in a small town.

It is poignant that Wildfire was Nika McGuigan’s last performance before her untimely passing in 2019 – she was awarded Best Actress at this years IFTA’s for her exhausting yet endearing portrayal of Kelly.

Some may seek to explore the political themes presented early on further and feel these are ‘brushed over’, but the film’s integrity lies within its withholding of the full truth of the sister’s shared trauma. A reality for many affected by The Troubles, then and now.

Wildfire’s aim isn’t to address the elephant in the room of generational trauma in just 1hr 25 minutes. Instead, it stalks – a wolf creeping, ready to ensnare its wide-eyed, none-the-wiser audience who leave with with lasting, memorable marks.

Author: Anna Louise Crockard

Wildfire is in cinemas from the 3rd of September

Trailer for critically acclaimed Northern Irish movie ‘Wildfire’



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