With his customary grace and skill, acclaimed Irish documentary maker Desmond Bell has mixed early cinema archive film and new material to retrace the story of navvy poet, novelist, dramatist and screenwriter Patrick MacGill. Born in 1889 into crushing poverty in Donegal in the west of Ireland, MacGill went on to become one of Ireland’s most successful authors. His autobiographical novels penned in Scotland and hugely popular at the time, paint a vibrant picture of the life of the navvy, the labourer and the whore, “the outcasts of a mighty industrial society”.
MacGill lived the life of a navvy in the Scottish highlands and in his writing fact and fiction, social report and love story mingle. Director Bell, alongside his collaborator Stephen Rea has fashioned an elegant and engaging portrait, while also interrogating the basic principals by which biographies are told and retold.
Gráinne Humphreys, JDIFF