28 September 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
“The truth here is stranger than fiction;” Martina McGlynn & Garret Daly discuss Doc NYC-bound Nothing to Declare
29 Oct 2021 : Nathan Griffin
Nothing To Declare
36 years after two Irish boys grabbed international headlines as infamous stowaways to New York City in 1985, Keith Byrne and Noel Murray’s story will return to the city synonymous with their tale.

Nothing To Declare, which tells the story of two Dublin boys (aged 10 & 13) travelled as stowaways all the way to New York in 1985 in an effort to meet their hero, B.A. Baracus of the A-Team, has been officially selected for the prestigious shortlist showcase at the DOC NYC Film Festival this November.

The shortlist sections showcase a selection of features and shorts that the festival’s programming team considers to be among the year’s strongest contenders for Oscars and other awards. Getting in was great, but getting selected on their short list was such a bonus,” director Garret Daly told IFTN. “I mean, amazing and a little surreal.”

Producer Martina McGlynn said she couldn’t be happier with the news. “I think every filmmaker dreams of big festivals selecting their films, but now that this is a reality for our film’s international premiere - it’s amazing,” said McGlynn. “Bringing this story back to New York and to America’s largest documentary festival. It’s a perfect fit.”

The two boys trip, which saw them travel from Dublin-to-London-to-New York undetected, made headlines around the world when they were intercepted by police outside JFK airport, thus igniting an investigation that involved authorities across several continents.

Now, thirty six years later and for the first time on screen together, Keith and Noel recount their journey in a short documentary film, Nothing To Declare.

McGlynn and Daly acquired the rights to the film several years ago, and have been developing the story with the infamous duo ever since. “Acquiring the rights was a simple decision to make - based on a hunch that the story would transfer brilliantly to the screen,” Daly explained. “In a way the story feels like the perfect coming of age road movie screenplay.”

“The truth here is stranger than fiction,” added Daly.

McGlynn describes the amazing story as “the ultimate once upon a time Irish adventure” that contains charm, comedy, and real heart. “I think it’s a story that people really respond to, especially when they hear all the details about how they actually achieved what they did,” McGlynn told IFTN.

Separate to its New York International premiere at Doc NYC, Nothing to Declare has already won a number of prestigious awards including the Best Short Documentary at the 2021 Galway Film Fleadh, the audience award at the IFI Doc Fest, Best Short Film at Louth Film Festival, Best Documentary at Clones Film Festival, and has also been selected to screen at the forthcoming Cork International Film Festival.

McGlynn and Daly, who produced the film through their banner Mixed Bag Media, have particularly relished the opportunity to experience the film with an audience once again. It’s the most joyous experience to watch this film with a crowd,” said McGlynn. “The reaction is so positive and in fairness the festivals here have been great in programming the short.”

Director Garret Daly has been overwhelmed by the reaction the film has continued to receive from audiences so far. “The reaction is so warm,” said Daly. “Roars of laughter from the audience, big reactions from people.”

“To be in the room with people enjoying it so much actually makes you feel good about creating it in the first place - I’ve never felt that before,” Daly admitted, “but Noel and Keith are the stars of the show. We’ve just had the good sense to put the camera in front of them.”

“They are funny, engaging and honest, which really does create a heartfelt recounting of this jaunt,” he added. “I can’t wait to see how an America audience reacts to their tale.”

“When the pandemic hit, momentum was drained for many months so rather than doing nothing, we decided to turn it into a huge positive,” McGlynn continued. “We have documentary experience and we can react fast, so why not use this time to be productive and see what happens.”

Daly explained that it was this love of documentary storytelling that led them to the decision to produce a short documentary while the world was at a standstill. “We needed to be clever about how we did it, and whether it could be produced while in lockdown,” Daly explained.

“It was a wonderful creative challenge in a time that was restrictive and difficult,” he continued. “And once we figured it out, we thought, wouldn’t this be a great documentary to bring into the world once the pandemic starts to ease. Suddenly it felt like a no brainer.”

Following several years of development, the short doc marked the first time in 36 years that Noel and Keith recounted their story on camera.

“What was great to see was how they sparked off each other even after all these years,” said McGlynn. “Their lives have taken them on separate paths, so to see that energy ignite between them whenever we were filming was great.”

“We really wanted to give the audience a sense of their cheeky charm, and that its evident in how much we all enjoyed filming the doc,” McGlynn added.

An establish trust and shorthand had been established by between the production team and their subjects, something Daly said was key when doing a project like this. “It was a small shoot, myself and Martina mostly throughout. Keeping the shoot intimate meant that everyone felt comfortable,” Daly explained. “There was some tough sequences to shoot also that deal with issues Noel has encountered in his life, so again, that controlled safe approach was best for everyone.”

In terms of what’s next on the feature film front, Noel and Keith’s story continues to have the backing of multi-Oscar nominated producer Frank Marshall who boarded the project last year under his Kennedy Marshall Company banner, but details remain a secret for now. “We can’t say too much about it at present due to many moving parts,” Daly told IFTN.

The short documentary also received support from the Kennedy Marshall Company with producer Ryan Suffern featuring as an executive producer on Nothing To Declare. “(Suffern) has many year’s experience with The Kennedy Marshall Company and he certainly felt that a complimentary documentary now would only increase the appetite for a big screen 1985 telling of the story,” said Daly. “Let’s hope that proves to be case.”

Nothing To Declare was shot and edited by Daly and produced by McGlynn. Additional camera work was done in the USA by Sam Schnorr and Thomas Rowley. Executive Producers included Eamonn Fitzgerald, Gerry Burke and Ryan Suffern of the Kennedy Marshall Company. Killian Fitzgerald of Avatar Post handled the sound mixing.

DOC NYC is America’s largest documentary film festival with the 2021 edition being held both in person at NYC venues and online (In-Person: November 10-18; Online: November 10-28)

Nothing To Declare will screen in New York on November 12th and November 18th at the Cinépolis Chelsea. Tickets and passes are currently available for purchase online only www.docnyc.net    

Irish audiences will have a chance to view the film at the forthcoming Cork International Film Festival when it screens in cinema on November 12th. The film will also be available online through the festival portal corkfilmfest.org

Nothing to Declare is directed by Garret Daly and produced by Martina McGlynn.

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