1 October 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
“Changes are made by individuals, mostly uncelebrated, who work within their local communities, changing society through small incremental steps;” Declan McGrath on Grierson-shortlisted documentary Young Plato
25 Aug 2022 : Nathan Griffin
Young Plato
Directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath’s IFTA-winning documentary Young Plato has been shortlisted in the Best Cinema Documentary category for the 50th Grierson Trust British Documentary Awards.

The 50th anniversary awards event will take place on Thursday, 10th November at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Young Plato is nominated in the Best Cinema Documentary category alongside a number of major international feature documentaries including Becoming Cousteau (National Geographic), The First Wave (National Geographic), Navalny (CNN Films / HBO Max), Procession (Netflix), The Reason I Jump (MetFilm Production), Summer of Soul (Onyx Collective), and The Velvet Underground (Apple Original Film).

Speaking about significance of the nomination, director Declan McGrath told IFTN: “Its significance only really struck me when I noticed the company that the film has in the nominations. It is a group of high quality internationally recognised feature films that really took my breath away.”

Earlier this year, Young Plato won the George Morrisson Feature Documentary award at the 2022 IFTA Film & Drama Awards. The film has also played on over 30 screens throughout Britain and Ireland so far as well as having an impressive international festival run.

“It ran for over six weeks in Belfast, which meant a lot, seeing it accepted and celebrated in its home town,” McGrath told IFTN. “One of the most affecting moments for me was to hear that the film was being recommended to Americans who wanted to understand the Belfast conflict by a community worker who was born and reared in the unionist part of Ardoyne.

Young Plato is set in post-conflict Belfast’s Ardoyne, where a marginalised, working-class community has for generations been plagued by poverty, drugs and guns. The film charts the dream of Headmaster Kevin McArevey and his dedicated, visionary team illustrating how critical thinking and pastoral care can empower and encourage children to see beyond the boundaries and limitations of their own community. We see how philosophy can encourage them to question the mythologies of war and of violence, and sometimes challenge the narratives their parents, peers and socio-economic group would dictate.

“Kevin McArevey is a charming, larger than life character that you know is going to hold audiences,” McGrath explains. “Also, his mission to put philosophy on the curriculum of a primary school where the teachers and pupils face very real and serious problems in everyday life seemed simultaneously quirky and profound and something that would work as a narrative in a feature documentary.”

“But the main draw for me, as someone who grew up in north Belfast during the conflict and has seen how its aftertaste hangs on in the community, was to explore how we can find ways to work to overcome division and prejudice and think freshly about the world,” added McGrath. “For me, these changes are made by individuals, mostly uncelebrated, who work within their local communities, changing society through small incremental steps.”

“I was also blown away by how the kids in Holy Cross Boys were so articulate and confident talking about their own opinions,” the director added. “Often, when you are not from the wealthier and more materially successful parts of town you can lack confidence and feel intimidated by those who are. I think it is so impressive to see how the boys in HCB are prepared to face the world.”

Young Plato was produced by Soilsiú Films, Aisling Productions, Clin d’Oeil Films, and Zadig Productions with funding from Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Ireland, Eurimages, BBC, ARTE, Creative Europe, RTBF, VPRO, RTE, YLE, RTS, VRT, and Al Jazeera.

Click here to read the full Grierson Awards shortlist.

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