3 March 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
     
Director Mieke Vanmechelen discusses Hungry Hill
26 Oct 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Hungry Hill
We spoke with co-director Mieke Vanmechelen ahead of Kerry International Film Festival, where Hungry Hill opened the festival this year.

Hungry Hill is a documentary written by Mieke Vanmechelen, and co-directed by Vanmechelen and Michael Holly. Vanmechelen is an experimental filmmaker, and Holly is a visual artist and lecturer in documentary filmmaking at the University of Sussex.

Filmed on the highest point on the Beara Peninsula, Hungry Hill follows the day-to-day lives of a community of sheep farmers facing the demands of the terrain, changing societal attitudes, and the impact of globalisation. Central to the film is the story of three generations of co-director Vanmechelen’s family, who moved to Ireland from the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe in Holland/Belgium in the 1980s. The family left their farm in the polders, due to its proximity to the Doel nuclear power station and the adverse effects of pollution coming from the pharmaceutical industry.

The film had its World Premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year, and opened the Kerry International Film Festival. The experimental non-fiction film was produced by Fierce Quiet Films, and funded by the Arts Council of Ireland Film Project Award.

We caught up with co-director Mieke Vanmechelen about screening the film on home turf, her personal connection to the film’s subject matter, and what she hopes audiences will take away from the film.

IFTN: What does it mean to you to have this film screen at the Kerry International Film Festival?

MIEKE: “Screening Hungry Hill at the Kerry International Film Festival is a very meaningful experience for both myself and my co-director Michael Holly. Killarney holds a special place in my heart, as it has always emanated an atmosphere of excitement and promise. The presence of a film festival of this calibre in Kerry is not only vital but also highly inspirational for aspiring individuals in the industry. It fosters a sense of community and belonging. I take immense pride in having our film screened here and feel extremely fortunate for the opportunity to open the festival.”

IFTN: How did your early experiences on a farm shape your approach to this film?

MIEKE: “My formative years on the farm have had a profound influence on this film. Growing up around sheep and continuing to raise hill sheep in Bonane has provided me with a genuine connection to the subject matter. Many of the people featured in the film are long-time friends and colleagues, which allowed us to establish a real rapport and affinity that shines through in the documentary.”

IFTN: This film weaves together archival media from Belgium and Holland, with your own documentary footage in the Beara Peninsula. Why did you decide to take this approach to the documentary?

MIEKE: “Incorporating archival media from Belgium and Holland was essential to trace the origins of our family's journey to Ireland. This footage not only tells a specific story but also adds a more universal layer to the narrative, encouraging viewers to interpret and contemplate its significance.”

IFTN: What do you hope the audience will take away from this documentary?

MIEKE: “My aspiration is for the audience to feel the same sense of connection that we experienced while creating this film. I also hope viewers will gain valuable insights into a way of life deeply rooted in the local culture but intrinsically connected to the global reality.”

IFTN: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline following Hungry Hill?

MIEKE: “Michael and I have plans for another project, and we are in the early stages of planning. I am on a residency at Fire Station Artists’ Studios in Dublin currently, which provides a precious opportunity to reflect and focus on my art practice. I am also excited to share that I have a film project in development, and I am optimistic about commencing work on it in 2024.”





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