THE GALWAY Film Fleadh concluded last night with the premiere of An Klondike, a movie version of a four-part mini series to be aired on TG4 later in the year. The first Irish western, and with dialogue mostly as Gaeilge, this is an incredibly ambitious undertaking.
Filmed outside Oughterard and set in custom built to look like a town from 1892, I’m not sure anything quite like this has been attempted, on this scale in Ireland, and entirely through Irish funding. This film is gorgeous and at the very least puts Galway on the map as a location to film in almost any genre.
An Klondike follows the fortunes of the three Connolly brothers, miners from Ros Muc who have gone to make their fortune in the States. After toiling the silver mines in Montana a family friend, who has become rich panhandling gold, gives them his claim before his return to Ireland and urges them to go north. They make their way to the Yukon to take part in the gold rush on the Klondike River.
Their claim does indeed become profitable, but with the introduction of money, the brothers' relationship becomes strained. The youngest Connelly makes a name for himself early as a selfish and impulsive drinker and when he gets in a fight with the son of a local businessman, whom he subsequently kills in a duel, his problems become those of his family as well.
An Klondike fits well with modern westerns, and is reminiscent of HBO’s Deadwood and John Hillcoat’s criminally underrated Aussie western The Proposition. The sets feel lived in, and huge work must have gone into making Oughterard feel like a late 19th century North American town. The Galway countryside does a wonderful impression of Alaska and is shot so well the film is a wonderful reminder of how beautiful our county is.
An Klondike will work better as the four part mini series, rather than compressed into a three hour film. However the performers are all in top form and it is always wonderful to hear native Irish speakers on the big screen. Writer Marcus Fleming borrows from history and brings alive real historical figures, like the confidence man Soapy Smith, to life along with a host of original characters. An Klondike is also the debut of director Daithí Keane and his handling of the film is incredibly assured. The film's third act is easily its strongest and its final shot will stay with viewers long after they have left the cinema.
As regards the Galway Film Fleadh, it probably had its best programme to date this year and it continues to be Galway's best and most affordable festival.