Ballymanus documentary gets Hollywood invite

A documentary on the Ballymanus explosion which killed 19 people in west Donegal almost 80 years ago is to be shown in Hollywood.

‘Ballymanus’ was named Best Documentary on Thursday following its debut showing at the Vienna Independent Film Festival.

Writers and directors Patrick Sharkey and Seán Doupe have now been invited to show it at events in Scotland, Mexico and the United States.


Ballymanus examines the events of May 10 1943 when villagers attempted to bring ashore an unexploded marine mine.

As it was being hauled along Ballymanus strand it exploded, killing 18 people instantly. A 19th person died the following day while more than 40 nearby houses were damaged.

Speaking following the documentary’s success in Vienna, Patrick Sharkey said he and his co-director were delighted with how it had been received by an international audience.

“It feels really good for a story from rural Donegal to be picked up by these big international festivals.

“It shows that the story resonates and that people are keen to understand what happened and what life was like in rural Donegal then.”

The Vienna Independent Film Festival attracts hundreds of submissions. Ballymanus saw off entries from Japan, America and Croatia.

James Duffy looks out over Ballymanus strand. He is also among the contributors to a new documentary exploring the disaster that claimed 19 lives.


It is likely to get its Irish premiere at the Dublin Film Festival. But other invites have already come in from the Central Scotland Documentary Festival, the Oaxaca Film Festival in Mexico and the Hollywood First Time Filmmaker Showcase.

There is though one screening location that the two writers hold above all in terms of importance.

“What we really aimed to do was to show in an honest light a part of Irish identity in the formative years as an independent state,” said Patrick.

“We wanted to show both the really touching way that community came together during these times but also to show the real problems the Irish state had with how it treated rural communities.

“The church, the government in Dublin, the police, none of them had the interests of all Irish people at heart, especially in rural communities. That was essentially the founding promise of the state but this event shows that it wasn’t the case and the community really only had itself to rely on.

“That is something you don’t often see in films. Ireland has a way of wanting to promote the best aspects of itself but we tried to make this as honest as it could be.

“We’ve had all these invites from America, Mexico and so on but the top priority for us is to show it in Mullachdubh Hall,” Patrick added.

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