Interview with ASFF 2013 Filmmaker Cathy Heffernan

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival Official Programme 2013 includes a rich and diverse mix of films from all genres. Documentary maker Cathy Heffernan’s presents a fresh perspective on the Northern Ireland Troubles in her short Crossing the Divide, a story of love and friendship from the deaf community. One of a number of deaf filmmakers showcasing work at this year’s festival, Heffernan discusses her inspiration, processes and what she’s looking forward to most about attending this year’s ASFF.

Festival goers can catch Crossing the Divide from Friday 8 November right up until Sunday 10 November in Barley Hall’s stunning medieval banqueting room, just one of this year’s exciting venues. Tickets are on sale now at asff.co.uk/tickets.

ASFF: How would you best describe Crossing the Divide to new audiences?
CH: Most of us are familiar with the Northern Irish Troubles and how deeply segregated communities in the region were during that period. But not many people know that throughout the conflict the deaf community remained united across religious lines. In this documentary we meet a couple and two friends whose stories give us an insight into how this community kept the Troubles at bay.

ASFF: Where did the inspiration come from?
CH: I grew up in Dublin in the 1980s and 1990s and the Troubles were always there in the background – on the news, in our history classes and in conversations. But it was only when I met deaf people from Northern Ireland when I was older that I realised they as a community had never become segregated across religious lines – although there was sometimes tension between individuals. I was fascinated by this – it was just such a different way of looking at a period which was widely reported on – and from then I always wanted to make a documentary looking at their experiences.

ASFF: What is it about documentary filmmaking that most excites you?
CH: Bringing to life stories that have not yet been told. Bringing fresh perspectives to already told stories. The challenge of capturing a story on camera and turning it into a film that is both entertaining and factual.

ASFF: As deaf filmmaker, what new perspectives do you feel your work contributes to filmmaking?
CH: As there aren’t many journalists or filmmakers who can sign or who mix with deaf people, topics from the deaf community which are really strong and obvious are often overlooked. Being deaf myself, and being able to sign, means I can access these stories. When it comes to mainstream social phenomena, my attention is often naturally drawn to how it affects smaller or marginalised communities as I can empathise with them.

When using a camera and editing I rely on visual information more than most and, in this way, being unable to hear can actually be a useful tool in filmmaking!

ASFF: What are you looking forward to most about ASFF this year?
CH: Well, York is a beautiful place. I have visited several times and am really looking forward to seeing how the town becomes the setting for a film festival spread across several locations. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to fit in afternoon tea at Betty’s en route from one screening to another. And, of course, I’m excited about meeting other filmmakers and seeing their work.

ASFF: As a filmmaker, what do you hope to gain from the experience of being featured and from being at the festival itself?
CH: Crossing the Divide has gone on show at several deaf and disability film festivals so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how it is received at a mainstream festival and hearing what people think about it. I feel we deaf filmmakers have a lot to learn from other filmmakers – and perhaps vice versa!

ASFF runs from 7 – November in 15 locations across York. For more information visit www.asff.co.uk.

Credits
1. Video courtesy of YouTube and Cathy Heffernan.