January Hymn is a short film written and directed by Katherine Canty which affords a brief glance at the grief suffered by a woman returning home for the first anniversary mass of her Fathers death. Produced by Tanja Harney, the project was awarded funding by the Irish Film Board’s prestigious Signatures scheme and is an all-female led production, shot on location in Katherine’s native county of Laois. The short has screened at an impressive number of festivals worldwide winning Best Screenplay at Moonfaze in LA and nominated for Best Director, Best Cinematographer and Best Editor at Underwire Film Festival in UK which celebrates female filmmakers.
January Hymn favours a fractured narrative over the conventional sort. Its a starkly beautiful experimental piece, scant on dialogue. Its filmic elements come together so well, producing a heartbreakingly accurate depiction of grief. The stark and stunning cinematography by Kate McCullough combines lingering shots of lonely blue grey landscapes with disconcerting and surreal snapshots of empty doorways and street lamps. The editing, by Katherine herself with consulting by Emer Reynolds (The Farthest), cleverly takes us back and forward in time. One striking example sees Clara examine a piece of dirt under her fingernail, juxtaposing the present moment with the year before when she finds a cross in the forest. The sharpness of the sound design also serves an important purpose. The roar of a train passing through a railway station disrupts a peaceful silence mirroring the razor-sharp pain of unexpected loss.
Anyone who has experienced grief may find themselves thrown by the extent to which this film captures the intangible and unexplainable feelings associated with losing a loved one. The first line of the film “Sure I’ll see you again before either of us knows it” is accompanied by a dreamlike shot of Clara’s Father waving to her from the doorway of his house which then jumps to the image of an empty hallway with door swung open, truly illustrating the shock of someone being there one minute and then gone forever.This is just one example of Katherine Canty’s mastery of the surreal and her ability to create an atmosphere of quiet horror.
Niamh Algar’s haunting performance contributes much to the poignancy of January Hymn, inhabiting the role with a palpable melancholy. Algar (Without Name) is well supported by Ally Ni Chiarian(Miscalculation), Joe Mullins (Pilgrim Hill), Aisling McLoughlin (Past Pupil) and Gina Moxley (The Butcher Boy) as the well-meaning relatives and friends who float in the background of Clara’s grief.
January Hymn continues its festival run in August when it screens at the Still Voices Short Film Festival in Ballymahon in Longford. The festival has just launched its schedule and runs from August 18th to 20th.
Still Voices was first established in 2014 as a showcase for local filmmakers, developing over the years with the aim of encouraging and supporting young filmmaking talent across the midlands and Ireland.
The festival offers the perfect opportunity for both filmmakers and film lovers to come together, share ideas, develop relationships and enjoy the work of some of the best up-and-coming Irish and International talent out there today.
Located along the river Inny in the heart of the midlands, the town of Ballymahon provides the ideal setting for the budding short film festival.
There are three opportunities to catch January Hymn at Still Voices. It screens on Friday at 4pm in Cooneys Hotel, then on Saturday 19th at 2pm in the Bog Lane Theatre as part of the Made in the Midlands programme and again on Sunday at 3pm.
Katherine will participate in a panel about Gender Equality in the film industry in the Bog Lane Theatre on Saturday 19th at 3pm.
January Hymn will also screen at The Bleeding Pig Short Film Festival on Monday September 4th in Keelings Pub, Donabate Co.Dublin