Prestigious industry gong for former Forkhill filmmaker
By Diarmúid Pepper
Film maker Aislinn Clarke, a former St Joseph’s Crossmaglen pupil who spent her teenage years in Forkhill, has been named as the winner of the second Academy Gold Fellowship for Women grant.
The awarding body is behind the world-famous Oscars and Aislinn spoke to The Examiner in the aftermath of her huge win, which sees her awarded a £20,000 bursary as well as a year-long mentorship scheme from the Academy.
“The award is presented by the people who give out Oscars to a female film-maker who they feel are deserving of recognition and support.
“It is sponsored by Swarovski and it is a real seal of approval from the most prestigious institution in films. I’m incredibly honoured to have been noticed by The Academy and to have been given this prestigious award which is a mark of investment and belief in me and my work. I feel privileged to do the job I do – writing and making stories – but it is hard work and the support of people in the industry is invaluable.”
Aislinn released her debut feature length film, a horror film called The Devil’s Doorway, last year.
It has since been released in theatres worldwide and was one of the ten highest grossing horror films in Brazilian cinemas so far this year. The film was also included in the Rotten Tomatoes Best Horror Films of 2018. On this huge accolade, Aislinn told the paper:
“I am delighted by all the success the film has had. It was on a number of “best of” lists for 2018. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival, which is where Ridley Scott’s Alien premiered in the 70s.
“It has been written about in academic journals. I have gone all over the world to talk about it. It’s given me a lot of opportunities. That’s a lot for a film that was shot on a shoe-string budget, in fifteen days, in a cold, old linen mill in Antrim.”
The Devil’s Doorway probes one of the darkest chapters in Irish history, the Magdalene Laundries, through the genre of horror.
When asked about the subject matter and the decision to explore it through a horror film, Aislinn said:
“Horror is always at its best when it digs into a societal trauma, and Ireland has plenty of those. The laundries are one of our rawest traumas. The producers came to me with an idea to make a contemporary found-footage film shot on Go-Pros set in a disused laundry.
“I had already researched deeply into these places and I felt that this idea had so much potential but it needed to be handled carefully. I felt that, if we wanted to get at the real horror of those places, we had to set it in the heyday of these places, the 1960s. We had to show the faces of the abused women and we had to show the complex system of that abuse.
“I had my son when I was 17, in 1997, the year after the last laundry closed, so I always felt very close to those women. There was no doubt that the laundries left an emotional scar on the community in which I grew up and horror was a way I could show that.
“A colleague of mine – the playwright Michael West – said that the laundries are Ireland’s haunted house and so they are: empty now, but haunted by history and horror. The Magdalene laundries are already a horror story, primed for such an excavation. I am honoured that many women who have survived these places have reached out to me since the film came out. That means more to me than anything.”
Less than a third of the top grossing films of 2018 were directed by females. Remarking upon this statistic, Aislinn said:
“51% of the population are women, yet most films are made through a male perspective. We have spread our wings because when we are heard, our voices are recognisable and needed.”