Patrick Kielty, a comedian, and broadcaster who was born in County Down, had the world premiere of a new movie on Thursday in Belfast.
The drama Ballywalter was filmed in Belfast and several sites in the Ards Peninsula. Although Kielty has performed on stage before, this is his first appearance in a feature film.
Strangely, I didn’t believe it to be true. You don’t expect to be handed the lead in a movie when you reach my stage, he told BBC Radio Ulster.
It’s been one of my most incredible journeys yet. The comedian admitted that, in advance of the premiere, he felt extremely uncomfortable and out of his element.
Kielty declared, “I’ve never felt more anxious about anything in my life.
“It’s terrible to think that I won’t be in control. It’s terrifying to think that I’ll be watching this in the crowd and helpless to stop it.”
The opening film of the 2022 Belfast Film Festival is Prasanna Puwanarajah’s Ballywalter, which also stars Dubliner Seána Kerslake.
Great Victoria Street in Belfast, the Sunflower Pub, the Ulster Sports Club, and the Empire Music Hall on Botanic Avenue are among the places that appear in the movie.
In the 1990s, Kielty started performing stand-up comedy at The Empire.
The story of Ballywalter, which was filmed in December 2020 and January 2021, also includes stand-up comedy.
Comedy as medicine?
Shane, played by Kielty, struggles with the dissolution of his marriage and attempts to restart his life by registering for a 12-week stand-up comedy training.
He must take a taxi to Belfast to attend the course every Friday from his home on the main street in Ballywalter, on the Ards Peninsula, close to the Irish Sea.
The instructor of the course informs Shane and the other students that when comedy is at its best, it can be therapeutic.
Eileen, a cynical 20-something who is disillusioned and unsure of her future after returning to Belfast from London, is Shane’s cab driver each week. She is portrayed by Kerslake.
Both of them are quietly depressed, but as Eileen and Shane travel together the 25 miles each week between Ballywalter and Belfast, they learn more about one another and become closer.
Did you make anyone laugh, then? In an early journey, Eileen questions Shane.
“Not yet,” responds Shane.
Eileen challenges Shane about his decision to pursue comedy on a later trip.
“I don’t know. The top doctors advise that you challenge yourself, try something scary, dance like no one is watching, etc.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster program, Kielty called his young co-star “wonderful” and commended the “great cast.”
The first time I heard Seána’s Dublin accent was when we wrapped, which was extremely strange, he continued. “She never came out of character the whole time,” he remarked.
Seana is portraying a young woman from east Belfast who has fallen on hard times and who returns from London to find that her life is unraveling.
She ultimately takes the wheel of her boyfriend’s taxi and picks up my character, Shane, who is hiding out in Ballywalter and has a secret.
“And it’s sort of the story of two broken people who are hiding, and can they actually maybe help put each other back together when they are pushed together on a series of journeys?”
When compared to Shane, the aspiring stand-up comedian, Kielty’s character is significantly funnier, and he acknowledges that his co-star “steals the show.”
“I’m just glad to be Seána Kerslake’s wing man on this. This is her movie.” The political world is failing Northern Ireland.
According to Kielty, the relationship between Shane and Eileen revealed a lot about Northern Ireland to the US movie and television website Deadline.
He told Deadline, “There are many times when we haven’t been led and have had to lead ourselves.
The movie, which is about two people who are on their own and must fend for themselves, is mainly about whether they can overcome this.
People in Northern Ireland today are surviving thanks to their friendships and relationships, he continued.
They are shaping their destiny since no one is genuinely guiding them or supporting them, and the political system has failed them, he claimed.
The two people in this narrative, he continued, “really didn’t believe they were going to make it, but they found each other and realized that maybe they could.”
Kielty has produced several documentaries even though he is most recognized for his work as a comedian and presenter.
They include My Dad, the Peace Deal, and Me, which discusses the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement and his father’s 1988 murder by loyalist paramilitaries.
Stacey Gregg, a Belfast native who wrote the screenplay for the thriller Here Alone, garnered high praise for her work on Ballywalter.
She recalled that it was “very difficult for a long time as a screenwriter to develop material about Northern Ireland if it wasn’t directly about the Troubles.”
“Now that we are finally in a really exciting time, people are ready to hear more voices from a variety of backgrounds.”
Prasanna Puwanarajah makes his directing debut with this movie.
He is a writer and actor who has participated in several TV dramas. In The Crown’s upcoming Netflix series, he will play former BBC reporter Martin Bashir.
On Thursday, Ballywalter has its world debut at Belfast’s Cineworld.
From November 3 through November 12, there is a film festival in Belfast.