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Blue Dawn: An ode to love and family


- Nadj Foley's debut feature, screening at IndieCork, portrays the life of a young Irish veteran after the war in Afghanistan

Blue Dawn: An ode to love and family
Fiach Kunz in Blue Dawn

Presented by the festival director, Mick Hannigan, and young filmmaker Nadj Foley, the independent Irish feature Blue Dawn [+see also:
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 was successfully premiered on 10 October at the historic Gate Cinema in Cork, where it unspooled on the third day of the IndieCork Film Festival.

Produced by True Eye Productions on an incredibly tight budget of €4,000, Blue Dawn tells the story of Aaron (Fiach Kunz), who returns home to County Wicklow after serving in the army in Afghanistan. Upon coming home, Aaron starts to discover the effects that the cruelty of war has had on both him and his family. He lives with his mother Mary (Rosemary Keogh), his brother Stephen (Kyle Hixon) and his father Seamus (Degnan Geraghty).

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The film opens with the return of Aaron to a very peaceful and familiar atmosphere, typical of rural Ireland, where every day is inevitably interspersed with random chats with a couple of acquaintances, hot meals, gardening, long walks and pints of stout at the nearest pub. This atmosphere is ever present throughout the movie, but it is occasionally interrupted by more reflective, poetic and slow-paced sequences. During these scenes, there is no dialogue, and the main plot twists come about because of the characters' actions.

The performance by lead actor Fiach Kunz is convincing and gradually wraps the viewer up in the storyline by disclosing significant details about his past and his darkest moments in Afghanistan. The narration mainly focuses on his family, and the story’s central themes are lack of communication, masculinity and filial love. In Blue Dawn, friends and acquaintances do not seem to play an influential role in the characters' development. They have always been there and always will be, immutable and predictable. Paradoxically, their presence increases the feeling of isolation and powerlessness that dominates the whole family. The only weak relationship that Aaron is trying to kindle outside of his family is the one with Aoife (Jordan Coombes), whom he meets at one of his usual hangouts. They are both trying to escape the demons of their past and are desperately looking for inner peace.

Geragthy offers an impressive interpretation of the head of the family, an avid fan of poetry and boating. He recently starred in the TV series Vikings and The Man Who Invented Christmas, portraying two supporting roles. In Blue Dawn, his acting is powerful both on and off screen, as part of his role is based on voice-over readings. Also noteworthy is the work of Kyle Hixon, who is able to imbue the character of Stephen, Aaron’s brother and a troubled college boy, with just the right depth.

The film has been very well received by viewers, and at the premiere, Foley explained that the production of Blue Dawn had been extremely arduous and took nearly three years, two of which were spent on the editing alone. His hard work is plain to see on screen, but the movie would have benefited from a faster pace in the first half, especially in terms of the editing and storytelling. 

Overall, the debut film by this 24-year-old auteur bodes well for the future, and the final result is commendable. Thisis a moving film whose strongest features are its excellent acting, script and soundtrack. 

Blue Dawn is an Irish production by True Eye Productions, which is also in charge of its local distribution.

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