Darragh O’Connor catches up with director James Kelly of Fennish Productions to talk about his Jameson Dublin International Film Festival offering Fionnuala: Small Puppet on a Big Journey

‘There are many voices that need be heard, troche many stories which need be told. Film can transform the world around us’ – this is the ethos at Fennish productions. This independent production company has produced a wealth of material with a heavy focus on the art of cinema and storytelling. James Kelly has been seeking these stories out and making films to entertain and illuminate since 2000. With a background rooted in the arts, advice there is a distinct visual style to his documentaries.

“What I like about the documentary style is that you get to be inquisitive…you get to look at how people live their lives. And then, you have to come back with a story that is interesting for a wider audience.” Kelly continues, “there are a lot of interesting stories out there. I want to focus on stories that aren’t told yet.”

One of these films is the touching documentary, Fionnuala: Small Puppet on a Big Journey. This 25 minute piece follows Fionnuala, a small wooden puppet, and her makers (the Galway based puppetry group Branar) on a journey from Barna, Co. Galway to Cologne for a performance of their Irish language version of The Children of Lir. Fionnuala is a touching exploration of the art of puppetry and the skill and craftsmanship that goes into a show.

This piece will be shown later in the year on TG4, but has uniquely made the jump to the big screen, “TG4 are more open with the way the stories are told, they realise the challenge that is involved with telling a story through Irish, and they give you free reign.”

Kelly explained that are many stories waiting to be told in from the arts in Ireland, and that he was drawn to this one in particular.” This is a story about the experience of the little puppet herself, Fionnuala, [and] this was a chance to tell the story from her perspective.”

In terms of the film, “we took her around Cologne and filmed it. We wanted to show Fionnuala having her own tourist experience as an aside to the show itself.” He discussed the interesting title of the film, “it is a big journey for her and for Branar. In a way, Fionnuala’s success is their success. She really brings the many narrative strands together in the film.”

Kelly spoke about his hopes for the Jameson Film Festival and for the film’s life in other festivals. “It is great that we are a part of this year’s line up. A lot of stuff that is made for television doesn’t get screened anywhere else. We hope that this will be also seen in a few festivals around the world. That will deem it a success for us.” Finally he added that, “it is a niche film, but I am surprised that Irish is not used in more films. It provides a certain interest factor.”


Fionnuala: Small Puppet on a Big Journey showing in the Cineworld cinema on Saturday 23rd February 2013 at 13:00. Director James Kelly will attend the screening. The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs from 14th – 24th February 2013. There is a 10% discount for Students, Unwaged and OAPs.