– Set to be presented at the Berlinale Co-Production Market, the drama, now in development, follows a profoundly deaf teenager who endures the horrors of an industrial school in 1950s Ireland

EXCLUSIVE: Feline Films producer Jessie Fisk reveals details about Eóin Heaney’s My Hands

Director Eóin Heaney

One of the projects set to be presented at this year’s European Film Market (see the news) is Eóin Heaney’s My Hands, currently in development and based on an idea by the helmer himself and Nora Windeck.

The Dublin-based director’s previous projects received the support of the Arts Council of Ireland, Screen Ireland and Germany’s FFF Bayern. Heaney’s prior work has examined the traumatic aftermath of home foreclosures in Foreclosed (2010), the vigorous photography of Eadweard Muybridge in Turning (2014) and, most recently, the legacy of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in his award-winning short Spirit Level (2021), an adaptation of Seamus Heaney’s Mycenae Lookout. Moreover, the filmmaker’s latest effort M / S explores illness and care, drawing on his 17 years of experience as the primary carer for his mother.

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The story of My Hands, penned by Heaney himself, revolves around 17-year-old Louise, a profoundly deaf teenager who endures the horrors of an industrial school for young deaf women in 1950s Ireland. She communicates entirely through sign language, and whilst Louise is considered a lost cause by the nuns and priests, she is also a local celebrity: she is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. In Irish folklore, it is said that such a person can cure illnesses with the touch of her hand. Louise’s power first came to light when she inadvertently cured a nun who had suffered a stroke. People now come to Louise in droves, or she is brought to them. Although these healing sessions yield mixed results, the community’s religious beliefs only intensify.

Louise can cure everything from strokes to blindness and arthritis, but her friends in the institution are frustrated when she cannot cure their deafness. Legend states that a healer cannot take payment, and so the clergy of the school retain the donations. However, Louise has bargained for a different type of payment: access to her two-year-old son, who is not allowed to live with her at the home, and for whom she would give everything. The girl has no support for her son within or outside of the school, and both her family and the father are complicit with the clergy’s actions. Eventually, Louise’s suppressed indignation erupts, and she has a physical altercation with the nun whom she had previously healed. At the touch of Louise’s hand, the nun suffers another stroke and drops dead. Louise’s benevolent gift is immediately thrown into doubt, and both the nuns and the other deaf girls begin to suspect whether the girl also has the power to harm.

The project is set to enter production in Ireland over the course of Q1 2025. It will be filmed in English and Irish Sign Language.

Budgeted at €2.5 million, My Hands is being produced by Dublin-based Feline Films, with backing from Screen Ireland. Next month, producer Jessie Fisk (Wolf, Shadows [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlo Lavagna
film profile
]
, Song of Granite [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
) will present the project to potential partners during the days of the Berlinale Co-Production Market (17-21 February). She told Cineuropa: “We are thrilled to present My Hands at the Berlinale Co-Production Market. Eóin and I have dedicated many years to the development of this project, taking it through numerous iterations to bring his compelling vision for this important and immersive film to life.

My Hands provides a voice for those who have been silenced, offering an innovative and ambitious storytelling approach to engage a global audience. We eagerly anticipate partnering with like-minded individuals who share our vision and passion to bring this film to the screen.”

Currently, all rights are available. 

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