Alison Millar: At Home with the Clearys

I am in Ireland, in Galway, for the workshop DOCURegio, where a dozen of documentary projects from regions of Europe are to be discussed and adviced on further development. I take the opportunity to watch a film that I was given by the director. The festival version of an hour long sensational film about the late priest, Michael Cleary, who was loved by everyone but after his death publicly condemned for his secret: a child he had with his housekeeper. The film was on NI BBC a couple of weeks ago in an hour version – before it had been on RTE in a 90 minutes v. ”My” version should have been 72 mins. But the disc turned out to be damaged so I missed the last 15 minutes.

So instead of a review I give the floor to the director Alison Millar to present her very interesting and honest film, winner of 2008 Irish Film & Television Award for Best Single Documentary:

”I first met Michael Cleary at an Irish cabaret show… in 1991. I was a 22 year old documentary film student at the National Film and Television School in London, looking for a film subject. There he was on stage, all 6ft 4″ of him, swinging the microphone around in the air. His voice weak, croaky and way out of tune as he belted out songs…

Over the next year, I moved into Father Cleary’s house and started filming him. He gave me incredible access to both his public and his private life. He lived with his housekeeper, Phyllis and her son Ross. At no time did it occur to me that Ross was his son and Phyllis his lover.”

After the death of Cleary, Alison Millar sets out to use her material to show to Ross, the son and to the sister and so on. That is the present layer of the film with the 15 year old material as the past, a scoop that she has that.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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