AN Irish filmmaker has spoken of the similarities between Ireland and Scotland as she saw in the world premiere of her new movie at the Glasgow Film Festival.

Claire Dix, director of Sunlight, spoke with The National about her latest film – which focuses on a recovering addict spending one last day of fun with his mentor Iver, who has opted for assisted suicide.

It might seem like a heavy topic, but Dix wanted to ensure that it felt more like a “comedy-drama” than “social realism” during filming.

The film was penned by a former collaborator, Ailbhe Keogan, who Dix previously worked with on a short film about the relationship between a husband and wife when one of them is facing Alzheimer’s.

The National: Barry Ward (left) on the set of Sunlight with Claire Dix (centre)Barry Ward (left) on the set of Sunlight with Claire Dix (centre) (Image: Sunlight)

“Anything Ailbhe has written, if I’m asked to direct it then I say yes without even reading it. I had faith that we could do this together”, said Dix.

The film’s lead actor Barry Ward has also worked with the pair before and spoke of how this made life a lot easier.

He said: “It’s hard to pinpoint the how or why but I guess there is a shorthand and less need for niceties, you just get on with the work. There must be some emotional contribution as well.”

Preparing for a role in which he plays a recovering addict naturally required a bit of research and Ward pinpointed a book by Rachael Keogh titled Dying To Survive, which details the author’s own experiences with addiction.

Ward explained: “It was a harrowing account and when I mentioned it to Claire she had actually already talked to her.

“A lot of what I did was create a backstory which you don’t really see in the film.”

Dix added: “She (Keogh) read the script because we wanted to ask if it felt right. It’s a comedy-drama so we didn’t want it to be social realism but we did want to know if it was insulting anyone or going way off the mark.

“In an early draft, there was some backstory but we thought it was too dark. You were kind of given snippets. All of the film except the very last scene is set in one day and we wanted to keep it that way.”

Striking that balance between a serious topic and a light-hearted comedy might seem a difficult one although Dix explained that it wasn’t something she always had her mind on.

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“I think everyone around me was worried about tone but I thought we know what we’re doing and I know my collaborators so well.

“I knew what Barry could bring to the character, he can do so much without saying anything. I think if you were too worried you’d never get it made, you’d be too afraid to say or do something wrong.

“It’s only now that people are asking me about this question but I just don’t think it came to me.”

The film also features Scottish actor Maureen Beattie although she was unable to attend the premiere.

Sunlight comes at a good time for Irish film, with actors Paul Mescal, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson all up for Academy Awards as well as the Irish-language film The Quiet Girl.

It’s a country that’s always had great artists, but why the sudden explosion of interest?

“When I started you could count on one hand those making films in America, it was like Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson, said Ward.

He continued: “We’ve always been famous for literature more than anything, we’ve always been seen as a nation that punches way above its weight, relative to its size we’ve had phenomenal international success.

“Thousands of kids are seeing these people do well so suddenly it’s a reality. I shared an agent with Colin Farrell which opened up a lot of doors because people were coming and asking who else they’ve got which has a palpable effect.”

Dix meanwhile pointed to the abundance of film schools in Ireland which is helping to produce a wide range of talent.

Ward and his director also love it in Glasgow with the former explaining he played a football tournament here when he was younger.

"It's great to be here", he said. 

Dix added: “It (Glasgow) is an amazing place to have this because we have a Scottish actor as one of our leads. I think there’s a real affinity between Scotland and Ireland so it’s a great place.”