“I’m 12. I don’t know what my career will be” – Catherine Clinch, star of An Cailín Ciúin
Catherine Clinch, the 12-year-old star of An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), the first Irish-language film to play at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival, was expecting a few days of red carpets and rowdy premieres. This is not how things happened. She and her family traveled to the German capital. Then Covid raised its head. There has been some confusion with an initial positive result. Confirmation came quickly.
“My mom and I were running around trying to find a test,” she says. “Eventually we found a place and this one was positive. So we didn’t end up going to the festival or anything. We ended up isolating ourselves.
His first experience of a major film festival was therefore room service in a Berlin hotel? “They didn’t even have room service,” said Tom Clinch, her father, with a tolerant laugh.
Colm Bairéad’s excellent film, which opens the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on Wednesday, tells the story of a young girl who learns vital life lessons while spending a summer in the countryside with relatives. Tensions eventually open up to reveal the darkest of secrets. According to a news from Claire Keegan, the film had already attracted attention by obtaining its place in one of the “three big” European festivals (Cannes and Venice complete the winning trio). A triumphal premiere followed.
An Cailín Ciúin won the Generation Kplus international jury grand prize and received a special mention from the children’s jury.
Educated at Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh, Catherine Clinch has show business blood in her veins. Her mother is internationally successful singer Méav Ní Mhaolchatha – identified as simply “Méav” on her album covers – but the lead role came as a surprise nonetheless.
“I had musical theater lessons and other stuff,” she says from her isolation in Berlin. “But I’ve never been into anything like this before. I go to an Irish language school. They sent things to all the children attending an Irish language school to find someone fluent in Irish. During my audition, because of the Covid, it was recorded at home. And then we sent it to them. It was very close to the start of Covid when they were doing the audition.
She then did an audition in person. His parents then heard the good news.
“They discovered it before me obviously,” she says. “When we found out we were about to go on holiday to Cork. They sat me down and told me I got the part. I was very excited.
Produced for Cine4, an Irish-language partnership between Screen Ireland, TG4 and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, An Cailín Ciúin combines beautiful, smooth cinematography with superb performances from Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett. The budget wasn’t huge, but the first encounter with a professional film set is always a shock. The noise. The people. The endless wait.
“To be honest, I really didn’t know anything,” says Catherine Clinch. “It was actually a lot harder than expected. I spent my whole day there. I missed six weeks of school. I had a tutor, but I didn’t manage to do much work because I was in most of the scenes. I was basically working all the time. I didn’t expect that. I knew it would be hard, but I think it was a lot harder than I expected. was waiting.
And all of this was happening under Covid restrictions. Nell Roddy, co-founder of Break Out Pictures, the film’s Irish distributors, tells us that An Cailín Ciúin will hit commercial cinemas “later this year”. It now moves on to its privileged position as the opening title of the 20th Dublin International Film Festival and then the busy Glasgow Film Festival. Other festival slots are expected to follow. These premieres are always major events, but special attention is given to the first night. What does Catherine Clinch expect from Dublin’s red carpet shenanigans?
“Yeah, I’m pretty excited. Obviously, I would have been better prepared,” she says, reflecting on her failure to make it to the Berlin premiere. “I have never attended a red carpet event before. It was supposed to be here, but I couldn’t go. So it’s even more important now. It’s the only chance I’ll have because I missed the other one.
It’s a great first cinematic performance from Catherine Clinch. The entire film revolves around her, and she maintains a singular focus throughout. Still, it seems like the opportunity came out of nowhere. Does she have any plans for action in the future? Could she make a career out of it? Is that an unfair question to ask someone so young?
“I mean . . . hopefully,” she says with impressive calm. “Obviously, I’m 12, so I don’t really know what my career will be. But I would enjoy it.
An Cailín Ciúin opens the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on Wednesday 23 February