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Available March 1, 2006 from APT

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…BALLYCASTLE to premiere in March on public television stations…

BALLYCASTLE, a new half-hour documentary premiering on public television stations in March 2006, tells the story of Stuart Shils, a noted Philadelphia-based artist of Jewish heritage, whose life and work has been forever changed by his encounter with the remote Irish village Ballycastle.

A resident of Manayunk -- an old industrial section of Philadelphia -- Shils' early paintings captured the light, color and rough texture of neighborhood streetscapes. Nearly ten years ago, he received an unexpected call from a village on Ireland's remote North Mayo coast inviting him to visit and paint for as long as he would like to stay. Initially skeptical, Shils researched the offer, and decided to travel to Ballycastle.

He has never been the same. Beyond the enormous impact of the experience on his art, his time in Ireland has also deepened his appreciation of the links between the Irish and Jewish experience.

BALLYCASTLE tells the story of Shils' relationship with this Irish village. Moving between the starkly contrasting landscapes of Philadelphia and Ireland, the documentary introduces viewers to the village's exquisite light, dramatic scenery and fierce, ever-changing weather. The stunning atmosphere attracts an increasing number of internationally recognized artists who live and work under the auspices of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, a model for arts-led community development founded by Philadelphia-based art dealers Peter Maxwell and Margo Dolan. Shils' passionate, colorful and often amusing reflections form a diary of sensations about Ballycastle. Drawn from in-depth interviews, his words provide the primary narrative structure through which we discover the effect of the village on the artist. In turn, several villagers are introduced to provide commentary on the effect of the artists on the village.

The story is approached from the visual and aural perspective of the artist. An exhibit of Shils' Irish work at the Philadelphia Art Alliance provides the story's structure. Scenes in urban Philadelphia of Shils preparing for his exhibition trigger memories of the village, which transport viewers to the dramatic, moody atmosphere of Ballycastle. The shooting and editing style contrast the slow pace of Irish village life with the quicker pace of the Philadelphia environments frequented by Shils. Inspired by what Shils listens to while in Ballycastle, the music is a mix of traditional Irish pipes, spiritually evocative choral music and Beethoven -- whose dark passages capture the range of mood Shils has encountered in the village.

BALLYCASTLE won a 2004 CINE Golden Eagle Award and First Place for Documentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Philadelphia Chapter. It is being distributed nationally by American Public Television and WHYY in Philadelphia.

BALLYCASTLE is a production of Shirley Road Productions, Narberth, Pennsylvania, and was produced and directed by Frances McElroy. It was edited by Ann Tegnell. Videographers were Eric Sennhenn and Tom Gillern. Location sound recordist was David Rainey. Support is provided in part by WYBE's Philadelphia Stories series (The Philadelphia Foundation), the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the 5-County Arts Fund, Tourism Ireland, the Leeway and Claneil Foundations and the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick.


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