The Terence McDonald Collection
Terence McDonald was a teacher, film historian, film collector and pioneering amateur filmmaker. Born in the city of Derry in 1926, the films he made during his lifetime are diverse in genre and subject. They range from short comedies and experimental films to expository documentaries covering topics such as travelling and cross-community theatre, mental health services, and films which promoted Derry as a developing city looking hopefully to the future. His work includes personal projects and films commissioned or supported by a range of public bodies. Terence produced his films under the ‘Fairview Films’ banner, a title derived from the name of the family home in Rosemount Avenue, and somewhat intentionally misleading as he alone undertook all aspects of the work.
With a deep understanding of all aspects of production – his credits include cinematographer, editor, sound recordist, producer and director – along with a wide knowledge of cinema, McDonald created visually sophisticated and culturally rich work. His films, shot primarily on 16mm film, feature a variety of references and influences, from Battleship Potemkin to Peyton Place, Alfred Hitchcock and Jacques Tati to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. They also received widespread recognition with awards from the British Film Institute, the Munich Film Festival and the National Film Institute (now IFI) Annual Film Competition.
McDonald’s work has a notable sense of place. It not only represents the natural beauty of Northern Ireland but captures the various sides of his hometown of Derry through filmic portraits of the city, from the Georgian architecture and thrice–sieged city walls to the growing facilities and industries of the ‘60s. His two homages to the silent comedy era, The Fugitive and The Man from A.U.N.T., offered local audiences the opportunity to see their home on the big screen (perhaps for the first time) as the backdrop to slapstick capers making full use of the city’s walls and hilly streets.
McDonald had several frequent collaborators. Fellow Derry native and former schoolteacher, future Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume worked with McDonald on several projects promoting the region to potential donors and international tourists, starting with A City Solitary in 1963 and the subsequent The City of Londonderry and Two Hours from London, which all depict an optimism about the prospects for the divided city. Fr Cyril Farrell, prior of the Benburb monastery, was involved in several of McDonald’s more spiritual pieces, writing Christ-like fable The Secret as well as the cross-community play The Story of Man captured in the documentary Benburb. Another writer who penned several scripts for McDonald was Gerry Wills, who wrote McDonald’s internationally successful Nebelung, as well as lending his voice to narrate documentaries Ballinascreen and The Portable Theatre. Northern Irish folk singer Gemma Hasson features in the scores of The Stones Will Speak, Long Hard Road, The Secret and Requiem for Sally.
The Terence McDonald Collection is held and preserved by the IFI Irish Film Archive and these films are made available by the kind permission of Peter McDonald and Northern Ireland Screen.
Q&A with Peter McDonald, son of filmmaker Terence McDonald, hosted by Sunniva O’Flynn, IFI Head of Irish Film Programming, including discussion on the process of bringing the films into the IFI Irish Film Archive, and Terence McDonald’s filmmaking journey, across various themes and characteristics of his work.
A short documentary about Terence McDonald’s life and work is also available to view courtesy of NI Screen here.