Patrick McCormack is a man with a deep love and sense of connection to the land he calls home, a tranquil and secluded corner of rural Ireland in The Burren, in county Clare. He is a farmer, a poet and a fighter. He represents a dying a breed of the most noble of us, a man who is willing to stand up for a cause close to his heart, in spite of mounting pressure to throw in the towel. The Silver Branch is a look at the world through his eyes and it is director Katrina Costello’s telling of his tale, with the help of his family and friends.
Hoping to farm the land in the way his ancestors did before him and just make a peaceful life, Patrick McCormack found himself, along with six others, taking on the government over the planning of an interpretive centre that would have seen an influx of tourists and major infrastructure changes to the land that they believed should be protected. It was a fight that cost friendships and threatened to tear apart a community. It was a fight that ended up in one of the highest courts in the country, after a battle that lasted the better part of a decade.
Though it is her first feature documentary, Costello’s assuredness behind the camera would convince otherwise. From spectacular imagery of indigenous wildlife to ponderous shots of the ragged landscape, it’s hard to overstate how good this film looks. Using natural light and working intimately with some of the people who inhabit the area, The Burren looks almost alien in it’s beauty and wonder. It helps too that as a narrator Patrick McCormack has an inherent knack for storytelling and his gravelly tones lend some reflection to quieter moments of Costello’s cinematography.
The Silver Branch is an uplifting look at rural life, but there are moments of sadness and melancholy woven into the narrative. Rather than stain the story though, these help to tie it all together as a reflective drama on character and soul and how we are connected to the places each of us call home.
The story of Patrick McCormack, The Burren Action Group and their legal quarrel with the government over an interpretive centre is not a vital one. The life of Patrick McCormack , and how he chose to fight for something he passionately believed in though is. The Silver Branch is his story, in his words and men like Patrick McCormack could have no more fitting tribute.