Aoibheann turns Meitheal work into an art form

Documentary maker and Meitheal volunteer Aoibheann O’Sullivan on a break from the rhodo clearance work with her hatchet close by

A SHORT documentary film highlighting the valuable work of the Killarney Mountain Meitheal will premiere at the Kerry International Film Festival on Sunday next.

The production, Hatchets & Hope, is the work of talented film-maker Aoibheann O’Sullivan who grew up in Zambia but her parents are both originally from Killarney.

Volunteers from the Killarney Mountain Meitheal out on location with their hatchets and spray cans

She has been based in Kenya before returning to Killarney in early 2020 and, finding herself in lockdown, she volunteered on the Killarney Mountain Meitheal during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her project will introduce the Meitheal which features an inter-generational group of volunteers who have hiked out on a weekly basis, for the past eight years, to protect some of Ireland’s last surviving woodland forests and rare ecosystems from the alarming spread of the invasive plant Rhododendron ponticum.

Despite its beautiful purple flower, the infestation of this strain of rhododendron is lethal to the local biodiversity.

Johnny McGuire and Rory O’Flaherty busy during the Meitheal

With the spectacular backdrop of the mountains of Kerry, the film shows the community working to eradicate the exotic plants and stop their advance and the story Aoibheann tells is about camaraderie, commitment and the astounding results a small group of passionate nature lovers have achieved.
While hacking back the invasive plant on location in the mountains of Killarney, Aoibheann started sketching the idea for this film, working closely with local cinematographers Michael Kelly and George Doyle with the exquisite music of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett offers a fitting musical accompaniment.

The five-minute film, supported by EU LEADER funds through South Kerry Development Partnership, will premiere at the Killarney Cinema, this Sunday at 4.30pm as part of the festival’s Kerry Connection selection of short films.
Alternatively, the film will be available to be watched and shared online next Sunday at 5.00pm at https://www.hatchetsandhopethefilm.com/the-film.