Holy Island:

The drama ‘Holy Island’ by Irish filmmaker Robert Manson is being marketed by UCM.ONE on the Artkeim² label and will be released in German cinemas in May 2024.

Holy Island’ is about Rosa and David, two lost souls trying to escape a desolate town in purgatory. They must find a rare ticket and overcome their own personal problems.


David (40) is stuck in a run-down harbour town waiting for a boat to take him home. When all boats are cancelled indefinitely, he is left in a state of limbo. David doesn’t know what to do until he meets fellow traveller Rosa (31), who seems to know the inner workings of the city. The two are an unlikely pair: Rosa is exuberant and David is burnt out, but both want to leave the island and get back to their lives. Rosa doesn’t have a ticket for the boat, and she’s determined to find one before it leaves. Rosa leads David further into town and together they traverse this strange form of purgatory. They meet the islanders and piece together their past lives through shared conversations and memories. David is haunted by visions of his past, seeing people and places he thought he had lost.

When David is confronted with a different version of himself, he is forced to make a decision. With time running out to find a ticket, Rosa must face her own past before she can attempt to escape the island. Both David and Rosa must try to regain their souls piece by piece before the boat finally sets sail. In the end, only one of them can be saved.

Holy Island’ explores themes of death, loss, home, love, emigration, family, survival, redemption and loneliness.

Contemporary archetypes and stereotypes of Irishness and national identity are explored through intergenerational encounters within this story.

Original title: Holy Island

Written & directed by: Robert Manson

Actors: Jeanne Nicole Ní Áinle, Conor Madden, Dermot Murphy, Mark Doherty, Maria Oxley Boardman

Producer: Claire McCabe

Cinematograpy: Evan Barry

Editor: David Byrne

Sound: Dean Murray

Production companies: Samson Films & Ballyrogan Films

Year of production: 2021

Genre: Drama

Country: Ireland

Language: English

Subtitles: German (OmeU)


Length: 89 min

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Sound: Surround 5.1

Colour: black and white / colour

Raring: FSK 12 (requested)

Film label: Artkeim²

Distributor: UCM.ONE

Theatrical release: May 05, 2024

Director’s statement by Robert Manson on the film

‘The main role of David is played by two actors, an idea taken from Buneal’s “The Obscure Object of Desire”. The first half is played by one actor, a sombre and melancholy performance. Then there is a change and a younger actor takes over the role for the middle and later part of the film; this character is softer, more vulnerable and compassionate. The psychological change and development of the character of David is visually emphasised by this change of actor. The actors playing the role of David do not look identical, but they come from the same part of the world and have grown up similarly. This concept highlights an exploration of the concept of the duality of the self.’

The film’s aesthetic for the black and white, lifeless harbour city of ‘Limbo’ is an allusion to Michael Powell’s ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, in which the question is asked why the sky is black and white. The answer: because there is no life there. On the screen are predominantly 4K black and white images. In key sections of the film, flickering patches of colour are inserted to represent moments when the screen, the locations and the actors come alive and rich again. Super 8mm represents past memories in those healing moments when the characters close their eyes and their lives flash before them. These are not their lives or their direct memories, but the transplanted images of a collective consciousness. Super 8mm archive footage from my father’s archive was collected for these segments of the film. This bridges the visual gaps between the past, the present and the future. We shot sections on standard 16mm to connect all formats, 4K, 16mm and 8mm.”

About Robert Manos (Book & director)

Robert Manson (*1985) lives in Wicklow and Leipzig. He is the founder of Ballyrogan Films (2015). His feature film debut ‘Lost in the Living’ (developed by MEDIA funded ENGAGE) had its world premiere at the Achtung Berlin Film Festival in April 2015, where it was awarded Best Director. The film was later awarded Finishing Costs by the Irish Film Board and picked up by German distributor UCM.ONE. The film was released in cinemas in summer 2018 on the Darling Berlin label. ‘Holy Island’, Robert Manson‘s second feature film, was made as part of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Authored Works programme and had its world premiere at the 66th Cork Film Festival (2021). The film screened at festivals in India, Spain and the USA and was released in cinemas in Ireland in October 2022. ‘Into the Grey’ (part three of his Lost & Found trilogy) is currently in development.

The recently completed experimental documentary ‘Afternoon in June’ and the featurette ‘Summer and Winter’ will be shown at festivals in 2023.

About producer Claire McCabe

Producer Claire McCabe was selected for Screen International Stars of Tomorrow UK and Ireland 2023 and won an EDA for Best Emerging Producer 2023.

Most recently, she produced the TV pilot ‘Wrapped’ for Ireland’s national broadcaster.

She co-produced the IFTA-nominated and BAFTA-listed documentary ‘The Ghost of Richard Harris’, which had its world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival and was subsequently broadcast worldwide on Sky.

Her first feature film, ‘Holy Island’, premiered at the Cork International Film Festival and was subsequently released in cinemas. She has produced numerous short films which have been shown at festivals such as SXSW, Slamdance and Fantasia.

About David Collins (Executive Producer)

David Collins, Producer and Managing Director, is an active member of Screen Producers Ireland, the European Film Academy and ACE Producers. Notable previous feature film productions include the Oscar-winning musical ‘Once’ (2006) and ‘Eden’ (2007), for which Eileen Walsh won Best Actress at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

His TV productions include ‘Batchelor’s Walk’, ‘Pure Mule’, ‘Dan & Becs’ and most recently ‘The Truth Commissioner’ for the BBC. David Collins‘ most recent film productions include ‘The Ghost of Richard Harris’ (2022), which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and ‘My Sailor, My Love’, which had its world premiere at TIFF.

About Evan Barry (Cinematography)

Evan Barry is a Dublin-based cinematographer working in drama, feature film, music video and commercials. In 2001 he was nominated for the DIFF Young Talent Award, having won numerous awards for his short films in previous years. His feature film debut from 2022, ‘Holy Island’, was awarded Best Film at FICIMAD Madrid. He has completed two TV drama series such as the highly acclaimed ‘Vardy Vs Rooney: A Courtroom and Maxine’.

About Samson Films (Production company)

Samson Films is recognised as one of Ireland’s most successful and respected production companies, continually developing and producing talented and original films for the Irish, European and international markets. Recently, the feature film ‘Baltimore’, a thriller starring Imogen Poots and directed by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and later screened at the BFI London Film Festival. In 2022, the Irish-Finnish co-production ‘My Sailor My Love’, the English language debut of director Klaus Häro, had its world premiere at TIFF and the documentary ‘The Ghost of Richard Harris’, directed by Adrian Sibley for Sky Arts, had its world premiere at the Venice Biennale before being longlisted for Best Documentary at the BAFTA Film Awards. Samson Films has produced many of Ireland’s most important feature films over the last 30 years, including John Carney‘s “Once“, which won an Oscar for Best Song and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

About Ballyrogan Films (Production company)

Ballyrogan Films is an artist-run film production company based in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. The company was founded in 2015 by local director Robert Manson to produce his first feature film ‘Lost in the Living’, which was developed as part of MEDIA funded ENGAGE. ‘Holy Island’ is the second feature film to be produced in recent years. This Arts Council of Ireland funded Authored Works production had its world premiere at the 66th Cork Film Festival (2021). The film has screened at festivals in India, Spain and the USA and was released in Ireland in October 2022. The recently completed experimental documentary ‘Afternoon in June’ and the featurette ‘Summer and Winter’ will be screened at festivals in 2023.

Holy Island | Trailer (English) ᴴᴰ

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Comments on the film (selection)

It’s an experimental piece, drifting and dreamlike – though it refuses to say whether it’s a good dream or a bad one – shot in black and white, with little bursts of colour Super 8.’ (Peter Bradshaw, THE GUARDIAN) [October 10, 2022]

Robert Manson has created a powerful, compelling film with Holy Island. It is at once familiar and eerie. It is reminiscent of so many Irish films made before it, but is undoubtedly and decidedly unlike anything that has come before. It has avant-garde tendencies that have been under-utilised in Irish cinema. I have no doubt that this film will be well received internationally and I sincerely hope that domestic audiences will welcome it warmly as it marks an exciting shift in the direction of Irish film.’ (Rachel Gough, FILM Ireland Online) [December 16, 2021],

Holy Island is at its best when it indulges in absurdity and plays imaginatively with language. It’s a sometimes playful, sometimes twisted evocation of a culture with the gift of speech, and its verbal landscape is a potent purgatory for the uncommunicative David. Manson makes a contribution to the tradition of language as a site of modern adventurism and satire, which in Ireland stretches back to Joyce and O’Brien.’ (Ruairí McCann, British Film Institute) [November 02, 2022]


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