The Irish director and screenwriter Terry George, known for powerful films like “Hotel Rwanda” and “In the Name of the Father,” co-written with and directed by Jim Sheridan, has been a recurring presence at the Hamptons International Film Festival since his directorial debut, “Some Mother’s Son,” opened the festival in 1996. This year, Mr. George, who has a house in Noyac, is back with his first short film, “The Shore.”
“It’s a great festival, one that clearly is accessible to the local community, a people’s festival, yet it’s able to attract the cream of the independent film industry,” Mr. George said by e-mail last week from London, where he was finishing up post-production on “Whole Lotta Sole,” starring Colm Meaney and Brendan Fraser. “I try to get involved whenever I’m actually back in Sag in the fall.”
Mr. George brought “Hotel Rwanda” here in 2004. He has since served as a juror for the festival’s Films of Conflict and Resolution competition, dealing with issues and areas of turmoil around the world, and is on the Conflict and Resolution Advisory Board.
Outside of the film world, Mr. George has been heavily involved in issues of conflict resolution, particularly on the African continent through the aid organization Concern Worldwide, which also works in Haiti and the Far East. “I try to do what I can to help.”
But with themes of personal and political conflict running throughout his films, “The Shore,” which he produced with his daughter, Oorlagh George, is a more lighthearted piece — the story of two friends who went their separate ways as the problems in Northern Ireland escalated and who meet again 25 years later, both mistaken about the cause of their long estrangement. Set against the backdrop of County Down on the Northern Irish coast, where Mr. George spent childhood summers and still has a house, “The Shore” has some fabulous comedic moments, but to say too much could give it all away — it’s only 29 minutes long, after all.
“It’s based on an incident that happened to my uncle years ago. He actually told it to Daniel Day-Lewis and me when we were researching ‘In the Name of the Father,’ and for 16 years I tried to figure out how to shoehorn it into a feature story. Then last year, after doing a lot of Hollywood work and needing a break from that grind, I talked to Oorlagh and said, To hell with it — let’s make ‘The Shore.’ ” His daughter, he said, is “his chief critic and reality check.” She has worked as Clive Owen’s assistant, for an independent film company in Los Angeles, and as a personal assistant on Spike Lee’s film “Inside Man.”
“I can confidently say that she will always give me the hard truth about a script, a cut of a film, or an idea. She pulls no punches, something you really need in this business, as sycophancy and collective delusion are serious problems. She is also a dynamic and relentless producer and turned ‘The Shore’ from my idea — a tiny little shoot where a couple of us would wander out and film — into a fully fledged and efficient film production.”
The film stars Ciaran Hinds, Conleth Hill, Carry Condon, and Maggie Cronin, who also appears in Mr. George’s upcoming “Whole Lotta Sole.” His sister, Catherine George, did the costume design. (She was also costume designer for Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” one of the festival’s Spotlight Films.)
Though the premise and certainly the actors involved could have carried a feature-length movie, Mr. George said “The Shore” “holds together beautifully as a self-contained story, and it really showcases this beautiful region of Ireland which is well off the tourist trail. . . . My house in Ireland looks out on the bay, so we’d wander out each day and begin filming. It was the most enjoyable experience of my whole film career, and I think that comes across on screen.”
Working on a short film, he said, he found “a purity and a clarity . . . that you’re often denied” in feature-length projects. “You have to get to the point both visually and in story terms and capture the essence of what you’re trying to say.”
There’s a larger audience for short films than ever before, thanks in part to the Internet — Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes, among others, are giving shorts a lot of play beyond the festival circuit. Mr. George hopes to see “The Shore” released on Irish and British television around Christmas, and it has also been submitted for Oscar consideration.
If it makes the cut, it won’t be the first time Mr. George has been in the running for an Oscar. He and his co-writer Keir Pearson were nominated for best original screenplay for “Hotel Rwanda,” and he shared the nomination with Jim Sheridan for best screenplay adaptation for “In the Name of the Father.” Mr. George and Mr. Sheridan also co-wrote “The Boxer,” which Mr. Sheridan directed, and “Some Mother’s Son.”
Although some of his previous films have been set in his native Northern Ireland, “The Shore” marked the first time that Mr. George had actually shot a film there. Last spring, he returned to Northern Ireland to shoot “Whole Lotta Sole,” which he described as “a black comedy, with the underlying theme of Belfast after the Troubles — a new city with a new police force dealing with some old bad habits — and into this environment wanders a mysterious American.” The “sole” in the title refers to a fish market robbery that is the catalyst for the story, Mr. George explained. “It was great to be there working on a full-length feature.”
While Mr. George is ever busy, the tough economic times in recent years have created a less hospitable climate for financing the kind of films he likes to make. “It’s been very hard, particularly since Hollywood has decided to go almost exclusively for remakes or ‘brand name’ films — superheroes, board games, etc. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been working more in Europe over the last year.”
In fact, he hasn’t been back to his house in Noyac for almost a year, “and frankly, I can’t wait,” he said. “I love the fall there, the harvest, the fishing. . . .” He considers Sag Harbor his “home in America, but as I say to friends, ‘My clothes live there and I visit them occasionally.’ ”
“The Shore” will be shown in East Hampton on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and Monday at 6:30 p.m. as part of the East End Shorts program.