Special Belfast screening for new documentary on 'people's priest' Fr Des Wilson

Actor Stephen Rea with the late Fr Des Wilson

DOCS Ireland will host a special screening of new documentary Fr Des – The Way He Saw It in Belfast tomorrow evening.

Screening in partnership with Féile an Phobail, director Vincent Kinnaird's documentary focuses on the life of highly respected west Belfast priest, the late Father Des Wilson. Narrated by Belfast acting legend Stephen Rea, the film looks at the pioneering work of Fr Des in community, education and peace-making.

Affectionately known as "the people's priest", Fr Des spent his life helping those in need, particularly during the Troubles. He criticised the authorities for perpetrating a sectarian state and placed his focus on building community relations.

Fr Des spoke with and encouraged discussion with loyalist and republican working-class groups for decades and opposed the leadership of his Church for not speaking out against bad decisions in government. His disagreements with the then Bishop, Dr Philbin, led to his being ostracised from the Church.

Fr Des continued to advocate for justice and against inequality until the end of his life in November 2019.

"It's an honour to be able to document the life of Fr Des Wilson," says Vincent Kinnaird.

"His incisive, well-informed, no-nonsense, humanitarian approach and perspective need to be heard, particularly today. He was an extraordinary man in extraordinary times and his words and lessons still resonate.

"The support I have received from Springhill Community House, Docs Ireland, Fine Point Films and many other individuals and organisations has been invaluable throughout the process of creating this documentary."

In the documentary, Fr Des' story is primarily recounted in his own words, featuring interviews recorded with him between 2011 and 2018 alongside earlier footage. The film also includes contributions from Stephen Rea, Rev Brian Smeaton, Church of Ireland minister on the Shankill road in 1969, Eilish Rooney, senior figure in the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University and Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, civil rights activist and former MP.

"Wherever possible we strive to give indigenous talent, both in front of and behind the camera, the opportunity to showcase their work," says Michele Devlin, director of the Belfast Film Festival.

"Fr Des – The Way He Saw It, is an important piece of our recent history which has been captured by this director. His vision, and that of the talented documentary sector we have here, will ensure we keep telling true stories about people like Fr Des who have enriched our society."

Kevin Gamble, Director of Féile an Phobail says: "Fr Des – The Way He Saw It showcases what Féile is all about. Celebrating remarkable individuals and the very best of our communities. It is a brilliant documentary on the life of an extraordinary humanitarian."

:: This special screening of Fr Des – The Way He Saw It will take place on August 12 at Odeon Belfast, 7pm. Visit for tickets and for more info on this year's Docs Ireland programme.

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