Meet the team behind the queer Irish film 'Who We Love'

The feature film, based on the multi-award winning short film 'Lily', recently earned six IFTA nominations.

Still from the film Who We Love. The image shows the character of Lily in the main frame. She is looking intensely into the eyes of another woman who's facing away from camera to the right of the shot. The room is lit in pink and purple light.
Image: @wwlfeature

Ahead of the IFTA awards, which will be announced on Saturday, March 12, we got to chat with the amazing team behind Who We Love, the queer Irish film that’s raking in the nominations.

Specifically, the film has garnered an impressive six nominations, for Best Film, Best Director (film), Best Script (film), Best Supporting Actress (film), Best Supporting Actor (film) and Best Score.

GCN got to sit down with Katie McNeice, who co-wrote the film; Graham Cantwell, writer and director, and Dean Quinn, who plays the role of Simon, one of two best friends who “navigate the troubled waters of school life and explore Dublin’s vibrant and sometimes dark LGBTQ+ scene.”

“I think the Galway Film Fleadh captured it nicely in the lead-up to the World Premiere last year when they said it’s ‘a moving and funny story of coming of age and coming out’,” McNeice tells us of the film.

“What I love about it is how many other layers there are. You’ve got kids dealing with unaccepting or emotionally unavailable parents, the volatile social landscape of school, and glimpses into the darker underbelly of the scene in Dublin. Some of the older characters in Who We Love also touch on themes of parenthood in the LGBT community and hint at the fighting the previous generations have done and continue to do.”

“Back in 2016 I wrote and directed a short film called LILY that tackled homophobic bullying among teenage girls,” Cantwell tells us about the origins of Who We Love.

“Myself, Clara (who plays Lily) and Amy-Joyce Hastings (who plays Oonagh) got a chance to speak to a group of school kids after they had seen the film. They spoke eloquently and emotionally about the effect the film had had on them, both in terms of the bullying content and the questions it raised about sexual identity and self-belief. It was a transformative experience, and I thought that if a short film can have such a profound impact, imagine what we could do with a feature film. When we got home from the trip, I immediately started work on the script.”

“Graham reached out to me on Facebook way back in 2018, totally informally,” McNeice says of how the pair joined forces to write the multi-award nominated feature. “He said he was working on a feature film that featured LGBTQ+ characters and that he’d love a couple of samples of my writing.”

“…You’ve got this established filmmaker holding his script out to me with one hand and taking criticism back in the other,” she continues. “He wanted to listen to me. It was important to him that the film rang true with LGBTQ+ audiences and that was more important than having one hundred per cent authority over the script. He wanted a real collaborator who would offer their ideas, fight hard for them and critique his own. How many cis white men in the film industry would do that, and with a young inexperienced queer writer, no less?”

We asked what it meant to the team to be nominated for so many awards.

“It’s such an achievement for the entire Who We Love team for all the hard work and love put into this film,” said Dean Quinn, lead actor. “I’m so proud of our entire tribe. I’m so honoured and grateful to have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Film by IFTA. Especially to be in a category with such phenomenal Irish talent.”

“It’s so important for me to see an LGBTQ+ story on the big screen,” he adds. “I remember finding my own two feet in the community and with my sexuality when I was a young teen and as a big film buff, it was quite annoying that there were very little to no LGBTQ+ movies that could have really helped me…  The community has been such a family to me and it really feels like an achievement for us all that an LGBTQ+ story is up there and there is finally representation on the big screen. There are so many stories to be told from our community so this is a big ‘Yaassss Queen’ for us all.”

“However things pan out, our hope is that we get the film in front of as many young people who may be struggling with their sexuality or identity as possible, as well as parents and guardians of these young people,” said Cantwell on his hopes for the film.  “If we can help form a bridge or just start a conversation that leads to even a small change for the better then we’ll have done our job.”

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