Faith brings healing in 'Miraculous Tales'

Feb 27, 2014

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Fest.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

Films and filmmakers from around the world are converging in mid-Missouri this weekend for the annual True/False Film Fest.

In “Miraculous Tales,” we turn our attention to Ireland. The film lives up to its name – it’s rich with stories about folk healing and faith healing. There are ancient cures from the lore of years gone by, a priest people flock to for prayers, a passionate preacher, and an old man who experiences his own miraculous moment.

I spoke on the phone with director Daniel Vernon from his home in Brighton, England, the week before the festival. This will be his second time having a film shown at True/False.

How did you get the idea for this film?

I was interested in making a film about farmers’ connection to their land – a sort of spiritual connection, one that maybe was slightly different than a religious connection with the land. Something that was particular to the farming community, which is quite earthy, quite pagan in a way. And I was searching for it, and I wondered if it was just a needle in the haystack because it was more of a concept than something I’d actually come across.

So I went to Ireland, and I spent about two months going up and down the northern Irish border, meeting farmers and sort of talking about this connection they had.

But still, after a month or so, I hadn’t quite found what I was looking for. But then, it was actually a farmer’s wife I met, who – she suddenly dashed out of the house after a phone call. And I said to the farmer I was drinking tea with, I said, “Where is she off to, your wife?”

And he said, “Oh, she’s got to go and stop some bleeding.”

And I was like, oh, OK, “What, is she a nurse?”

“No, no, she’s not a nurse, no not at all.”

I said, “OK, well why is she doing this? Stopping this bleeding?”

And he said, “Oh, she has the cure.”

And that’s when I first heard about the cure. And the cure is essentially – you may have heard about the charm or the gift – it’s a way of healing people that goes back, actually pre-dates Christianity, some call it a pagan belief system. And it’s essentially a prayer – sometimes people use props as well. They are people that have powers, I guess, to fix things.

Why do you think this story is so important to tell?

Well, I mean, I guess this is a disappearing world. It seems that people with problems and ailments, the obvious answer now is pills or modern medicine, and you know, over there – I mean I’m not saying they don’t use modern medicine over there – but people tend to look for other ways of healing. And you know the other thing is that sometimes those doctors and pills and whatever – they can’t fix things.

So, what do you do, when you’re in that position? Even if you didn’t believe in something to begin with, you’re open to everything.

To be honest, it’s the first time I’ve seen true altruism in ordinary people. I mean, you see it all the time in charity groups and organizations, but to have ordinary people who have full time jobs – you know, they’re farmers, they’re 80-year-old farmers, or they’re teachers, who rake time out to help a stranger, I thought was quite a beautiful thing in this day and age.

What do you hope the audience gets from this film?

I hope they just enjoy peeking into a different world, really, as I did.

What’s your background, spiritually speaking?

I’ve always kept a corner of my mind open to something, which I think is, to me, it feels the only way to live – because there’s no answer, is there, really. And so, to be honest, the experience I had over there was quite incredible. I would say I’m on the fence about, you know, being a religious person. But certainly, the power of what these people do was quite striking. And I don’t know what it is or where it comes from, and even if it’s something that’s not connected with religion or anything supernatural, then it’s still something I feel that’s quite special, and the world’s a much richer place for it.