We were an elite group, the Thursday night film club crew, or maybe not so elite in that you’d join in when you had the chance. The organizer and cinema owner foresaw my dropout from the club. ‘When you have children’, Kieran said, ‘we won’t see you for eighteen years outside of coming to see the children’s films.’ Despite, or perhaps in spite of that premonition, I would try to get to the film club once or twice a year after the birth of the children.
The emails would come in announcing the line-up of films to come in the following weeks, French and Italian films (my favourites), arthouse and independent films that might not make it to a cinema outside of Dublin but would somehow end up being shown on a Thursday night around 8pm (because he’d wait for a while to let the people come) in Listowel.
Once the numbers had assembled, Kieran would walk up in front of the screen before the film started rolling, and deliver a lovely speech about the film. He told us why he chose the film, why it had made its’ way by detour to a small town in North Kerry (of all places), delivering his critique. He had heard about this film, found it and had to show it to us. I could cry it was so beautiful. If you are passionate about film, you would appreciate this lovely man, who, standing before us, without airs, told you about the film he had brought to his theatre for us to watch in our own Cinema Paradiso for the evening. We were blessed.
I always got the feeling this cinema was his labour of love. There was nothing fancy, cans of coke for drinks, popcorn at just above cost price and very affordable entry tickets. And at the end of the film, there he would be as you exited the screening, your eyes sore from crying or giving out, no matter, waiting to hear what you thought of the film with a glint in his eye. ‘What did you think?’ He really wanted to know.
Tonight, I heard of his passing, after a battle with illness. Kieran will be missed. He was a gentle reminder to us at the Thursday night film club, that people do and will continue to do work that they love, bringing beauty to lives in a very simple and elegant way. If this afterlife business is anything like the movies, I’m sure he’s en route to heaven with a comfy seat reserved in front of a big screen and everlasting film reel. Say that it might be so. God rest you Kieran Gleeson and thank you.