A flight of fancy at 80

Tuesday, 17th July, 2018 6:07pm

A flight of fancy at 80

Bobby and Ernie Coote at home.jpg

Damian McCarney

A documentary following a Bailieborough man in his 80s as he chases his lifelong dream to fly a plane is coming to a Kells film festival this weekend.
‘The Man Who Wanted to Fly’ charts Bobby Coote proving age is no barrier as he buys a microlight in the need of some TLC with the aim of learning how to fly it.
Director Frank Shouldice, explained to the Celt that the story fell in the lap of the film’s cinematographer Dave Perry. Originally from Newcastle England, Dave lives in Canningstown, and unexpectedly found an introduction to Bobby through their mutual passion for flying.
“He was out on his para-motor one day, which is a cross between a glider and a one man flying machine. When he landed he got home and there was a ring at the door and there was a man he didn't know standing there. The man asked: 'Was that you up in the sky?'
And Dave wondering, who is this person? - said ‘Yeah, why?’
“Bobby said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
“Bobby’s lifelong dream to fly went back to when he was a kid – it's just he never got his act together, in a way.”
While Bobby's ambition to fly provides the film's momentum, it's his relationship with his brother Ernie, with whom he lives, which brings a “far richer” element to the story. The bachelors spent much of their lives separately in the UK before returning to their rural home in Dromore, on the outskirts of Bailieborough.
“They are very different,” explains Frank, an award-winning journalist and playwright. “While Bobby arguably - well certainly it's what Ernie would say - has his head in the clouds, Ernie believes that flying is for the birds - and Bobby as well! So you had this antagonism, gentle ribbing more than anything else, probably throw in a bit of sibling rivalry as well. As far as Ernie is concerned, the train has left the station, this is no time for these ambitions. For Bobby, that's what it was all about – as he says, he’ll do this if it’s the last thing he does.
“Actually I said to him one time – ‘Maybe it is the last thing you do’ – joking, and he laughed himself and said, 'Jaysus you could be right!”

In the course of the film's 82 minutes, the viewers get an insight into how the Coote brothers negotiate the radical changes in Irish society in recent decades.
“They recall very easily when everyone used to gather in their house to listen to the radio, to listen to matches – or else to come in to play music in the kitchen. It's not Peg Sayers, but this time has passed. Some of it is very moving, but make no mistake, these fellas have no self pity – they want to live independently and they do. And it's an education for us.
If the trailer is anything to go by, the beautifully shot film promises a heart-warming reflection on the brothers' engaging relationship as well.

We also learn how Ernie fixes timepieces and has his own passion for CB radios, or Hamsphere as it's now known. While Ernie is captivating in his own right, the trailer shows Bobby as the scene stealer, with stunts such as riding a bicycle backwards. The Celt wonders, if it's really Bobby's story with Ernie as an interesting appendage?
“It is 'The Man Who Wanted To Fly', it is Bobby's story, but it's just that Ernie brings so much to it. What we've found – even off the trailer – is that people don't refer to one or either of them – they say those lads are great characters. Ernie stakes his claim by virtue of being himself, and people are drawn to this other character who is so significant.”

Frank recalls that when it came to showing the Coote brothers the film, it was with “some trepidation” that he and Dave Perry travelled over to their Dromore home.
“Over such a long period you forget what you discussed and they were prepared to be quite open and candid, so our trepidation was simply that they wouldn't regret that level of honesty.
“It was a strange experience watching them watching the film.
“We actually found that they really enjoyed the film which was both a relief and a thrill to us, because we were just really pleased that it was something they felt reflected their lives. It was a huge leap of faith to entrust their story to us to tell.”
What does Frank hope for the film?
“I’d like it to challenge assumptions we might have about age, about independent living, about rural isolation and about chasing our dreams. That'd be a start.” 
Does Bobby realise his dream? Find out by either catching ‘The Man Who Wanted to Fly’ when it lands in Kells for the Guth Gafa documentary festival. With two screenings already sold out the organisers have put it on Saturday, July 21 at 10.30am.

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