Atlantic Sessions Celebrate John T. Davis

Portrush Film Theatre put the spotlight on the influential director's career in a free evening of screenings, discussion and live performance

Fans of Northern Irish cinema will have the chance to learn from one of its world class auteurs this week as Portrush Film Theatre hosts An Evening with John T. Davis, in collaboration with Atlantic Sessions.

The Holywood, Co. Down director will be in attendance on Thursday (November 17) for a special, free-to-attend Q&A and discussion exploring his lengthy career, as well as screenings of his trailblazing documentaries Shellshock Rock (1979) and HOBO (1991).

In recent years Davis has discovered a new creative outlet in songwriting and performing and the night will conclude with an acoustic set featuring selections from the albums Last Western Cowboy and Indigo Snow, which he released last year at the age of 68.

Shellshock Rock was filmed between 1978-79, a time when the Troubles were raging intensely in Northern Ireland and Belfast city centre was caged at night. The innovative documentary gives a simple and direct portrayal of young Northern Irish people in the process of reclaiming some of their young adulthood from the violence surrounding them.  

Adopting the music, fashion and attitude of the ‘Punk Revolution’ which swept Britain 40 years ago, young punk rockers from Belfast to Derry to the Arcadia in Portrush sought and found escape in impressively spare punk anthems such as 'Big Time' and 'Teenage Kicks'. Shellshock Rock is a moving evocation of a pivotal moment in Northern Ireland’s politics and culture and despite the background of sectarian strife the films bursts with life, energy and brash innocence, irreverence and most importantly, hope.

Art ork JohnTDavis

Original artwork by Gaelle Berthelot

Filmed over a period in 1990 and released in 1991, HOBO presents an unvarnished portrait of Beargrease, a Vietnam vet, and part-time pig farmer as he rides the ‘High line’ from Minneapolis to Seattle.

We watch as he sensitively negotiates his relationships with his brother hobos and eschews the security of ‘civilization’ to experience the precarious freedom of homeless life. Self-reliant, tough and independent, Beargrease seeks freedom in the rolling movement across the vast continent of North America and enjoys a first row seat as spectacular vistas unfold before him.

This journey, at times dark but liberating, in the margins of the ‘American Dream’ is eloquently narrated by Beargrease as he rides the rails at a pace that allows the bigger questions of life and existence to be examined through periods of solitary contemplation interspersed with the riveting intimacy of campfire story-telling.

Davis’s life-long fascination with the American West is reflected in his film work and this has carried through to his songwriting. His two albums celebrate both the geographical place and the American West of the imagination.

Kathleen McCracken, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Ulster University will be joining him on stage for part of the set to perform a sequence of poems known as ‘Mustangs’ to an accompaniment of desert guitar. Doors open at 6.30pm on the night, with the event starting at 7.00pm.

With distinctive 1930s art deco, Portrush Film Theatre (PFT) is a community cinema set up two years ago by a group of local people which has worked steadily towards fulfilling its mission to expand the cinematic experience available to people in the local area by providing an extensive range of screenings from Irish, British and World cinema. For more upcoming events visit