A Leap of Faith

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Twenty-two years ago, Marcel Ophuls made a documentary about the troubles in Northern Ireland, A Sense of Loss. It presented a society divided by such killing hatred that peace seemed unattainable. In reviewing the film, Pauline Kael (The New Yorker, 10/12/72) observed that the children were marked by “rabid, mindless loyalty to their parents’ side” and were “shattered not just by fear and clamor, but by the burden of premature adult hatred” which “. . . surely will be passed on.” Well, those children of rankling lethal anger grew up among the corpses of three thousand murdered civilians on either side and had children of their own, and this is where this film starts—with a leap of faith that is no small miracle of its own.

A group of Belfast parents, Catholic and Protestant, determine to rise above sectarian violence and create, in the face of much reluctance and opposition, the Cranmore Integrated Primary School so that their children will learn friendship instead of blistering difference. A Leap of Faith follows four of the founding families through the school’s first year, from refitting the dilapidated Victorian building so it can receive the children, to the Christmas pageant, and on through an extraordinary period during which sixty-two explosions and forty-three killings in Northern Ireland threaten its harmony. Fortunately, at Cranmore spirit and determination are stronger than bigotry. The year ends not only with the success of the school but with a cease-fire that allows everyone to be “getting on with normal.”

Filmmakers Jenifer Mcshane and Tricia Regan wisely use newsreel footage to provide a context which explains not only the escalating violence but how radical the decision was to begin a school in which Catholic and Protestant children could learn side by side. A Leap of Faith is about ordinary people who make revolutionary changes and affirms the power of commitment. With so much at stake, A Leap of Faith is not only more dramatic than any fiction; it is also a buoyant and exhilarating experience.

— Laurence Kardish

Screening Details

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