Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Jimmy Smallhorne directs, cowrites, and stars in this raw, visceral portrait of the immigrant experience rarely seen by outsiders. Rejecting the traditional portrayal of warm and humorous Irishmen working merrily on construction sites, 2by4 shows real men in conflict with the freedom and anonymity of New York life.

Smallhorne portrays Johnny, who lives in the Bronx and works construction for his Uncle Trump. He runs a wild and raucous crew of Irish immigrants, who install Sheetrock in Manhattan by day and spend their hard-earned money in the neighborhood pub at night. He has a girlfriend he loves, good mates, and the respect of his community, but demons plague him. Something is not right. His half-remembered past is oozing to the surface as full-blown memories, sending him into a downward spiral and plunging him into a netherworld of sexual ambiguity, violence, and substance abuse.

Common advice given to any beginning filmmaker is never act in a film you are directing. I have to add, “Unless you are Jimmy Smallhorne.” As director, he never flinches in his vivid examination of this community. He surrounds himself with a mixture of “real people” and seasoned professionals who combine with the cinematography and editing docustyle to make 2by4 even more raw and emotional. As for Johnny, it is impossible to imagine anyone else portraying him so well. As if drawing from an ancestral history of poetry and storytelling, Smallhorne uses all his talents to make us feel for a complex soul in turmoil.

Jimmy Smallhorne, Director
Jimmy Smallhorne was born in 1964 on the wrong side of the tracks in Dublin and arrived in New York in 1990. Following stints in construction and selling soda bread, a chance meeting on a subway landed him his first acting job at the Irish Arts Center. With his friend Chris O’Neill, he went on to found the award-winning Irish Bronx Theater Company, where he learned to direct. Film is his ultimate communication tool. Smallhorne is grateful to New York for its belief in him.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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