- 31 Mar 21
Dublin actress Hazel Doupe is Ireland’s newest screen star, with her status sealed at the recent Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival, where she scooped one of the prestigious Aer Lingus Discovery Awards.
Eighteen-year-old Hazel Doupe was a deserved winner of an Aer Lingus Discovery Award at the recent Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival, having delivered a brilliant portrayal of the titular character in Kathleen Was Here. Written and directed by Eva Birthistle, the powerful short focuses on a working class Dublin teenager’s conflicted relationship with her mother.
Remarkably, Doupe’s performance is completely wordless, underlining her ability as an actor.
“Most of the roles I’ve had to date have been wordless,” Hazel explains. “They’ve been characters who were in their heads. For example, in Float Like A Butterfly, I played the same kind of introspective character.
“More recently I was in a film called You Are Not My Mother, which was filmed a few months ago and is still to come out. Again, it was a character who was very in their head. That can take a toll on you. I’ve always loved playing those parts, but I’m thinking of going towards the opposite side of the spectrum, and trying something new in the next few months.”
Thanks to Birthistle’s excellent direction, the short presents a fascinating depiction of Kathleen’s ambivalent relationship with her mother – at the end, one might draw the conclusion that she has killed her, though it’s left open to interpretation.
“That’s a good question, I actually haven’t heard anyone offer that conjecture before,” says Hazel. “The writer-director, Eva Birthistle, is fantastic. She had this idea about the girl at the heart of the story, Kathleen, and her motives – she was so involved in the psyche of this girl. It was really nice to have someone I could bounce ideas off, who would have the same depth in their thinking about the character.
“It’s so difficult when you’re so young and the one person who’s suppose to cradle you is making you feel unsafe,” she adds. “There’s a dilemma in your mind about what to choose. That can really mess you up. Later on we can see that Catherine is not stable – she’s not happy and she’s not in a great place. Molly, the girl who played the younger version of Kathleen, was brilliant and Eva captured it fantastically.
“We had many conversations about how people develop when they’re involved with social workers, or in and out of foster homes, as opposed to being with family – what that does to their psyche. There’s so much instability and it’s so hard for you to understand the world, and why things happen the way they do.
“With a short film, it’s kind of ambiguous. It’s left up to the viewer to decide what they think, and that’s what short films are all about. It’s something that exposes an experience for 10 minutes, and you’re left with the rubble – picking things up and trying to piece them together. But I wouldn’t take that particular stance on it, because I have a bit of inside information!”
Elsewhere on her already impressive CV, Doupe has notched up appearances in RTE drama Smother, and the critically acclaimed films Float Like A Butterfly and Calm With Horses. Notably, on the day of our interview, the latter received a raft of BAFTA nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Barry Keoghan.
“I could go on for hours about Irish talent,” Hazel enthuses. “There’s so much and it continues to grows exponentially. In Calm With Horses, I play Charlie, who’s the sister of Dympna, played by Barry Keoghan. Charlie has a small but very effective part, in that she catapults the story via her relation with a different character. I don’t want to give away too much – but basically, something happens to her that Dympna has to avenge.”
She travelled to Toronto for the showing of Float Like a Butterfly at the film festival there.
“I did yeah,” she says. “It’s a weird thing, because you’re over there and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, there are so many people who would absolutely love this’. It’s almost like you’re having an out of body experience. I mean, kind of! My school were really supportive of it, at no point were they like, ‘Are you sure you want to give up two months of transition year?’ It really showed as well after the film came out – a group of us went to see it together. I could feel the support from my school.”
Hazel is looking forward hugely to the release of her next film.
“During the first lockdown, I got to shoot You Are Not My Mother,” she says. “I’m hoping when that comes out, we’ll have a real-life film festival to go to.”