Jim Sheridan short film to go online ahead of US election

Scripted by journalist Lise Hand and starring Salma Hayek, ‘11th Hour’ is set on 9/11

An eight-minute film shot in two days by the director Jim Sheridan will have its official premiere in Los Angeles next weekend and will be posted online in advance of the US presidential election on November 8th.

11th Hour, starring the Mexican-American actor Salma Hayek, is set in a New York bar on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Filmed in London only two weeks ago, it was screened for cast and crew at Dublin's Light House cinema last Saturday.

The script, by Sheridan and Oskar Slingerland, is based on Irish journalist Lise Hand’s own experience of being in Manhattan on September 11th, 2001.

“It all came together so quickly,” says Hand. “It’s a story that never left my head, about a small incident that happened in a bar . . . But I was having lunch with Jim and gave it to him.”

Sheridan suggested the story would make a good screenplay and contacted Hayek, who indicated her enthusiasm for the project. When a window of opportunity opened to film in London on October 11th and 12th, the production process began in earnest.

"Although the budget was tight, everyone got paid, which is very important," says the film's producer, Rachel Lysaght. "But everyone wanted to do it, because of the film's positive message."

The Oscar-nominated Hayek is also known as a producer and director, as well as a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Her charitable work includes increasing awareness of violence against women and of discrimination against immigrants.

Unflattering story

Last week she told a radio station in the US that Donald Trump had made a pass at her and that, when she rebuffed him, an unflattering story about her appeared in the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer.

"Whenever he wants something to get out, it comes out in the National Enquirer," she said.

Hand insists that 11th Hour is not a partisan film, even though it will be released during the last days of the election campaign.

“The last thing we want is to be on the Clinton bandwagon,” she says. “What we wanted was to strike a note of positivity. To show that this is not a country of racism and xenophobia. Even though it’s not about the election, it’s pertinent to it.”

Lysaght says that, after the midweek shoot, editing and post-production was completed over the following weekend.

The finished film features Bruce Springsteen's live version of Woody Guthrie's classic protest anthem This Land Is Your Land. Sheridan made contact with Springsteen through U2 guitarist The Edge and received permission within a couple of days to use the track.

“I think the hair on everyone’s neck stood up when they heard it on the soundtrack,” says Hand.

The speed of turnaround from shooting to post-production to screening was remarkably fast, and Lysaght says it will be a challenge to make sure audiences are aware of 11th Hour when it goes live online a few days before the election. She also acknowledges that the planning and marketing of the release are still a work in progress.

“We’re working right now on something for Friday, 28th,” she says. “I can’t tell you what it is right now though.”

The film will be screened for seven days in Los Angeles, making it eligible for consideration for the Oscars, although Lysaght insists the main reason is because the cinema experience is better for audiences.

Cinema showings are also planned for Dublin and London in November.

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is Arts and Culture Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast