"The Catholic religion is the true religion because we have the miracles to prove it," says one Knock parishioner in Aoife Kelleher’s follow up to 2014's One Million Dubliners. This documentary, with its title taken from an article in an English newspaper, is less concerned with the apparitions themselves (the first in 1879 when fifteen villages claimed to see the Virgin Mary) and more with those who live in Knock (a village that boasts only 2000 residents but has its own airport) and profit from the tourist attraction.
nbsp;Although it flits through various lives – the descendants of apparition witnesses, tour guides, shop owners, an MS suffer who underwent a miraculous recovery, and teens who partake in the gruelling barefoot pilgrimage – it's Fr. Gibbons that takes centre stage. An affable man, he takes the viewer through the process of logging a vision with the church, illustrating that the church is very sceptical about sightings, "which is a good thing because church doesn't want to say something supernatural has happened." Many years after witnessing an apparition, one elderly woman was questioned again on her deathbed to ensure that she was truthful in saying what she saw.
ut Kelleher is not here to discredit, to debunk, to poke fun. The tone of the interviews in the tacky shops (most owned by siblings) that line the main street are strictly observational, letting the viewer make up their own mind: one proprietor gleefully displays his wares, like the anti-abortion necklace with beads that host tiny babies inside, while another talks about the most popular sellers (figurines of Pope Francis are currently hot, those of his predecessor are not). When Fr. Gibbons blesses the water by the vat load it brings to mind Del Boy's pre-blessed wine idea.
he director takes time to branch out and explore the impact Knock has on Catholics in America (Cardinal Timothy Dolan arrives from New York) and explores a little-known practice of the town – the matchmaking; it's hard to match farmers and 'educated women', apparently, with one woman still unsure about the culture of 'co-habiting'. The drop off in attendances during the scandals is also touched on.
ven though it's somewhat fluffier than One Million Dubliners, does Strange Occurrences In A Small Irish Village remains an engaging watch throughout.
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