Northern Irish film-maker Tom Collins comes home to his favourite festival in Galway with his debut feature, Kings. Wendy Mitchell reports.

The 2007 Galway Film Fleadh will be a homecoming for Tom Collins (above left), who will be screening his debut theatrical feature Kings at the event on July 13.

The drama's funding came together in Galway in 2004 and 2005 with Northern Ireland Screen, the Irish Film Board, TG4, The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and UK-based sales company High Point Films.

'I've been going to the Galway Fleadh for 19 years, since it started, and it feels like I'm bringing this film home,' says Collins, who is based in Derry, Northern Ireland. 'The film says something about Ireland and about relationships. And I shot it near Galway, in Connemara.'

The $3.4m (EUR2.5m) project, produced by Jackie Larkin of Newgrange Pictures, also shot in Belfast and the Kilburn area of London.

The documentary and TV drama-maker saw Jimmy Murphy's play Kings Of The Kilburn High Road in London three years ago and pursued rights, which Collins adapted himself.

Colm Meaney, Donal O'Kelly, Brendan Conroy, Donncha Crowley, Barry Barnes and Sean O Tarpaigh star in the story of a group of men who left western Ireland in the 1970s to emigrate to London, but return home decades later for a friend's wake.

The bilingual film is shot in English and Irish (Gaelic) and may be eligible for Oscar foreign-language category consideration. 'I wanted to do it in Irish because it highlights the alienation of the Irish in London,' Collins says. 'I wanted to do something in Irish for quite some time, and the Irish language is making a bit of a renaissance.'

Kings is the first feature to receive funding from Northern Ireland's Irish Language Broadcast Fund (Ilbf), administered by Northern Ireland Screen.

Collins believes the story of immigration has universal appeal, and Kings was given a warm reception when it screened at June's Taormina International Film Festival. 'I was in a training course and I met a Bulgarian who said, 'This is my story.' And in Taormina they said, 'It's just like Sicily.''

His relationship with London-based High Point has expanded as a result of Kings, with Collins working with the company to scout for Irish-UK co-productions.

Collins has not yet settled on his next project; he may bring collaborators on board to adapt Seamus Deane's novel Reading In The Dark.