The six-time Academy Award-nominated director’s new movie focuses on immigration.

Jim Sheridan on Tuesday presented his new film The Secret Scripture at the Rome Film Fest following its world premiere last month in Toronto. Based on the book by Sebastian Barry, the movie stars Vanessa Redgrave as a woman imprisoned for more than 40 years at an insane asylum after being charged with killing her newborn son. Rooney Mara plays the young character in flashback.

Sheridan explained that he related to the story after dealing with loss in his own family, and he was attracted to the story for its strong female leads. The six-time Academy Award nominated writer/director has had a wide and varied career, but he said that the thing that ties everything together is a motivation to speak out, as well as identifying with the story — two themes captured in his new film on 9/11, which tells the story from the immigration perspective.

Speaking on his latest project from Rome, the In America director said, “I just made a little movie now about 9/11 with Salma Hayek, just a kind of movie to show that once, America was all immigrants working together, including Muslims. Whether you could call that an Irish-American movie, or an American movie, it’s something I feel I can do, you know, whereas if I’m working for hire I feel that’s very hard, you know?

“I think the lesson I learned most is to have a great cause, have something important to say, because that will make you keep going,” the helmer continued. “It’s very tiring making movies, you know, so once you get into the structure of making a Hollywood movie it becomes very different. It’s very difficult to make movies about societies that you didn’t grow up in,” said Sheridan, who, among his many projects, was hired to helm the 50 Cent starrer Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005).

The filmmaker explained that having made features inside and outside of the system, “In the future I want to hold the power a bit closer to myself. You can make a movie by committee, but it’s very difficult.”