In 2016, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising will take place in Ireland. A rebellion that raged swiftly and momentarily in an era when the First World War was raging on (a war that, under British rule, many Irish men had already signed up for and were fighting in…and dying for) and when ordinary citizens of the time frowned upon, and indeed spat upon the rebels on their capture and surrender.
Only after the execution of so many of those young leaders, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas McDonagh amongst them; teachers, poets and artists, did the general public take heed of what WB Yeats described as the terrible beauty born…and the quest for independence raged on through the youth of the Irish Volunteers…
Through the medium of film and cinematic exploration, there has been little made in the telling of the stories of the male and female insurgents of 1916, Michael Collins being the exception. Interned at the age of 25 in Frongoch in Wales, for his part in the Easter Rising, upon his release, Collins went on to mastermind the guerilla war against British Rule, which resulted in a truce that enabled him to lead a delegation to London to sign the Treaty in December, 1921…a move that divided a nation and culminated in the Civil War of 1922. In August of that year, Collins was dead, and Ireland was changed, changed utterly.
Now, with the centenary beckoning to offer us all a time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation, it is no surprise, that in the writing world, a plethora of ideas for novels and scripts are circulating already. So, it was interesting for me to go along to an event recently organised by the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and co-hosted by the Irish Film Board, to see the five finalists of the UNTITLED Screenwriting Award pitch their film projects.
All exploring some aspect or theme of that historic year, the award to the winning project, a first draft development loan from the Irish Film Board, would be €12,000 for a single writer applicant, and €16,000 for a team, ie, writer and director. In my humble opinion, all five shortlisted pitches, each presented to an audience and in front of an industry judging panel, had potential for support towards further development.
Anne Marie Casey pitched a biopic she is writing with her partner, author Joseph O’Connor…Grace 1916: The story of Grace Gifford, woman, artist and icon of a revolution…the only project to look with any real depth at a compelling aspect of a woman’s life during the period, and one I would definitely want to see!
Hugh Travers gave a very entertaining pitch with his project, The Players : A black comedy about ex-IRA members who join an amateur drama group to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Jasmina Kallay presented her drama Das Irland: A tale of what if. What if promised German help had materialised in 1916? and Virginia Gilbert pitched her drama The Boys: Everybody remembers a great teacher but how many are willing to die for one?
The winning pitch came from Jamie Hannigan and Michael Kinirons with their noir thriller Come Monday, We Kill Them All: April 1916: A down on his luck smuggler reluctantly agrees to help a wealthy politician find his missing daughter only to become embroiled in murder, conspiracy and rebellion…potentially fascinating…trench coats and tribly hats at the ready!
Each project was very different, and as alluded to earlier, there is a wealth of varied ideas out there that have the potential to create exciting, dramatic insights into the lives of not just the key characters of the rebellion, but also, to be a window into the lives and struggles of the ordinary people who lived through those turbulent times in Dublin, 1916.
Which begs the question…if they could see now what they fought for, what they suffered for, and what they died for, what would those men and women of 1916 think of Ireland, one hundred years on?
Featured Image: The Women of 1916, Cumann Na Mban, sourced from http://saoirse.21.forumer.com/a/