Fionnula Flanagan & "Mad, bad and dangerous women"


On Saturday September 29 and during the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival there will be a fund raiser event to support The Solas Galway Picture Palace.  The Solas Galway Picture Palace is the first dedicated non-profit arthouse cinema built in Galway City in the West of Ireland. The Picture Palace will screen films in the Irish language, documentary films, Irish-made films, independent worldwide features, classic & archival cinema, and retrospectives and will also cater for students, schools, young people and senior audiences.

To learn more about this event we had an interview with the Irish international star Fionnula Flanagan.

Fionnula Flanagan’s vast body of work includes starring roles in feature films, television and theatre, as well as experience behind the scenes as a producer and writer. Raised in Dublin, Flanagan’s Irish roots shine in such distinctive Irish films as “Waking Ned Devine,” “Some Mother’s Son” and “James Joyce’s Women” – a tour-de-force, which she also wrote and produced. Her feature film credits include the box-office hit “The Others,” for which she won a Saturn Award, “The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” “Ulysses,” “Reflections, the Oscar winning “In The Region Of Ice,” “Money For Nothing,” “Transamerica,” which garnered her rave reviews and for which she was awarded an Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA). Flanagan’s other film credits include the feature films “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, “The Invention Of Lying” with Ricky Gervais and “Christmas Carol” with Jim Carrey and Bob Hoskins, “Kill The Irishman” with Ray Stephenson and Christopher Walken, “Coming and Going” with Rhys Darby and “The Guard” starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle for which she won a second IFTA. Soon-to-be-released films include “When Angels Sing” with Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson, the Irish feature film, “ Life’s A Breeze “ with Pat Shortt and “Tasting Menu” directed by Roger Gaul. In 2008 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in the Arts by the University of Galway and this year she was inducted into the Irish-America Hall of Fame and awarded the 2012 Irish Film and Television Lifetime Achievement Award. Fionnula has an Emmy Award for her work on “Rich Man, Poor Man” and is currently at work on DEFIANCE, a TV series for the SCI-FI Chanel for release in 2013.

Bijan Tehrani: Could you please tell us about the “A Liberation” event going on this Saturday at the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival?
Fionnula Flanagan: This event is essentially a fundraiser done on behalf of The Picture Palace, a cinema that we are building in Galway in the west of Ireland. It is an independent non-profit cinema with the aim of screening Irish and international independent films, and it will be the only non-profit independent cinema in the west of Ireland. All there is now in Galway is a multiplex that shows big blockbusters, so we feel that it is very important for independent filmmakers from all over the world to have an opportunity to screen their films there. It is a very vibrant city with lots of festivals of art and drama, and a wonderful film festival in the summer; therefore we feel that Picture Palace complements the city.

The event is in aid of this goal, and it is also to celebrate two amazing women: Bernadette Devlin and Lelia Doolan.  Bernadette was the voice and the face of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and she was inspired by the civil rights movement in the U.S. back in the 60’s. Bernadette was the youngest ever member of British Parliament—elected when she was 18 to represent Northern Ireland—and she has continued as a worker for civil rights.  Bernadette was attacked in her own home and she was shot at, and her children were shot at! She suffered multiple wounds, and yet nothing has ever stopped her.

Bernadette is now a woman in her 50’s and we’ll be screening the film about her, “Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey” on Saturday at 4 PM at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. The screening of this film will be followed by a reception to celebrate Bernadette and also Lelia Doolan, who is the woman who made the film.

Lelia is sort of a godmother of Irish independent cinema who champions young filmmakers; she was the first head of the Irish film board.  Lelia Doolan was also the director and the artistic director of the Abbey Theatre and was a director in Irish television as well as a stage director and an actress; she is an amazing woman who is spearheading the creation of the building of the Picture Palace. It took Lelia four years to make her documentary on Bernadette Devlin and it is an astonishing and masterful piece of work, so the event on Saturday is a screening of the film at 4 o’clock at the Aero, followed by a reception nearby in Santa Monica for those who wish to come to it. For those who wish to buy the ticket for the whole event, it’s two for the price of one at the moment—so for $120.00 you can get two people to the screening and the reception. The archbishop of Dublin once called Leila a “Mad, bad and dangerous woman”, so we are having a discussion with a quintet of mad, bad and dangerous Irish women: myself, Bernadette O’Neill—who is the co-author of Emeralds in Tinsletown, which is a history of the Irish in Hollywood; Aine O’Healy, a lecturer in film at Loyola Marymount University; Estelle Shanley who is an international journalist who has covered the north of Ireland and the war there in the 70’s; and it will be moderated by Garrett O’Connor, who is a distinguished physician and also a mad, bad and dangerous Irish man. So that will be at the reception, and it will be lots of fun and we hope that the audience will be at our reception to join in the discussion It all will be fun but serious too.

BT: This is definitely an international event! You have an independent film from Ireland and an important Civil Rights figure in Bernadette Devlin; her actions have certainly influenced people around the world,
FF: Indeed Bernadette is an international figure, and she has achieved fame and notoriety, depending on where your politics stood. She was taking action in her youth, and she has never given up her ideas and has continued to work on behalf of the disenfranchised, the poor, and people whose rights are violated. She continues to do that, and that passion has never quelled in her—she is an amazing woman! Lelia Doolan herself is a filmmaker who is passionate about independent film and has championed it; she was the person who got a mobile cinema in the west of Ireland. She managed bring together the funds and undertake this journey eight years ago. It traveled throughout the west of Ireland, bringing independent films to rural places that otherwise would not have been shown. She has done an amazing amount of work; she started the Galway film festival, which is called the Galway Film Fleadh, which is the Irish word for Festival. So this night is to honor both of these women who are extraordinary in their own right and who are extraordinary both in the world of politics and in the world of the arts.

BT: How is the theater coming along?
FF: It actually has quite a significant amount of public money that has been given for this, and the Irish government has 2.2 million euro earmarked to release to us, but they want to see how much money we can raise. We have raised a considerable amount of money already, but they want to see if we can come up with another 1.1 million euro, and then they will release those funds to us. We are still in the construction stage. The site was given to us by the Galway city council and it is right in the middle of Galway City around the corner from the Spanish Art Center, which is a vibrant tourist area, and of course Galway is a university town and very conscious of its ability to conduct festivals. It is a good place and right now it’s a building site. There is a builder in there with all of his men and they have jackhammers going day and night and hoarding around and all of that, so it is actually being physically constructed. We will have plans on show on Saturday night at the reception. The plans are really quite extraordinary: they were done by a young architectural firm called De Puer, who had won prizes three years in a row at the Venice B & Alley. We have a design for three screens, a bar, a restaurant, and a DVD book store—plus an archive; we want to build a cinema archive as well.

BT: Irish cinema has been so powerful and interesting in the last decade, and I think it is important that there is a place for these films to be shown
FF: I agree, we all feel that way! Galway itself is home of the Irish film board— they are located there—and of course it is the home of the Houston Film School, which is under the umbrella of Galway University; it is very film conscious and it attracts a lot of filmmakers on location, so I have shot there in Galway several times because it is very picturesque and, of course, the surrounding countryside is just magic. So the festival has a lot to offer in terms of contact with the film world and the world of independent film and this will appeal to you because the Houston School specializes in documentary, and I think it is the only school in Ireland where you can do a two year Master’s Degree in film and film writing. It is quite amazing, and their focus tends to be on socially conscious films and social documentaries and things that matter in the world, so it attracts a very interesting student body.
BT: Galways seems like a fantastic location for your event! Best of luck, and thank you for speaking to our audience!


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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