Project staff recently took part in the Teaching Divided Histories Conference, presented by the Nerve Centre and the British Council (18-19 October, 2013). The TDH conference brought together filmmakers, journalists, educators and community activists to discuss issues around media representation of conflict and the role of film and the moving image in teaching divided histories.
Dr Fearghal McGarry presented on the topic of ‘History on Film’. Dr McGarry spoke about his own collaboration with filmmaker Des Bell, serving as historical consultant on the feature film The Enigma of Frank Ryan, and the AHRC-funded knowledge-transfer project that emerged from this collaboration. Based on the findings of this project, Dr McGarry discussed possible approaches open to historians when evaluating historical films, and suggested ways in which productive filmmaker/historian collaborations might evolve.
Other speakers included journalists Mariane Pearl and Ed Vulliamy, news correspondent Charlie Bird, documentary filmmakers Olly Lambert and Mark McCauley, film producer Andrew Eaton and Professors Ian Christie and Richard Kearney, and TDH staff John Peto and Emma McDermott.
The film showed as part of the practice-based research symposium, and was introduced by filmmaker Des Bell.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with the director Des Bell, the historical consultant Fearghal McGarry [Queens University Belfast, author of Frank Ryan], and with the participation of film maker Pat Murphy [Anne Devlin (1984), Nora (2000)].
The 8:00 PM screening was followed by a panel discussion with Des Bell (the filmmaker; Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, National College of Art and Design, Dublin), Fearghal McGarry (the historical consultant and biographer of Ryan; senior lecturer at the School of History and Anthropology at Queen’s) and Councillor Tom Hartley (Sinn Féin councillor, former Lord Mayor and republican activist since 1969).
"The Enigma of Frank Ryan has already made waves in Dublin and Belfast. This film is judiciously presented, powerfully acted, and gripping to watch. Strikingly handsome Dara Devaney gives a fine performance as Ryan, portraying him as a stubborn, charismatic leader of considerable ego who finds himself in a bizarre quagmire of circumstances."
In retrospect, everyone should have instantly discovered the genocidal practices of the Nazis during WWII, condemned them, and made every effort stop them.
In fact, however, while the resistance movement grew, so did the number of collaborators, many seeking help from the Germans to strengthen political movements in their own countries.
Officially, the Irish government headed by Eamon de Valera took a neutral position, referring to the war euphemistically as “the emergency”. But about 70,000 Irish citizens volunteered for service in the British Armed Forces, in addition to 50,000 from Northern Ireland. Some of those aligned with the IRA, however, sought German aid for their cause. And the subject of what they were up to tends to get swept under the rug in Ireland to this day.
There’s a telling scene in Northern Ireland director Desmond Bell’s new film The Enigma of Frank Ryan, which is making its North American debut at the World Film Festival this weekend. A German intelligence officer when questioned about why the Nazis should bother connecting with the hotheads of Ireland’s volatile Irish Republican Army (IRA) points to a immense filing cabinet containing lists of friendly rebels from around the world, all seeking alliances with Hitler’s Germany, potentially useful to the Third Reich in the future.
Cinéma L'Impérial présente
L'ÉNIGMA DE FRANK RYAN
tourné à Lamalou!
Militant adolescent de l'IRA et volontaire dans les Brigades Internationales dans la Guerre Civile d'Espagne, Ryan a terminé sa vie au service des Nazis à Berlin.
Séance en présence du réalisateur (et des figurants)
19.00 Lundi 30 Juillet
Centre Ulysse 19 Boulevard Mourcayrol
Lamalou - les - Bains
THE ENIGMA OF FRANK RYAN
a film by
Belfast Film Festival
Queen's Film Theatre 1
20 University Square, Belfast
6pm, June 3rd 2012
Includes panel discussion with Desmond Bell, Eoin O'Broin and Fearghal McGarry after the screening.
Day conference: Queen’s Film Theatre
Queen’s University Belfast,
22nd June 2012
A critical forum to explore how to do ‘public history’ as we move into a ‘decade of anniversaries’.
In a divided society like Northern Ireland how will historians, film-makers and broadcasters meet the challenge of engaging with our troubled past?
Professor Des Bell and Dr. Fearghal McGarry
The Enigma Of Frank Ryan is screening as part of Ireland on Sunday, the monthly showcase for new Irish Film at the IFI, Sunday 15th April 2012 at 1pm.
Director Desmond Bell will participate in a post-screening Q&A with Fearghal McGarry (Historical Consultant) and Tommy Graham (Editor, History Ireland).
Irish Film Institute
6 Eustace Street
Temple Bar Dublin 2
The Enigma Of Frank Ryan premiered at the 2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
"The elegant interweaving and integration of drama and archival material which is a signature element in Bell’s documentary practice has here achieved his most accomplished work to date."
"the film is worth going to see….the story is gripping…the film uses archival footage cleverly and features a striking performance by lead actor Dara Deveney"
"An informative, engaging and well-constructed film, Desmond Bell’s ‘The Enigma of Frank Ryan’, is an engrossing story of great scale and significance of a fascinating character from Irish history and beyond."
"‘The Enigma of Frank Ryan’ addresses the issue in the south of Ireland, about coming to terms with the Second World War, neutrality, the Emergency, where Ireland fitted into the broader global picture. Ryan is just a lightning rod for all those issues."
Following a screening of ‘The Enigma of Frank Ryan’ at the IFI on 26 February, a History Ireland Hedge School took place at Filmbase. As editor Tommy Graham put it, this was sort of a ‘Pop Up Hedge School’, arranged days before the screening and taking advantage of the planned second screening.
History Ireland managed to get a strong panel together, with Brian Hanley, Leeann Lane, David O’Donoghue and Fearghal McGarry. McGarry was the ‘historical consultant’ for the film. There were also excellent contributions from the floor, for example from Manus O’Riordan and Sam Nolan.
Among the issues discussed are Ryan’s relationship (or, perhaps, lack thereof!) with Rosamond Jacob, the Republican Congress, the road to Spain and just what Ryan may have been doing in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Academic and film-maker, Professor Des Bell and historian Dr Fearghal McGarry, both from Queen’s, are taking on one of their biggest assignments to date with the production of a film on the enigma that was Frank Ryan.
Ryan, born in Limerick in 1902, was a teenage IRA volunteer, irregular in the Civil War, dissident republican socialist of 1930s Dublin and International Brigade volunteer who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War, and ended his life working for the Nazis in wartime Berlin.
Dr McGarry has written a book on Ryan's life and, with support from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, he and award-winning director Professor Bell, are making the educational documentary film about Ryan's contradictory life.
The film aims to supplement McGarry’s work, bringing it to a popular audience, including use in the Irish history curriculum in secondary schools. The film will comprise archive material, interviews and re-enactment of elements of Frank Ryan's life. The filming will take place in Belfast, Armagh, Dublin and France and has support from the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund of NI Screen.
Speaking about the production Professor Bell said: “For the second time in a year Nazi insignia will fly over Belfast as a Queen’s University film crew stages a reconstruction of wartime Berlin on campus. Last year the BBC shot ‘Christopher and his Friends’, using the City Hall as a stand in for Berlin. Now the University's Whitla Hall takes on this filmic role.
“Belfast is an unusual choice of stand-in for war time Berlin but as the makers of 'Christopher and his Friends' have shown, with the right attention to design and period detail, Belfast with its fine mix of 1940s buildings in neo-classical style can create a believable picture of Berlin of the time.
“So if you spot a swastika-draped building in the University in the coming days don't panic! It’s not a neo-Nazi rally of disaffected students but a film crew hard at work on an educational project.”