Friday 22 September 2017

Film Board pulls plug on film about brave Joanne

Teenager born without arms or legs says she is determined that the story of her life will be told, writes Ralph Riegel

AN IRISH teenager who was born without arms and legs has vowed to get a documentary on her life completed, despite the Irish Film Board's shock decision to axe funding.

Joanne O'Riordan, 16, from Millstreet, Co Cork, was honoured by the United Nations last April for the incredible courage and determination she has shown in defying her disability.

Joanne told the Sunday Independent that while she is "shocked and very disappointed", she will not let the controversial IFB decision scuttle her project.

The documentary -- entitled No Limbs, No Limits -- was axed after the IFB said it did not believe the project had sufficient global cinematic appeal.

The film is the brainchild of Joanne's brother, Steven, a talented filmmaker. He said the IFB claimed that it had other projects with a better chance of global cinematic success.

He explained that the IFB said No Limbs, No Limits was an important project -- but that it didn't have sufficient funding to support every funding request.

Joanne said: "We're disappointed. But this means we will just have to get the money from somewhere else because this documentary will be made."

She suffers from Total Amelia -- a condition that has left her born without arms and legs. She is one of only seven people in the world with the condition. But she also suffers from scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

Steven admitted that he was devastated by the IFB ruling out further funding for the project, which he has been working on since early 2011.

He said: "I didn't know how to tell Joanne. I got the letter and I didn't have the heart to tell her. But she really is an inspiration. I told her about it and Joanne just showed her usual determination and said we'll just have to get the money from somewhere else because the documentary has to be made."

Steven said the film needs €80,000 to be completed -- and funding was axed despite the fact that both the BBC and Channel 5 in the UK had expressed an interest in it.

The IFB refused further grant aid, even though the Grammy Award-winning songwriter Julie Gold, who wrote From A Distance, had offered to write a track for the film after being hugely impressed by Joanne's appearance at the UN.

The O'Riordan family also had contacts about the film featuring in the 2013 Cork Film Festival and having its world debut at Cork Opera House.

"We have absolutely no doubt that there is a global interest in this story and that the documentary would have made the money back for all those who supported it," said Steven.

However, the IFB told the Sunday Independent it had no option but to refuse further funding.

"The project received first-stage production funding of €8,000 from the IFB in March 2012 to facilitate the creative team in shooting a promotional trailer for the documentary," a spokesperson said.

"An application for full production funding was made to the IFB in July 2012. It was unsuccessful for reasons that were outlined to the producer, Adrian Devane of 2000AD Productions.

"The IFB regrets that it is unable to continue to support the project but with the extreme pressure on our limited resources, difficult decisions must be made."

However, Steven said the decision came despite the fact that they had managed to slash their completion costs from €150,000 to €80,000.

"It is absolutely depressing to think that so much time and effort has been put into getting Joanne's project this far. All we had left to do was travel to the UK and the Philippines, where we were going to meet with two other people born like Joanne."

Mr O'Riordan said the funding was axed despite the fact that Joanne's profile has never been higher thanks to her UN address in New York, her Cork bravery award and her appearance on The Late Late Show. She even made headlines in 2011 when she publicly challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny over proposed cuts to disability funding.

Last month, Joanne underwent a 12-hour operation at Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin to address the curvature in her spine. A steel rod was inserted to help straighten and support her back.

With typical courage, the teen insisted on directing her own wheelchair to the anaesthetic suite -- then recovered so fast she was able to cheer her beloved Cork from the sidelines to the Munster football title.

Sunday Independent

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