Saturday 1 November 2014

Keeper of the faith

When Lana Citron wrote a script based on a dream about her seven-year-old self, little did she realise it would become a film with a star-studded cast and crew – nor that a Jewish girl would find herself the star attraction of a Holy Communion story

The church of St Teresa's on Donore Avenue in Dublin was full. The congregation sat pat-iently in the pews, though none were praying. Nothing here was quite what it seemed.

A line of little girls dressed as brides knelt before a priest, and then, belatedly, my young self appeared in a hotch-potch of strange clothes and was chivvied up the flagstone floor by an old crone.

I stood in the shadows, watching myself as a seven-year-old about to receive Holy Communion. A strange enough scenario made all the more peculiar as I happen to be Jewish.

Let me explain. This state of being was a dream, dreamt in a west London apartment. My reality was that of a heavily pregnant woman who had flown in from London and driven straight from the airport to witness the shooting of Hannah Cohen – and, before you jump to the wrong conclusion, there were no guns involved.

Just over a year ago, I stretched and teased an emotional memory to its extreme. It began as a feeling, scribbled out as prose, 300 words capturing an instant of childhood consciousness; a mere moment when a bubble of innocence burst and a step toward adulthood was reluctantly taken.

****

'It is early summer and the shy Irish sun shines. Hannah Cohen sits on a front garden wall.

Bored, she flicks rose petals on the pavement when suddenly she sees her best friend Roisin dressed in Holy Communion finery. Roisin looks beautiful,

like a real princess'

****

If only Hannah could have her own Holy Communion. If only that were possible. But, of course, when one is seven and a bit, everything is possible, and so began our film, 'Hannah Cohen's Holy Communion'.

I wonder if one ever truly leaves one's country of birth. Almost 20 years on and still I keep a constant backward glance, a toe wedged in the door.

In October 2011, I sent Irish film director Shimmy Marcus a script in progress. He promptly emailed it back pointing out the gaping holes within. Undeterred, I set to rethinking, fixing and cementing.

"Funding," he groaned, "is such a huge gamble." Nevertheless, we took a chance. The dice rolled and we hit the jackpot, winning the Pears Foundation Award.

This was a huge tick, a massive confidence boost, but it only provided half the money. There was also a time factor and we were beholden to complete the film – ie produce, cast, shoot and edit it – by August 2012. This would be no small feat.

Nails were bitten, meetings met and sponsors sought, to whom we are forever grateful.

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