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'One Million Dubliners' - Director Aoife Kelleher talks about making poignant documentary about Glasnevin Cemetery

Director Aoife Kelleher gives an insight into her film about Glasnevin Cemetery, from the poignant stories of the families with relatives resting there to the fact that Michael Collins' grave receives most flowers on Valentine's Day, and also the tragic loss of one of the central characters who features in the film.

'One Million Dubliners' reveals the often unspoken stories of ritual, love, and loss, and follows the late Shane MacThomais, guide and historian, as he worked at a place he loved.

It's a poignant film, now even more so given Shane passed away shortly after the film was shot.

"Shane really is a central figure in the film," reveals Aoife.  "One of the first things I did when I came here was take the tour and Shane was the guide.  It was an extraordinary experience.  He was funny, fascinating, full of lore nad he was just amazing at transmitting the love he had for Glasnevin to adults as children, as you see in the film.

"All of us, the crew, everybody, would have gotten very close to Shane in the course of filming.  He was an absolute joy to be around.  We were absolutely shocked when, two weeks into our editing process, Shane passed away suddenly.  It was very hard and upsetting but I suppose the one positive is the film exists now for his family and I know his daughter is delighted to have it, and to be able to show it to her children some day."

What attracted Aoife to the project initially was the beauty of the place as well as the lure of big stories of love and loss and the big questions of life and death. 

She adds, "Glasnevin is such an iconic place in Irish history, there are so many huge figures from politics, arts, literature buried here that you know if feels like an ideal place to make a film."

In the film two of the women who work in the florist shop at the cemetery reveal that Michael Collins' grave gets much more attention than DeValera's.

Aoife says, "It's interesting the struggle goes on even in the afterlife between the pair of them!  I'm sure there are people who are very sad to hear Michael is winning out over Dev.  Michael's is the most popular grave in the cemetery and he gets mementos and bouquets of flowers on Valentine's Day and cards on his birthday.  It's fascinating really that he's left such an extraordinary mark on the Irish and global consciousness but I guess it helps to have a film made about you by Neil Jordan!"

However, it's the regular people's stories which are most affecting.

"Stories of bereavement are always going to be difficult and upsetting," says Aoife.  "You always have to be very sensitive and aware that the people you are filming are going through a very difficult time, even if it wasn't a recent bereavement.  It's going to be tough for people to talk about.

"We filmed with one young woman, Danielle Doyle, who leaves flowers at her mum's grave on her birthday and Valentine's day, which was when we filmed with her.  But what we also found was people were very keen to talk about the people in their lives who had passed on, and to keep their memory alive."

'One Million Dubliners' releases nationwide on October 31. 

Online Editors


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