Saturday 25 November 2017

Charleville on Screen

Charleville film-maker Gemma O'Shaughnessy
Charleville film-maker Gemma O'Shaughnessy

Charleville will have interest on two fronts in the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival which is presently under way in Dublin.

Local award winning film maker Gemma O'Shaughnessy has an entry in the short film category entitled 'Rubai' and a new dramatised documentary film on the life and times of Charleville born Eliza Lynch, entitled 'Eliza Lynch: Queen of Paraguay,' will be screened as part of the Jameson International Film Festival at the Savoy Theatre, Dublin on next Thursday, February 20 in the presence of the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.

The latter is directed by Alan Gilsenan and produced by Stuart Switzer of Coco TV.

The film, which stars Maria Doyle Kennedy and Leryn Franco, is based on the book 'The Lives of Eliza Lynch: Scandal and Courage,' which was written by former diplomat Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning, Professor Emeritus of Modern Irish History at UCD and is the result of 18 years of research in ten countries.

Eliza's family fled the Famine in Charleville to France where, aged 16 and a beautiful young woman, she was deceived into a form of illegal marital enslavement by a calculating French Army officer twice her age.

She escaped from his barracks in Algeria to Paris where she met Francisco Solano Lopez, heir to the Dictator of Paraguay, then the richest and most advanced country in South America.

They never married, though they had seven children, and when Francisco's father died she became the unofficial Queen of Paraguay.

Eliza became the National Heroine of Paraguay because of her role beside Francisco in the calamitous War of the Triple Alliance of 1864-1870 between Paraguay and the combined forces of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Well over 90% of the men and boys and 50% of the women and girls died of violence, disease and starvation. At the scene of the last battle of the war she buried Francisco and their eldest son with her bare hands.

Footage for the film was shot in Eliza'a Charleville, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, France, and England. It follows Eliza's extraordinary career and the 'Love Story of the Damned,' of her life with Francisco Solano Lopez. Maria Doyle Kennedy's dramatised interpretation of her courage and complex personality is an unforgettable and searing recreation of an epic life that is almost unknown in to-day's Ireland.

Eliza Lynch was born in Charleville in 1833 and baptised in the town's Catholic Church which was then located in Chapel Street. It will be remembered that the authors had a launch of the book at the Schoolyard Theatre in Charleville in September 2009. The second edition of the book is published by Gill & McMillan and is already a best seller in South America, will also be launched on the day of the screening of the film.

A year almost to the day of the launch of the new film, Charleville Chamber hosted a lunch at the Charleville Park Hotel to mark the visit to Charleville of Eliza Lynch's great-grandson, the Paraguayan Ambassador to London, His Excellency, Solano Lopez on Wednesday, February 20 last year.

The ambassador was met by the President of the Chamber P. J. McCarthy and other members of the Chamber and along with Very Rev. Sean Canon Cotter P.P. He viewed the entry of his great grandmother's baptism in the parish register and was also taken on a tour of Charleville. He promised to return to Charleville at a later date.

The Gemma O'Shaughnessy produced film "Rúbaí" is the debut short film of Kerry director Louise Ní Fhiannachta and Donegal writer Antoin Beag O' Colla. "Rúbaí" has won the hearts of audiences all over Ireland, the UK and America and has managed to scoop two festival awards to date, Best New Short Drama at The Galway Fleadh and Best Irish Short at The Charlie Chaplain Comedy Festival in Waterville County Kerry.

The next screening following the Dublin Jameson International Film Festival on Friday, February 14 will be two screenings on St. Patrick's weekend, one at the Dingle International Film Festival and the other at Trafalgar Square, London as part of a showcase of Irish short films.

"Rúbaí" is currently shortlisted for the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and has been requested for inclusion in Irish Film Festivals all over the world.

"We are thrilled with the success of the film to date and hope to build on this with more films by Antoin Beag O Colla in the future," said Gemma O' Shaughnessy, Producer for Magamedia. "The success of the finished film is also due to the outstanding talent of Doireann Ní Fhoighil who did a remarkable job of playing Rúbaí in such a compelling and loveable way."


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