Award-winning Irish filmmaker Kevin McCann was in Antigonish March 11 and 12 for a couple of speaking engagements at St. F.X.
McCann covered different topics while also showing two of his films – The Boys of St. Columb’s and Volkswagen Joe – as part of the events.
One of the main talking points was the film McCann is developing now titled The Rising; a drama about the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland starring Colin Morgan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Coyle, Michael Neeson, David O’Hara and Fiona Shaw.
“There are three different events; the rebellion, the war of independence and then the civil war. There are two films already; Michael Collins starring Liam Neeson was really about the war of independence, and Ken Loach did a film called The Wind that Shakes the Barley, that was about the civil war. But there has never been a movie about the event that started that whole thing,” McCann said, talking to the Casket during his time in Antigonish.
“So we’re doing the prequel to Michael Collins and The Wind that Shakes the Barley. It’s a film about the stepping stone between famine Ireland and free Ireland; a very difficult time. Most people did not want the rebellion; there was a lack of faith, division between everybody … just like any rebellion, really.”
McCann talked more about the time they’re capturing in the film.
“Ireland was occupied by British forces for centuries, and around 100 years ago, there was a rebellion, not long after the famine,” he said.
“So Ireland was suffering, a great darkness, a wasteland, a great impoverishment; and a group of men and women, who were part of the ascendency and establishment, of all different types of cultural backgrounds, came together and had a rebellion. This rebellion was never made into a movie, even though its significant role.”
McCann surmised, maybe, the calmness of recent years in his home country had other filmmakers steering away from the story, but he feels a duty to put to film this piece of Ireland history.
“I think the story has to be known because it has been largely misunderstood, misrepresented and disregarded, really, that this was a significant, heroic achievement by men and women, like you and I,” he said.
“I’ve found it’s my natural progression as a writer and a film producer, this is something I must take on and complete; even though it’s taking seven years and a lot of it is down to money. You have to raise enough of a budget to produce something that is going to be worthwhile,” McCann added, noting his travels these days are tied to garnering more financial support for the project.
“Later this month, I’m going to be speaking at Notre Dame University,” he said. “This is allowing me to come back over [to North America] and say the project is still going, we have a lot of movement in it and the support of some pretty big people.”
He said The Rising is “essentially” the story of Ireland.
“If somebody in Canada asks about Ireland, I want them to look at this feature film and see as true an account as we can make it. It’s truly a remarkable story; you don’t have to stretch the truth too much to realize what a heroic event it was. I have done enough dramas and documentaries to receive support from the film board in Ireland, film board in Northern Ireland and different county councillors back at home, but that cash investment, equity is needed. People in Canada and the U.S., their Irish ancestry is something I’m trying to appeal to, to help me with; please God, in a couple of years’ time, we’ll see this story.”
McCann noted he would like to have the movie ready for a 2022 release.
“Right now we’re going through a period centennial, centenary; Ireland will be remembering its separation from Britain in 1921, 1922; and I want the movie to be ready in time for that centenary,” he said.
“I always say to people; I’m not making a political film, I’m not making a war film, I’m making a film about somebody responding to their time, their place and addressing, maybe, the call of their ancestors. Ireland was going through a pretty rough time and these men and women stood up and said, we need to do something.”
For more, including on how to support the film, visit McCann’s production company’s – Maccana Teoranta – website at maccana.ie.
Celtic studies at X
McCann visit to St. F.X. was hosted by the Celtic Studies Department at the university. In talking about what he saw during his time around the university and department, McCann used the word “encouraging.”
“The interest people have about what happened in Ireland, in Scotland, the mythology of those lands, that certainly is very encouraging for me,” he said.
“And the work that universities, like St. F.X., do in teaching people the origins of our culture and people, it’s fantastic.
“And that they’ve managed to get two crowds to see my work; it’s wonderful to have that, that interest from Nova Scotia. Obviously there is strong connection between Scotland and Ireland to here, and I’m very proud to be here.”