Tuesday 19 February 2013

October Baby and The Magdalene Sisters

Off to see October Baby at the St Genesius Film Club this evening (7pm at the Knights of Columbanus, Ely Place, Dublin 2 - all welcome, donations only).  It's about a girl who's adopted discovering she survived an abortion and her journey to find her mother.  I hope it's more than pro-life propoganda.  Because for propoganda to work it has to have some genuine artistic worth, well maybe that's overstating it.  It doesn't have to be good, but it has to be watchable, interesting.

Like for example (don't shoot me here), The Magdalene Sisters.  It's a tremendous piece of propoganda because it's a powerful film, well acted, strong characters and a plot that really moves you along.  And as we now know from the Mc Aleese Report, almost totally untrue.  But it has so established itself in people's minds that we think of it when we think Magdalene laundries - the beatings, births, sexual humiliation, money grabbing etc.  When we want a picture for our blogs we use one from the film. 

The Irish Times had  a very weak article yesterday "Are Factual Inaccuracies in Movies Justified in Highlighting Issues?"  Of course for the Irish Times the answer in this case is yes. 

Campaigners believe the role such movies played in highlighting the issue justified any artistic embellishment, and this view is shared by Louise Lowe, director of the award-winning play Laundry, who says The Magdalene Sisters “served an important function at the time”.

We're not talking about the standard changes to biographies that film producers take for cinematic effect, where several incidents are combined, or even several characters merged.  If the only result of The Magdalene Sisters had been sympathy and concern for the women who endured harsh conditions, including being deprived of their freedoms, then perhaps it would be justified.  But one of the main results of the film is hatred of the Catholic Church and in particular the religious sisters who ran the laundries.  For the Irish Times that's an added bonus.  You can still this in the reviews -
Film 4:  "A damning indictment of the Catholic Church that lingers in the mind long after if ends. Angry, compassionate but never hysterical, this a true cinematic achievement."; 
Time Out:  "You may never look at a nun the same way again."

The interesting words from that quote are that the film "served an important function at the time".  Funnily enough the same line used by defenders of the laundries themselves.

For more - go read the ever excellent if atheist Brendan O'Neill at the Daily Telegraph - "Catholic-bashers have embellished the truth about abuse in Catholic institutions. It's time to put the record straight"

1 comment:

  1. "Factual inaccuracies" or "artistic embellishment" are wholly acceptable in a drama based on a true story, if in service of the true story. They are not in issue with respect to this film. Rather it is the film's fundamental rejection of the true story in service of an overt ideologically-driven animus against certain central subjects of that story while representing itself as being based on the true story that is the disgrace of the film and it's makers.