A. C. : Im Anne Crilly. Im sometimes a film maker, sometimes a lecturer, and mostly a mommy.
M. T. : How did you first get involved in film/video work?
A. C. : Well , when I finished college in about 1983 I was back in Derry, and just quite by chance at that time Channel 4, the UK television station, set up. It had a remit to encourage different voices from different communities. They had a workshop policy whereby it funded groups in different regions of the "UK" -- or special interest groups like womens film groups or black film groups. So eventually a group from Derry, an ad hoc group, got together to put in a proposal. A woman I knew asked me if I had any ideas for a program. I was interested in the idea of women and nationalism, but particularly in literature at that stage. So I put together a proposal idea I called "Mother Ireland" and Channel 4 was interested. Then as the workshop developed I just veered quite by chance into that line of work. It was really learning from the ground up: community video, VHS, low band Umatic, eventually up to a broadcast production of "Mother Ireland."
M. T. : That was the Derry video collective?
A. C. : That was Derry Film and Video Collective. Because there were seven people in the workshop, the majority of which were women, there was a very strong focus on programs around women. So the two broadcast productions we did were "Hushabye Baby," a feature film about a young girl in Derry, and "Mother Ireland" a program about women and nationalism.
M. T. : When I was in the Linenhall Library I came across a reference to another video made by the collective about strip searching. When was that made?
A. C. : When we first got the video equipment we literally did not know how to use it, but we decided that instead of just doing a training exercise for the sake of it we would pick a project and do it no matter how it turned out. There was a very strong campaign around strip searching of women prisoners in Armagh, so we took that as the topic and made a tape, which was rough in the way it was made but very powerful in the rawness of the womens voices. That tape was then used by the strip search campaign, and eventually Derry City Council funded us to update it and we were invited over to the European Parliament when it was debating strip searching. It was screened there and we were invited over with it, so it went a long way.
M. T. : Sometimes the roughest stuff can be the best, like the first thing I made was probably the best just because I didnt know the rules.
A. C. : Thats right, you know, jump cuts left, right and center. I think it was also just, apart from the power of what the women were saying and the horror of what they were saying because they were so clearly describing what was happening to them, it was just allowing women to speak. That was very unusual. And sometimes I think women, particularly in Ireland, forget that it was only just over 15 years ago that there was hardly any books out on women in Ireland. I mean there has been a massive explosion in womens studies and books on women in Ireland in the last 15 years, but when I was researching "Mother Ireland" in maybe the period 1983-85, there was only a couple of books. There was Margaret MacCurtains book, "Women and Irish Society." There was another book came out about women and Irish art by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. And there was also Margaret Wards book, "Cuman na mBan, Unmanageable Revolutionaries." That was it, you know, that was the total. And now so much has been done.
M. T. : Do you think it has gone far enough?
A. C. : No, I am sure its only still at the start . Theres loads of stories to be told. But its starting to be told and the research is starting to be done.
M. T. : So to get back to "Mother Ireland," did you go straight into trying to produce that?
A. C. No, we didnt really have the skills at that stage, so what Channel 4 did for groups like us, which was quite unusual because most people would have sent in people with some sort of media or film experience, was give us development grants. So we did non-broadcast documentaries or other video projects and worked our way up until 1987 when we did get the commission for "Mother Ireland," the documentary. Unfortunately it wasnt screened until I think 1991.
M. T. : And why was that?
A. C. : Well, like a lot of programs, especially to do with the North, the trouble had to do with the political circumstances of the time and very little to do with the actual program. And in 1988 about five days after the program was finished, one of the women interviewed, Mairéad Farrell from Belfast, was killed by the SAS in Gibraltar.
So eventually when Channel 4 realized -- we told them that that was her in the program -- and because the shootings were so contentious, they wanted to hold back a bit before showing it. Then there was the program made by Thames Television, "Death on the Rock," which the British government tried to stop being screened. It was screened and there was an uproar over it because it gave conflicting versions to the British version of how the shootings happened. So, then Channel 4 decided they wouldnt screen our piece until after the inquest into Gibraltar, and at the stage the Independent Broadcasting Authority had to approve the program before it was screened on British television. They didnt disapprove it or ban it, but they didnt give it the go ahead to be screened either, and they just held onto it. They just sat on it until, on the 19th of October, 1988, new broadcasting restrictions came in. And Channel 4 interpreted those restrictions really severely and said if they followed those restrictions, half the program wouldnt be allowed to be broadcast.
The restrictions named some organizations that couldnt be broadcast, like Sinn Fein. Mairéad Farrell was in Sinn Fein and Rita OHare was in Sinn Fein -- which is a legal organization. It also listed the womens veterans organization, Cuman na mBan, which didnt really exist anymore. We had interviewed three old women in their 70s and 80s who had been in Cuman na mBan. They couldnt be broadcast either. Then Channel 4 said it also applied to archive footage -- so the archive footage of Maud Gonne that was taken in the 1930s at a rally couldnt be screened. So that was half the program out.
So it just really sat in limbo for a few years, and then about 2 or 3 years later Channel 4 was having a "banned" season of programs that had been banned for various reasons, and our commissioning editor or our editor then, Rod Stoneman, who is now head of the Irish Film Board, suggested to Channel 4 that "Mother Ireland" be screened. So they decided to screen it if we made some cuts. We didnt really want to make cuts, but we wanted it to be screened, and the cuts didnt affect any of the women we cut out, though what was happening then was that people were either being dubbed with actresses voices or subtitled so...
M. T. : These were people who were in these so-called contentious organizations?
A. C. : Yeah. And they also wanted some things removed, so very reluctantly we agreed to have Christy Moores song, "Unfinished Revolution," removed, plus some archive footage. There was footage of a woman Emma Groves, being shot with a plastic bullet, which was very powerful footage which hadnt been seen this side of the Atlantic. We had that removed. And there was a dissolve we had to remove. We used a scene from Pat Murphys film "Anne Devlin" showing a woman defying British Redcoats 200 years ago, and it dissolved to masked women. They wanted that dissolve removed because it suggested a link in history. And then some of the contemporary photographs had to be removed, too.
But we eventually decided to make those cuts. I went over to Channel 4, and we did about 5 different dubbed versions. One version had 5 women dubbed with actresses voices and the archive footage; one version had just the 5 women dubbed; one version had Mairéad Farrell and Rita OHare dubbed; one version had just Mairéad Farrell dubbed; and I cant remember what the other version was. And then it ended up that none of those versions went out. What was actually broadcast was Mairéad Farrells opening piece, which is her own voice. Later on in the program, where she talks about getting involved in armed struggle and being imprisoned -- that was with an actress voice.
So thats the way it went out, and generally it got a very positive response. Sometimes women especially from the South would come up to me and say, "I really liked learning about the history of Mother Ireland and where it came from, but I disagree with the Republican women in it."
We got a lot of criticism for not having any Unionist women in it, which was something that we discussed at the time and actually considered at a very late stage, but I just decided that wouldnt make it balanced, that it would just be tokenism, and that it was perfectly all right to have a subjective point of view documentary. So when people came up to me and said that program wasnt balanced at all, Id say, "Youre quite right, it wasnt balanced at all," you know, because thats what it was about. I remember talking with Pat Murphy about this. She would have been like a role model at that stage, and I remember meeting her in Dublin and talking about it, and she said, "Well, if you don't think its right, then dont do it." I was hoping that there would be a program made about the history of Protestant Unionist women in Ireland, and I even developed that myself, but it never was made. I even thought as a balancing thing to "Mother Ireland," it would have been good, but it wasnt made.
And then wed get interesting responses from the Irish-American community in the States -- some people thought it was too feminist, you know, we would get that sort of reaction, and then other people would say, "Oh its too Republican and not feminist enough."
Initially the commission from Channel 4 was for three programs: one about the development of the image as a nationalist motif, one about the motif in literature, that was a whole bit we had to drop, which isnt even broached on in the documentary, and the third one on woman and the land. But Channel 4 just wanted to do it as one documentary so we had to compress it as best as possible.
M. T. : How long was it?
A. C. : 52 minutes, an hours slot for television.
M. T. : How would you sum it up for someone who hasnt seen it?
A. C. : "Mother Ireland" explores the image of Ireland as a woman in nationalist culture and how, due to reasons of political censorship (Irelands political situation couldnt be discussed), Ireland was personified as a woman -- whose allies had to come from France or Spain to help her fight. She was also portrayed an old woman, who had lost one of her four green fields, and her sons had to fight for her. So there were two aspects of it. One aspect was to explore the development of Ireland as a woman in nationalist culture, particularly as calling on her sons to fight for her. And then the other aspect was the reality of the women who fought for Mother Ireland, which then brought in discussions around feminism and Republicanism -- because I thought the same debates were still going on in the 80s as were going on at the end of the last century, around the suffragette issue, about feminism and nationalism.
M. T. : There are often sort of set up as polar opposites.
A. C. : They are, but for me, being a woman from Derry, they were the most important things for me, and one was naturally the other, I didnt want one without the other, you know. They were two sides of the same coin. Or they should be.
It was a big thing in the womens movement in Ireland then that they didnt want to discuss the North, because it was a very divisive issue -- which it was, but that made women in the North feel very isolated and excluded. And you may have got women in the North who said, "We just want to concentrate on the nationalist struggle and not discuss womens issues," which wasnt right either, as far as I was concerned.
M. T. : How do some of the women in the program relate to the image of the "Mother Ireland," or how do they reject it?
A. C. : Some of the older woman, the Cuman na mBan women, really related to it. At that stage, among the contemporary women... There was a difference between say woman in their 40s then, like Bernadette McAliskey and Rita OHare, who could see problems with the image but still felt it was part of the culture growing up -- and then younger women like Mairéad Farrell, who really just couldnt stick it. The women prisoners in Armagh used to say, "Mother Ireland, get off my back," which was ironic because they were the women who fought for Mother Ireland. Mairéad Farrell died for Mother Ireland. She actually said at the start of the program, "Mother Ireland wouldnt make me want to go out and fight, in fact it would do the opposite." But you know she did. So, Mairéad Farrell and her contemporaries wouldve felt it had no relevance to their lives. And I think its just nearly disappeared now -- actually things have moved so fast in Ireland in the last 15 years that it isnt really any image anymore.
M. T. : Thats interesting, has anything replaced it?
A. C. : Well, you still have the other side of it -- we looked at this very briefly in "Mother Ireland" -- how the image of Ireland as a woman was then used in tourism, the Colleen figure. It was like a pure unspoiled maiden welcoming people in, offering money to invaders to come in and enjoy the unspoiled pleasures of the country. Youd see that in the Rose of Tralee as well. So, the Colleen figure was used like that for business and tourism.
But I think in the last 5 years particularly... Theres confidence in young Irish women. I think theyre really confident about themselves and their bodies and their place in the world. I mean there is still some of the same things going on, the same debates are still there, like the abortion debate, and the rise in sexual violence has not been dealt with. But generally in terms of personal confidence I think Irish women are very confident.
M. T. : A lot of people that I have talked to say that Mary Robinson was such an important part of that, in terms of breaking down the stereotypes of what women were and just... maybe not that she was responsible for it but that the image of her sort of broke everything open.
A. C. : Yeah, well anything is possible then. Theoretically.
M. T. : So what happened to the Derry Film and Video Collective, did they keep going?
A. C. : Well, I left after "Mother Ireland." And then they made "Hushabye Baby." And then gradually Channel 4s money was cut down so it wasnt really viable. So the collective closed. Some of the people are still making films, like Margo Harkin is still working as an independent producer. Tommy Collins is working as an independent producer. He made a film called "Bog Woman" about a woman coming to Derry at the start of the Troubles. It was an interesting film. And other people like Jim Currans, hes gone on to be the training officer in the Nerve Centre.
But one of the worst things about what happened to "Mother Ireland" is how I felt this whole thing affected me. I think I went into self-censorship mode. And I just really nearly pulled away from it all, you know, and sometimes people say to me, "Well, would you do it again?" And I would have to think very carefully -- if you knew all the hassle then would you? Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss -- when you dont know any better than you can just do it, you know. It was very hard in the few years between when it was made and when it was broadcast to get any other work in the media, because there was that sort of taint over you.
Then when it was finally broadcast most people said, "What was all the fuss about?" All the attention centered on Mairéad Farrell but actually the most provocative things in "Mother Ireland" were said by Bernadette McAliskey. These are the things that sometimes women have taken great offense to -- she made a very contentious statement that in her mind the best feminists were the young Republican women shed met because they were concerned about the social issues as well as feminist issues. Some particular women in the South took real umbrage to that. I actually think that is the most provocative statement in the program, and it has nothing to do with Mairéad Farrell.
And I think thats why now... Im still interested in documentary, but I am more interested in exploring things in narrative and fiction.
M. T. : Is that just because its safer?
A. C. : It feels safer, yeah, its a different climate now, its a more relaxed climate, but...
M. T. : I know we were talking before about having trouble getting funding. Do you feel like, even though its been almost 10 years since it was broadcast, are you still having trouble getting work as a result of "Mother Ireland?"
A. C. : Well, it is hard to tell because the other thing is I just decided to leave production and I went into education for about 7 years. Its only since taking time out in the last year that Ive been getting back into production and writing. I have felt sometimes that "Mother Ireland" definitely hasnt helped. There is still the legacy.
M. T.: Has it affected the other people who were involved as much as you?
A. C.: No.
Its not actually true to say it was banned. People say it was banned. It wasnt allowed to be broadcast. The other thing was when it couldnt be broadcast it was still showing at festivals and conferences, and it was actually shown in a much better context because there was discussion, though most of the discussion focused on the censorship and not on the issues. But it actually meant the program got a lot more, different sort of publicity and was discussed, and the censorship issue discussed.
It was quite ironic too that an image that came out of a time of censorship -- Mother Ireland came out of the 17th century -- was then censored.
M. T. So what kind of stuff are you working on now?
A. C. : Im working on a few short films, one that I hope will be produced this year called "Limbo." Thats about dealing with the issue of still birth in the Northern context. And theres a longer feature film which is more a light comedy, because I just feel like doing something very light. And I also have a third feature which is about or related to the Troubles -- a woman coming to Ireland looking for her father, who had been an Irish man on the run. The big problem here is producers, the lack of producers in the North.
M. T. : Do you feel that there are any particular stock images of Northern women in narrative film? Like I watched "Some Mothers Son" and there again there was the sort of the mother thing happening. I guess so much of the stuff that makes it out of Northern Ireland, about Northern Ireland, is all about the Troubles. There is never anything about anything else.
A. C. : Well I suppose most the things so far about women and the Troubles, you will have the image of the mother, like in "Some Mothers Son," but I think what was good about "Some Mothers Son" is that it showed the real dilemmas that women had to deal with. I thought it brought it across very well. And then you have "The Crying Game" and Jude, the woman character, which initially I thought was quite interesting, and then it was just dreadful the way she was. In the end, she was portrayed as just a female psycho really. Thereve been a few short films around the North which have been very good like Orla Washs "The Visit," about the prisoners wife. And Stephen Burkes "After 68." I love that film. And then "Hushabye Baby" is set in the context here again, the issue affecting women, from a different angle.
M. T. : Are you still involved in community based media projects?
A. C. : Very recently, Ive been working with the Bogside and Brandywell womens group which has set up an oral history project. For this years Bogside Feile we had a day called "Battling On," looking back over 30 years, and we couldnt get a photographic exhibition together of women in Derry over the last 30 years -- there wasnt the photos to put an exhibition together, which said a lot. So thats going to be one of the first projects, is to get together a photographic exhibition of women over the last 30 years in Derry. In a way you can say woman have come a long way, but not as regards to knowing their history and having it there to show. So thats one project Im working with, and weve been doing other things to record the memories of women.
Another thing that Im very interested in is working with local writers, and there are a few very good women writing locally. Their stories of living through the Troubles and how it has affected them, some of its very powerful writing.
M. T. : Oh yeah, what was the name of the woman who read her story at the Féile?
A. C. : Julie Johnson, shes brilliant.
M. T. : I think weve covered almost everything, let me just check through my list. I guess the final questions are things that I am asking everyone. The first one is: who are your heroines?
A. C. : Right, who are my heroines? In history I suppose it was still the figures that you always heard of, like Maud Gonne and Countess Markievicz. Countess Markievicz in particular intrigues me, you know. And people like Bernadette Devlin, whos still there, hanging on. And the grandmother who was in Cuman na mBan. She was a big inspiration for the "Mother Ireland" program.
M. T. : Is she from Derry?
A. C. : No, she was from Mayo, and she would have been in Cuman na mBan more around the 1920s, 30s. But what I admire mostly now is -- which shows how my life is just changed beyond all recognition in the last few years with having very young children -- I admire a mother and anyone who makes it through the day really. Because being a mother has been the hardest job and the worst paid one I ever did. When I go out to work on video projects or teaching or even in stressful production situations, nothing is ever as stressful as looking after young children in the house.
M. T. : And how many kids do you have?
A. C. : I have three. My mother had seven, and a lot of people in Derry, weve come from very large families, and you just think: how on earth did they do it? So its quite funny, I say to people Ive turned into Mother Ireland. Your life changes and youre still concerned about the same issues but now say like child care would be a massive issue for me because it affects so many things you can or cant do.
M. T. : And Im also asking every woman about their first names, since womens first names are so important.
A. C. : Well, I always hated being called Anne. I was named after my mothers sister, my auntie Áine, who was a real character, a very independent woman, living in New York. And the only reason I didnt like it was because some of my sisters have really lovely Irish names like Trina and Nuala and Blonad, and I was Anne. So for consolation I had to have a really Irish confirmation name, which was Deaorbhla. So I really like Deaorbhla. If anything would reconcile me to Anne it would be "Anne of Green Gables." She was Anne with an "e," and as she said, an Anne with an "e" is more romantic, so that was the only thing that made it bearable.
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