Karlovy Vary Film Festival - who sings the song for a raggy boy?

10-07-2003

Dita Asiedu's report from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival today deals with a rather sad topic, as she is looking at a movie from Irish film director Aisling Walsh on an issue that has only recently been taken up by film makers - the harsh educational methods used by the church in Ireland that are believed to have carried on until 1984. Song for a Raggy Boy gives us the shocking realities of what went on in church reform schools in the 1930's. Aisling Walsh presented her movie on Wednesday:

"How I was led to actually make this film... I have a very good friend I've known since I was sixteen. He spent a lot of his youth in a similar school. He was there from the age of seven to the age of sixteen. There was also a lady who looked after us, kind of like our nanny, who was an orphan and had been in what we call the Magdalene Laundry - a place where girls worked eighteen hours a day. So, it's something that I have known about for a long time. It's been a part of my life and I thought it was very important to tell this story. I think about six months ago, there was a mass grave found outside the grounds of a school in the western Ireland. I believe here were between twenty-five and thirty-five bodies there and nobody knows who these children are. So, I made this film for all those generations of boys and girls who have been in these institutions that nobody cared about."

In Song for a Raggy Boy, which was based on true stories, Aisling Walsh does not shy away from scenes that are too powerful for some of us to stomach. The film is set in a reform school, where young boys are humiliated, beaten, molested and tortured for the smallest reasons. They are called prisoners and are addressed by numbers and not names.

"There were also children who were beaten to death. That's a well known fact. They were written down in logs that the school kept. One case in particular was a boy who sat down at his dinner not feeling well. He was hauled up, beaten to the floor, taken out of the room and the next time the children in that school saw him again was in a coffin. So, it was just very important to include those scenes in the film because it happened. I know that some people who saw the film said to me they could not believe that this happened. It happened!"

A point director Peter Mullan will agree with. His film, The Magdalene Sisters, that's also being screened at the festival, looks at the harsh conditions young girls, doing penance for sins that society says they had committed, lived in at a cloister in Ireland in the 1960's. The Magdalene Sisters received the Golden Lion in Venice and the Discovery Award in Toronto.

10-07-2003