Author Archives: Terry McMahon

Ella (left), who is pregnant, and her children, from left:, Skyler (3), Paige (2), Logan (4), Torrie (10) and her partner Derek who are homeless and living in Emergency Accommodation at yesterday’s Housing Demo in Dublin city centre.

Terry McMahon writes:

Told my ten-year-old he was coming on the march in support of homeless people. He went nuts. Bananas. Barking in protest. My three-year-old was sitting on my shoulders, ready to leave, confounded by her older brother’s rage. This is the exact conversation, word for word.

Him: “But marches don’t change anything! You all think you’re doing something but you’re not. The scumbag Government don’t care. It’s bullshit. I’m not going. I’m not. You can’t make me. I’m not going.”

I didn’t know whether to high-five him for calling the Government, “scumbags,” or chastise him for saying, “bullshit.” But I did neither. Because, on multiple levels, the kid had a point. I had no smart comeback so I told him the only broken truth I know these days.

Me: “You’re a ten-year-old kid. You have your own bedroom upstairs. You have a place you can call your home.”

Him: “I’m not going.”

Me: “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”

Him: “Good, because I’m not going.”

Me: “But hear me out.”

Him: “I’ve heard all this bullshit before.”

Me: “You can’t say bullshit.”

Him: “I can when it is.”

He was making to leave. I had five seconds to reach him.

Me: “There are four thousand kids out there who don’t have a place to call home.”

He didn’t stop but he did slow down.

Me: “What happens when one or two of them see a ten-year-old kid on the television, marching for them?”

He stopped. He didn’t turn around. But he did stop.

Me: “What happens when that boy or girl sees a kid who doesn’t know how to really change anything in our crazy country but still puts his coat on to march in the rain for them?”

He didn’t move.

Me: “What happens when those boys and girls see that ten-year-old kid leave his warm bedroom and cosy house to let them know that he hates their scumbag bullshit Government as much as they do?”

He sighed.

Me: “What happens when some stranger who is only ten-year-old still finds the basic decency to make those kids feel less alone in the world by trying to give them a tiny sense of hope for the future?”

He didn’t move. That was it. I had nothing left. The words had run out. He turned and stared at me again. It was coming. I could feel it. The explosion of words to justify his anger.

He opened his mouth to give his standard, brilliant counterargument. But only one word came out. And it was quiet. And it pumped my heart with blood. Because it was the look in his eye when he said it. The look that told us both that he understood. The look that nearly made me burst out crying.

Him: “Okay.”

He put his coat on and opened the front door of his home, where he has a warm bedroom upstairs, then looked up at his three-year-old sister sitting on my shoulders.

Him: “Let’s go.”

It took a ten-year-old boy to make me remember to never forget why we march.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

Yesterday: The Home Crowd

Sam Boal/RollingNews

Film director Nicolas Roeg (1928-2018)

There’s a generation out there that probably don’t know who Nicolas Roeg is. Yet, to some of us, this beautiful bastard is as important as Stravinsky, Picasso or Joyce.

Among the many movies he made, some are good, some are stone-cold classics, and some are one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

There are few things more tiresome than some fool making the death of an icon somehow be about them but…a financier of one of my little films, (there are only two, for Christ’s sake), knew Roeg and passed that film onto him.

The financier had no idea if Roeg would even watch it. But Roeg did. Three times, he said. And Roeg imparted a scene-by-scene breakdown detailing the most profoundly personal reactions and insights.

I nervously asked the financier if Roeg might be willing to give a short, single-line quote for the poster. The financier had no idea how Roeg would respond. No idea if he had stepped over the line. No idea if I had gotten him into a world of shit.

Roeg responded immediately and this is the single line he sent: “A stunning and shattering piece of work with a profound sense of truth.”

It was like a student monk doubting his faith receiving a telegram from God. Or a piece of music from Stravinsky. Or a sketch from Picasso. Or the address of the best whorehouse in the Monto from Joyce.

We used to repeatedly watch his films. When nothing else compares, you often find yourself returning to your first love. It’s why we listen to an album for decades. Or study a painting for centuries. Or build a culture around a reinventor of language. Just like Stravinsky, Picasso and Joyce, every time you return to a Nicolas Roeg film, some new and astonishing human truth is revealed to you. Or about you.

There’s no point in listing his movies. The people who know Roeg already know his legacy. As for the people who don’t know him, I envy you. You are virgins in one of the greatest orgies in cinema.

His last breakout movie was ‘Witches (1990) Some producer had the insane idea of offering Roeg a movie based on Roald Dahl’s book written for kids. That’s like offering a hotel management position to Norman Bates. It became one of the scariest kids movies ever made and one of the most brilliant.

There was nothing Roeg couldn’t do. Except be ordinary.

RIP #NicolasRoeg

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

Nicolas Roeg Obituary (The Guardian)

Pic: Getty

A mural on Frederick Lane, Dublin 1

Terry McMahon writes:

I was asked to write a piece for the Sunday Business Post’s powerful three-page-special (behind paywall) on homelessness yesterday. 500 words. In fairness to the editor, it was probably the lawyers who advised the cuts, so respect to The Sunday Business Post for running what they did. This is the piece as it was intended, unedited and unapologetic

“I’m not crazy – I will end homeless families living in hostels

Then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney (Irish Independent, January 4 2017)

Imagine the excitement of thousands of forgotten Irish children, holed-up in emergency accommodation, as minister Simon Coveney swears he will get them out by summer 2017.

Imagine those children, two years later, realising the only thing Coveney’s promise secured was his own political advancement. He was made Tánaiste. The second most powerful man in Government.

Imagine those children today, knowing that their dreams and aspirations were nothing more than cannon fodder for the normalisation of obscenity.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines Psycopath as: a person who has no feeling for other people. Does not think about the future. Does not feel bad about anything they have done in the past. Very mentally ill. Unstable. And dangerous.

Coveney taught these children that lying leads to success. Lack of empathy benefits progress. Betrayal is good for business. Only certain lives matter. Dreaming is for the few. A childhood is for the chosen. The consequence of naivety is eviction. The price of vulnerability is horror. Santa is too busy hanging with the socioeconomically selected kids to visit your sorry working-class ass.

These children were taught the literal Cambridge Dictionary definition of what it means to encounter a psychopath. They have learned that political leaders don’t give a damn if increasing numbers of children’s lives, along with the lives of their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, end in a damp doorway.

Is it abnormal for our children to yearn to connect? It is abnormal for our children to yearn to love, and to be loved in return? Is it abnormal for our children to yearn for a home, with their own bed, where they can sleep, without fear, every night?  Is it abnormal for our children to want us to fight for them? For their nation. For their soul. For their right to take back their stolen childhoods.

Despite the normalisation of obscenity, there is hope. Profound hope. All studies have shown normalisation works both ways. When courage becomes common, we normalise heroism. When heroism becomes a condition of being human, we normalise nobility.

When we value humanity and art and science, beyond commerce, as something fundamental to our existence, something vital to our wellbeing, something capable of changing our world, we put those children’s sublime dreams and aspirations into action.

These children know we are braver than we believe. They understand that we will only comprehend courage in retrospect, after we have taken action, on their behalf. They have learned that we don’t have to fear liars. Or traitors. Or psychopaths.

These brave boys and girls are waiting for us. They are yearning for us to teach them what it means to go crazy for real. What it means to fight back. What it means to be what they need us to be. Powerful parents. Dragon slayers. Psycho killers.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

Rollingnews


Pro Choice campaigners block a banner from the ‘Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform’ (ICBR) outside the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin during the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign last May.

This afternoon.

Responding to criticisms of his post last Thursday on the abortion debate, Terry McMahon writes:

Getting attacked seems inevitable when you deviate from whatever the new consensus morality is. Apparently, it comes with the territory now. But the bile is reaching new depths.

And, not only are the rage-fueled reactions disconnected from any reality, the reactionaries spouting the bile are proud of themselves. They have allies now. And righteousness on their side. And carte-blanche authority, it seems, to projectile vomit over any dissent.

When the abortion campaign began, I was voting YES. I was doing it for the women who told me they wanted YES. There were some who were saying the opposite but I was so caught up in the fervour of doing the right thing that I barely registered them.

So confident, in fact, was I in how I was voting, I decided to ignore those dissenters a little less and explore the subject a little deeper by asking some questions. I was looking forward to the clarity with which my side would articulately address those questions.

That’s when it began to get ugly. But the ugliness wasn’t from the NO side. It was from people on my side. People I knew. People I cared about. People I believed knew better. It was a strange feeling.

Nobody likes to be an outsider. Every time I tried to probe a little further in an attempt to understand, the reactions got uglier.

There are always folks out there who will hate no matter what you do but this was different. I desperately wanted to support the many magnificent women who were brilliantly articulate advocates of the necessity of voting YES.

Yet, the deeper I dug, the more impossible it became to ignore the fact that the child was being systematically erased from the conversation. And any questioning of that fact only escalated the rage.

I spoke with many women. And men. And couples. Then spoke with more women. I gorged on all the podcasts. Read all the articles. Spoke with and listened to some of the best people I’ve ever met. On both sides. I also encountered some of the most rabid revisionists it has been any man’s misfortune to encounter, but they were in the minority.

Noble people on the YES side invited people who may have been conflicted to ask questions on social media. It was a kind offer. And smart. So I did ask. Simple, sincere questions from a conflicted soul.

Lenny Abrahamson and Colm O’Gorman proved to be two patient educators. But that’s where it ended. I had to delete multiple posts because of the rabid reactions of some of these new selectively sensitive social warriors.

They didn’t know me but that didn’t stop them becoming self-styled experts on my motivations. They may have had ‘humanitarian’ in their bio but, trite as it sounds, all they had was hate in their hearts.

It was relentless and cruel and deliberate. And, it has to be said, the people who did know me felt no need to come to any defence. Asking basic questions had rendered me an asshole, forever more.

Social media exploded during the campaign. Language was bastardised into the philosophy of convenience and complex morality was dismissed as the weapon of the ignorant. Any deviation was aggressively rejected or turned into an accusation of way-to-make-it-be-all-about-you.

You might feel this was not the case but that’s probably because you were one of the decent people who didn’t feel the need to destroy any and all dissent. Check it out, though. You’ll find it all turned a little crazy. I didn’t know what to think. Or to feel. Or to do.

Then I got blocked by the Repeal Shield. No explanation necessary. No enquiry accepted. Blanket censorship dressed up as liberal progressivism. Ask us any question you want, except the ones we don’t want you asking.

I was lost. Broken. Wanting to do the right thing. Wanting to be on the right side of history. Wanting to be a decent human being. Trying to de-weaponize democracy at the ballot box, I re-read precisely what we were voting for. Over and over. Just to make sure. I was about to tick the box and read it one more time. Words were never more important. I hesitated. Then voted.

As the results slowly trickled out later that day, I already knew it was going to be YES. I had known for weeks. The manipulated wording of the positive YES versus negative NO proposal was already too one-sided. Besides, the campaign was so brilliantly constructed, it was impossible for it to fail.

The word ‘Abortion’ was erased and replaced with the word, ‘Choice.’ The word ‘Child’ was erased and replaced with, ‘Choice.’ ‘Life’ was erased for, ‘Choice.’ And the new buzz phrase was, ‘Compassion.’

Like a frenzied new movement led by all of Ireland’s political parties. Compassion. The repressive regime of cruel, old-world FASCISM was being replaced by a fuzzy, new-world political philosophy that could just as easily have been christened the darkly comical name COMPASSIONISM.

The celebrations were incredible, and, frankly, a little disturbing; unless you had already succeeded in erasing the unwelcome side of the conversation from your soul.

We head just learned of the deaths of multiple women through faulty smear tests but our government heroes they had their sick slates wiped clean in Dublin Castle. As we chanted their names we made heroes out of psychopaths.

Yet, that can be understandable. Anybody can get caught up in the fire. It was a raw and painful campaign. For all sides. In the making of any big moment, mistakes can be made.

Now we’re into the legislative side of things. Those same Government heroes whose mismanagement allowed women die, and are happy for homeless children to have no future, and for those children’s mothers to live in abject poverty, are determining the finer details of the lucrative world of abortion.

Some deeply troubling details are being revealed but the majority gets what the majority wants and the minority needs to shut the hell up about it. That’s the democratic way. And you can’t argue with that. At least you’re not supposed to.

I would never judge a woman for deciding to have an abortion. Nobody knows the complexities of a person’s state of being and it’s her own damn business what she – or they, the couple – decide.

I know women who have had abortions and some of them are some of the finest people I have ever met. I know women who have never had abortions and insist they never would, and some of them are some of the finest people I have ever met. Neither has the monopoly on morality.

But I did have one question. It was related to the talk of refusing to administer pain relief to an about-to-be-aborted baby on the grounds that it would further “shame” the mother.

The cruelly dismissive word coined by an Irish politician to describe this, “obsession with the foetus” over the rights of the mother is, “foetocentric.” It’s not even a real word. But what a word. And what a concept. Foetocentric. Caring too much.

We don’t know what the final legislation will be. We don’t know who is going to profit, but, rest assured, someone will, massively. We don’t know how our already broken health system will deal with the projected numbers.

What we do know, however, is we have a Government that has already shown how psychotically callous it can be to our most vulnerable citizens. So, is it unfair to ask if we should perhaps petition for basic pain relief to be granted by law to a soon-to-be painfully dying human being?

That’s all I’m asking. And, for that absurdly basic question, the Broadsheet attacks began. For those of you who want to write, “way-to-make-it-be-all-about-you,” this is a personal post. That’s all it is.

I have never insulted anyone from the YES side. In fact, the only time I passed public judgement on anyone was when members of the Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (ICBR) stood outside maternity hospitals with images of developing babies.

All I have tried to do is wrestle with a profoundly painful moral question. And I did it publicly in the hope that conflicted people like me might receive insight beyond that complex quandary. I never wanted to hurt anyone. And I still don’t. And that’s why this will be my last post on this subject.

Having asked that basic question about pain relief for an about-to-be-aborted baby, a  commenter on Broadsheet, who I don’t know, and who hid behind an alias, publicly posted the following:

“Do you want answers about abortion, Terry? Have some conversations with women who have experienced it. Listen.

And while you’re at it, ask us about our experiences of being sexually harassed in our school uniforms, assaulted in bars, abused by boyfriends, abandoned by baby-daddies, humiliated by doctors, forced to walk past gory foetus porn during the referendum, kept in the dark about our cervical smear results, and blamed for rape because of our knickers.

Ask us what a miscarriage feels like. Ask us how we feel about the cost of childcare, the lack of subsidizing of childcare, and the fact that we do most of the grunt work in raising children and keeping homes.

Ask how it feels for us to have to defend our decisions and experiences to people like you, who perform a burlesque of macho concern, but are actually as thick as two planks.”

It’s tame compared to some of the things that have been posted about me – no doubt there is more bile to come – but this well-written articulation of her accusatory hatred does seem a fitting end to what has been a horrible education.

Thank you for engaging.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

Rollingnews

Previously:  A Conscientious Objection

From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris flanked by Master of Holles Street Rhona Mahoney (left) and Master of the Rotunda Fergal Malone during the Eight Amendment referendum campaign last May; Terry McMahon

Have to ask this question. Not trying to offend anyone, though precedent suggests this will likely inspire that strange rage that seems to be our national language these days. Or that other reaction. Silence. Followed by censorship. But, in good conscience, it has to be asked.

Abortion, for a woman, or a couple, is a profoundly private decision. In advance of the ‘Repeal’ referendum, many people were asked to put their personal morality aside and use democracy to give those women or couples the right to make that profound decision in their own country, rather than be shamed into travelling overseas to terminate.

Repeal proved to be a divisive campaign. As both sides carved out their positions decades of inarticulate rage also spewed out. New names were given to old words and language lost all meaning. Anything that didn’t fit into the new narrative was cut out like a gangrene memory.

Yet, when it came to the ballot box, people believed their final decision was done for noble reasons. Both sides believed they were doing the right thing.

And the democratic outcome decided that the right to life of the unborn was no longer constitutionally equal to the right to life of the mother.

At least it was now clear. Easy to comprehend. Regardless of which way you voted. Regardless of the moral complexities.

But now we have politicians defining the consequence of that outcome. We are trusting them with the most profound issue of our time, even if many of them have a verifiable history of implementing policies that have destroyed people’s lives.

We are allowing them to define the reality of abortion, even if many of these men and women have already proven themselves to be psychopaths.

These trusted politicians are now questioning if our nation’s remarkable hospital staff, many of whom are legitimate conscientious objectors, should be forced to participate in abortions. Or face being struck off.

These trusted politicians are now questioning if race, gender, and physical or mental disability are valid reasons for late-term abortion. Including the termination of someone with Downs Syndrome.

These trusted politicians are now questioning if we should refuse to administer pain relief to the soon-to-be-terminated foetus on the grounds that it is just another attempt to shame the mother. Yes, you read that correctly.

Have we really gone from legitimately attempting to address the stigma of shaming a woman seeking an abortion by repealing the 8th, to insisting that a late-term foetus, who feels everything with every nerve ending in its body, should be granted no pain relief in case we cause that mother some shame?

No matter which side you were on, is there anyone out there – literally anyone – who supports the assertion that granting pain relief to an unborn child in advance of its painful death is somehow wrong?

Amid all the noise of Repeal, is this really what we voted ‘Yes’ for? If it’s not, then why in hell are we all so suddenly silent?

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

Rollingnews

From top: Terry McMahon’s impending African thriller Caged in the Creeks; article in The Guardian (Nigeria) newspaper.

Terry McMahon writes:

Even though I stopped writing for Broadsheet because of poisonous psychos hiding behind pseudonyms, I see that a recent powerful post detailing a video about incredibly brave people fighting for rights to medicinal cannabis in Ireland is still somehow lassoed by another moronic troll as a means to insult me. With yet another lie.

But the facts don’t matter to trolls. Or the truth. They simply need to defecate. Everywhere. Poor souls.

The world is a big and beautiful place. Small-minded psychos shouldn’t be allowed to define its conversations. What Broadsheet does in Ireland is important. Writing for readers who care about something beyond a troll’s obsessive need for keyboard attacks is an honour.

So, to hell with the trolls.

The keyboard warriors. The anonymous cowards. The pseudonym psychos. No doubt they’re already frenziedly trashing out their rebuttals with their usual charm and chlamydia-infected fingertips.

But that’s enough about the troglodyte cowardice of Irish trolls. Africa is calling. Big, beautiful, brave Africa.

In Ireland, there seem to be select filmmakers who get offered movies no matter what they do. Some of them can even make back-to-back duds and still secure finance for their next film.

Then, there are the rest of us. People whose track record is also irrelevant. In a destructive way.

The last film I directed won multiple awards internationally, and three IFTAs at home, yet there wasn’t a single offer to direct another film from anyone in Ireland.

Not one.

And believe me, I wasn’t sitting on my arrogant arse, waiting for handouts, I reached out to everyone. Nothing. Nada. I couldn’t even secure an unpaid apprenticeship on the television show Vikings.

For my third film, I desperately wanted to make a passion project, ‘The Dancehall Bitch,’ a deeply provocative prison drama about the nature of coercion and sexual violence.

The two leading actors of my previous films, Emmett Scanlan and Moe Dunford were as equally passionate about the project as I was. There was a kind of poetry in these two previously unknown actors, who are now trailblazing their way across the world stage, joining each other for our third film together.

Also, in an era when the dangers of violent masculinity and the obscenity of coercive rape are two of the most contentious conversations in our culture, I also believed our timing couldn’t have been better.

These were two superb young Irish actors who completely trusted their Irish director – all of whom had now proven themselves on that international stage – and we were ready to make a provocative picture about the national narrative like this country had never seen.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Irish Film Board turned the project down.

The same happened with several other projects. Evidently, the kind of cinema I wanted to make was not the kind of cinema they wanted to make.

The political landscape had changed. Certain films were taboo now. Just like certain directors. Paying the mortgage became an increasingly difficult task.

I also had a new kid. Mouths to be fed. So, with twenty-five years of teaching experience, I applied to advertised positions in colleges.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I had taught in several of these colleges in the past, consistently generating remarkable testimonials from the pupils. It may not have been filmmaking but facilitating students in finding their voices can still be incredibly creative.

Then the penny dropped. I didn’t even make the shortlist for many of the interviews. Later it would be revealed that the positions had often gone to people significantly less qualified than me.

And that’s when you begin to get worried.

Five years after ‘Patrick’s Day‘ won the Galway Film Fleadh and The Cork Film Festival, every filmmaker who had made the big films in those festivals that year had gone on to make another film. Sometimes two.

Every filmmaker except the one who had won both festivals. In those five years, I had become increasingly involved in the politics of austerity and the sickening policies of our government. I had been asked to make some speeches. They caused serious backlash.

I broke some cultural rules that are not meant to be broken. Apollo House didn’t help either. Everyone is equal in this new era of equality. Except for the ones who can’t swallow the lie. I was out. Finito.

I would have killed to make my third film in Ireland. I adore our country. I adore Irish people. With a passion that’s almost embarrassing. Most of them, anyway. But telling the truth these days in Ireland is punishable by career death.

Yet, the Gods of Film are a gloriously fickle bunch. The audacity you are punished for in your own country can be the very thing that ignites the imagination of another.

And nowhere on earth embraces audacity more than Africa.

They don’t care that you took some small action against the government’s murderous austerity. They admire it. They don’t care that you want to use film to shake up the world. They insist upon it.

They don’t care that you’re a pink-skinned, black-listed Paddy who can’t keep his damned mouth shut. They love it.

The only thing our African brothers really care about is whether or not you’ll put everything on the line to make a movie. And that’s the only thing I care about too. Which is why I love those magnificent men and women right back. Almost as much as I love the trolls.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

From  top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (second right) and Minister for Health Simon Harris in Dublin Castle as results to repeal the 8th Amendment were coming through

Happened again yesterday. Happens most days now. They see you. A moment of recognition. A raising of the eyebrows. A gentle smile. And you do the same. It’s a moment. A kind of community. A sense of belonging. You’re not stopping. You never do. You don’t know each other well enough. But it’s still warm. Always was.

Then the smile stops. The lips tighten. The eyes deaden. Repeal remembered. They forgot to remember to hate you.

Many are from the Arts. The world of film, theatre, television and books. Compassionate. Good people. Some are cowards. That’s inevitable. But some are not. Some are even talented. Some are even activists. Some even reflect that in their work.

Their result was a foregone conclusion. A campaign too brilliant to fail. Initially, I was conflicted. But I was on their side. I had to be. That’s what community means. Until they forget to remember to hate you.

So I did what I always do. Did what I should do. Did what artists are supposed to do. Sought out the underdog. Searched for the other side. Listened to the opposite.

But this wasn’t a time for questions. This was a time for banal acquiescence. Blind obedience. Political absolutes. With or against. Feminist or misogynist. Yes or No. And when you vote, don’t forget to remember to hate.

Equality is a tool of division now. Compassion an ideological weapon. Human rights sans the human. So what if you’re conflicted? So what if this was devised to divide? I’d still be on their side. Still defend them. Still present both sides.

Even after the comical unfriending. The defiant blocking. The shameful prejudice. The rabid ridicule. By the new radicals. These fearless feminists. These political women and men. These masters in the art of never forgetting to remember to hate you.

I’m lucky enough to have friends on all sides. Some are artists. Some are activists. Some are neither. All are Humanists. Some are in complex agreement. Some have profound differences. All have fundamental fears. Morally. Ethically. Intellectually. They talk. They fight. They love. They get closer. And they teach me to reach for the impossible. They teach me to attempt to understand. They teach me to forget to remember to hate.

Some of them say a zygote has no identity. A fetus has got no soul. No reason to be included. No rationale to be alive. No constitution to protect them. And that’s the done deal now. The good people have spoken. Death by Democracy.

Even then, I’d still try to see their side. Still empathise. Still understand. Despite wondering how censorship had become a badge of honour. Despite realising you can’t pose the wrong questions. Despite asking yourself what kind of dumb fuck are you to forget to remember to hate?

Then that day happened. Not the election. Not the result. Not the campaign. All of that I could understand. It was that damned day in Dublin Castle.

As a community chanted their names. The two Health Ministers. One serving. One Taoiseach. Both Feminists. Sex symbols. Hashtag heroes. Psychopaths. A Bacchanalian blowjob for politicians presiding over the murder of women. The pimps of privatisation. The czars of cervical cancer. The austerity men who never forget to remember to hate you.

And you realise you’ll never understand. You realise you know nothing. You realise your soul is lost. Your mind is bludgeoned. Your heart is crushed. Your belief has bled out. And that might be why you notice those constant smiles that turn stern. That warm that turns cold. That compassionate rejection.

From people you still respect. From women and men you still adore. From the work you still love. From the community you still embrace. Even if they never forget to remember to hate you.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Rollingnews

Terry McMahon (front centre) with friends from the class of 1988 in Mullingar Vocational School at their 30-year reunion last Saturday

Terry McMahon writes:

Sometimes you just get lucky in life.

We went to a Christian Brothers School, up to the age of twelve. Our teacher was a nonce. Served a lengthy sentence for multiple counts of child sex abuse. He had his own private bathroom in the class. How transparent. Bastard tried it with me. First time I fought an adult. And almost won.

That was our primary school. Couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. But the nonce had other plans. The Christian Brothers had a secondary school next door. I was destined to go there. We had to do an entrance exam. But it was all a done deal. An all boys school. All ripe. All ready.

On the other side of town was the Vocational School. The Tech, they called it. The shithole. For the poor folks and the dumb fucks. The rejects. The rabble. At least that’s what the snobs said. The snobs and the Christian Brothers. It was also a mixed school. Boys and girls. Nobody ripe. Nobody ready. All curious as hell.

We used to have to line up for the nonce before entering class. He was from Belfast and reckoned himself a quasi-military man. The boys he wasn’t sexually aroused by he simply beat.

He had a Masters Degree in Humiliation. The day of the entrance exam for the shithole school, he ordered the boys who were going to do the exam to take one step forward. Every poor bastard he had ever tried to break stepped forward. The rest of us stayed where we were. He was happy with the result. A line of winners and losers. Eugenics in full flow.

I was too scared to breathe. Sweating. Paralysis. But some things need to be done. I forced my skinny, trembling, twelve-year-old frame to step forward. The nonce did a double take. Loving the theatre of his own making.

He stood in front of me. I could smell his cigarette breath. Feel his spit on my face. He told me to get back in line. Everything in me wanted to fold like a cheap accordion. But I looked at him. My voice barely broken yet. I said, “I’m going.”

He didn’t get angry. He got off on the skinny defiance. Grinned. Aroused. ‘Okay, boy.’ Your skin would crawl at the way he used the word ‘boy.’ He put his mouth close to my ear but spoke loudly so everyone could appreciate his stature.

‘You can do the exam but you’re not going to that school. Ya hear me, boy?’

I nodded. Defeated. Knowing he was right. Knowing that the entrance exam for the Christian Brothers secondary school was the following Saturday. Knowing my fate was sealed.

We crossed town to get to the shithole school. Me and that motley crew of miscreants. Some of the best men I would ever meet. We had to go through a public park.

The closer you got, the more you could feel the greasy grip of the Christian Brothers lessen. And the girls. Everywhere. One more beautiful than the next. We were only twelve years old but it felt like our hearts were too big for our chests.

We sat the exam. Giddy with hormones. Then returned to our Christian Brother madhouse. The nonce ridiculed us as we took our seats. A particularly ugly grin for me. ‘See you at the exam on Saturday, boy.’ I wanted to punch his head in. Perhaps someone is doing it to him in prison right now.

That Saturday morning my folks got me and my brother up early to sit the Christian Brothers entrance exam. I said nothing. Ate breakfast. A simple plan had formed. Only a simpleton could have come up with it. We walked there. Me and my athlete brother. Him, the perfect specimen for Christian Brother GAA glory. Me, the perfect gammy-legged gimp.

Halfway there, I stopped. Saluted my brother. And walked the opposite direction. He called after me. But I was gone. If I didn’t sit the Christian Brothers bullshit exam I couldn’t legally be allowed to attend the Christian Brothers bullshit school.

The nonce wanted me dead. Probably to fuck the corpse. But I was going to a place where raping children wasn’t the top priority of most of the teachers. The Tech.

A place so underfunded most of our classes were held in prefabs. A place so underestimated most of the students were deemed to be anonymous plebs to be exploited in the labour force.

A place so fucking beautiful it became our Paradise.

From day one everything was different. My brother’s secondary school seemed hellbent on ripping the underpants of every vulnerable boy so far up their backside that it took months for their testicles to recover. Wedgie, they called it. And how they laughed. Like psychopaths inhaling a deep y-fronted high only they could understand. We, on the other hand, were walking around a building possessed by angels. Real ones.

The girls were so much more mature than us that the idea of giving anybody a wedgie made you feel like a moron. While the boys in the Christian Brothers school were busy learning how to flick towels at naked arses in the shower room, we were getting lessons in how to be men. By the most formidable women we could ever dream of meeting.

The teachers were amazing too. Mostly. No doubt there was the odd degenerate. No doubt some of those girls have some of their own horror stories. No doubt those stories were buried, like everything else in our culture at that time. Just like now.

I remember the girl who told me what her father was doing to her at night when her mother went to bingo. She needed help. Decided I was the one to tell. I had no idea what to do. I approached the religion teacher. Not because I gave a fuck about religion. But because she was a beautiful woman. Inside and out. She handled it with the seriousness that it deserved. Then the girl told me it had stopped. But she looked sad. Not relieved. Soon after, she left school. Never saw her again.

There is a hundred-thousand stories to tell of that school. Of those people in it. Of the boys and the girls. First loves. Fist fights. Broken hearts. I hated home. But I loved that place. Mornings couldn’t come quick enough. Entering that building was like strolling into a John Hughes movie.

Every snobbish statement about the school proved to be horseshit. Our headmaster was the wisest, kindest, white-haired man a kid could ever hope to encounter. Same with most of the teachers. All the way to the janitor. We were too young to recognise just how remarkable our world was. It was rare as diamonds. And more valuable.

I had to leave the place at fifteen. Never got to finish school. Do the Leaving Cert. Go to the Graduation Dance. All the rituals. Big chip on the shoulder afterwards. For decades. But life went on. Stayed in touch with some. Lost contact with others. Yet always felt warm memories of all of them. Then a message came through. On Facebook. A Thirty Year Reunion.

It happened last Saturday. The night was long. The stimulants intoxicating. And the company sublime. The snap (top) of some of the many magnificent people who were there was taken before I snuck out the back door at about 3am. Hopped a taxi back to the hotel. Full to the brim with renewed love for these remarkable people.

Sometimes you just get lucky in life. Sometimes the Gods get together and decide to make magic in a rural town, in a shithole school, with the best folks a body could hope to meet.

And fuck the Christian Brothers.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Related: Christian Brother Stories

From top: Irish Film and Television (IFTA) 2018 actress nominees, from left: Sarah Bolger Saoirse Ronan and Ann Skelly; Terry McMahon

The elephant in the room is sitting on a woman.

Multiple people – women and men and possibly transgender – were nominated for this year’s Irish Film and Television Awards. Some folks are cynical about the IFTAs but huge kudos should be given to Áine Moriarty and Deirdre Hopkins for turning these awards into an increasingly impressive annual ceremony.

I have been nominated for a few IFTAs. I’ve presented a few of them. A film I made even won a few. But, this year, instead of celebrating the nominees, there has been a furious backlash to the announcement that only three women have been selected for the Lead Actress category.

Enraged pundits are demanding to know why there are so few central roles written for women. Demanding to know who precisely is stopping women writing and directing female-led films. Demanding to know whose heads will roll.

The Irish Film Board has created five different initiatives exclusively for female writers and directors. They did so because the uptake from female writers for an earlier gender defined initiative was far less than expected. The reason for this was put down to “unconscious bias.” Perhaps this is true. So let’s examine the conscious facts.

The Irish Film Board has 18 staff members. 15 women and three men.

The Irish Film Board has seven board members. Five are women. Two are men.

Screen Training Ireland – the educational arm of The Irish Film Board – has six staff members. Six women and no men.

There are films made without Film Board support but, in general, this means that the decision behind the funding and the development of Irish cinema is made by 26 women and five men.

(It’s difficult to ascertain precisely how many script editors the Film Board is facilitating but anecdotal evidence suggests the significant majority are women.)

We need to name the elephant in the room. The male elephant. We cannot move towards true equality until those five men are removed. And replaced by five women. It’s clear that those 5 men are the reason no scripts with central female roles are being written and directed by women. Shame on them. And shame on every man who idly allows this barbaric inequity to continue.

The evidence is clear. The answer is simple. Only when that ratio of 26 women to 5 men is addressed can we finally come clean about who is stopping women writing female-led scripts.

Only when a woman is finally able to sit down and write her female-led script without having five  men standing over her shoulder, dragging the pencil out of her fingers, or clogging up her keyboard with their male made muck, can we progress.

Only when that ratio of 26 women to 5 men becomes 31 women to zero men can we finally have the kind of equality that we all deserve.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

The IFTas take place on Thursday, February 15.

Montage: IFTA

 

The Woodstock Film Festival, 2011, from left: Tim Palmer, Terry McMahon and Moe Dunford. Trailer for Charlie Casanova (2010)

This one is for you.

Facebook just reminded us that nine years ago a bunch of lunatics turned up during the worst winter on record to make a psychotic movie about the cancer of the controlling class.

Staring in panic at a blank page for a long time, before projectile vomiting a political script onto ninety of those pages, I was an unproduced hack, who had never directed a short film, much less a feature.

We had a budget of nine-hundred-quid, and our borrowed camera had to be back eleven days later, so that became our production schedule.

Snow bombarded the city but nobody backed out. Frost incapacitated the equipment but filming never stopped. Doubt crept in every second but nobody backed out. Eleven days later we got rat-assed drunk in the way that only a group which has been through hell together can. Awoke the next morning, aching to the bone, wondering if the footage we captured would get anywhere beyond the bottom of a drawer.

What chance did a messed-up little Irish film about a controlling class psychopath have on the world stage? Home-burned DVDs with the title hand-scrawled across them were submitted to film festivals, and we waited for Godot.

Then, Janet Pierson, head honcho of one of the world’s great film festivals, wanted our film to be the first Irish movie ever selected for the coveted SXSW Narrative Feature Competition. And we nearly shit ourselves.

‘Charlie Casanova’ ended up being picked up for distribution by Studio Canal and released in UK and Irish cinemas before being kicked to death by our critics.

We presumed we’d never make another film, particularly since we wanted to address the dehumanisation of people with mental illness; another subject nobody wanted to touch at the time; but five years later those same critics would pick our second film, ‘Patrick’s Day’, as Best Irish Film of the Year. Yet the more things change the more they remain the stagnant same.

Nearly a decade later it’s never been more difficult to make political cinema. Or political television.

The explosion in cheap technology in that decade should have opened the floodgates. But where are those films? Where is that cinematic rage? The controlling class, which we denied even existed a decade earlier, used austerity to relentlessly attack our most vulnerable. But perhaps they also succeeded in sidelining our artistic culture. Or are we just cowards?

Who the hell knows what our collective future holds. Nobody could have believed a decade ago that we’d become the country we are today. What we become in the next decade is wide open.

There are brilliant filmmakers out there. Some of them we already know. Men and women born to make magic. But maybe some of them are as yet unknown. Maybe some of them have yet to dive into the madness of their first movie, penned in panic and made for no money. Maybe some of them have yet to put pen to their first blank page.

Maybe one of them is you.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69