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20 December 2007 Edition

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The republican movie buff's guide to Christmas films

BY ROBBIE SMYTH

WITH Christmas fast approaching, many weary republicans will be looking forward to a Yuletide break and a lengthy soujourn on a comfy couch by the toasty embers of a turf fire (or renewable wood, pellet, brick, etc) with suitable beverages and perhaps the odd mince pie, with cream, of course.
It has been a busy year for republican activists so maybe the traditional republican Christmas reading of lengthy historical tomes and discourses will be too burdensome. Maybe the 720 pages of the Civil War papers of Ernie O’Malley or even Podge and Rodge’s Ballydung Bible is too big an ask, so that leaves the TV as the next in line for relaxing the weary rebels.
This brings us to the Christmas TV film, the one that you either have as a personal favourite or have that hidden sneaking regard for. You know, the film that you mightn’t choose to watch but if it’s on you will watch it for whatever reason.
Take Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who revealed to An Phoblacht in an unguarded moment that he particularly liked the 2004 animated movie, Polar Express.

It wasn’t that the film’s plotline of a little boy doubting the existence of Santa and who is then whisked off to the North Pole on a magical train had a particular political meaning. It was simply that our overworked Dáil leader likes nothing more than a snooze in front of the fire while the children are watching something suitably diverting.
This only prompted further investigations of Christmas viewing habits of the republican cadre. Below we include the secret viewing of ten prominent republicans.

Mary Lou McDonald

The Sinn Féin Chairperson and Dublin MEP is still terrified by the Child Catcher sequence in the 1968 classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Despite still being frightened by the sequence today, Mary Lou will not pass up any opportunity to watch what has become a Christmas classic, the screenplay of which was co-written by Roald Dahl and directed by Ken Hughes.
Hughes’s next film was a biopic of Cromwell, released in 1970. He wrote the screenplay and directed it so is there a Chitty Chitty Cromwell connection? Conspiracy theorists need only apply.

Pearse Doherty

The Roald Dahl connection continues as Donegal senator, councillor and Ard Chomhairle member Pearse Doherty will be sitting down to watch the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Even though there were no cinemas in Gweedore when Pearse was a lad, he is still inspired by a film where “the poorest boy wins out” and that there is “always hope, no matter how dire the situation faced”.
Pearse, who has little time for the 2005 remake of the original Gene Wilder film, told An Phoblacht that he still likes “the message of equality and social justice present in the film”.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

The Dublin South Central TD is also firmly in the Willy Wonka camp, revealing to An Phoblacht that he was inspired by its message of class struggle and the usurping of the greedy and selfish by our working-class revolutionary hero Willy!

Eibhlin Glenholmes

For a while the Phoblacht editorial team doubted the memory if not the sanity of this Belfast Ard Chomairle member who disclosed that her favourite Christmas film was called The Day They Gave Babies Away.
We seriously doubted that such a film had ever been made about a boy called Robbie who strives to fulfil his mother’s dying wish that he and all his siblings would be given good homes after both parents die. The boy sets out to complete his Herculean task on a snow-filled Christmas eve.
It turns out that not only was Eibhlin right about this film, its was a 1955 one-hour CBS Christmas special, and in 1957 a full-length feature film called All Mine to Give went on general release.
The film is based on the true story of a Wisconsin family in the 1860s but as to how it is, as Eibhlin claims, about “the trials of a single mother” we are still not entirely sure but it must be due a Christmas re-run, if only to help the Ard Chomhairle member’s memory loss.

Seanna Walsh

The head of Sinn Féin’s Culture Department picked Frank Capra’s 1946 tear-jerking yuletide black and white, It’s A Wonderful Life.
Starring James Stewart, the film tells the story of how a trainee angel helps a despairing Stewart understand what life would had been like if he never existed.
Seanna said the film demonstrates that “one person can and does make a difference”, a theme he only “realised in later life”. However, it has always been one of his favourite films.

Martina Anderson

The Foyle MLA’s secret admission to An Phoblacht was that she “loves Christmas and all the nonsense that goes with it”. It is “my time of year”, according to Martina, who found it hard to pick just one Christmas film as, “I love all the Christmas films and I make no apologies for it.”
Under pressure, though, Martina gave the nod to Jon Favreau’s 2003 winter blockbuster, Elf.
Starring Will Ferrell, tells the story of Buddy, a human who grows up in the North Pole only to come looking for his birth father in New York City.

Richard McAuley

This veteran party press officer plans to spend his Christmas watching the ‘Road’ movies of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Not wanting to sound ignorant we retired to Google to find them.
There are indeed eight Crosby/Hope ‘Road’ movies and are in chronological order, respectively: The Road to Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia, Hollywood, Rio, Bali and Hong Kong.
Richard told us that the scripts have all the elements of Monty Python, and were clearly an influence on Cleese, Palin & Co. His particular favourite is The Road to Hong Kong.

Dawn Doyle

Sinn Féin’s Director of Publicity will be watching The Big Sleep this Christmas. Howard Hawks’s 1946 version of the Raymond Chandler novel is considered a classic by many.
Dawn has watched it “hundreds of times”, loves “the chemistry between Bacall and Bogart” and particularly likes the token IRA man, a feature of many Hollywood films of the time following the 1936 four Oscars won by John Ford’s The Informer.

Bairbre De Brún

The Six-County MEP particularly likes the original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street, another of those films dealing with doubting children.
Bairbre likes the idea of a Christmas that isn’t driven by consumerism.
When asked when she had first seen it, the recalcitrant MEP refuses to tell, saying only: “It was too long ago to tell you.”

Gerry Adams

Hats off to the Sinn Féin President for the most surprising choice (next to Eibhlin Glenholmes and Richard McAuley), so it must be a Belfast thing. Gerry’s favourite film is the 1950 movie, Harvey.
Starring James Stewart and based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase, it tells the story of Elwood Dowd, who just happens to have an invisible friend resembling a 6-foot rabbit.
When pressed on why he particularly likes it, Gerry replies cryptically, “Because it’s true.” I wonder has he seen Donnie Darko?

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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