Older Than Ireland’s
Next Cinegael film is Alex Fegan’s documentary on Irish seniors over 100
By Byron Toben
I have always been intrigued by long lived centenarians since I met the legendary Herman ‘Jackrabbit’ Smith-Johannsen. Born in 1885 in Norway, this Saint-Sauveur resident introduced cross-country skiing to North America and lived to 111.
I filmed him when he was a young stripling of only 92 and was impressed by his positive attitude.
Being impressed by the great composer Irving Berlin, who, along with the Queen Mum, reached 101, I have kept tabs on long lived writers, actors and musicians. See the end of this article for my current list of living celebs over 100.
The Peacemaker, the amazing true story of Padraig O’Malley’s one-man crusade to bring warring sides together around the world.
Cinegael, Montréal’s Irish film series, is having a stellar year. Since the gripping fictional opener The Journey, about talks leading to peace with Northern Ireland, reviewed earlier here, it has presented The Peacemaker, the amazing true story of Padraig O’Malley’s one-man crusade to bring warring sides together around the world (and still at it at 75).
The last film shown thus far in this series (now in its 26th year and the largest such in the world outside of Ireland) was Sanctuary. Filmed in Galway, which hosts a remarkable troupe of mentally disabled actors who have managed to be portrayed in a film about them, by them. What happens to such folk, cute as tots, when they reach adulthood, lose some government support and, until recently, were forbidden to marry or have sex? The lead actor has Downs Syndrome and the lead actress epilepsy.
‘Sanctuary… hosts a remarkable troupe of mentally disabled actors who have managed to be portrayed in a film about them, by them.’
The gang gets lost, unsupervised, in the city, reminding me somewhat of the skit Otta Here, performed by 35 special students from our Summit school at the 2017 Centaur Wildside.
Click on the excellent Cinegael website, run by computer wizard Antoine Maloney, for a more detailed synopsis of these films.
Closing out February 22, is Older Than Ireland, directed by Alex Fegan. (His earlier documentary, The Irish Pub was shown to Cinegael members as a post series bonus a few years ago.) The Irish Free State was declared in 1922, and after a civil war, officially became the Irish Republic in 1949. Thus the centenarians captured in this film are literally “older than Ireland”, the oldest woman is 113 and man 108, as they and others recount their firsts (kisses, etc).
‘… the centenarians captured in this film are literally “older than Ireland”, the oldest woman is 113 and man 108…’
The series continues until early May.
Almost forgot… my own watch list of still living celebs over 100:
Author Herman Wouk 103
Actors Olivia de Havilland 102 and Kirk Douglas 101
Singer Vera Lynn 100
Older Than Ireland screens at Cinema de Sève, in the downtown Concordia Library building, at 7:15 pm on Thursday, February 22.
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.