April 29, 2009

Publication: Galway City Tribune

Date: Friday, April 24, 2009 Page: 24

Author: DARRAGH McDONAGH

Headline: Mayor gets film screening cancelled

Anger as controversial suicide movie features Galway school uniform

A DISTURBING film that depicts the suicide of a schoolboy wearing a Galway school uniform has been withdrawn from screening at the Eye Cinema next month, following pressure from the Mayor of the City. The controversial production portrays a teenager taking his own life in the uniform of the school attended by one of the five young people who died by suicide in Galway earlier this year.

The city is still in shock following the tragic deaths that occurred within a devastating three month period. Experts have now expressed concern that the film could lead to copycat suicides. "This is a very delicate issue in our city and there are a lot of families and communities still coming to terms with their tragic loss," said Mayor Padraig Conneely. "They should be allowed to grieve without the intrusion of this voyeuristic production. Its screening is enormously insensitive and unhelpful so close to an area where such tragedies so recently took place."

The unauthorised use of the Galway Community College uniform by the filmmakers has been branded as "distasteful" and is being perceived as a reference to the five tragic suicides that occurred in the city this year. Two best friends took their own lives in the same spot a week apart, while the other three victims are also understood to have known each other.

• Mayor Conneely is a member of the board of management of Galway Community College. He reacted angrily to the filmmakers' use of the school uniform. "I am aware that at least one of the young people who died went to school there and it is distasteful in the extreme that the uniform would be used in such a way. "It is a hugely sensitive time for the school, which is still healing and coming to terms with events under the compassion and guidance of Principal Rita Duffy," he said. "It is offensive and has a terrible potential for harm, and it should not be put into the public domain next month." The shocking film, titled "Roped In", is to be screened in the Eye Cinema in May as part of an exhibition of short films and documentaries produced by a local TV and film course.

Because it is not rated or subject to censorship, children will be allowed to watch the production. "It's going to raise a few eyebrows and tickle a few stomachs," warned cameraman Fergal McSweeney. The dark film was shot over two days in Ennis, Co Clare and follows a schoolboy struggling to cope with domestic and relationship problems. It also depicts a young African boy in sandals, praying for a new pair of trainers. In a disturbing scene, the troubled schoolboy takes a rope from his bag and hangs himself from a tree. The African boy later finds his body and steals his trainers.

"Roped In" writer and director, Tony McDonagh acknowledged that suicide was a delicate issue in Galway, but insisted the production was intended to be thought provoking rather than controversial. "When an issue is hot, it's good that it's talked about. I think we have a habit of not addressing the issue of suicide in Ireland," he said. "The film offers an insight into the subject and it will get people talking and thinking about the issues, and I think that's a good thing." However, Secretary of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dr John Connolly expressed grave concern at the film's screening and feared it could provoke a further spate of copycat suicides. "There is overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence that inappropriate portrayal of suicide in media and film can lead to copycat suicides," he warned. "The use of the school uniform is particularly troubling as there is a greater risk when there is a sense of identification with the deceased."

Film director Tony McDonagh denied that the film posed a risk to viewers, but said that there was meant to be a sense of identification with the character. "People will relate to it," he said. "It's for the school kid who feels lost."

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