By Estelle Shanley
A Glimpse of Irish History
Meeting Irishman Kevin McCann is memorable, an event, and he’s not easy to forget. He has that Irish way with him, beguiling, intense, interesting. He sports a red curly beard, the kind one immediately squelches the desire to run fingers through, to make sure its real, to have the experience. I’m aware, the #MeToo movement prohibits such a gesture! He immediately impresses with creative energy spewing forth in forty shades of diversity.
McCann, born in Enniskillen, in the North of Ireland, currently lives in Los Angeles. He’s proud of his birth town, boasting that Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde lived there. His family made a hasty retreat, relocating to Cavan in the south of Ireland, when a bomb exploded in a tax office near they’re living quarters. Nonetheless, he maintains close ties with the North and it has affected both his writing and political philosophy.
He’s a young man, oozing creativity, his speech peppered with tantalizing descriptions of just about everything, transforming the mundane into poetic language. A screen and documentary writer, producer, play director, a man who admits he has talent and accepts the vocation of creating new ways to express and bring to life what he sees around him.
His current screen script The Rising took six years to complete. It highlights a significant slice of Irish history, the 1916 Easter Rebellion. Irish leaders, joined by an army of one thousand Irish men and women was no match for the British Empire, and sixteen of its leaders were executed by the British. McCann’s film depiction of the rebellion heralds the first time a screen film has been written about the attempt of the Irish to battle the British Empire, eliminating English rule in Ireland. McCann admits it was ambitious, a mighty act, and the turning point in the British Empire. The sixteen historic leaders, included Patrick Pearse, Michael Collins and Robert Emmet, all executed by the Brits. To this day ,the Irish argue whether the slaughter and the loss of life was worth the fight. Historians, both Irish and American, documenting the rebellion also share opposing views on its worthiness.
McCann reveals the rebellion was actually influenced by the American War of Independence. He quotes Robert Emmet’s declaration prior to his execution: “I wish to procure for my country the guarantee which Washington procured for America.” The rebellion fills the pages of history and despite the controversy whether it was worth the loss of life, McCann is adamant. “It did trigger a revival of the sagging spirit of the Irish” and that emerges in music, and poetry including the work of William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney and countless others.
Yet, McCann reveals that his work, The Rising,is the first film to emerge a century following the event. Why has this piece of Irish history been shunned? “There’s a sense that the loss brought shame, “ he explained, recalling that years back,sitting at a bar, raising his glass toasting the leaders of the rebellion. “Fair play to Pearse and Connolly, but they did not know what they were doing.” He admits he was ignorant and arrogant. “I had no comprehension” he added. In effect, he was mouthing the philosophy, held by many to this day, that the rebellion was madness, a total failure. By holding that view, he argues, it denied the men and women of principle who fought for a free Ireland and stood up to the British and the world’s greatest Empire. It’s a story to broadcast and McCann is the man to tell it, thinking of Irish actors like Liam Neeson and Fiona Shaw. “We must tackle history and share it,” he says.
He adheres to the philosophy that the Irish did not set out to defeat the British Empire, but to awaken the Irish. “The question is, did the leaders succeed in stirring the Irish proud Celtic spirit”? He enthusiastically announces that that’s exactly what the failed uprising accomplished. At the same time he admits that the Brits continue its rule of the six counties in Ulster. ”I am conscious of the two sides of Ireland, but two side are one community.”
Once a teacher, he utilized documentaries and writings to teach civic duty and realism. The third oldest sibling of seven, he admits growing up he was immersed in creativity. His father wrote scores of plays, produced several, and recently, at the age of seventy-seven, published a book of poems. In addition, his mother organized and directed a girl’s church choir for years, and McCann credits his love of writing derived within that family cocoon.
Currently he’s making the rounds to producers and potential investors, rubbing elbows with a collection of fans-of-the-script, seeking distribution funds to launch The Rising, a first in film that tells the story of the Easter Rising.
Writing is McCann’s full time job. “It puts bread and butter on the table, but sometimes there’s no butter for the bread,” The hash tag for his company is Macana Teoranta, “which sounds exotic,” he offers, it’s really McCann LTD. The majority of his works concentrates on the divide between the north and south of Ireland, and He’s been heavily influenced by the work of Seamus Heaney who attended school in Derry along with Brian Friel and Phil Coulter. “Meeting someone like Heaney makes us realize there are great people on this earth.”
He has written, produced documentaries, radio programs, produced one of his father’s plays that garnered a dozen international festival awards.
“My duty as a film maker is to keep on the path to finance my film,”. In a burst of wishful thinking, he expressed hope that a Midas man or woman will telephone and tell him “just go and make the damn film.”
Commenting on the writing life, he admitted its often a selfish endeavor, but “a voyage you have to do.”