QUEEN’S University lecturers Professor Des Bell and Dr Fearghal McGarry are to take on one of their biggest assignments to date with the production of an educational film on the extraordinary life of Frank Ryan.
Frank Ryan, born in Limerick in 1902, was a teenage IRA volunteer, irregular in the Civil War, dissident republican socialist of 1930s Dublin and International Brigade volunteer who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War, and ended his life working for the Nazis in wartime Berlin.
Historian Dr McGarry has written a book on Ryan's life and, with support from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, he and award-winning director Professor Bell, are making the educational documentary film about Ryan's contradictory life.
The film aims to supplement Dr McGarry’s work, bringing it to a popular audience, including use in the Irish history curriculum in secondary schools. The film will comprise archive material, interviews and re-enactment of elements of Frank Ryan's life.
The filming will take place in Belfast, Armagh, Dublin and France and has support from the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund of NI Screen.
Speaking about the production, Professor Bell said: “For the second time in a year Nazi insignia will fly over Belfast as a Queen’s University film crew stages a reconstruction of wartime Berlin on campus.
“Last year the BBC shot ‘Christopher and his Friends’, using the City Hall as a stand in for Berlin. Now the University's Whitla Hall takes on this filmic role.
“Belfast is an unusual choice of stand-in for war time Berlin but as the makers of 'Christopher and his Friends' have shown, with the right attention to design and period detail, Belfast with its fine mix of 1940s buildings in neo-classical style can create a believable picture of Berlin of the time.
“So if you spot a swastika-draped building in the University in the coming days don't panic! It’s not a neo-Nazi rally of disaffected students but a film crew hard at work on an educational project.”