Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Irish documentarian visits USM and shares success story

Aaron Damon

Posted on September 15, 2014 in Arts & Culture
By Krysteana Scribner

When he was in college, Maurice Fitzpatrick decided he wanted to be a documentarian and fought to reach his goals despite naysayers. Now, Fitzpatrick has a documentary co-produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, a book under his belt and said he is always looking for the next project.

Last Wednesday, Fitzpatrick visited USM to show his documentary and talk to students about film, Irish history and his own experiences as a filmmaker and author.

“My interest in creating documentaries definitely began my first year at Trinity College in Dublin. I remember telling my friend about my life goals and he couldn’t believe that I had the arrogance to want to create films for a living,” said Fitzpatrick, who believes that watching quality films as a teenager greatly inspired his love for documentaries.

Fitzpatrick was born wand raised in Derry, Ireland and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in literature and philosophy at Trinity College, before going on to study language in Tokyo, Japan. He currently teaches English literature and language in Germany.

Fluent in seven different languages, Fitzpatrick has many areas of expertise, but most of his film work has centered around Irish history.

His most recent film, titled The Boys of St Columb’s, is a 55 minute political documentary that was co-produced with BBC. His film tells the story of the first generation of Irish children to receive free secondary education after the 1947 Education Act, which allowed for young children to become educated and have more opportunities in life.

“The idea for this documentary came about in 2007, when I first learned about the Education Act in Ireland – it was then that I thought, there must be a story here that I can share with the world. It’s just such a fascinating topic,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick said that his motivation for making the documentary was to educate himself on what it was like to be a part of the minority state in Ireland during the 1940s. According to Fitzpatrick, there were two distinct communities that did not live happily among one another in Northern Ireland. The country was divided by religious differences, and the school for boys was often cited as having bizarre and sadistic punishments. When British troops marched into Derry to hold back protesters who were desperate for equal economical treatment on Aug. 14, 1969, CS gas was used to control riots and hundreds of innocent people were shot.

“It was very clear to me when I interviewed an individual who grew up during those times that he was feeling bitter about the way his people had been treated,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick made it clear that there is so much to learn from history and that a lot of people aren’t really aware of the injustices that happened in Ireland. According to Fitzpatrick, Ireland has changed dramatically over the years.

“So much has happened in Ireland that many people know little about,” said Fitzpatrick.

The Boys of St Columb’s was originally a book, but his drive to learn more and spread the knowledge is what led to his filmmaking endeavours. Some of the motivation also derived from meeting Seamus Dean, a famous literary critic who grew up in that hardship riddled era.

“I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it felt to talk to Dean,” said Fitzpatrick. “He was a huge inspiration to me, and ultimately sparked my interest in Irish film and literature.”

Looking back at his career, Fitzpatrick said he is happy with the choices he made, although sometimes the road to success wasn’t the easiest.

“I was trying to close my ears to the people who told me I couldn’t do it – and I sure proved them wrong. I had missed the boat for film school, but it never bothered me,” Fitzpatrick said. “I found my niche in anywhere I went.”

Fitzpatrick said that he’d like to make another documentary, but also believes in moving on to new projects regularly. For now, he said that he plans to continue teaching students in Germany what he is passionate about – languages. He attributed his success to self-motivation, education and a little bit of luck.

“Education is the door to the future, and our past reveals it was once a narrow opening,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are lucky to be able to say now that the door to success is open and ready for us to explore.”


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