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BLACK NIGHTS 2022 Competition

Ciaran Creagh • Director of Ann

“We wanted to be with Ann and to give her a voice”


- The Irish director tells us why he wanted to adapt the heart-wrenching true story of Ann Lovett for the big screen

Ciaran Creagh • Director of Ann

The drama Ann [+see also:
film review
interview: Ciaran Creagh
film profile
by Ciaran Creagh is part of the International Competition at this year's Tallinn Black Nights. We spoke to the director about his approach to this sad but true story that occurred in 1984, and which is still very relevant today.

Cineuropa: You say at the end of the film that there are no records belonging to the parents or to the townspeople about what happened to Ann in 1984. Where did you get your information from?
Ciaran Creagh:
It is a very well-known story in Ireland, even though the parents and the townspeople never speak about it. There was a journalist who looked into the case, and certain facts are known from that, from what people told the journalist. There are also records from the police and the coroner's office, which are available publicly. In the official records, you can find the testimonies given by the people at that time.

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How did you develop the character of Ann?
While doing my research, I found out that Ann was a very strong young woman – strong in her views and in her actions. She had a boyfriend from quite early on, when she was 13 or 14, for example. She was very independent, which was not the norm at the time. I wanted to make sure that we portrayed her like that. I didn’t want the film to be a whodunnit crime story; we wanted to dig down to what the real Ann was like. I think she was someone to whom modern women can relate; they can relate to the courage she had.

How did you find actress Zara Devlin for the role of Ann?
When we were searching for the cast, it was during the COVID-19 lockdown, so after contacting all the agencies in Ireland, we got several self-tapes. We had a shortlist of seven girls and finally chose Zara – she’s fantastic. In the film, she says very little and has to show everything on her face.

Why was it important for you to tell her story?
As I said, it’s a very well-known story, also because a journalist published a number of articles in 2018. I felt this was a story that needed to be told, and I was surprised it hadn’t been recounted yet. For me, it was the easiest script I had ever written. In Ireland, as in other countries, too, we have had some issues with abortion in the last few years. Ann's story comes up regularly in this context. We tried to be as respectful as possible, as we wanted to be with Ann and to give her a voice.

There is this question in the film: “Why didn't she ask for help?” So why didn't she?
That is an easy question to ask, but one that’s impossible to answer. Today, a girl would be able to find step-by-step instructions on how to act on YouTube. But at that time, she had to go to the library to borrow a book. Immediately, everyone in that small town would have known about her situation. I guess she could have asked for help, but the final step was just too much because of the shame and because of the religious context.

The character of Ann's father is very important. How did you proceed when developing him?
We wanted to be as true to the idea of what a man was like at that time. The father is a carpenter, a more introverted, colder type of guy. I imagined him as a more dogmatic style of man. He had to be true both to his family and to the society of the 1980s.

From the perspective of the Church, this family was doomed. Ann was not married, and her sister commits suicide.
The Church ruled together with the state at the time, but this has changed now. It was the priest you would approach for advice at first, if you had a problem. This is also the case in the film: rather than calling a doctor first, they call the priest.

You mostly use a handheld camera. Can you tell us why this was important for the story?
I knew from the very start that I wanted to achieve movement with the camera. It had to lead and follow the characters during the whole film. I like it when the camera gives the actors the space they need. And the camera has to help us get inside the characters and reflect the atmosphere of the town. We wanted to stay true to the action, and this is why we also had very long shots.

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