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Alan Phelan: Our Kind
10 March - 2 October 2016
Our Kind is a short film by Alan Phelan which imagines a future for Roger Casement had he not been executed in 1916. This film is set 25 years later in 1941, where Casement is in exile in Norway with his former manservant and now partner Adler Christensen. They are visited by Alice Stopford Green, a close friend and former supporter of Casement. The story unfolds as Adler and Alice both betray their relationships with him, paralleling Casement’s isolation from his homeland, beliefs and the ideals of the Rising.
The film gets it title from the speech Casement made on his conviction, and extracts of this are used throughout the film. The dialogue re-narrativises text from another film which like other recent work by Phelan is not openly credited as the re-staging of the text creates a whole new story and meaning from the original.
This scripting technique enables Our Kind to embrace the complex and contradictory historical interpretations surrounding Casement by taking a counter-factual position. This means that there are few historically correct elements in the story presented. Instead we are given a very different scenario which in itself reflects the flaws common in the genre of historical drama for film, with its need to find drama in history, resulting in stories that speak more of the present than the past. Much of the scholarship surrounding Casement is similarly muddled, caught between interpretative approaches, political prejudices and at times an inverted homophobia that cannot come to terms with Casement’s personal and public lives. Several of these angles are woven into the story, often mis-represented and incomplete.
Our Kind cannot be viewed at face value. The meaning lies between the lines. This is a deliberate challenge to audiences and the prevailing 1916 narrative as Casement is not presented as hero or icon; neither liberated or closeted. Instead we encounter Casement as an ordinary human being with ordinary human needs, emotions, and failings. The film may be stripped of historical fact but there are many references to Casement’s life, opinions and principles that reveal in itself a different kind of truth.
Our Kind was commissioned by The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery, funded by Dublin City Council, Department of Arts 2016 Commemorations Committee and The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Bank of Ireland.