Films: The Enigma of Frank Ryan

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The Enigma of Frank Ryan

The Enigma of Frank Ryan

Ireland, 2012, 90 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: UK
Genre/Subjects: Biographical, Drama
Programs: Contemporary World Cinema, New Directors Showcase
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Desmond Bell
Producer: Desmond Bell
Editor: Nigel Galt
Screenwriter: Desmond Bell
Cinematographer: Sam Mitchell
Principal Cast: Dara Devaney, Barry Barnes, Mia Gallagher, Frankie McCafferty, Arthur Riordan, Christos Lawton, Nicholas Stratton

Irish Republican hero Frank Ryan mystified his countrymen and many others with what seemed to be contradictory political impulses. While he fought against fascism with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, he later collaborated closely with the Nazi government, relying for years on German hospitality. Ultimately, he would die far from home, yearning to return to Ireland but turned away because of his political activities.

This docudrama focuses largely on Ryan’s war years, from the late 1930s until his death in Dresden in 1944. Ryan lived according to the idea that Britain’s misfortune was an Irish opportunity. He believed an alliance between his homeland and Nazi Germany would help reunite Ireland and throw off British control. But despite his sincerity and his fierce mission to free his people, ultimately what he learned about the nature of Nazi policy and how it was carried out left him faced with an argument he couldn’t win in anyone’s eyes. After a failed U-boat mission to return to Ireland, Ryan became stranded in Berlin.

The story is structured around a series of interviews with Ryan by a young radio producer who wants to broadcast them to the Irish. Drawing on Ryan’s letters and writings, the dramatization runs in counterpoint to archival footage of wartime Germany, including attacks and bombed-out cities, but also a surprisingly genteel-looking Berlin. Dara Devaney, who starred in the 2011 television series Camelot, plays the title role.


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