Filmed in Central Mass., ‘The Liberator’ will screen in Marlborough

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Daniel O’Connell was known as “The Liberator” as he peacefully agitated for the rights of the Irish people in an early 19th century Ireland ruthlessly governed from London.

“He was the Martin Luther King of the Irish in the early 1800s,” said filmmaker William McCann of Shirley.

Thousands of people would come to hear O’Connell speak in Ireland. At a rally in Tara, County Meath in 1843, it was estimated that half a million people attended.

McCann’s $50,000 budget didn’t allow for that many people, and he was filming in central Massachusetts.

But McCann’s independently and locally produced feature ‘The Liberator’ will have its world premiere on August 24 at the Regal Cinema in the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlborough.

The film was shot over six weeks last summer in locations including Bolton, Lancaster and Shirley, as well as Cape Cod. There are a number of speaking parts and another 150 people were extras.

McCann was a banker for 30 years before retiring to focus his energies on making “The Liberator.”

It’s his first time as a filmmaker, and McCann not only wrote and directed “The Liberator,” but plays O’Connell.

“It’s a movie I’ve been thinking about for decades. It’s one of my passion projects back in college,” he said.

According to the film’s website, “Sweeping yet intimate, this true story traces O’Connell’s rise from the dirt floors of a peasant house in Kerry to the marble steps of the Palace of Westminster in London. “

McCann graduated from Brown University in 1987, but was also an exchange student at University College Cork in Ireland.

Tributes to Daniel O’Connell are “hard to miss” in Ireland, McCann said. O’Connell Street is one of the main streets of Dublin, the capital of Ireland, and contains a huge statue of O’Connell. There are other statues of O’Connell throughout Ireland, McCann said.

However, although O’Connell was a revered figure, McCann found that few people knew his real story.

“It’s not a very well-known story but it was a colossal character,” he said. “He just had an incredible dramatic story that I thought could be told on film.”

Plus, “part of my motivation is to get the O’Connell name out there,” McCann said.

O’Connell (1775-1847) is credited with helping to secure Catholic emancipation in 1829, which also allowed him to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom to which he was twice elected. At Westminster, O’Connell championed liberal and reformist causes, but his goal of a separate Irish Parliament remained elusive. Nevertheless, he was adamantly opposed to violence as a means to an end.

Over the years, McCann wrote several script versions of “The Liberator” but didn’t have a chance to catch the attention of the film industry. In 2017 he wrote a version of “The Liberator” as a three-act play which was staged in Lancaster.

“It went well,” McCann said. “I thought maybe we could do a scaled-down version (screenplay), and we filmed it.”

None of the cast and crew were paid, “but I fed them,” McCann said. The $50,000 budget was also spent on costumes and equipment rental.

Directing as O’Connell was another challenge, but McCann credited the help and expertise of his cinematographer and assistant director, Jacob Schmiedicke.

McCann has found many enthusiastic volunteers, including members of St. John the Evangelist Church in Clinton, where he is also a parishioner.

People involved in the making of the film and their families are expected to make up a large part of the audience at the Regal Cinema at Solomon Pond Mall on Wednesday. McCann leased two theaters. The public is also welcome, but the rooms are already almost full, he said. To access the ticket office, use the link https://buytickets.at/redabbeyproductions/721971.

“The Liberator” will also screen August 29 at the Maynard Fine Arts Theater in Maynard. For a ticket, go to https://buytickets.at/redabbeyproductions/728471.

McCann plans to enter “The Liberator” at “film festivals that make sense” for the subject matter, and “tap into local Irish organizations for special screenings.” He would also like the film to be available in formats such as DVD. The ultimate goal would be a distribution agreement with a company.

The experience of directing “The Liberator” was grueling, but it also whetted McCann’s appetite for other film endeavors.

“I really enjoyed the process. I still have a few ideas in the works,” he said.

For more information on “The Liberator”, visit www.TheLiberatorMovie.com

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