“It took me 73 years to get to Hollywood, I never knew it was so far,” joked Horseleap’s John Gorman this week as he reflected on the journey that has taken the controversial Jadotville story all the way to the silver screen.
Speaking ahead of a special screening of the eagerly awaited film starring Jamie Dornan and Tullamore’s Sam Keeley at the Galway Film Fleadh on July 9, Mr Gorman said he was “very much looking forward” to seeing the feature for the first time alongside other veterans, including the 93-year-old Harry Dixon, the oldest survivor of the Jadotville battle, who has an extra reason never to forget the incident as fighting began on September 13, his birthday.
Made by Parallel Films, the film is based on the book ‘The Siege of Jadotville” by Declan Power which recounts the controversial 1961 siege where 150 Irish UN troops in the Congo, who were mainly from Athlone and other areas of the Midlands including Tullamore, were attacked by troops loyal to the Katangese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe.
Jamie Dornan of 50 Shades of Grey fame plays the Athlone-based Comdt Patrick Quinlan alongside French star Guillaume Canet, a French commander in the flick and local actor Sam Keeley, who portrays a sniper.
“The film is going to bring out a lot of truths,” John Gorman, who led the campaign for recognition of those who were in Jadotville maintained. He also acted as an advisor on the new film which was mainly shot in South Africa last year with first-time director Richie Smyth at the helm.
“We’re waiting 55 years for this...We’re only 45 years behind the Rising when you think of it like that,” added John, who joked that Ronan Raftery who plays him in the film is not unlike his young self at all.
Acquired by Netflix, the feature recalls the amazing story of the bravery of the Irish troops who fought valiantly to hold off the rebels, led by French and Belgian mercenaries working for mining companies, for a total of six days until their ammunition and supplies had been exhausted and Comdt Quinlan took the decision that they could not continue without loss of life. On arrival home however, those who fought in Jadotville were made to feel inferior in the army.
Gorman, who led a longstanding campaign for the recognition of the soldiers who were in Jadotville said many of those who fought there came to unfortunate ends very young and those who lived on, endured 50 years of suffering until they were vindicated and recognised by former Defence Minister, Willie O’Dea some years ago.
“It’s so sad to think out of the 156, only about 45 odd are left,” Mr Gorman recalled sadly. “I suppose only for Willie O’Dea who took us out of hell, we’d still be there,” added the Horseleap resident ahead of what he expects to an “emotional” night seeing the film for the first time.
When asked if this is final element of closure for the soldiers who were in Jadotville, he said there is still one thing to be done before they can close the book.
“Each survivor should get a medal (from the army) to put a close on it. That was turned down by a board back in 1965,” Mr Gorman said.
A spokesperson for Netflix confirmed that the screening in Galway is a special showing for the film festival. An official premiere will be held later this year closer to the release date which has yet to be announced, she added, however it is thought to be happening in Dublin sometime in the autumn, .
A spokesperson for the Galway Film Fleadh said some of the cast and crew will be in attendance on the night but they could not say who at the time of going to press.