Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.C. S. Lewis (via mirroir)
I am alive and I write the sun.
António Ramos Rosa, portuguese poet, hours before dying earlier today. He was 88 years old.
On Sunday I sat in the Curzon Cinema surrounded by people who have all invested in the life, and story of Christina Noble to some level or degree. People who have invested an incredible amount of energy and love in to making a film of her life and her story. People who have read Christina’s book and been in awe of her inspirational character ever since. People who have worked for Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, Christina’s charity who given energy and passion be a part of this organisation and to carry on the work that Christina started. In the room were two of Christina’s daughters and four of her Grandson’s; all incredible strong and beautiful people. It is to Christina’s own credit that she couldn’t be at the screening of the story of her life because she is currently out in the field, continuing her work in Mongolia during a 3 month stint away from home to oversee the foundation’s works in Vietnam and Mongolia, overseeing the operations and spreading the word about what is so important in all this and which has been the key to Christina’s life, to her pain, and to what she has endured: The Children. Christina was made to be the Children’s warrior, the protector of the Street Children of Vietnam and Mongolia.
We came to the screening full of anticipation yet not quite sure what to expect. There were nerves for sure and a great deal riding on this. Stephen Bradley the director of the film, Melanie Gore-Grimes the producer and Deirdre O’Kane, who pushed for Christina’s story to be told in film and who plays the main Christina Noble, and the generous and faithful backers had put everything into this film and believed wholeheartedly in it. I’m glad to say the heart shone through.
Christina’s life as well as what she has made of it has been an incredible story, but one steeped in pain, hurt, and betrayal. As a child in the liberties and after the death of her beloved Mother, Christina and her siblings were given up by their alcoholic father who could not look after them and were sent to the harsh institutions in Ireland. Connemara was Christina’s ultimate childhood destination, in her book ‘Bridge Across my Sorrows’, Christina describes it as “That Wild, Desolate, Wind-Swept and Storm-Lashed part of West Ireland.” Bradley got it perfectly. The institution she went to was run by Catholic Nuns, she was branded “wild” and given a number as her new identity. There she lived a harsh time of neglect , emotional abuse and deprivation. Christina’s childhood factored in more than one institute and a year long stint living in a hole in Phoenix Park, though this was not depicted in the film they stayed true to the feelings and true to emotions that Christina relays in her own telling of the story. Gloria Cramer-Curtis, as the young Christina was a perfect match, epitomising the playful and strong nature of Christina, the mini “Mammy” for her siblings and the incredible spirit to keep going.
Throughout Christina’s life, she has suffered neglect, sexual abuse as a child, deprivation , cruelty, and injustice she has suffered gang-rape, had her baby in essence stolen from her, suffered domestic abuse, she has been attacked on many levels and hurt, yet her spirit, love and faith and wonderful sense of humour have always shone and been testament to her character. She continued her life also believing that there had to be something more, driven by her overwhelmingly wonderful heart and her fierce passion and her belief in justice. Even through all her heartache and pain she knew that she was enduring something to make her strong and to give reason to it all. She found that reason in the so called ‘bụi đời’ dust of life, the Street Children of Vietnam. Not dust in her eyes, but kindred spirits, for she was once like them.
During the film I saw children that I had looked after when I spent time volunteering in Vietnam, something that I was inspired to do by Christina’s story. This took me totally by surprise, I completely welled up. For anyone who has met Christina and has joined her in her work, I know that they will have felt the same. That swell of pride and love. I know that there were few dry eyes in that room. To be a part of this and to serve these Children is truly an honour. Everyone who helps in any way is doing their bit and should never underestimate that.
The film follows a nonlinear narrative, something that as a viewer I did not expect, as I know the story in its chronology. However this surprise kept the story fresh for me. Despite coming to know it so intrinsically in working for Christina’s Foundation, I felt myself wondering what would come next and intrigued by the decision making that Stephen the director would have had to have made in the way he wanted to portray the story. His method brought to mind the way we remember things from our past, this rang true of the way I have heard Christina tell stories of her life. Knowing Christina themselves, Stephen Bradley and Deirdre O’Kane treated her story with the upmost respect and love. This respect and love can be felt throughout by the whole of the wonderful cast and crew. You can feel that Christina’s spirit has touched them all during this process, filming in Vietnam and on Set in Liverpool. There were stellar performances from all the actors involved, with the Vietnamese giving wonderful performances, I loved the way the ironic humour of the Vietnamese people was portrayed, their loyalty, love and pride, a country whose people so often get a bad rap. Actors from Nhu Quynh Nguyen as the incredibly strong woman who Christina joined with to rebuild the building that is now the social and medical centre to the young Tien Dat Nguyen who plays Christina’s little right hand man, Lam. Liam Cunnigham created a brilliant depiction of Christina’s father, or as Christina describes him in Mama Tina, my “useless drunken Daddy” a man deeply damaged with his alcohol addiction who, despite loving them, let his children down immeasurably in their childhood. Ruth Negga portrayed a funny and strong Irish woman and a friend to Christina, she added a great element of light humour in her acting and made us laugh, Brendan Coyle kept us guessing but was immediately likeable, there was almost a paternal element to his part. David Mumeni was truly nasty in his seduction and later oppression of the beautiful and spirited Christina played sensitively and wonderfully by Sarah Greene. We ached for her. Deirdre was wonderful and funny and passionate, there were some beautiful moments and the three Christina’s merged so seamlessly. I felt fully engrossed, only jumping back to reality when recognising faces and the centre in Ho Chi Minh itself. Both delighted by this and overcome with emotion, pride for Christina for the incredible things that she has achieved, despite adversity.
The cinematography by Trevvor forest is incredibly beautiful and sensitively done, he captured each scene as if it could be a beautiful still, the sights and sounds of Vietnam, the boat-people and the Saigon River, the markets and the back streets to the streets of the Dublin Liberties. Alongside the story this just made it all the more thrilling to watch. Music was incredible, a triumph from Giles Martin and Ben Foster, beautiful, at times sad and at others rousing, timings always impeccable. Coldplay’s “In my Place” was an incredibly moving choice. The hairs on the back of my neck shot up, as the camera panned the Sunshine school Children at the centre in Vietnam, eventually focusing on Christina’s gorgeous, smiling face. I listened to it again today the same reaction came back. When a film stays with you the next day, you mull it over and replay the scenes in your head you know it’s good. Noble fires you up and the message is strong.
It was incredible as the film met its crescendo, to see the journey that led Christina to starting the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, to see her talks with God, telling him in no uncertain terms that what he had in store for her better be good after everything she has been through and how good it has been. Christina’s Foundation has helped over 600,000 children in Vietnam and Mongolia. Christina has fought many a battle and will continue to do so as long as she is able. For the children she loves, and respects, who deserve a childhood and a good foundation for life. Like she says in Noble, Christina Noble works for the Children.
Well done to cast and crew of Noble, the film received a standing standing ovation, it was clear that people were moved and touched.
Please keep your eyes peeled for the release of Noble, follow the film on twitter and facebook and spread the word. The message is not one to be missed, and one that in this current climate that we cannot afford to. Love, Hope, respect and Passion- never ever give up. Make sure you read Christina’s books “Bridge Across my Sorrows” and “Mama Tina” for the story from Christina herself. Time to start planning the sequel Stephen?!
Please help and support Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in any way that you can. I can tell you now, it will go straight to these amazing children.