Narrated by Anjelica Huston, Daughters of the Troubles: Belfast Stories is a dramatic personal narrative of the lives of two working-class Belfast women told against the backdrop of the city's violent history.
The one-hour documentary, produced, directed and co-written by Emmy Award-winning documentary producer Marcia Rock, focuses on the social impact of decades of political upheaval--25 years to be exact. Belfast first erupted in violence in August, 1969 and British military troops patrolled her streets until February, 1995. A whole generation of young people grew up knowing nothing but the bitterness of a divided city and the ever present horror of death. It also offers a new perspective--the history of Northern Ireland's Troubles told from the point of view of the women.
Daughters of the Troubes: Belfast Stories fulfills the challenge posed by The New York Times in an article dated August 4, 1996, "Television Plugs Into the Past," asking that documentaries break from the "great man" approach to history and embrace the trend in modern historical scholarship which sees important history told through social history, ie. the personal accounts of immigrants, coal miners, industrial workers, farmers and women.
The stories of Geraldine O'Reagan (a Catholic) and May Blood (a Protestant) are just such personal accounts; poignant, defiant, intimate and moving. Geraldine and May are women forced by political and social upheaval to transcend the traditional roles assigned them by a conservative, and increasingly segregated, society. Their response to the challenge changes their lives, and those of their families, forever.
The two women grew up a few miles from each other in male-dominate, working class neighborhoods where work and worship were the bonds holding family life together.
Producer, Marcia Rock, deftly interweaves the personal accounts of Geraldine and May with archival footage of "The Troubles" to place their situations in historical context. The first half of the documentary chronologically tells the story of how their lives, beliefs and communities are torn apaprt, while the second half deals with the painful process of rebuilding. The women must create different lives for themselves and their children while tackling a whole new set of problesm--teenage pregnancy, drug use, and the ills that following the wake of violence and poverty.
With energy and resolve, they throw themselves into rehabilitating their communities, helping alienated youth who kno nothing but decades of violence and the inexorable cycle of dependancy. As the traditional anchors of church, state and family lose influence, the women become central to maintaining the moral compass of their society.
In spite of the setbacks and the dail hardships they confront, their stories are filled with wit and humor, conveying a tremendous sense of hope coupled with the knowledge that the Northern Ireland of the future will be one which they will help shape.
The documentary includes footage from the Northern Ireland elections of May 1996 and the violence of July 1996. It is timely, but resonates with timeless concerns--the themes of nationalism, religion and the changing roles of women.
Daughters of the Troubles: Belfast Stories was co-written,directed and produced by Marcia Rock; co-written by Jack Holland and narrated by Anjelica Huston. Major funding was provided by Mutual of America and The American Ireland Fund. Additional support and assistance was provided by Aer Lingus, Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, The Irish Tourist Board, and Making Belfast Work.