REBEL ROSSA is a personal investigation into the life and legacy of the Irish rebel Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa by his American great-grandsons told within the context of the controversies leading up to the 100-year anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland.
From an idyllic childhood in rural Ireland torn apart by the Potato Famine to imprisonment and torture in dank Victorian jails; from forced exile to New York where he organized a direct action bombing campaign in the UK to the massive funeral in Dublin that ignited events that led to Irish independence, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa symbolized the very core of the unrepentant Fenian Irish revolutionary.
This film will tell the story of Rossa and his equally ardent wife Mary Jane, the filmmakers’ great grandparents. It will delve into what they did and what they meant during the fight for Irish independence and – now that the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Uprising is approaching – what they mean in a contemporary context, both in Ireland and in a world where the term “terrorist” is often used but rarely unpacked.
REBEL ROSSA is also a road movie of sorts, one where the great grandsons of a lauded but controversial figure revisit a country their relative was exiled from to discover what he means now. In July 2015 there will be many commemorations of O’Donovan Rossa’s life in West Cork leading up to a recreation of the famous funeral in Dublin on August 1st. 2015, the 100-year anniversary. We will be both part of these events and filming them, engaging with historians, ex-prisoners, politicians and average citizens as a modern Ireland comes to reckon with its revolutionary past.