Opening 'Unexpected' Doors

Opening 'Unexpected' Doors

New documentary by BC's Michalczyk to open at MFA tomorrow night

By Kathleen Sullivan
Staff Writer

A documentary by Prof. John Michalczyk (Fine Arts) that chronicles the evolution of Northern Irish paramilitaries from the beginning of "The Troubles" through the tenuous peace process, premieres at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts tomorrow, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m.

The film, "Unexpected Openings: Northern Ireland Prisoners," also will be shown on WGBX-TV (Channel 44) on Friday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. and on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) on Sunday, Oct. 8, at 4 p.m.

Shot on location, at the Maze and Crumlin Road prisons and other sites in Ulster, "Unexpected Openings" tells the stories of former Irish Republican Army, Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force members returning to society after 15 to 20 years in prison. In personal narratives, the former prisoners - considered freedom fighters by some and terrorists by others - share reflections of their confinement, and how they came to believe their objectives cannot be achieved by violence.

Many of the men are now working in social work, politics and education, and "have become Northern Ireland's hidden resource in the peace process," according to Michalczyk.

"The film is very timely," said Michalczyk. "Although the peace in Northern Ireland is very fragile, no one wants to go back to the days of violence and insecurity."

The documentary features interviews with government officials, politicians, police, prison chaplains and victims of sectarian violence.

Part-time faculty member Raymond Helmick, SJ, (Theology), who serves as the film's co-writer and co-producer with Michalczyk and Paul Goudreau, '88, has been talking with Republicans and Loyalists in Northern Ireland since the 1970s and served as a mediator during prisoner hunger strikes of the early 1980s.
Prof. John Michalczyk (Fine Arts), left, with "Unexpected Openings" co-producers part-time faculty member Raymond Helmick, SJ (Theology), and Paul Goudreau.

While in prison, Fr. Helmick said, the militants sought to better understand the factors and influences that shaped their differing views. They also earned secondary school, master's and doctoral degrees, and some even learned the Irish language. Their reflection and study have given them a perspective on the situation in Northern Ireland that is often more sophisticated than many mainstream politicians, he said.

"I want viewers to come to an understanding of the contributions the members of the militant movement have made to the peace process," said Fr. Helmick.

Many of the general public and politicians are "glad the fighting has stopped," Fr. Helmick said, "but they do not yet recognize the need to accommodate others." The ex-prisoners have already learned this, he said.

The film also features the photography of Adj. Asst. Prof. Charles Meyer (Fine Arts) and the musical contributions of Irish Studies Music Programs Director Seamus Connolly, Burns Library Irish Music Librarian Elizabeth Sweeney, part-time faculty member Margaret McAllister (Music) and Audiovisual Department Audio Engineer Jonathan Sage.

Tomorrow's premiere, which will be held in the MFA's Remis Auditorium, will be preceded by a brief performance of music from the film. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Michalczyk, Fr. Helmick and invited guests. The premiere is open to the public. Tickets are $8; $7 for seniors, students and MFA members. For tickets, call the Museum of Fine Arts at (617) 369-3770.


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