Actor and director John Connors says Irish state ‘went to war with Travellers’

“Even for me, I was placed in a class for travelers at school, deliberately separated from other children”

The Irish star told The Hollywood Reporter that she grew up as a traveler ahead of the premiere of her brand new movie The Black Guelph at the Oldenburg Film Festival on Friday, September 16.

“I come from an Irish Traveler background. I don’t know if you know us, but we really are from old Gaelic Ireland, and we still cling to a lot of old, old ways,” he began.

“We were traditionally nomads, but we were forced to assimilate by the Irish state. The state almost went to war with travelers.

“Every institution has discriminated against us,” he said.

“Even for me, I was placed in a class for travelers at school, deliberately separated from the other children. And because they thought we were stupid and couldn’t read, we were given coloring books instead of teaching us.

“My grandfather went to Letterfrack, which was like the Alcatraz of industrial schools, the worst of the worst. It was right on the coast in Galway, and it was so hilly and difficult to get there , you knew you would never escape,” he said.

Explaining the title of his film, which follows petty drug dealer Kanto, and his long-absent father Cormac, Connors said: “The Black Guelphs were a group of people from ancient Italy who wanted to maintain the power of the pope .”

“Anyone who opposed them was either slaughtered or banished, like Virgil, the great poet who inspired Dante’s Inferno, who we also draw inspiration from in this film.”

“What we are really saying with the title is that Black Guelph is Ireland. Ireland has decided to protect the power of its institutions over the interests of its people,” he continued, adding : “And Ireland continues to do so in different ways”.

Discussing his struggles shooting the film, Connors said filming took place in January 2021, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.

“Then we had the lockdown. We couldn’t get costumes, props. It was very cold in January.

“The actors were ready to leave the set. Covid took about a third of our budget.

“We had to come back, five months later, for reshoots. We turned 145 pages in 21 days. With 156 configurations. It was crazy,” he said.

“I’m super excited to finally release the movie because it’s been in the works for so long”

“I worked a year and a half on it and didn’t get paid a penny, with no other work coming in and putting all my money into it,” he added.

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