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Fatima Mansions revisited: new film recalls life of the flats

Vinny Murphy’s latest film gives an insider look into growing up in Fatima Mansions – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

‘Fatima Was Me City’ is an hour-long film directed by Vinny Murphy and produced by the Rialto Community Drug Team and Common Ground, a local arts organisation.  

I didn’t really venture outside Fatima; Fatima was me city

TONY MAY JUNIOR

The film explores the experiences of six men who grew up in Fatima Mansions in Rialto throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The six men – Jonathan May, Tony May, Tony May Junior, Michael King, Patser May and Tom McGloughlin, discuss their experiences growing up in Fatima and the ways in which their lives have been impacted by industrial schools, drugs, poverty, and much more.  

Murphy has been involved with the Rialto Community Drug Team since 2018, when he was first approached and asked to direct the film. 

Murphy explained that the film was an emotional one for him to direct. 

“The world they’re talking about is the same one I grew up in,” he explained.  “It was going to be a twenty-minute film [at first]. It took a long time to get going.” 

The film is an important part of addressing the darker aspects of Ireland’s past, says Murphy. 

“I think this country is very good at glossing over the past,” he said. 

The men in the film talk of how many members of their community found themselves in prison. They believe the circumstances of their youth were a huge contributing factor to the high incarceration rates in the community. 

“We got beaten for being born into poverty,” says Tony May, when speaking in the film about his time in school.  “It felt like a natural order – you do this, then this, then this, then you end up in prison,” said Murphy. 

The six men are given a chance to speak both individually and in a group in the film. Slowly transitioning from discussing their childhood, to their teenage years, to their current adult lives. 

“I didn’t really venture outside Fatima; Fatima was me city,” said May Junior.

One aspect the film highlights is the affect drugs had on the community in Fatima. Many of the men speak of their own journeys of recovery from addiction, of how they dealt drugs themselves, and how many people they knew were lost to drugs.

“I didn’t realise [that] a child dying was such a big deal,” says Jonathan May when speaking of his cousin, who died at the age of thirteen. 

Other aspects of the men’s lives which are highlighted are industrial schools, the prison pipeline, and the treatment of their community by law enforcement. 

Dublin’s International Film Festival will continue on until the 6th of March this year. Many of the films can be viewed at The Lighthouse cinema in Smithfield. Visit The Lighthouse website here.

If you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse, you can call the HSE national drugs and alcohol helpline at 1800 459 459, or email helpline@hse.ie.

Visit Rialto Community Drugs Team’s website here.

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