Summer Screenings at The Model Cinema Sligo

(Barbaric Genius)

The final Summer screenings will take place at The Model Cinema, Sligo from June 13th to July 8th with a programme of outstanding cinematic experiences, jam-packed with Oscar winners, touching documentaries, cult thrillers and visually stunning slices of world cinema.

On Sunday June 17th and 24th, The Model will be treating film lovers to a free screening of the Oscar winning The Shore, recipient of the 2012 Academy Award for the Best Live-Action Short Film. A simultaneously moving and hilarious story of two boyhood best friends, Joe (Ciarán Hinds) and Paddy (Conleth Hill), the film details a friendship divided by years of misunderstanding and shattered by conflict in Northern Ireland.

Moonrise Kingdom opened this year’s Cannnes Film Festival and is Wes Anderson’s seventh feature and his return to live-action, following Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Widely considered the director’s definitive film to date, it is warm and witty and set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960’s. The story follows two troubled 12-year olds, who fall in love and run away together, sparking a manhunt involving his scoutmaster (Edward Norton), parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), local law enforcement (Bruce Willis), and another exceptional performance from Tilda Swinton as the social services authority.

Barbaric Genius, Paul Duane’s stimulating documentary on award winning author, chess prodigy and somewhat forgotten, unpredictable and elusive John Healy can be described as a sensitive yet enthralling portrait of a man born in London to Sligo parents. The film provides an overview of the crucial lowlights of The Grass Arena, Healy’s breakthrough autobiography published in 1988 and universally acknowledged as a masterpiece. An exclusive Q&A with director, Paul Duane will take place after the 6.15pm screening on Sunday 24 June.

Martin Sheen makes a welcome return to the big screen, this time in a film written and directed by his own son, Emilio Estevez.  The Way will screen on Friday June 15 at 8.15pm. With a wonderful cast this is the story of the famous pilgrimage walk on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela.  Also on the night will be a raffle to raise funds for the Dip in the Nip Charity. On June 24th, there will be four dips taking place around the country including Sligo. The money raised this year will benefit the Sligo Hospital Oncology Unit Trust, Mid- West Cancer Foundation, Mercy University Foundation and Drogheda Cancer Education & Research Trust.

The Model Cinema will be taking a brief hiatus for the summer from July 8th and will re-open in September.

Full cinema listings are available at


‘Barbaric Genius’ doc on the life of John Healy, writer of ‘The Grass Arena’, released exclusively at the IFI May 25-29


Barbaric Genius a new documentary on the life of John Healy, writer of ‘The Grass Arena’ is released exclusively at the IFI from 25th-29th May 2012.

Paul Duane’s feature documentary Barbaric Genius tells the story of John Healy – wino, chess prodigy, author of a classic memoir, and forgotten man. Once a media darling for his charisma and aura of violence, he’s spent the past twenty years living in extraordinary isolation, embittered and angry.

Healy was born into a London-Irish family during World War 2. Hounded by violence at home and on the streets, he took refuge in drink and spent the ’60s as a street wino and a mugger. Then, learning to play chess in jail, he became aware of his own potential.

Sobering up, he went on the tournament chess circuit and caused controversy and sensation not only with his unbelievable ability, but also his volatile and sometimes belligerent personality.

As he began to realise his own formidable intelligence, he entered the world of literature with his 1989 memoir, The Grass Arena, and became a celebrity – and that’s when things started to go wrong…

Filmmaker Paul Duane says: ‘I had been a fan of the book on its initial publication, and had tried to buy the film rights in 1991. When John Healy re-surfaced after fifteen years of total obscurity, he agreed to take part in a film that would try to explain how he managed to go from the gutters of Camden to Hollywood, then back again, and what happened? How did he destroy his career, why were his books removed from the shops and destroyed?.’

This is a story that encompasses almost every aspect of the human spirit, from violent intoxication to transcendent spirituality. It also provides a remarkable picture of the hidden tensions in British life around class, privilege and education.

Barbaric Genius is presented by Screenworks in association with the Irish Film Board/ Bord Scannán na hÉireann and RTÉ . Its cinema release has been supported by Bord Scannán na hÉireann.

John Healy and Paul Duane will attend the opening night screening at 19.20 and will take part in a post-screening Q+A session.

Tickets for this limited run are available now at the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or

Read Gordon Gaffney’s review of Barbaric Genius from JDIFF 2011 here 



JDIFF: John Healy – 'Barbaric Genius'


DIR: Paul Duane PRO: Paul Duane and Mary Carson ED: Ian de Brí and Colm O’Brien

Light House Cinema, Smithfield, Saturday 19th February 2pm

Bloody Hell. That’s quite a documentary to watch when you are still recovering from the night before.

John Healy, whose parents were from Sligo, was a homeless alcoholic living in London who only stopped drinking when he was introduced to chess in prison by his cell mate, a notorious burgler nicknamed ‘The Brighton Fox’. He went on to play chess to international level before writing an award-winning autobiography, ‘The Grass Arena’ ,which went out of print for a number years due to him threatening to kill his publisher.

Now that’s an interesting subject for a documentary. After the screening I went out and bought ‘The Grass Arena’. I can’t really critique the filmmaking aspect of this documentary as from about two minutes in I was glued to it. I guess when you pick such a fascinating person to make a documentary on you are most of the way there.

The ‘row’ he had with is publisher, almost 20 years on, is water under the bridge and the publisher appears on camera to give an unintentionally hilarious recollection of events containing quite possibly the highest number of contradictions in the fewest words spoken.

Director Paul Duane and Healy himself took part in a Q&A chaired by Dr Harvey O’Brien of UCD. Healy recalled that when ‘The Grass Arena’ was published he thought he was getting away from the psychopaths that he was hanging around with when he was drinking, only to discover that the real psychopaths were in the middle class, who he discovered, ‘don’t like listening to problems unless they are their own’.

Paul Duane described Healy as vulnerable and open and the two became friends over the long period of filming. Norman Brock, who wrote the screenplay for ‘Bronson’, and does some of the voiceover on ‘Barbaric Genius’ is scripting another adaptation of the book, the first one made in 1992 was directed by Gilles McKinnon and starred Mark Rylance as Healy.

Talking about alcoholism and the use of the term ‘wino’, Healy said there are many types of alcoholic, those in the drawing room, those in the pub, and the ‘wino’ ‘who would attack another human being if it furthered them to drink’. When he discovered chess he said that’ drink dropped out of his mind’ and that he didn’t give up the drink, drink gave up him.

When Paul Duane was asked why he made the documentary he said he wondered ‘why is this man being ignored for so long, why is he being surpressed?’, after watching ‘Barbaric Genius’ I was thinking the same thing myself.

Gordon Gaffney

‘The First Movie’ Report


Six things I've learned while making the Film

John Healy

Filmmaker Paul Duane has made a documentary about the colourful life of author John Healy (The Grass Arena), which will show next Tuesday on RTÉ One. Paul shared some of the lessons learned during making the film.

Six things I have learned while making the Film:


I started filming four years ago, out of sheer fascination for John Healy’s almost unbelievable life story. I started out as a conventional director, with a full crew. But after that, every time we shot we seemed to have less money. So eventually we were down to two people, and I was operating the camera, despite my massive discomfort with the idea of having to take responsibility for arcane things like white balances and ND filters. Then, as always seems to happen, just when you think you can’t shoot with fewer people and less money, you end up shooting with fewer people and less money. I ended up doing camera AND sound for the last few days of the shoot. And that was when I finally cracked it and got the best material I ever got, the stuff I’d been trying to get all along. The material I got with the crew was good, don’t get me wrong. But if you want to get to the truth about your characters, if you want to see what they’re like when there’s not a bunch of strangers hanging around farting and scratching themselves in their living-room, try filming as a one-man band.


We started shooting in 2007 thanks to the immense generosity and vision of Adrian Lynch, of Animo Productions, who allowed me a crew for a day to shoot something that we might be able to use to raise some production funding. I cut a promo – a very bad one, more about that later – and we failed completely to get any funding from anybody, anywhere. A while later, after I’d managed to convince the Irish Film Board to give me enough development funding to shoot more material and cut a better promo. I decided that the best way forward was to go for broke and use the development money to shoot as much of the film as I could. So, digging into my own pocket to supplement it when cash started to run low, I shot for as long as I could and got 75% of the documentary in the can before there was a penny of production funding in place. Later, this turned out to be a real plus when it turned out that we were going to be strapped for cash when it came to finishing the film – I’d shot so much, we were able to fill in the blanks with relative ease.


The first promo I cut was like a mini-epic, covering as much of John Healy’s life as I could in five minutes. It was comprehensive, it was packed with images and stories, it was dull and it gave away far too much of the story. At the excellent promo workshop run by the Stranger Than Fiction Festival, critiques boiled down to ‘Why would I need to see the film? I know what happens now.’ So I cut another, completely different promo that was designed to make whoever watched it ask me questions like ‘What happens next?’ and I took this to HotDocs and the Sheffield DocFest, where it helped me to land heavyweight co-producers in the UK and USA. Watching a lot of other promos for a lot of other documentaries really helped. Some of them are better than movies.


As I said, I ended up with two heavyweight co-producers, Oscar-winners, and that was a tremendous ego-boost at the time. Suddenly we were talking about serious budgets for the film, UK commissioning editors were taking our calls, and festivals looked upon us with lustful eyes. Then it became apparent that the way I felt about the film and the way the co-producers felt were widely divergent. When it comes right down to it, every film is really produced by one person or team, and co-producers are sort of loosely clipped on, until contracts and funding arrangements marry them in perpetuity. If those funding arrangements fail to come off, and the momentum you’re looking for doesn’t suddenly lift your project into the stratosphere, don’t be surprised if the co-pros quietly drop away in the night and you’re back to your original core team, and a rather reduced set of production circumstances. If the situation was reversed, and you were the last one to get to the party, you’d be doing the same thing.


Your footage can be great, or it can be – it usually is – a very mixed bag. You will be very very close to it, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. The most important accomplice you can get at the final stage of production (and more so than in drama, the edit is where documentaries are made or unmade) is an editor who brings fresh eyes to the material and helps you see it as an audience might, rather than through your own exhausted, besotted eyes. In this case Colm O’Brien took on the project at a stage where I had almost lost faith in the idea that we even had a film at all here, and helped find a way through the extraordinary maze of John Healy’s complicated, sometimes bewildering life. A good editor is not necessarily the same thing as an editor who does what you ask them to do, in fact more often than not you’ll end up fighting doggedly to keep a scene you’re in love with, only to agree with them in the end that your beloved darling is best filed in the Deleted Scenes bin. That’s what DVD releases are for, they give you hope that someday, somebody will watch all your dear deleted darlings.


I’m on Twitter, I hate Facebook, but both of them have their place in the struggle to get your film made and seen. The film has a (poorly maintained and rather neglected) Facebook page which will hopefully at some point provide a nexus for people who like John Healy and his work to find out more about screenings and other useful information. But it was due to Twitter that I ended up, at the ragged end of production on the film when money and enthusiasm were just about gone, discovering a London-based producer of great experience, Astrid Edwards, who was also a huge fan of The Grass Arena, John Healy’s unique and extraordinary memoir. She offered to help me in whatever way she could, so for our final London shoot I had a very overqualified ‘production manager’ helping me out for peanuts. Other admirers of John Healy found their way to me via the internet and will hopefully prove useful as we build an audience for the documentary. But you have to engage with the world of social networking in a non-cynical way, as nothing is more obvious than a hit-and-run artist trying to carpet-bomb the Net with info about their latest project, without taking the time to engage with the people they’re theoretically addressing. That gets nobody anywhere. You might as well push leaflets through random strangers’ front doors.

John Healy: You Have Been Warned is on RTÉ1 at 10.15 pm on Tuesday, 11th January 2011.