‘Older Than Ireland’ Secures North American Cinema Release

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The award-winning documentary, Older Than Ireland, has secured a cinema release in the US and Canada this March and April, 2016.  In Canada, the film will play in Toronto and Calgary from March 4th and Saskatoon and Edmonton from March 11th.  In the USA, the documentary will play in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Minnesota, Houston and Syracuse from late March and April, 2016.
 
Older Than Ireland Producer, Garry Walsh, commented “We’re absolutely thrilled by the reaction so far. Tickets went online for the Toronto release yesterday and already the opening night is nearly sold out, with still ten days to go…”
 

Directed by Alex Fegan (The Irish Pub), Older Than Ireland is a landmark documentary that tells the story of a hundred years of a life as seen through the eyes of thirty Irish centenarians. The critically acclaimed film was the highest grossing Irish documentary since 2011 (and still climbing) and was also a number 1 bestseller in the HMV charts, remarkable selling more DVDs than any other live action or documentary film, Irish or International, in December 2015.

 

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Interview: Alex Fegan, director of ‘Older Than Ireland’

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Alex Fegan’s documentary Older Than Ireland tells the story of a hundred years of a life as seen through the eyes of thirty Irish centenarians. Beginning with their youth and working up to their thoughts of the afterlife, each person shares their extraordinary stories of a life that has shone for over a hundred years.

Alex explains that the idea for the film came about when he met a man who was going to a 100-year-old’s birthday party. “I just thought that was amazing. I asked him what was she like and he said she was in great form. That triggered the idea and things took off from there.”

Being born before 1916 and with the centenary coming up next year, Alex felt it would be an interesting way to get an historical perspective from the nation’s older citizens. Yet, as Alex admits, the film found its own narrative and rather than Alex looking to tell a particular story, the story began to tell itself. “That’s the great thing about documentary – you can start off in a particular direction but then you can discover a whole new thing. We realised as the journey went on that the film really isn’t about history at all or being Irish. It’s about being human. I suppose more things have happened in the last century than any other century – and while that’s in the film, it’s really irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the personal stories and these are stories of relationships. That was the big discovery. Ultimately, when you reach the pinnacle of the mountain of life you know that what matters is your spouse, your kids, your family and your friends.

“Early on we had an idea of going through the decades, so the film had various narratives, starting off with the ’10s, then the ’20s and ’30s and so on, and asked them what their thoughts were about the 1929 crash or the political situation in Ireland in the ’40s or ’50s for example. But very soon we realised they weren’t that interested in talking about such things. They just didn’t have a passion for that. What they did have a passion for was their wedding day, their first kiss, telling a story about their first pair of shoes. The stuff that probably everybody else will think about when they reach 100 – things like their school days,  first girlfriend or boyfriend, how they proposed to their wife, how their husband proposed to them, their honeymoon… these are the things that they really wanted to reflect back on. You ask what was your happiest time and that’s what they would talk about. So what we initially set out to do just didn’t transpire in the way that we thought it would. What quickly became apparent was that this was a film more about their personal journey than a sociopolitical journey.”

Ultimately, this is what makes Older Than Ireland‘ such a wonderfully warm and tender film. You never feel that the people involved are being interviewed. It’s more that they are being allowed to talk and tell their stories. “I suppose what we ultimately decided was just to hold the camera up to these people and let them do all the talking, deciding to try and stand out of things as much as conceivably possible. You’ve got to remember”, Alex continues, “these people are 100 years of age and over. They’ve got a lot more wisdom then we do – they’re really authentic and they have zero pretence whatsoever. They just say it as it is. They don’t care what I think or what anybody else thinks. They just speak their mind. So, ultimately, what we wanted to do was to capture these people who are spiritually and soulfully as authentic as you can get.”

As well as offering a rare insight into the personal lives of the individuals featured in Older Than Ireland, the film also exists as a great personal archive for the families of those involved in the film. Alex talks about how families have sent on emails saying how grateful they are. “Especially for those centenarians who have since passed. It’s such a nice thing that they have this film. As well as that, we will be providing all the footage to them – we had about two hours, at least, of an interview per person, so it’s a lovely record. Sometimes you don’t take the time to put the camera on people and just let them tell their stories. One of the reasons this film got made was because when we went to the Irish Film Board with the initial idea, which they really got behind, they said to us that no matter what happened with the film, it would exist as a great archive.”

Finally, Alex hopes that the film will encourage families to visit the cinema together. “We are trying to encourage young people to take their grandparents to the film. It could be seen as a cynical ploy to get more people into the cinema but one thing we did discover making the film was that a lot of older people find loneliness to be the biggest issue. They all want to go to the cinema. They might not want to watch The Avengers but I’m sure they would like to see this film. So we are hoping that younger people will take their grandparents or elderly neighbours to see the film.”

 

You can check olderthanireland.ie for screenings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Older Than Ireland

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DIR: Alex Fegan • PRO: Colm Walsh • DOP: Gary Nicell • MUS: Denis Clohessy

Older than Ireland won best feature length documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2015 against some formidable opposition. Directed by Alex Fegan, Older than Ireland has a signature style which is reminiscent of Alex Fegan’s previous feature length doc The Irish Pub.

Like many of the subjects featured, the film is unhurried in pace but remains very engaging throughout. Older than Ireland is also reminiscent of the tone and structure of Ken Wardrop’s His and Hers.

The film follows a sequence of interviews with a range of Irish centenarians. Indeed, quite a number of those featured were significantly older than the 100 years old minimum age requirement.

The title derives from the fact that having been born over 100 years ago prior to the foundation of the state, all of those featured are effectively older than the state and indeed their births pre-dated the 1916 Rising.

In common with The Irish Pub, the subjects are a very diverse group who hail from all four corners of the country, urban and rural. They vary also in terms of class and outlook. But they are a universally interesting bunch.

Kathleen Snavely (113) emigrated to the US from Clare in 1921. Her story is in many ways a typical emigrants story which would resonate with contemporary emigrants. She was lonely initially. But she succeeded in eking out a much better life for herself than would have been the case had she remained.

Jack Powell (102) from Tipperary was Ireland’s longest serving Veterinary Surgeon and only retired a couple of years ago. He specialised in horses and clearly has an enduring passion for his job as a Vet. His story also included wartime service with the RAF. He clearly still has and very sharp mind and strong views on a range of subjects. Jack also has a passion for the Volkswagon Beetle and was still driving at the time the film was made.

There is inevitably a poignant tone to the film as the subjects reflect back on their lives. Many of their erstwhile friends, partners and contemporaries have gone. But many had also succeeded in re-inventing themselves in different ways. There are many unexpected light and humorous moments throughout the film.

They are the last men and women standing of a bygone era and provide a glimpse into the values and culture of the era. They reflect on their public and private lives with a level of insight which might not always have been present when those events were happening. Several have some fascinating recollections of events in the War of Independence and the Civil War.

The interviews are complemented by some wonderful photographs from a long gone era and the tone is complemented wonderfully by the music composed by Denis Clohessy.

There is a sense at times that these people are fully aware they are in the departure lounge. Sadly, many of them are no longer with us. But this is ultimately a positive life-affirming film.

Many of the subjects seemed surprised that they had endured for so long. I suspect that word of mouth may ensure Older than Ireland also endures in the cinema for longer than might be expected. It is a little gem of a movie and establishes the reputation of Alex Fegan as a director to watch.

Brian O Tiomain

PG (See IFCO for details)

91 minutes
Older Than Ireland is released 25th September 2015

Older Than Ireland – Official Website

 

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Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Older than Ireland

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Seán Crosson scores a century for Alex Fegan’s documentary Older than Ireland, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Among the most anticipated productions premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh was Alex Fegan’s Older than Ireland, which had already sold out by Wednesday afternoon. Based around interviews with thirty Irish centenarians, Fegan’s film – produced by Gary Walsh – was one of the major successes in Galway, receiving two standing ovations and eventually the award for Best Irish Feature Documentary.

In a work reminiscent stylistically of Ken Wardrop’s His & Hers (though in other respects a superior production), Older than Ireland evokes the full range of emotions, from laughter to tears, in an ultimately inspirational film. Particularly striking is the candour and frankness of the individuals featured, both men and women, as they recount their views on life, love and Ireland. While Fegan was blessed with extraordinary subjects, the direction, cinematography, editing and accompanying soundtrack all perfectly complement the interviews included and contribute greatly to the achievement of the film. Fegan’s direction, and the cinematography of Colm Nicell, patiently captures the testimonies of those featured – there is no rush here to move on and the space provided allows for moments of genuine revelation.

The interviewees featured come from counties across the island – from Antrim to Cork, Dublin to Galway – and each has a unique perspective to share from their lives. Their memories encompass the revolutionary period, and the emergence of the state but also reflections on a very different Ireland of modest means and limited opportunities where emigration was often the only option for many. The oldest woman featured, 113-year old Kathleen Snavely (who sadly passed away shortly before the screening), spent most of her life in the United States after leaving Clare in 1921. ‘I was happy but lonely’, she poignantly recalls.

While the interior set-ups are reminiscent of Wardrop’s work, a distinctive aspect of Fegan’s film is how often he follows his subjects outside of the home space and the insights this provides into their lives. This includes scenes of subjects playing golf, gardening, driving (including in one of the film’s funniest moments on a drive-on lawn mower), and walking. It is in his rendering of these seemingly ordinary moments that Fegan manages to capture most affectingly the extraordinary individuals depicted.

Among the film’s most memorable interviewees is 103-year old Dubliner Bessie Nolan (who was present in Galway for the première), who provides very frank reflections on her life and relationships. She is also filmed walking from her home to the local shop for her groceries, including her daily box of Superkings. While hardly an example of healthy living (another interviewee talks about her dislike for vegetables), Bessie’s depiction, in common with those of other subjects throughout the film, is more concerned with affirming her dignity and the significance of her insights and perspectives. This is perhaps the most important message of Older than Ireland, particularly at a time when Irish society has successively diminished and marginalised the role of the elderly, as evident in recent scandals involving care-homes, and centenarians left on hospital trolleys for several days.

 

Seán Crosson is the Programme Director of the MA in Film Studies: Theory and Practice at the Huston School of Film & Digital Media, NUI Galway. His publications include Sport and Film (Routledge, 2013) and several co-edited volumes, including Contemporary Irish Film: New Perspectives on a National Cinema (Braumüller, 2011) and The Quiet Man … and Beyond: Reflections on a Classic Film, John Ford and Ireland (Liffey Press, 2009). He is currently President of the European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies (EFACIS).

 

Older than Ireland screened on Friday, 10th July  as part of the Galway Film Fleadh (7 – 12 July 2015)

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Irish Films in Cinema 2015

 

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11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski)

4th December

 

The lives of urbanites intertwine in a world where anything can happen at any time.

Reviewed here

 

The Hallow (Corin Hardy)

13th November

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A family who move into a remote milllhouse in Ireland find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.

Reviewed here

 

Night People (Gerard Lough)

13th November

A pair of professional but badly mismatched criminals break into a vacant house to carry out an insurance scam. Awkwardly thrown together with an hour to kill, they reluctantly start telling each other tall tales.

Reviewed here

 

Brooklyn (John Crowley)

6th November

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Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of a young woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn, NY where, unlike home, she has the opportunity for work and for a future – and love, in the shape of Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen).  When a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, she finds herself absorbed into her old community, but now with eligible Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) courting her.  As she repeatedly postpones her return to America, Eilis finds herself confronting a terrible dilemma – a heart-breaking choice between two men and two countries.

Brooklyn is adapted from Colm Tóibín’s New York Times Bestseller by Nick Hornby  and directed by John Crowley.

Reviewed here

 

The Legend Of Longwood (Lisa Mulcahy)

23rd October

 

When 12-year-old Mickey Miller moves with her family from New York to Ireland, she soon discovers a mysterious link between herself and the 300-year-old legend of the mysterious Black Knight, who regularly haunts the sleepy Irish village of Longwood. With her new best friend in tow, Mickey sets out to redeem the knight while saving a precious herd of white horses and thwarting the evil plans of a greedy, ambitious woman  – a mighty handful even for the bravest girl.

Reviewed here

 

The Queen Of Ireland (Conor Horgan)

21st October

 

Conor Horgan’s documentary follows Rory O’Neill’s journey from the small Mayo town of Ballinrobe to striding the world stage. The film takes us behind the scenes with his alter ego Panti in the year she became the symbol of Ireland’s march towards marriage equality.

Reviewed here

 

The Hit Producer (Kevin de la Isla)

 

A struggling movie producer in search of an investor reluctantly follows the promise of money into Dublin’s drug underworld where she witnesses a botched murder attempt.

 

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)

16th October

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The Lobster is a love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel.  There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days.  If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods.  A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.

Reviewed here

 

Talking to My Father (Sé Merry Doyle)

16th October

 

Talking to my Father features two voices from two eras each concerned with how we as a nation understand the architecture that surrounds our lives. Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early sixties and one of its most celebrated and influential figures was Robin Walker.

Reviewed here

 

Tana Bana (Pat Murphy)

9th October

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In Varanasi, the uneasy peace between Hindu and Moslem hinges on the world renowned silk weaving.  The existence of this ancient Hindu city depends upon Moslem weavers.

Reviewed here

 

Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails (Tobi Baumann)

2nd October

 

Based on the bestselling novel “Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost” by Cornelia Funke, Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails, which features Amy Huberman, follows a young boy Tom who discovers an ASG, an Averagely Spooky Ghost called Hugo in his cellar.  He soon realizes that Hugo is not only completely harmless, but also desperately needs his help. Hugo cannot go back to his haunted house, because a dangerous AIG, an Ancient Ice Ghost, has moved in and is spreading an arctic cold over the entire town in the middle of summer. Tom and Hugo go to professional ghost-hunter Hetty Cuminseed, who doesn’t like children or ghosts very much, and who just lost her job at the CGI, the Central Ghosthunting Institute. Hetty teaches Tom and Hugo the basics of ghost-hunting and the three become an unusual team: only with friendship, courage and self-confidence can they overcome their adversary and save the town from the AIG.

Reviewed here

 

Older Than Ireland (Alex Fegan)

25th September

 

Older Than Ireland features thirty men and women aged 100 years and over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland. Older Than Ireland ‘s observational style offers a rare insight into the personal lives of these remarkable individuals.

Reviewed here

 

Pursuit (Paul Mercier)

18th September

A modern take on the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a contemporary myth about the pursuit of power, class, love and the chance to start again.

Reviewed here

 

The Callback Queen (Graham Cantwell)

11th September

 

In the cut-throat London film industry a vivacious actress chasing her big break struggles to maintain her integrity in the face of the director’s advances

 

The Great Wall ( Tadhg O’Sullivan)

21st August

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This bold new documentary, an adaptation of a Kafka story, looks at the enclosure of Europe by a complex system of walls and fences. Mysterious and visually dazzling, the film journeys across a range of European landscapes, and encounters those whose lives are defined by these walls – detainees within European migrant camps. [IFI Programme Notes]

Reviewed here

 

A Doctor’s Sword (Gary Lennon)

7th August

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Tells the incredible story of Aidan MacCarthy, a young doctor from West Cork who survived some of the most harrowing episodes of World War II (including the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) and his family’s search to uncover the origin of the Japanese Samurai sword, which now resides in MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere.

 

 

You’re Ugly Too (Mark Noonan)

10th July

 

Will (Aidan Gillen) is released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his niece Stacey after the death of her mother. As they both head into the sleepy Irish midlands and attempt to be a family, they suffer a series of setbacks; Stacey is refused admission to the local school because of her recently developed narcolepsy; Will repeatedly comes close to breaking his prison-ordered curfew; and his attempts at being a father figure to her prove disastrous…As their future hangs in the balance they must search for a new way forward together.

Reviewed here

 

 

Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore)

10th July

Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated animated feature tells the story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.

Reviewed here

 

Let Us Prey (Brian O’Malley)

12th June

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Rachel, a rookie cop, is about to begin her first nightshift in a neglected police station in a Scottish, backwater town. The kind of place where the tide has gone out and stranded a motley bunch of the aimless, the forgotten, the bitter-and-twisted who all think that, really, they deserve to be somewhere else. They all think they’re there by accident and that, with a little luck, life is going to get better. Wrong, on both counts. Six is about to arrive – and All Hell Will Break Loose!

Reviewed here

 

Queen and Country (John Boorman)

12th June

The sequel to Boorman’s 1987 Academy Award®-nominated picture, Queen and Country takes place in 1952. Bill Rohan is eighteen years old, dreaming his life away at the family’s riverside home, waiting to be called up for two years’ conscription in the British Army. His idyll is shattered by the harsh realities of boot camp. He meets Percy, an amoral prankster; they are rivals and antagonists, but they gradually forge a deep friendship in the claustrophobic environment of a closed, prison-like training camp. The pressure is briefly relieved by excursions into the outside world, where they both fall in love. Finally, Bill is confronted with the shattered lives of wounded boys returning from Korea.

Reviewed here

 

Fortune’s Wheel (Joe Lee)

5th June

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Fortune’s Wheel is a documentary feature film about Bill Stephens, an ordinary young man in 1950s Ireland with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star.  It is also a love story about Bill and his young and beautiful wife May, from East Wall.  Their double act, Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner, was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the stage.  With this act they hoped to break free from the suffocating reality of Irish life, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped.
The story gained national and international attention at the time, but it is only now – after 60 years of silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.

Reviewed here

 

The Canal (Ivan Kavanagh)

8th May

Set in rural Ireland, The Canal stars Rupert Evans as David, a film archivist with a morbid fascination for old films in which the subjects have since died. Right after learning that his wife may be cheating on him, she mysteriously disappears at the same time that his assistant Claire finds an old reel of film that points to a murder that took place in his house a hundred years ago. David starts to suspect her disappearance may involve some form of the supernatural but he also quickly becomes the prime suspect.

Reviewed here

 

Get Up & Go (Brendan Grant)

1st May

A slacker comedy which chronicles a hectic 24 hours in the life of would-be comedian Coilin (Killian Scott) and frustrated musician Alex (Peter Coonan). When Alex’s girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant, he refuses to allow her to derail his long-held plan to escape to London. Meanwhile the hapless Coilin is striking out on stage and off, as he attempts to get his faltering comedy career off the ground and win the heart of his dream girl. With time ticking down to Alex’s departure, the mismatched pair will be forced to confront the reality of their childhood dreams of artistic greatness while their lifelong friendship is tested to the limit.

Reviewed here

 

Two by Two (Toby Genkel, Sean McCormack)

1st May

It’s the end of the world. A flood is coming. Luckily for Finny and his dad Dave, a couple of clumsy Nestrians, an Ark has been built and all animals are welcome… well almost all. Unfortunately for them, Nestrians are not on the list! But Dave has a plan, and Finny and he manage to sneak onto the Ark disguised as Grymps – much to the horror of real Grymps, Hazel and her daughter Leah.

However their troubles are just beginning as the two curious youngsters end up falling over board. Now Finny and Leah have to brave the elements in their quest to find higher ground while fighting off hungry predators and making unlikely friends. Meanwhile on board the Ark the parents must set aside their differences and hatch a plan to turn the boat around and make it back in time to rescue their kids.

Reviewed here

 

Glassland (Gerard Barrett)

17th April

In in a desperate bid to save his mother from addiction and unite his broken family, a young taxi driver on the fringes of the criminal underworld is forced to take a job which will see him pushed further into its underbelly. But will John be prepared to act when the time comes knowing that whatever he decides to do, his and his family’s lives will be changed forever.

Reviewed here

 

 I Used To Live Here (Frank Berry)

3rd April

I Used To Live Here follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.

Reviewed here

 

In A House That Ceased To Be (Ciarín Scott)

13th March

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A documentary that focuses on Irish humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble, whose unwavering commitment and selfless efforts have seen her change the lives of countless children and families for the better since 1989. Her drive stems from a childhood in Ireland fraught with poverty, loss and institutional abuse. However, despite achieving so much in the face of adversity and the success of her global children’s foundation, Christina remains scarred by the memory of the three children she was unable to save, namely her own brother and two sisters, from whom she was separated at a very young age. Hundreds of thousands have benefitted as a result of her courage, daring and steadfast dedication to protecting the vulnerable from the evils of the world, but is it possible for Christina to put her own family back together after being separated for fifty-three years?

 

Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon) 

6th February

 

 

A young man with mental health issues becomes intimate with a suicidal air hostess, but his obsessive mother enlists a dysfunctional cop to separate them.

Reviewed here

 

Apples of the Golan (Keith Walsh & Jill Beardsworth)

16th January

The epic story of one village in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Before the Six Day War, Majdal Shams was one of 139 villages in the Golan Heights region. Only five remain. Over 130,000 Syrian Arabs were forced from their homes never to return. Amongst those who remain a stoic pragmatism prevails, Israel their home, Syria their homeland. Neither is paradise. They are too few to fight. The apples are the people’s bombs.

Reviewed here

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