Violet Gibson – The Irish Woman Who Shot Mussolini premièred at the Dublin International Film Festival on 4 March in Cineworld Parnell St and 6 March in the Lighthouse Cinema Smithfield. Both screenings were sold out and the film was enthusiastically received by critics, academics, fellow filmmakers and the general public alike.
Financed by Irish Language broadcaster TG4, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), the producers themselves, and Section 481 Film Relief, the film was inspired by Siobhán Lynam’s radio documentary The Irishwoman Who Shot Mussolini (Gold Trophy winner at New York Festivals World’s Best Radio Programmes, 2015) and the Frances Stonor Saunders Book The Woman Who Shot Mussolini.
The feature-length documentary directed by Barrie Dowdall, co-produced by Siobhán Lynam, co-directed by Kevin de la Isla O’Neill with Olwen Fouéré, Violet Gibson was a two-year labour of love. Dowdall said, “After such a successful start it’s all a bit of an anti-climax as we are caught in limbo land with film festivals worldwide shut down or cancelled due to the Coronavirus. The flip side is the international version is ready and so are we. Watch this space”.
The producers are in talks with different film distributors and “that door is still open” says Dowdall.
SYNOPSIS – VIOLET GIBSON
On 7 April 1926, on Rome’s Campidoglio, the Honourable Violet Gibson, surrounded by chanting Fascists, shot Mussolini at point-blank range and removed a piece of his nose. But for a dodgy gun and a millimetre or two, she would have killed him outright. Of all his would-be assassins she came closest to changing the course of history. What brought her to this point? Violet was the daughter of the Protestant Unionist and conservative Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Growing up in Merrion Square, she had enjoyed an immensely privileged upbringing. A debutante at the court of Queen Victoria, she should have married into the aristocracy and lived the life that women of her milieu were expected to lead. But Violet was a serious-minded young woman in an age when girls were meant to think as little as possible. Her independent income allowed her to travel and pursue her intellectual and spiritual cravings. To the horror of her family, she converted to Catholicism.
Violet was the only woman to have attempted to kill Mussolini and the only would-be assassin to land a shot on him. She paid dearly for her crime. After nearly a year of interrogation, psychiatric tests and psychosexual profiling, ‘compassionate’ Mussolini, with some concerns about a public trial and sensing the chance to make the British indebted to him, set Violet free on account of her ‘insanity’. Under Italian and British Home Office diplomatic arrangements she was spirited from Italy to England, where after a 10-minute interview with a society doctor, she was interned in a private lunatic asylum. For the last 30 years of her life, she pleaded for her release, wrote to family, to friends, to Churchill after Italy declared war on Britain, to Princess Elizabeth. Her letters were never posted. Her death in 1956 got no mention, no friends or family attended her funeral. The Gibson family vault in Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery, with its grand granite monument, is a testament to the importance of Violet’s family. Forgotten, and deprived of a place in history her cheap grey quarry stone in Kingsthorpe Cemetery in Northampton simply states ‘Violet Gibson, 1875-1956.’
Passed off as a ‘mad Irishwoman’, this documentary brings her fascinating story to light.
DIRECTOR – Barrie Dowdall (email: www.barriedowdall.ie)
PRODUCERS – Siobhán Lynam and Barrie Dowdall
L-R Barrie Dowdall, Olwen Fouéré, Siobhán Lynam, Kevin de la Isla.