Baltimore director predicts activists will lean into history for radical change

Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (Ian West/PA)
Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (Ian West/PA) Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (Ian West/PA)

Irish director Joe Lawlor said his film Baltimore – about heiress-turned-IRA mastermind Rose Dugdale – has modern connotations with groups such as Extinction Rebellion UK and Just Stop Oil who he suggests will become “more militant” in time.

The film from Lawlor and his wife Christine Molloy focuses on the aftermath of the art heist considered to be the largest in history by former debutante Rose in the name of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Actress Imogen Poots plays the ringleader of the 1974 heist at the private estate Russborough House in Ireland’s County Wicklow, where the group stole 19 priceless paintings.

BAFTA Film Awards 2014 – Arrivals – London
BAFTA Film Awards 2014 – Arrivals – London Imogen Poots (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Speaking about the character, Lawlor told the PA news agency at the London Film Festival: “If I think about Extinction Rebellion or Just Stop Oil, I can easily see how people, particularly around the climate, will incrementally become more and more militant.

“I think that’s going to be at the sharp end of action, because it really isn’t changing as fast as it should, so don’t be surprised if people lean into history in the 60s and 70s, it can still instruct and help people to realise that we may well be and are already running out of time.

“It may well be that radical action is the only thing that’s going to really focus people’s attention.

“So I do think (the film) speaks to today, very loudly and very clearly, we have lost that gear. But that gear is being found again, and there was a real lack of it.

“But I think people will become more and more frustrated.”

Molloy said that Rose Dugdale’s actions came out of “something very principled”.

“When Rose Dugdale began her involvement with the IRA, it began as a civil rights movement to improve the lives of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland,” the director said.

“She put her money where her mouth was – today it can be seen in people who are taking huge personal risks for what they believe in.

“The Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, is languishing in prison in Iran, and she’s fighting for very basic human rights.”

Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize Prominent Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi who won the Nobel Peace Prize (Vahid Salemi/AP/PA)

The couple said that although they could have had the opportunity to meet Rose, who they believe is in a nursing home in Dublin, they didn’t want the film to become a biopic.

“She has no idea this film has been made, she’ll hear about it soon enough I imagine,” Lawlor said.

“We were interested in the ideas around her, and the kind of the drama around her.

“But we weren’t so interested in getting to know her as an actual person and getting distracted by too much story.”

Molloy said the inspiration for the film was born as Rose’s role in the heist “was completely forgotten about” as the focus shifted to Irish criminal Martin Cahill, known as The General.