Three questions to… Anna Rodgers, director of Novena

Novena Still3 copy (1)
Novena by Anna Rodgers is the only documentary selected for the Irish Film Festa 2015 short films competition.

When a mother from his church in Dundalk told him about her gay son feeling rejected by the Catholic community, Fr. Michael Cusack decided to invite two members of the LGBT community, Kay Ferriter and Stephen Vaughan, to make a speech during a Novena mass.

«When we heard about this event, we felt that it had to be documented despite not having funding or production company behind us», says Anna Rodgers.


Why and how did you choose to record the speeches from Kay Ferriter and Stephen Vaughan and use them for a film?

Stephen Vaughan approached me about the event a few weeks in advance. He is married to a man who worked with my mother, so we had a previous connection and he had seen a gay & lesbian documentary I had made. Initially we thought we would just record the event, but as we spoke about it I became aware of the significance of the invite for him and Kay to come speak at the Novena masses. It was something which had never happened before in Ireland, so I felt it was worth investing in hiring a professional crew and filming it properly. I wasn’t sure it would become a film at the time, but my gut instinct was that it was important and someone should make a record of it.


Why did you choose the short documentary form?

I am a documentary filmmaker so it was the natural approach for me to take with the film. I could have recorded the sound only and done something for radio, but then so much of the experience would have been lost. We tried to communicate the atmosphere on the day and all of the unspoken things. Short documentaries can be very impactful. Even though I have made longer formats before, I still really enjoy telling shorter stories this way as there are less rigid rules and narrative expectations about the short format.


How was the response from the audience?

We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the film in Ireland. It’s won a number of awards which we’re very grateful for. The completion of the film was possible through a crowdfunding website called Fund It, and many people came forward to assist us in getting this film across the line and they showed us huge support. The film was screened on RTÉ in Ireland, our national broadcaster, and it’s also shown at numerous festivals and events. It has reached an audience beyond the LGBT community which was really important to us. I know that Stephen, Kay and Fr. Michael Cusack received great praise for what they did. I’m very glad we got to communicate the story of that day for all those who didn’t witness it.