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Between salvation and martyrdom,
This review is from: A Song For A Raggy Boy [DVD] (DVD)
The first lay teacher, William Franklin, in Saint Jude's Reformatory and Industrial school in Ireland in 1939, coming back from the defeated republican war in Spain, had a hard time with the prefect of the school, a brutal and sadistic disciplinary brute, "brother" and why not "father" John.
This first lay teacher will nearly leave some time around Christmas 1939 when John beat to death Liam Mercier, a child that William Franklin had saved from total rejection and submission to his fate of pariah. The children unanimously stopped him when he was leaving after John and his accomplice Mac, a priest who was abusing some children, had been moved out of the school, one to go preach Africans in Africa and the other to take care of a parish in the USA. In other words the murder went unpunished.
Things were changing since the separation wall between the younger boys and the older boys was being brought down by the priests and by the kids. The school was finally able to contemplate a happier future and the boys committed here by justice were finally able to consider some kind of a positive future.
The film insists on the fact that such boys who have been rejected by their families, then by society and locked up behind bars need like all children, but it is a lot more difficult to give them what they need, motivation to learn, understanding based on listening and love, a lot of love, and that's where this refectory and industrial school system was completely wrong. The guidance these kids needed and expected could easily be turned into complete alienation and physical violence and the love they looked for and wanted could be twisted into sexual abuse in a jiffy.
The main lesson from such a real episode as depicted in this film is that these boys were not responsible for what they were to become on the basis of what they had been and had done because between the two, the past and the future, the present of education, understanding and love was transformed into alienation, depravation, exploitation, violence and abuse by some sadistic and perverted adults, unluckily tolerated by the others who lacked the courage to say no.
But the last scene of this film is a full symbol of the love these kids expect from the adult world and the love they are able to give back when they have been nourished and nurtured with what they need to be and become.
This is a very beautiful film that adds to this sad Irish episode some dramatic flashbacks on the Spanish Civil War and the news about the beginning of the Second World War. Unluckily history was to make William Franklin die on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. He was not able to see the future of the world in which he had fought all his living years against injustice and violence.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU