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Zozimus brought to life

Credit: Giuseppe Milo

“Gather round me, ye girls and ye boys,
 Till I tell yez stories of the days of old” -Zozimus

Two Dublin filmmakers are bringing the tale of Zozimus to the screen. They are Tom Lee who runs a music studio in Drumcondra, and Ciaran Kilbride who plays in a band. Together they decided to make this artistic telling of the Dublin poet. 

Zozimous, or the ‘blind bard of the liberties’, is one of those old Dublin oddities. The little detail about the city that the Americans love so much. In the city, he helped build the culture, the charm of the man shining through his work even today. He roamed the streets in a pre-famine Dublin living off of his spoken-word poems; an old ode to the historical city that seems lost now. Those poems are a guide to the city in that time and through his humorous style Zozimus was the epitome of what Dubliners wish to think of Dublin. 

An old Ronnie Drew recording introduced Zozimus to the duo, it was The Twang man. From there, the active minds went further. They became fascinated by the character. Ciaran wanted to make a small project of himself singing the songs of Zozimus, in some of his speaking spots. The idea then grew to its current state, an intermeshing of historians talking about everything that was Zozimus and Dublin at that time, and Dublin musicians singing the songs written and performed by Zozimus.

Zozimus’ largely anonymous stature in the modern Dublin zeitgeist is what made this project so important for the filmmakers. While making the film the pair say how they went from feeling like they needed to make this movie, to true appreciation for the poet. The more research they did the more their interest was piqued. The two have found largely forgotten or lost poems written by Zozimus and found ways to try an incorporate them within their film. 

Zozimus is known for his association with the liberties. The working class area of Dublin has a unique and complex history, the filmmakers wanted to make it clear that there is so much more to the area than Zozimus. This part of the inner city was depicted by Zozimus, he captured it through his poems, a snapshot of the time and place. “he helped to immortalise a time when life was very difficult in the Liberties” 

This being the first film made by both Ciaran and Tom, they felt the pressure of the film making process immediately. Both echoed their thoughts when I asked the question of how they felt once the process began  “Why on earth did we take this project on!” 

The pre-production stage was the hardest for these filmmakers. And with that came the problems. The emphasis on how steep the learning curve felt was emphasized by the two. How much work is present with a two man crew making a movie. 

“I’ve really been blagging my way through being a director so far, and I seem to be getting away with it!”

Ciaran is in charge of the direction and all of the music. However Tom uses his experience with his music studio to focus on the editing, filming and the sound engineering. The small parts of the process and the production is shared between the two. For two artistic minded people, this is the hardest, the organisation, it is an ever growing endeavour. However once the topic of how difficult it had been was presented, it was clear, they beamed about the pride they will feel once this herculean task is completed.

Although the piece is largely artistic with musicians from a wide swath of genres there is also interviews with historians to add that concrete information to film. They started from the very beginning, just reading works with references to Zozimus and focusing on those that payed attention to the liberties in this time. Then began the arduous journey of getting in contact with these academics to plan interviews. Tom made it clear how helpful everyone was, receiving many responses with active interest. 

The historians that admitted not knowing enough, then put them into contact with others who would. This inevitably turned them onto many different avenues for interviews. The information gathered allowed them to change the narrative arc to further incorporate events and issues going on in Dublin at the time, that they were previously unaware of. 

One stumbling block, that has presented itself is funding. Many who decide to undertake these projects for our shared cultural history find that the funding comes from governmental agencies. With this project; the movie was applied for with hope of gaining the National Arts Council grant

The film was put on the shortlist but ultimately failed in their goal for funding. This was largely down to the duo’s lack of experience. Without this funding the film making process is slowed, both of the filmmakers have full-time jobs and have to fit the film around that. Their love for the idea of filmmaking and the topic made it impossible not for them not to make the movie. The future is optimistic though, and the process is difficult. They say they are looking at alternative funding options and say that the rigorous process that they needed to take to apply for the grant played a pivotal role in their pre-production stage.

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