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The Magdalene Sisters

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Original title
The Magdalene Sisters
Running time
119 min.
Ireland Ireland
Peter Mullan
Craig Armstrong
Nigel Willoughby
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Co-production Ireland-United Kingdom; PFP Films / Temple Films
Drama | Religion. Based On A True Story
Synopsis / Plot
The Magdalene Asylums in Ireland were run by the Sisters of Mercy on behalf of the Catholic Church. Young girls were sent there by families or orphanages and once there, were imprisoned and sent to work in the laundries where they could atone for their sins. Their sins varied from being an unmarried mother to being too pretty or too ugly or simple minded or too clever or being a victim of rape and talking about it. And for their sins they worked 364 days a year unpaid, they were half starved, beaten, humiliated, raped, their children forcibly removed from them. Their sentence was indefinite. Thousands of women lived and died there. The last Magdalene Asylum in Ireland closed in 1996, four years ago.
This film is from the point of view of four of these young women in the 1960s, an era mistakenly seen by some as a time of unchallenged female liberation. These young Catholic women find themselves in an almost medieval nightmare whilst the outside world tacitly (or in some cases actively) support a theocratic state. It looks at how their personalities develop for better and for worse in an environment controlled and dominated by celibate women, servants of God, Brides of Christ. In their own ways the girls refuse to be beaten but what victory is there if they remain imprisoned as little more than slaves? One gets out in a heartbreakingly banal fashion, one is imprisoned in a mental asylum, two finally rebel, run away, escape.
It’s a fictional film that unfortunately happens to be true.
2002: Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion - Best Movie
2002: 2 Nominations for BAFTA Awards: Best British Film and Original Screenplay
2003: Independent Spirit Awards: Nominated for Best Foreign Film
2003: British Independent Film Awards (BIFA): Nom. Best Movie and Screenplay
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