IRELAND – Ann: a film about a 15-year-old girl who gave birth to a stillborn baby and died alone in 1984
Ann: a 15-year-old girl who gave birth to a stillborn baby and died alone in 1984
This film dramatises the real-life story of Ann Lovett, a 15-year-old girl who gave birth to a stillborn baby in 1984 and died alone, two hours later, in the Grotto of her local church in Granard, County Longford, Ireland. Directed by Ciaran Creagh, and nominated for several awards, the film revisits a tragedy that reviews say shook Ireland to its core.
In February 1984, as The Late Late Show was about to wrap up for the night, Gay Byrne read out a headline from the next day’s Sunday Tribune newspaper: “Girl, 15, dies giving birth in a field.” “My goodness me,” the TV veteran exclaimed, putting the newspaper aside. “Nothing terribly exciting there.” That was the first media coverage given to Ann Lovett’s death.
What happened was this: Ann had managed to conceal her pregnancy from her mother, family and friends and now, alone and frightened, she prepared for the imminent arrival of her baby and looked for a secret place to give birth. The film perfectly conjures the physical and psychological claustrophobia of small town life, and a time when social and sexual mores were less enlightened and a culture of shame and secrecy prevailed. The Irish Times called the film a brave and at times daring tribute. One reason why Ann Lovett’s death had such an impact was that it came only five months after the referendum that had enshrined an abortion ban in the Irish Constitution. The tragedy humanised the dilemma faced by girls and women who were pregnant but not married.
Mary Favier, co-founder of Global Doctors for Choice in Ireland, said: “You couldn’t say it galvanised the [abortion rights] movement but it clarified the need for a movement.”
SOURCES: Irish Film Institute 2023 ; Irish Times, by Tara Brady. 22 April 2023 ; Media Luna. Ann ; Guardian, by Rory Carroll, 9 May 2023