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Shem The Penman Sings Again


New Irish Film Board Feature to Screen at the IFI. January 13th, 2016

January 13th marks the 75th anniversary of the passing of iconic Irish writer James Joyce. To mark the occasion, the Irish Film Institute will be hosting a special screening of director Pádraig Trehy’s début feature film, Shem The Penman Sings Again. There will be an introduction by Trehy before the screening, followed by a Q&A with the director afterwards.

Shem The Penman deals with the actual and much fabled friendship of James
Joyce and Count John McCormack. The iconic writer and the
extraordinary tenor first met in 1904 when Joyce still had hopes of becoming a
professional singer himself. They reconnected in Paris in the 1920’s and Joyce
was to use his first hand knowledge of McCormack to create the character of
Shaun the Post in his famously ‘unreadable’ final novel, Finnegans Wake. As
Joyce struggled with the book, he portrayed himself in it as Shaun’s lowly twin
brother, Shem.

Joyce’s twin obsessions, singing and literary experimentation, flow through the
film as his and McCormack’s encounters are reimagined in a variety of early
cinematic styles, interrupted by four short films-within-the-film charting the
exploits of Shem and Shaun. As Joyce’s eyesight fails, the narrative is carried by
a mix of archive recordings and imaginary radio broadcasts, providing an
emotional connection to an increasingly isolated Joyce.

Having had its world premiere last July in the Galway Film Fleadh, Shem The Penman Sings Again had a rapturous reception at its Gala Screening on the 13th of November as part of this years 60th Cork Film Festival celebrations.

The IFI screening on the 13th of January marks the beginning of a limited national release of Shem the Penman Sings Again, with subsequent screenings scheduled in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway; The Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast; and the Triskel Cinema, Cork.

For more details, please visit