Private Project

Violet Gibson - The Irish Woman Who Shot Mussolini

In 1926, 49–year-old Violet Gibson pushed her way through a fascist mob and shot Italian dictator Benito Mussolini at point-blank range. Il Duce’s only injury was to his nose, but Violet, the woman who shot Mussolini, was about to be written out of history and buried alive.

  • Barrie Dowdall
  • Kevin de la Isla 'ONeill
  • Barrie Dowdall
  • Siobhán Lynam
  • Olwen Fouéré
    Key Cast
    "Violet Gibson"
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 21, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    261,940 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Arri Alexa
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Kerry Film Festival
    September 21, 2020
    National Premiere
Distribution Information
  • Barrie Dowdall
Director Biography - Barrie Dowdall, Kevin de la Isla 'ONeill

Barrie has a long association with the moving image thanks to his father who had a Super 8 camera, with home movie nights being a big part of his childhood growing up in Dublin. The family super 8 film archives which date back to the early 1960’s are still intact thanks to Barrie. They are a treasured family heirloom. His mother was an actor and worked with theatre legends - Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards. His sister Leslie Dowdall is a well-known singer/songwriter.

A keen horseman (show jumping/eventing/horse racing) and Stud Farm Manager he stopped chasing horses in the 1980’s and went back to college to study film and TV production at Coláiste Dhúlaigh, Dublin.

An award winning filmmaker he specializes in producing, directing and shooting documentaries and films of historical, human and social interest for broadcasters worldwide. He has produced and directed work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Nepal, Zambia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela, the United States and throughout Europe for various broadcasters including RTE, BBC, BBC ALBA, TG4, PBS (The Bill Moyers Show) ZDF, The HISTORY CHANNEL, ABC, CHANNEL 9 and FOXTEL.

Titles amongst others include: The Long Road (An Bóthar Fada), Ned Kelly, Exile In Hell, Afghanistan - After The War, One Man & His Dog, Banished Women (Mná Díbeartha), Sanctuary, The Hit Producer, Promise & Unrest, Chess, Tómas, Forgiveness, and Violet Gibson.

A former National Representative of the European Documentary Network (EDN,) regular Jury Member of the IFTA Awards, member of the Irish Film Institute Council (IFI) and former Board Member of the Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival, Dublin. He lectures in Film Studies at Champlain College Dublin.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

As a director and storyteller I’m always interested in discovering lesser know characters. I was the sound recordist on the award winning radio documentary The Irish Woman Who Shot Mussolini produced by my wife Siobhán Lynam in association with RTE Radio – so I was exposed to the story orally and I was fascinated from the very beginning.

I wondered how might this "distinguished lady" have altered the course of world history if her pistol hadn’t jammed. I thought if she were a man she would be celebrated as a heroic visionary with a statue erected in her honour.

Yet Violet, and her extraordinary story were excised from the public memory, just as, after the assassination attempt, she herself was hidden away, labeled insane, incarcerated and "silenced". What turned a society lady into an assassin? And why was it seen as so imperative to remove her from the public eye, even decades after the event? These were some of the questions that fueled my interest in making a film about Violet Gibson.

I decided the story would be told through the eyes of the incarcerated Violet. I made a commitment from the very beginning to make a hybrid documentary using high quality drama - too many historical documentaries use cheap reenactments like wallpaper to cover the cracks. I wanted the drama to stand out and choosing the amazing Olwen Fouéré to play Violet was the start of that process.

I made a conscious artistic choice to combine drama with newsreel footage and newsprint of the day, police records of the event, details of her trial, her letters, input from author Frances Stonor Saunders (The Woman Who Shot Mussolini), family descendants of Violet, some hand picked historians all held together with an original score to make a film about this extraordinary woman, airbrushed from history.

As a director I wanted to reveal the uncomfortable echoes of the 1920's in today’s political climate, as regards mass displacement of peoples. In the aftermath of the First World War and the Russian revolution, Europe was flooded with millions of refugees, desperate for safe-haven. Then, as now, it was referred to as "the refugee crisis". Then, as now, countries scrutinised their consciences, and their economic means, in search of a solution. Then, as now, some resented and resisted the influx of the needy.

I was also driven by a sense of then and what’s happening today as we witness once more the rise of fascism in Europe and further afield with populism, nationalism, xenophobia and the erosion of civil rights on the increase.

I thought Violet’s story might hold up a mirror to an audience asking the question – is history repeating itself almost 100 years later? It would also be the very first time the fascinating story of Violet Gibson would make it to the screen.

I am very proud of the film and the work of the entire production team.