News / Arts & Entertainment

Real-life 'Philomena' Fights to Help Mothers Find Lost Children

Oscar-nominated 'Philomena' Tells Story of Loss, Forgivenessi
X
February 21, 2014 1:32 AM
Stephen Frears’ Oscar-nominated drama "Philomena" tells the true story of Philomena Lee. Fifty years ago, as a pregnant Irish-Catholic teenager, Lee was sent to a local convent and forced her to give her child up for adoption. As VOA’s Penelope Poulou reports, the real Philomena now is using her new-found fame to help others find their lost children.
Penelope Poulou
Stephen Frears’ Oscar-nominated drama Philomena tells the true story of Philomena Lee. 

Fifty years ago, as a pregnant Irish-Catholic teenager, Lee was disowned by her family and sent to a local convent. There, she was forced her to give up her child for adoption. She never saw him again. 

Now, just a few weeks before the Academy Awards, the real Philomena Lee is using her newfound fame to help others find their lost children.

Difficult journey

After losing his job, former BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan in the film, teams up with Lee to help her find her lost son and to write an article about it. During their journey, the unlikely pair develops a bond and their mother-son type of relationship permeates the movie.

Dame Judi Dench captures the essence of the real Philomena -- gracious, optimistic, strong. The action by the nuns of an Irish convent more than 50 years ago to take her son away shook her faith but did not destroy it.

"Who could keep up a grudge...I couldn't anyway," Lee said in an interview with VOA . "Especially with my religious teaching I couldn't because you were always taught to forgive and turn the other cheek...I gradually learned to do that."

Lee discovered that her son Anthony, renamed Michael Hess, was a lawyer for the Republican National Committee in the 1980s, and died of AIDS at the age of 43.

“I tell you," Lee said, "it was like I was losing him twice.”

Philomena Project

Now, Lee’s goal is to help Irish women like her locate their lost children. She and her daughter, Jane Libberton, have started the “Philomena Project,” a campaign asking Irish authorities to open the files of thousands of children allegedly sold into adoption by the Irish Catholic church.

Philomena Lee, right, and her daughter Jane Libberton in Rome on Feb. 6, 2014, a day after meeting with Pope Francis.Philomena Lee, right, and her daughter Jane Libberton in Rome on Feb. 6, 2014, a day after meeting with Pope Francis.
x
Philomena Lee, right, and her daughter Jane Libberton in Rome on Feb. 6, 2014, a day after meeting with Pope Francis.
Philomena Lee, right, and her daughter Jane Libberton in Rome on Feb. 6, 2014, a day after meeting with Pope Francis.
“Yes, they did say they didn't [sell] babies and no money exchanged hands but I know that people do have documents that say something else," said Libberton, adding that thousands of babies were taken from their mothers. “I think there were about 2,000 children like Anthony that were adopted to the United States.”

Dench says telling Philomena’s story was a huge responsibility. She was as awed to meet Lee as Lee was to meet the actress.

“She was sitting right behind me with her hand on my shoulder," Dench said during a screening of the film. "I can’t tell you what I saw on screen because all I was conscious of was the hand on my shoulder.”

Lee said, “I just stood behind her with my hand on her shoulder and watched the funny bit of it when she is on the trolley in the airport. She was so lovely.”

Lee is now leaving her quiet world in Ireland and heading to Hollywood in time for the Oscar ceremony on March 2.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
February 21, 2014 4:33 PM
Somewhere behind all that happened here lies an attempt to subvert the historical process (scatter the chosen ones). It lies on a par with herod having the children killed. Throughout history the parallels do not change. Incidentally both with herod and with this the (so called) authorities failed miserably. All (proper) authority comes from God who is Truth.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.