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Fortune’s Wheel

$12 general /
$10 members

Free for Young Patrons ($125) members and higher

Fortune’s Wheel
Presented by Irish Arts Center and Irish Film Institute
Directed by Joe Lee

After the screening, please enjoy a talkback with Director Joe Lee, moderated by Emmy winning writer/director Niall McKay

Tuesday, May 17 | 7 pm

Winner of The Dublin Film Critics Circle Award for Best Irish Documentary
Jameson Dublin Film Festival 2015

Winner of the Dublin Film Critics Circle Award for Best Irish Documentary
Dublin International Film Festival 2015

Fortune’s Wheel brings to life the remarkable, implausible story of Bill Stephens, an ordinary young Dubliner in the 1950s with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star as a lion tamer.

The documentary tells the love story about Bill and his young, beautiful wife Mai, from East Wall. Their double act, "Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner," was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the theatre stage. With this act they hoped to move to the United States, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped. The story gained national and international attention and also set in train a series of events that would lead to tragedy. It is only now – after 60 years of both myth making and silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.

76 minutes, Ireland, 2015




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Joe Lee, a native Dubliner, since graduation from the National College of Art and Design has worked as an artist and independent film and video maker. He has directed a wide range of film and television drama and documentary with cultural institutions including the National Theatre of Ireland, The Abbey Theatre and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, where his video installation work, Once Is Too Much, is represented in the permanent collection. He has won several awards at the Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick and has individual works in a number of private collections. In 2009, he was film maker- in- residence for Dublin City Council where he made the popular documentary Bananas on the Breadboard (2010). He worked with Theatre Club at the Project Arts Centre, in the production HISTORY (2013) and the short film Rabbit Hole for their production of ADDICTION (2014). The dance film The Area (2013), which he co-directed with choreographer Ríonach Ní Neill of Ciotóg Dance Company and the Machusla Dance Group, has screened extensively at international dance film festivals since 2014 winning several awards. It will be screened in the prestigious FRAME dance film festival in London in June 2016. His work on Fortune’s Wheel, The Life and Legacy of the Fairview Lion Tamer (2015) won the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Irish documentary at the Dublin International Film Festival 2015. Joe is currently working on a documentary film, Barracks Square Estate, supported by the Richmond Barracks Visit Centre (an Irish State permanent reminder project for 2016 situated in Inchicore, Dublin) and CREATE the National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts which is due for release early in 2017.


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Irish Arts Center programs, are made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Irish Arts Center programs, are made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Irish Arts Center programs are supported, in part, by Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide.

Irish Arts Center programs are supported, in part, by government partners including the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide; the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate of Ireland in New York; the Northern Ireland Bureau; British Council Northern Ireland; the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; The American Ireland Fund; Howard Gilman Foundation; Tourism Ireland; Bloomberg Philanthropies; and thousands of generous donors like you.


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