It’s Not Yet Dark: Simon Fitzmaurice directs film while battling ALS

It''s Not Yet Dark

It’s Not Yet Dark is a documentary about Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice, who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 34.

Directed by Frankie Fenton and narrated by Colin Farrell, we learn about Simon Fitzmaurice’s story.  The film is on the short side with a running length of 77 minutes.

Following the premiere of his short film, The Sound Of People, at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the Irish filmmaker soon learned that he has Motor Neuron Disease (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was only 34 years old and not just that, his wife, Ruth, was expecting their third child.  Suffice it to say, the family was shocked by the diagnosis–as they should be.  They would go on to have a pair of twins in 2011.

But Simon was not about to let ALS take away his life or love of filmmaking so he set about writing a feature-length screenplay for My Name is Emily.  This film premiered in 2015 but only opened in the United States with a limited release this past year.  While he started writing the script by hand, he would go on to finish by writing with his eyes.  I don’t know how Simon was able to do it but he directed the film in 2014 through Eye Gaze technology after some help on the crowdfunding front through celebrity friends.

Using excerpts from his memoir of the same name, in narration beautifully done by Farrell, the filmmakers follow Simon while he directs the feature film–and he does so not through his limbs, which he can no longer use, but his eyes.

Simon had set out to write letters to his children but it turned into what would become his bestselling memoir in which he describes what it’s like to live with ALS and the paralysis that unfortunately comes with it.  Writing the memoir gave Simon a drive to right this disease.

“Initially, the idea for a feature length documentary about Simon came about to record the massive feat Simon was in the process of undertaking, to write and direct a feature film,” says director Frankie Fenton.  “An incredible feat for any human let alone one encumbered with the weight of a neurodegenerative disease.  And so as the project progressed it became very obvious that a documentary needed to be made.  When Simon’s book, It’s Not Yet Dark, finally hit the shelves in 2014 it was abundantly clear that this would form the narrative spine on which the documentary would be achieved.”

An official selection of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, FilmRise opens It’s Not Yet Dark in select theaters and VOD platforms on August 4, 2017.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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