Having a movie made about your life is an extraordinary thing and Christina Noble admits watching it was “strange”.
Hers has been an extraordinary life filled with a hundred times more hardship than the average person yet the feisty Irish woman with a huge heart is still laughing and fighting.
Just released film, Noble, leaves you feeling uplifted and inspired because of Noble’s courage, faith and what she has achieved despite having to overcome extreme hardships. And they are extreme. Born into Dublin’s slums, her world shattered when, at age 10, her mother dies and her father’s alcoholism plunges the family into further poverty, which sees them ultimately separated and sent away into industrial schools.
At age 16 she returns to Dublin, lives it rough in a park where she struggles to survive. Is abducted, gang raped from which she falls pregnant, taken into care by a convent and betrayed again when her baby is taken away from her and given away for adoption without her knowledge. To this day she has never been reunited with her son.
Later she marries and has three children but her husband turns out to be a wife beater from whom she eventually escapes. After years in therapy she travels to Saigon, Vietnam in 1989 – for which she has always had an internal and unexplained fascination. There she sees the plight of the street children of Saigon. She understands them, having been there herself.
Fast forward to today and the lives of more than 700,000 children have been helped by The Christina Noble Foundation, founded by Noble, that has built 80 projects across Vietnam and Mongolia.
Vietnam and Mongolia is now home for Noble but MiNDFOOD conducted the interview with Noble over the phone from Dublin where Noble was promoting the film. It also offered the first opportunity for Noble to reunite with her brothers and sisters from whom she was separated all those years ago.
“It was the first time in 53 years that we’ve all been together in Ireland,” Noble says. “There were a lot of tears and it was very sad. We didn’t really talk about the split up and we didn’t go back to the past too much. Not really. We made jokes and just looked at each other and burst out laughing … my sister made a very good point I think when she said ‘it felt like the heart was a compass pointing out in every direction to all of us’.”
What was the hardest bit for her to watch in the film?
“The hardest bit was Mum. And the second hardest was the splitting of the family,” she says. “I got cross a lot because Mummy was very sick and I didn’t want her to die and I almost knew at the young age I was, the consequences of her death. What it would be and what it would do – and I don’t think as a child you could imagine that your mother would die … it was very traumatic and even today it’s like yesterday.”
When she travelled to Vietnam and saw the plight of the street children she said she didn’t feel sorry for them, she understood where they were coming from.
“I had empathy with them – they are kids who just want to have a normal life – have school books and eat and have decent clothes to wear … some people don’t have anybody left, you know … to provide a safe secure house but not to warehouse children – to make sure the children have free spirits. They’re like birds with broken wings. Repair those wings but don’t take their freedom away from them.”
In the film, written, produced and directed by Stephen Bradley, Noble is played by Deidre O’Kane (pictured above), Sarah Greene (middle Christina) and Gloria Cramer Curtis (young Christina).
Noble is showing at cinemas now.