Born without limbs due to a condition called Total Amelia, the Leaving Certificate student has already overcome serious obstacles in her life, a process charted by the documentary, made by her brother Steven, and called No Limbs No Limits.
It was screened for the first time yesterday afternoon at Cork Opera House, and watched by guests including former Cork football manager Conor Counihan, the All-Ireland winning Cork ladies football team, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, Grammy award-winner Julie Gold and Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan.
Also present were Joanne’s parents Ann and Joe, her five siblings, and her friends, including Tina Stark, who like Joanne is one of just seven people in world with Total Amelia.
As she greeted guests arriving at the venue, Joanne admitted she had yet to see the finished film, which has already been submitted to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
“I am really excited about it,” she said as she spoke to reporters on the red carpet, and later she joked that she would probably spend the duration of the film picking apart what she was wearing on screen — “I am very image conscious,” she said.
Her brother, Steven, directed the film, putting it together over the past two years, but he said: “In reality I have been making it all my life.”
The documentary contains footage of the young Joanne, shot by Steven on a Panasonic camcorder her parents had luckily got for him one Christmas.
“What I wanted to achieve was to show the general public what they have done for Joanne,” he said, referring to the support she has received over the years, as well as the backing they received for the documentary project.
Made for a modest €47,000, the film — narrated by Tony award-winner Marie Mullen — may get a general release in Irish cinemas and Steven said he hoped there might be an international audience for a film about his inspiring sister who impressed delegates at the UN in New York when she spoke there in April last year.
The Millstreet girl said: “I know we are all joking about Oscars but I hope that when people see it they will appreciate that people with disabilities can achieve things.”
As for her own plans she said: “I would really like to go on to college and do journalism and have a good journalism career.”
Micheal O’Muircheartaigh — who today flies out to Kuala Lumpur to commentate on the GAA’s Asian games tournament — said: “I have met her at a few functions and you have only to meet her to see how enthusiastic she is about everything.
“That’s a wonderful title — No Limits,” he said.
She got a smacker on the cheek from Conor Counihan yesterday and plaudits galore before and after the screening, with her friend Tina summing it up when she said: “I think me and Joanne are quite similar — outgoing and a bit crazy.”
* Watch the trailer for No Limbs No Limits at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UGlx6Xn4S0