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When Brazil won the war against Paraguay in 1870, they spared the life, but not the reputation of the woman they claimed was the chief villain in the bloodshed. Irish-born Eliza Lynch, lifetime partner of dictator Francisco Solano López, was painted by Brazil as a puppet master, thief and whore, and in 1991 included alongside Lucretia Borgia and Catherine the Great in a book entitled The World’s Wickedest Women. In Paraguay, the country where she lived as a beloved uncrowned queen, she is a national heroine. Fascinated by the contradiction, Irish academics Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning embarked on 18 years of research to write a biography which forms the basis of Alan Gilsenan’s unique and compassionate documentary. Blending interviews with re-enactments of Eliza’s life – wonderfully performed by actress Maria Doyle – Gilsenan thoughtfully breathes humanity into a portrait of a much maligned woman.

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