This year’s Galway Film Fleadh is in full swing across the city. There is an astounding array of film from new Irish short films, new Irish features, international features and shorts, new and archive Irish documentaries and even a series of archive German films. For those with more than just a passing interest in the documentary and historical films in the Fleadh, here is a listing of just a few.
One of the stand-out films of the Galway Film Fleadh is “Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey”. Exploring the life of Bernadette Devlin McAlliskey, hers is a truly remarkable life who experienced life in the North of Ireland during the height of thefight for Civil Rights, the Troubles and in the North that struggled for peace in the face of an unrefined hatred. McAliskey was elected MP for Mid-Ulster in the 1960s at the age of 21 and continually fought for civil liberty and an end to the vicious sectarianism of those who lived and governed in the North. Described by the documentary maker Leila Doolan, “She (McAliskey) has always been a human rights activist. Civil rights has always been at the heart of what she has done and she is a woman of incredible eloquence and clarity.” Doolan and Bernadette Devlin McAliskey will be present at the screening and what promises to be an incredibly powerful evening.
“Blazing the Trail: The O’Kalems in Ireland” was a screening of the earliest works of fiction which depicted Ireland on screen. Produced between 1910 and 1915, the O’Kalem group were led by actor/director Sidney Olcott and actor/writer Gene Gauntier. The works used on-location filming primarily in the Kilarney area of Co. Kerry. It is amazing to consider the representation of Ireland to an American audience at the turn of the Twentieth century. At this very time in Ireland revolution was brewing and it was barely half a century since famine had ensured emigration to America by the Irish was in waves of tens of thousands. “Blazing the Trail” offers accounts of the making of these films as well as the original works themselves.
“A Door Ajar” is a dark treatise on the visit to Ireland in 1937 by French playwright and poet Antonin Artuad. Artuad is best known perhaps for his work “The Theatre and Its Double” which contained his idea and ambition for a theatre that would force his audience to viscerally experience the basic elements of human existence. ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’ as he called would expose the audience to the finest details of their emotive subconscious which would ‘cruelly’ awake them to greater sence of experience in the theatre.
Artuad came to Ireland in 1937 carrying a wooden staff which he believed was the true staff of St. Patrick. Folllowing an arrest in Ireland not much else is known of his visit. “A Door Ajar” discusses this journey to Ireland by Artaud and also looks at his writings, ideas and life.
“On the Box” is a selection of Irish documentaries to be screened on Saturday 9 July at the Fleadh. “Who is Dervla Murphy” follows the life and work of Ireland’s most prolific travel writer who has toured the globe for the past five decades. I attended a public interview with Murphy at the National Library of Ireland in 2009 and found her an incredibly interesting woman with an amazing life of travel and experiences.
“Neither Fish Nor Fowl” looks at the collapse of the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. The film includes intimate views into the film –maker Fiona Murphy’s own family. The film compliments well the exhibition of photography “Abandoned Ireland” which featured images of the ruins of grandeur which were previously the glamorous ‘Big Houses’. This was staged by photographer Tarquin Blake at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway recently. http://www.abandonedireland.com/
Harry McGee’s short film “Coiscèimeanna: the Famine Walk” which discussed the journey of those who died trying to escape starvation in the West of Ireland is an interesting film which traces the devastation of famine and emigration had in the West of Ireland. Part of the ‘New Irish Shorts – Way out West’ series and this film featured earlier this week in the Fleadh.
If you have seen any of these films or plan on seeing those still to be screened please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts.