Irish National Cinema

Irish National Cinema

Irish National Cinema

Irish National Cinema

Synopsis

From the international successes of Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan, to the smaller productions of the new generation of Irish filmmakers, the recent flowering of Irish cinema may be seen as a symbol of the nation's emergence from the backwaters of twentieth century culture into the mainstream of the global economy. Irish National Cinema argues that in order to understand the unique position of filmmaking in Ireland and the inheritance on which contemporary filmmakers draw, definitions of the Irish culture and identity must take into account the so-called Irish diaspora and engage with its cinema. In a series of chapters on contemporary Irish filmmaking, this book further reflects on questions of nationalism, gender identities, the representation of the Troubles and of Irish history as well as cinema's response to the so-called Celtic Tiger and its aftermath.

Excerpt

When, in 1993, the Irish government announced a series of measures designed to place Irish filmmaking practices on a secure, professional basis, it seemed at long last that Ireland would be able to boast a film industry of its own. After years of failed schemes, many of which foundered in the face of official hostility towards an entertainment form associated with loose morals and the corruptions of modernity, Ireland's choice was, in the words of the Labour minister, academic and poet, Michael D. Higgins, 'whether we become the consumer of images in a passive culture or whether we will be allowed to be the makers of images in an active culture, in a democratic society' (Irish Cinema—Ourselves Alone, 1995).

Underlying the minister's words lay an anxiety that was anything but new to debates around the cinema and Ireland. His concerns for the survival of indigenous cultural traditions in the face of the global mass-marketing of the image would have been met with a familiar nod from the policy-makers of the nascent Irish State of the 1920s onwards. If the issues are now less about protecting the good Catholic Irish from secular temptations than about gaining control of representation in the face of hegemonic multinationalism, the battleground is much the same. Caught between the two is the Irish public. Reported to be amongst the most enthusiastic cinema-goers in Europe, they have consistently sought out the pleasures of popular Hollywood film and have been aided in doing so by a trade that has viewed restrictions from above with little sympathy.

Threaded through Higgins' words is another supposition, that an Irish film industry will create an Irish film culture, and that this will, in some way, reflect, interrogate and enrich the national culture. We may now look back and question whether this indeed did occur in what we might call the 'Second Film Board years', namely the period following the re-establishment, after several years of dormancy, of the Film Board in 1993 under Minister Higgins. The chapters in the second half of this book are largely concerned with that period, one that saw the establishment of a commercial environment for multiple modes of filmmaking practice from Irish-language, to documentaries and short films to arthouse and commercial releases.

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