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The glass may be half empty but it will contain good whiskey. I write film reviews for http://www.scannain.com/ , say hi and we can debate films forever and ever and ever...... Warning this blog may contain more than just film talk.

Monday, 4 July 2011

What is an Irish film?

By the very broadest definition of the subject anything from Braveheart to Saving Private Ryan could be Irish. To most fans of cinema this is clearly not the case. However to define an Irish film can be fairly tricky enterprise. This very identification is at the very heart of our understanding of Irish cinema as a whole. Take a film like In Bruges. It is written and directed by an Irishman, stars two Irish actors but is set in the town of its title. It was funded by Film 4 so does this make it make it an English film? Such arguments are vital to our understanding of the notion of our national cinema.

Geffin Pictures, David Geffin’s film production company funded two of Neil Jordan’s most famous movies Michael Collins and The Butcher Boy. These two films would probably be considered Irish films by most people with an interest in film. So the important question would seem to be, does anyone really care where the money comes from? If your film has an Irish sensibility surely this enough regardless of whether you are funded by Warner Brothers or The Irish Film Board? Guinness is still considered by many people all over the world as an important Irish product and symbol yet it is now owned by the large international company Diageo. If you consider the amount of Irish actors and craftsman who worked on Michael Collins and The Butcher Boy combined with the subject matter of both they would definitely have to be seen as Irish films.

And yet, films that show Ireland in a clich├ęd light, such as Leap Year, we distance ourselves from the very idea that they would be construed as an Irish film. In that particular film it is worth noticing that despite the similarities to films previously mentioned such as location and Hollywood money there is a real marked difference that I do think really defines what an Irish film is. The key thing here is writing and directing from an Irish perspective. Both Martin Mc Donagh and Neil Jordan, the writers and directors of the above mentioned films are Irish and how they write their scripts (interestingly they are also both writers as well, Neil Jordan a novelist and Mc Donagh is a playright) and shoot their films suggests a sympathetic Irish sensibility.

There seems to be an interesting new development in funding models with the Irish film becoming part of European co-productions. I think this expands the borders of what an Irish film can be even further. As one of the mainstays of the European Union and a country which has received immigrants to these shores in decent numbers for two decades now, there is the feeling that Irish film will change with the times. This could be with films with a more European or International flavour. Films such as Juanita Wilsons As If I Am Not There and Lapland Odyssey show the types of co-productions that we may see more of in the future.

With the price of film kits plummeting in the last few years the democratisation of filmmaking in Ireland is now finally here. Anyone can now make a film which in itself a good thing although but the mantra should be that quality should not be lost at the expense of quantity. Possibly for the first time in our film history there is a chance for everyone with an interest in making films to go and do so. The next decade could well be one of the most exciting times in Irish cinema history.


  1. I think that Jerzy Skolimowski decided to film part of Essential Killing here is a good thing. I would rather see us integrate into the movie making business with other countries as I feel we'd learn more from other cultures. I think it's a fundamental thing if we are to learn ANYTHING about films. Too often we're more or less stuck in our own ways. I'm less concerned about a film being Irish but rather how we co-operate within the structure and what we learn from it. Therefore we learn from the lessons they give us. And also, I hope we get away from the wars we've had with the British, there's been enough of them.

  2. I agree about other countries, absolutely essential, definitely imrprove the scope of our collective vision

  3. During writing that I was reminded that when I was in work, FM104 was celebrating The Van which was alright but I almost felt it really excluded everyone else who lives in this country who isn't Irish and probably doesn't understand the "humour" and this is where I feel we never learn from. It's almost like we're so stubborn we don't want to be a part of anything which is something I absolutely detest.