Anna-Rose Shack reports on some Irish short films
In the heart of Paris’s bustling Latin Quarter sits the ‘Centre Culturel Irlandais’ or the ‘Irish Cultural Centre’. Home to resident artists and students, this vibrant hub of Irish culture opened its doors earlier this month for another 1916 Easter Rising inspired event. Entitled After ’16, this collection of nine short films was commissioned by the Irish Film Board and has been shown in Ireland and around the world this year. The films are an eclectic mix of puppetry, documentary and drama that explore events relating to 1916 and the nature of commemorations in 2016.
The diverse subject matter was broad: from interviews with people acquiring 1916-themed tattoos in Baring Arms, to the story of W.B. Yeats’ role in establishing a new coinage for the Irish Free State (Mr Yeats and the Beastly Coins). A Father’s Letter included extensive interview with Michael Mallin’s son, Joseph. Aged two, Joseph was brought to see his father in Kilmainham Gaol the night before his execution. In a letter his condemned father also asked him become priest, something that eventuated years later. The Party was a sobering vignette of Belfast in 1972. A group of Catholic teenagers welcome their friend Mickey, an IRA man on the run, to their party. Later that night a Protestant gunman enters the house, leaving several of the friends dead and the lives of the others irrevocably changed.
My personal favourite was My Life For Ireland directed by Kieron J. Walsh. Owen, a young Irish patriot, sets out from his village to join Patrick Pearse at the GPO. However, he is thwarted in his grand plan by a flat bicycle tyre. After being prevented from sending a telegram to Pearse by the Loyalist village postmaster, Owen takes the postmaster, the flirtatious postal assistant and a customer, hostage at gunpoint. This turn of events greatly appeals to the dramatic postal assistant who helps Owen send the telegram, raise a makeshift Irish flag outside and draft his own version of the proclamation. A handful of nonplussed villagers listen to his bid for freedom but only the promise of a new village pub elicits the enthusiasm Owen had hoped for. Seeing a lone policeman cycle into the village, Owen once again draws his gun…only to accidentally shoot himself in the foot. His wound is then hastily wrapped in the Union Jack. The postal assistant in her newly acquired patriotic fervour encourages him to ‘go all the way’ and martyr himself for the cause. Nothing so grand though as Owen is led off to the doctors, unceremoniously slung over the back of a donkey.