IRISH CINEMA: OURSELVES ALONE?
U.K. / Ireland
Director / Producer: Donald Taylor Black
Production Co.: BFI TV / Centenary Productions / Poolbeg Productions / Radio Telefis Éireann / Irish Film Board
Executive Producers: Clare Duignan, Rod Stoneman, Colin MacCabe & Bob Last
Screenplay: Kevin Rockett
Cinematography: Seamus Deasy
Editor: Maurice Healy
Music: Bill Whelan
Narrator: Gabriel Byrne
Betacam or VHS video
Colour and Black & White
Theatre director and documentary filmmaker Donald Taylor Black contributes a thoughtful essay about Ireland's need to make images of itself for itself. The already complicated question of a national cinema in Ireland is compounded by the country's popularity as a venue for whimsy in Hollywood movies or violence in British. Roddy Doyle, who is at pains to say he basically liked the film of his The Commitments, tells how surprised he was by the 'Irish touches', as, for example, when one of his godless characters was put into the confessional - to generate a laugh.
- Bill Gosden, Wellington Film Festival Programme 1995
Black's documentary on Irish cinema is more conventionally structured [than Stephen Frears' Typically British], combining archive footage with interviews. Most 'Irish' cinema isn't made by Irish filmmakers, but by outsiders (John Ford, John Huston, Carol Reed and so on) with their own, often sentimental notions about how Ireland should be represented. This is the paradox Black explores.
- Sight & Sound, 2/97
Lumière Brothers cameramen shot documentary footage in Ireland in 1896-7. In 1910, Ireland provided the first ever overseas location for an American production (Sidney Olcott's The Lad from Old Ireland). And the Film Company of Ireland produced the country's first indigenous features between 1916 and 1920.
Things have gone on much as they began: there have been many isolated attempts to generate a truly Irish film industry, while the rest of the world has been only too happy to use Ireland as a location, either exploiting a set of time-worn Irish stereotypes or conjuring up representations of anything from Cold-War Berlin (The Spy Who Came In From the Cold) to a post-nuclear future (Zardoz). Recent years, however, have seen remarkable progress in the creation of an authentically Irish cinema. More films are being made in and about Ireland now than ever before.
The film looks back to the work of Ireland's film pioneers, particularly those of the 1930s and 1950s, but also examines the way that Ireland has been represented on screen (this strand includes previously unseen documentary footage of John Ford at work in Ireland) and looks at the British cinema's perennial association of Ireland with violence. Along the way it attempts to demolish many of the clichéd signifiers of 'Irishness' and asks questions about the gap between local issues and international demands, especially as it affects such directors as Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan.
- Sydney Film Festival Catalogue 1995