Irish For a Day
by M. Faust
The ninth annual Cinegael film series
She hasn’t been in the public eye much over the last 30 years since surviving an assassination attempt, but from the late 1960s through the early 1980s there was perhaps no more famous Irish woman than Bernadette Devlin. Elected to Parliament to represent Ulster at the age of 21, she was already known throughout Northern Ireland as much for her wit and intelligence as for her passionate commitment to social justice, and her fame spread as world attention focused on what became known as “the troubles.”
Leila Doolan’s documentary Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey includes recent interviews with its subject, now a community activist working with migrant workers in Northern Ireland, to paint a portrait of that complex era. It will be the closing item this Friday for the ninth edition of Cinegael, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s annual program of Irish films. Admission for the series of three feature films and three short subjects is free to gallery members and $5 for others.
The program begins at 2 pm with What We Leave in Our Wake, a discursive film essay that probes the nature of Irish life. A series of commentators discuss the country’s development as a collection of republics the size of individual farm families, with no larger organizing principles that those of the Church, through its struggles for a national identity. While the topics sometimes seem to vary jarringly, they eventually paint a portrait of this land that is deeper than its often reductive mythology.
While not technically an Irish film—aside from a brief sojourn to Paris, it’s set entirely in Manhattan—the documentary Bill Cunningham New York features an Irish-American character so charming that you’d be hard-pressed to complain about its inclusion. He is the 80ish photographer whose regular New York Times features “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” are the culmination of a lifetime spent chronicling that city though the ways its people dress. To call him a fashion photographer is misleading, as he isn’t interested in clothing for its own sake but rather for the way people use it as armor as well as decoration. Beloved by many who know little of his personal life, Cunningham is shown riding his bike around Manhattan and in his Carnegie Hall studio apartment, one of the last residents of that address to resist being relocated to make room for offices. An appealing portrait of a warm-hearted eccentric, it screens at 4pm.
The shorts include the comedy “Noreen,” written and directed by Domhnall Gleeson, who had to look no further than the family dinner table to cast his father, Brendan, and his brother Brian, an actor who plays one of the seven dwarves in the new Snow White and the Huntsman. Here they’re a pair of dim-witted guarda in rural Ireland called to investigate a house disturbance, which they do to the detriment of a fellow named Pervert Nolan and an innocent piglet. “Pentecost,” a recent Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short Film, finds an unwilling altar boy imagining his church duties to be the exploits he wishes he was having on the soccer field. Another Oscar nominee, “The Shore,” directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), stars Ciaran Hinds as an Irishman who returns from exile to the US after 25 years to show his American daughter Patty (Kerry Condon) his roots.
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v11n22 (Week of Thursday, May 31) > Irish For a Day
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds