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symposium for Kevin

 

'Irish cinema: the national and the international': symposium for Kevin Rockett, Friday 20 May 2016

Swift Theatre, Arts Building,
Trinity College Dublin

 

 

9.15 – opening remarks: Professor Matthew Causey, Acting Head of School of Drama, Film and Music

9.30-10.50: Panel One: Rethinking the canon
Theorising Cinematography in Irish Cinema and Artists’ Film
Maeve Connolly

Dominic Behan and the emergence of ‘Troubles’ TV Drama in the 1970s
John Hill

The ‘uniqueness’ of Irish cinema?
Pat Brereton

 

10.50-11.10 coffee

 

11.10- 12.50: Panel Two: History
Fred O’Donovan – not just Knocknagow
Charles Barr

Watching the Furniture Instead of the Film: Cinema Culture and Cavan's First Picture House
Denis Condon

Ellen O’Mara Sullivan and the Film Company of Ireland
Díóg O’Connell

“Who’s that playing with Dick Rockett?”: Remembering Rooney (1958)
Seán Crosson

 

12.50-1.50 - Lunch

 

1.50- 3.10: Panel Three: Cinema and industry

The National, Transnational Cinema and Irish Genre.
Martin McLoone

Contemporary Irish cinema as industry
Roddy Flynn
More than Ten Years After: the effluxion of time.
Rod Stoneman

 

3.20-5.00 Panel Four: Contemporary Irish film and media

The Black Irish: Expanding Concepts of the National in Irish-Language Filmmaking
Zélie Asava

Tunnel Visions:  Insurrection, Modernity and the Easter Rising
Luke Gibbons

Memory, Media and the New Extreme Weather Culture in Ireland
Diane Negra

No Place Like Home: The Absent Mother in Recent Irish Cinema
Tony Tracy

5pm-7pm: drinks reception, foyer Samuel Beckett Theatre

 

Abstracts:

The Black Irish: Expanding Concepts of the National in Irish-Language Filmmaking
Zélie Asava
This paper considers expanding concepts of the national through representations of mixed-race subjects in contemporary Irish cinema, with a focus on Irish-language documentaries.
An Dubh ina Gheal [Assimilation] (Kehoe, 2013), reveals a mixed history in the Irish diaspora through interviews with key figures in the Irish-Aboriginal community in Australia. Directed by a member of the new Irish and narrated by Louis de Paor, it also features interludes of de Paor’s poetry scored by aboriginal musicians.
The film echoes the findings of 1976’s The Black Irish, a documentary on mixed-race people in Kinsale, Montserrat, by exploring the historical position of the Irish abroad as both coloniser and colonised. However, An Dubh ina Gheal goes on to explore how this identity politics informed calls for racial equality and civil rights, as well as interracial family dynamics.
This paper also examines Aisling Gheal [Bright Vision] (Ó Céilleachair, 2013), which follows a young mixed-race pupil of sean-nós song in Connemara. Like the TG4 2011 documentary, Steip le Tura, on a Zimbabwean-Irish sean-nós dancer, this film contextualises the new Irish within the traditions of old Ireland. Here, mixed subjects signify both immigration, cosmopolitanism and change, as well as ancient cultural traces in the rural present.

 

Fred O’Donovan – not just Knocknagow
Charles Barr
Issue 33 of the online journal Screening the Past was devoted to the Film Company of Ireland’s ambitious feature-length adaptation (1918) of Charles Kickham’s novel: a terrific collection of articles by Irish film scholars, it nevertheless had little to say about casting, about formal elements, or about its romantic lead and director, Fred O’Donovan. This paper offers in a modest way to fill these gaps, noting the future careers in Hollywood and British cinema of some of its actors, and relating the film to O’Donovan’s career before and after. Before: as an Abbey Theatre actor from 1908, and then director. After: as a freelance actor in theatre, film and radio, and finally as a prolific pioneer director of live drama for BBC Television, in 1938-39, and again, after the wartime closedown, from 1946 till his death in 1952. He was celebrated for his long-take one-camera style, of which there are fascinating anticipations in Knocknagow.

The ‘uniqueness’ of Irish cinema?
Pat Brereton

Coming up to Dublin in the eighties, my fondest memories are cueing up for avant garde masterpieces at the IFT cinema when it was up in Earslfort Terrace and attending late-night double bill classics run by Project Arts cinema, which of course he helped set up. Rockett’s work is central to scholarship around the history of Ireland on film. From the seminal Cinema and Ireland (1987) that he completed with Luke Gibbons and John Hill, to his magnum opus on the history of Irish cinema and censorship, alongside other interventions and publications where national identity is forever being questioned through the lens of cinema, Rockett has always been both provocative and insightful.

Developing a coherent history and corpus of Irish cinema remains an ongoing project of Rockett’s, which of course remains fraught with dangers. Categorising and marking out the field has been his life-long work that has shaped this growing discipline. 

Some threads and themes I would like to comment on include:
-The Troubles, as the primary historical context for so much Irish film/media analysis
-Censorship and the malign influence of Catholicism
-And of course the ‘uniqueness’ of Irish Cinema?

Watching the Furniture Instead of the Film: Cinema Culture and Cavan's First Picture House
Denis Condon

An examination of Cavan’s first picture house demonstrates the validity of the new cinema history’s challenge to film studies’ focus on textual analysis. Although moving pictures as a form of entertainment undeniably came to dominate popular culture in Cavan in the years between 1910 and 1916, few of the films shown in the town were afforded even a passing mention in the local newspapers, a fact not all that surprising given that the impact of any film would have been limited by its three-day run. Nevertheless, local newspapers, census returns and other historical sources provide considerable insight into the impact of cinema as a social practice on Irish towns. By shifting focus from the screen to the auditorium and the audience, scholars can discover the reasons that many people in Cavan in the 1910s were right to be more interested in the furniture than the films.

 

Theorising Cinematography in Irish Cinema and Artists’ Film
Maeve Connolly

My research has often sought to articulate and investigate the co-existence of disparate Irish film cultures, drawing attention to the work of art-school trained filmmakers and marginal practices of production, extending from the 1970s to the present. This research has been informed by key moments in the history of critical film education and exhibition (including Project Cinema Club, initiated by Kevin Rockett), which have proved important for newer generations of practitioners. This paper will identify the cinematographer as a key, if somewhat overlooked, interlocutor between disparate cultures and economies of production, operating within advertising, feature film drama, documentary and contemporary art, both within and across national and international formations. My paper will reference the central role played by Thaddeus O’Sullivan as both cinematographer and director in the ‘first wave’ of Irish cinema, but will primarily address artist-cinematographer collaborations since the early 2000s, focusing on recent projects by artists such as Sarah Browne, Gerard Byrne, Willie Doherty and Clare Langan, realised in collaboration with cinematographers such as Kate McCullough, Christopher Doyle, Seamus McGarvey and Robbie Ryan.

“Who’s that playing with Dick Rockett?”: Remembering Rooney (1958)
Seán Crosson

This paper is concerned with one of few international fiction films featuring a hurling playing lead protagonist, the 1958 Rank production Rooney. A popular success in Ireland when released (though less so internationally) the film featured leading hurling players from Kilkenny and Waterford teams of the era concerned, including Philly Grimes, Frankie Walsh, Dick Rockett and Paddy Buggy, alongside the less convincing hurling playing lead protagonist, English actor John Gregson. This paper considers this 1957 film in light of prevailing configurations of Irishness internationally in the period concerned.

 

Contemporary Irish cinema as industry
Roddy Flynn

 

 

Dominic Behan and the emergence of ‘Troubles’ TV Drama in the 1970s
John Hill
Prior to the onset of the ‘troubles’ in the late 1960s, there were relatively few television dramas set in the North of Ireland and virtually no exploration of the political, ideological and religious tensions existing there. The arrival of armed conflict at the end of the decade led to a rapid upsurge in media coverage of events in NI as well as generating new challenges for the visualisation, dramatisation and explanation of what was occurring. 
 This paper will look at some of the first television dramas to emerge in the modern era of the ‘troubles’. Focusing on Dominic Behan’s plays The Patriot Game (1969), Carson Country (1972) and The Folk Singer (1972), the paper will consider their aesthetic  approach, the political controversies that they generated and their relationship to subsequent arguments about the cinematic representation  of the ‘troubles’ . 

 

The National, Transnational Cinema and Irish Genre.
Martin McLoone
By looking back over the last thirty years of Irish film studies, and by interrogating my own practice as well as that of various other film academics (including the work of Kevin Rockett)  the paper will explore the links between a 'national' approach to film and Ireland and its relationship to transnational cinemas and genre criticism.

 

Memory, Media and the New Extreme Weather Culture in Ireland
Diane Negra

Together with the UK’s Met Office, Ireland’s Met Eireann introduced a storm naming system for the first time in 2015.  The new system was given ample use when a near constant succession of gales swept across Ireland from November, 2015 to January, 2016 leading to considerable flooding of homes and farms in the west of the country.  In early December, a reporter for national broadcaster RTE, Teresa Mannion, covered the latest gale, Storm Desmond, amidst inclement conditions in Galway. Modelling the kind of “body at risk” coverage consummately performed by US Weather Channel personnel, Mannion could barely speak over the lashing rain and strong winds in a dramatic broadcast that quickly become a viral video (sometimes customized with dinosaurs or stormtroopers striding behind the reporter).  When Mannion beseeched viewers “don’t swim in the sea” they were quick to understand the implicit reference to a video produced earlier in the storm of daredevil bathers who plunged into the roiling waves from a diving board at Salthill not far from Mannion’s broadcast site.   At that moment, competitive repertoires of national extreme weather performance came into view.

Taking the position that weather spectacle functions to test and gratify new cultural norms that heighten individual vulnerability and exposure to calamity, this paper analyzes the importation of US weather norms into Ireland and tracks the emergence of new weather lexicons that remediate and repurpose American models of post-Katrina extreme weather as oblique expressions of entrenched inequality and the neoliberalization of culture.  In an era marked by uncertain and still evolving concepts of Irish citizenship after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, risk, the vulnerability of persons and property, and the perilous position of small nations amidst global climate change are structuring concerns in an emergent Irish discourse of extreme weather that balances importation and indigeneity.

 

Ellen O’Mara Sullivan and the Film Company of Ireland
Díóg O’Connell

Ellen (Nell) O’Mara Sullivan played a significant role in the Film Company of Ireland between 1916 and 1919, was pivotal to its foundation in 1916 and was a key player in the distribution and exhibition of Knocknagow in America, 1918 / 1919. This paper explores her story, a story of a woman left out of the annals of history but one who had a key part in the history of Irish film. Drawing on her personal letters, histories and archive material, this research outlines the case for Ellen Sullivan being much more central to the Film Company of Ireland and not just the wife of co-founder James Mark Sullivan. Sometimes based on speculation and coincidence, this paper tells a tale of a woman’s contribution to Irish cultural history in the second decade of the twentieth century. In the absence of conventional records for her life beyond those recording her role as mother and wife, the case is constructed in another way. The evidence is compelling to suggest that while James Mark Sullivan is documented as a co-founder of the Film Company of Ireland, his wife Ellen O’Mara Sullivan played a very active role in the business and creative activity of Ireland’s first independent film company, particularly between 1916 and 1918, and was much more a significant historical figure that heretofore recorded.

More than Ten Years After: the effluxion of time.
Rod Stoneman

It seems appropriate in reflecting on Kevin Rockett's contributions to Irish and international film culture to connect the personal and the analytical, the critical and the biographical. Over a 25 year period there have been many intersections with Kevin's work and life, some may have had a contentious or dialetical dimension, but all of them were productive and fraternal in some way.

No Place Like Home: The Absent Mother in Recent Irish Cinema
Tony Tracy
In this paper I explore the motif of motherhood in recent Irish cinema and consider the ways in which this deeply embedded cultural type has recently emerged as a figure of crisis. Reflecting on the wider theme of the symposium, I wish to locate such portraits within a consideration of transnational cinema through a triadic association of motherhood-place-nation that such films both draw upon and depart from. 

 

 

 


Last updated 17 May 2016 WEADICKG@tcd.ie (Email).