Skip Trinity Banner Navigation

Skip to main content »

Trinity College Dublin

Skip Main Navigation

Irish Postgraduate Film Research Seminar 2005

The third Irish Postgraduate Film Research Seminar was held at Trinity College Dublin on 21 - 22 April 2005. Professor Dudley Andrew of Princeton University gave the keynote address and eighteen postgraduate students presented papers The selected proceedings of the event were published as Kevin Rockett and John Hill, editors, National Cinemas and World Cinema, Studies in Irish Film 3, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006. Both the Seminar and publication were supported by the Higher Education Authority's North South Programme for Collaborative Research, 2003 - 06.

Cover of publication

Kevin Rockett and John Hill, editors, National Cinema and World Cinema, Studies in Irish Film 3, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION by Kevin Rockett and John Hill.

PART I: MAPPING WORLD CINEMA

Dudley Andrew, 'Islands in the sea of cinema'.

PART 2: CINEMA IN IRELAND

Niamh McCole, 'The cinematograph in provincial Ireland, 1896-1906: exhibition and reception'.

Ciara Chambers, 'Partitionist viewing - the split in newsreel coverage of Ireland during the Second World War'.

Kevin Cunnane, 'The States is brilliant': generic hybridity in I Went Down (1997) and Divorcing Jack (1998)'.

PART 3: FILM AND CULTURAL IDENTITY

Padraic Whyte, 'American dreams and Irish myths: John Sayles' The Secret of Roan Inish'.

Aileen Blaney, 'From waste to worth: the politics of self-sacrifice in H3'.

Rashmi Sawhney, 'Sectarian violence in contemporary Indian cinema: aesthetics of Dev (2004) and Mr and Mrs lyer (2002)'.

Mika Ko, 'Mirroring narcissism: representation of zainichi in Yukisada Isao's Co!'.

PART 4: FORM AND MEANING

John Dara Waldron, 'The films of Andrei Tarkovsky: between the spiritual and the ecological'.

Alexander Fisher, 'Music, modernism, and modernization in Djibril Diop Mambety's Touki Bouki'.

Liz Greene, 'Designing asynchronous sound for film'.

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS

INDEX


INTRODUCTION by Kevin Rockett and John Hill.

The Irish Postgraduate Film Research Seminar is a joint venture between Trinity College Dublin and the University of Ulster at Coleraine designed to promote original research in the area of Irish cinema and to encourage the training and development of researchers working in an Irish context. Since 2003, the Seminar has been supported by the Higher Education Authority's North South Programme for Collaborative Research which has made possible the provision of three postgraduate studentships, the recipients of which are included here, special training events and the publication of the Seminar proceedings. Seminars have taken place in Trinity College in 2003 and 2005, while the 2004 event was held at the University of Ulster's Portrush campus. This third volume of the Studies in Irish Film series contains a selection of papers presented at the 2005 Seminar.

IRELAND AND WORLD CINEMAS

One of the most rewarding developments in recent film studies has been the positioning of national cinemas in a world cinema framework. Adopting what he describes as an 'oceanic' rather than a territorial model of cinema, the distinguished film scholar Dudley Andrew suggests how cinema may operate in a transnational manner but, nevertheless, remains subject to 'local force fields'. Charting the history of successive 'new waves' in cinema, Andrew identifies a. decentring of world cinema and the emergence of 'regionalist' cinemas in which the global and the local are intertwined. This then leads to a comparison between the cinemas in Ireland and Taiwan which may differ considerably in terms of political and cultural history but nonetheless share a concern to inflect 'transnational commerce' in a local direction.

The various ways in which international and local cultures intersect is a recurring concern of the essays which follow. Thus, in the second section of the volume concerned with Irish film history, Niamh McCole examines how the new international phenomenon of the cinematograph was 'customized' according to local circumstances in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Through an examination of the exhibition of films in provincial Ireland from 1896 onwards, McCole indicates how the context of reception not only had an important bearing on what was exhibited but also how films were shown and interpreted. McCole places particular emphasis on the strong oral tradition within Irish culture and the corresponding importance of the 'lecturer' in mediating the meaning of films for audiences, a role that was reinforced by the religious and political concerns of the clergy, middle-class professionals and provincial newspapers.

Ciara Chambers' discussion is also concerned with the local reception of international material but of a somewhat different kind. Focusing on the exhibition of newsreels during the Second World War, she indicates how Northern and Southern Ireland had two radically different cinematic experiences during this period. Thus, while the strict film censorship regime in neutral Southern Ireland ensured that no representations of the war that might offend the Axis powers were permitted, audiences in the north were fed on a diet of British and American newsreels in which the progress of the War was the main preoccupation. By examining these contrasting accounts of local and international events in newsreels seen by audiences on different sides of the border, Chambers also goes on to suggest how this may also have helped to reinforce partition in the post-war period.

The reception of international film material in Ireland was, of course, especially significant given the relative absence of locally-produced films, particularly features, until the 1980s. Like Andrew, who considers the way in which Peter Ormrod's Eat the Peach interweaves local and international concerns, Kevin Cunnane focuses on how much recent Irish cinema has sought, partly in pursuit of commercial success, to emulate Hollywood models of genre film-making. Focusing on I Went Down and Divorcing Jack, Cunnane suggests how the adoption of Hollywood elements has led to a generically 'hybrid' cinema which has proved only partly commercially and culturally successful. This, Cunnane suggests, is the result of a failure to transform 'Ireland' into a fully convincing cinematic landscape. As a result, he concludes that, while 'modern' Irish cinema will necessarily remain 'hybrid' in character, it should avoid dependence upon one - Hollywood - model of cinema and seek to transform, and not just copy, the materials it borrows.

The way in which local Irish cinema inhabits the space of international cinema, and the consequences this has for addressing the specificities of local culture, is also a feature of Padraic Whyte's discussion of John Sayles' The Secret of Roan Inish. Attracted to Ireland for financial reasons and, as a result, abandoning the source material's original Scottish setting, the film appears to demonstrate how such economic forces encourage the downplaying of local concerns in favour of the 'universal'. However, while accepting the way in which an 'imaginary' Ireland is constructed according to the preconceptions of an international audience, Whyte also suggests that the film self-consciously adopts an 'idea' of Ireland in order to explore the role of myth in the modern world. For Aileen Blaney, this interweaving of the 'concrete' and the 'universal' is also a feature of the film H3 about the IRA hunger strikes of 1980-81. In her discussion, Blaney draws attention to the way in which the film represents the hunger strikers in an iconic Christian mode as they seek to resist the harsh prison regime through their naked bodies alone. In foregrounding this iconography, especially as it relates to Christ's suffering and the 'martyrs' of the 1916 Rising, the political import of the events is diluted as the film shifts register from a local to a more 'universal' mode of address.

The difficulties involved in representing social and political conflict is also a feature of Rashmi Sawhney's discussion of the representation of a topic all-too-familiar to the Irish viewer - sectarian violence - in two recent Indian films, Dev and Mr and Mrs lyer. Although generically and stylistically different, Sawhney indicates how both films defy the norms of realism in pursuit of a preferred 'solution' to the conflicts they identify. Mika Ko also examines the way in which the suppressed history of the 'zainichi', or long-term Korean residents in Japan, manifests itself in Yukisada Isao's Go! Echoing Cunnane's observations concerning the appropriation of Hollywood conventions by cinematically-knowing Irish films, Ko indicates how the film's indebtedness to international youth style, and films such as Trainspotting, leads to a form of narcissistic celebration of 'oppositionality'. Thus, just as Sawhney suggests how the Indian films she discusses 'resolve' sectarian conflicts in ideologically problematic ways, so Ko indicates how the articulation of zainichi experience is ultimately subsumed within a comforting form of multiculturalism.

In demonstrating how shared concerns, such as sectarian conflict and the position of ethnic minorities, are explored in cinematically specific ways in different national contexts, such essays move in the direction of the kind of comparative study of world cinemas called for by Andrew in his opening essay. The concluding essays extend the book's international reach even further. John Waldron discusses the films of the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and suggests how these construct a filmic space in which the fantasy and the real, the spiritual and the ecological, merge. Alex Fisher discusses the Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety's Touki Bouki, calling for closer attention to the film's use of music. This, he suggests, complicates conventional readings of the film in terms of a straightforward conflict between tradition and modernity by indicating how the route to 'modernity' progresses in culturally specific - and contradictory - ways. In doing so, he also provides further evidence of the ways in which local cinemas appropriate and re-articulate imported cultural repertoires. Finally, Liz Greene adds to Fisher's call for more attention to film music with a demand for more consideration of film sound. Focusing on the pioneering work of sound designer Alan Splet, in collaboration with the director David Lynch, she identifies the complex play between synchronous and asynchronous sound to be found in a film such as Blue Velvet.

The three volumes that now constitute the Studies in Irish Film series have brought together a wide range of writers whose topics have explored hitherto under-explored aspects of Irish and world cinemas. Many of the twenty-five different contributors have already moved on from research to teaching and other professional activities, and are now imparting to new students the knowledge gained and research skills acquired during their student careers. We wish them, and those who are following in their wake, well.

Contact: irishfilm@tcd.ie | Last updated: Nov 27 2006.