Author: Díóg O’Connell
New Irish Storytellers is the latest in a long history of exploring Irish film. For decades, theorists have attempted to put into sufficient words how utterly necessary the Irish film industry has become to Irish nationality, but something was missing. Students and film buffs explored these new theories, eventually becoming bogged down in a verbose wasteland, and forgetting what it was they first loved about Irish film. This is where I would suggest that Díóg O’Connell’s new exploration differs; it is just what it says on the cover, new.
O’Connell is a lecturer in IADT, and this experience shines through the book, and is what sets it apart from others in the field. The book is cleverly divided into sections which explore different aspects of Irish film, rather than creating a chronological history. There is also a departure from over-heavy theorising with the addition of summaries in the heavier sections, O’Connell’s footnotes are used to explain and emphasise points, rather than becoming another section in their own note. This book is primarily a departure in that it makes and emphasises points, but leaves the results open to debate. A masterful use of a teaching history.
The book opens with an inspired section dedicated to the notion of storytelling itself. This introduction sets the stage for the interrogation which will follow. O’Connell takes us from fairytales to film, effortlessly allowing the reader to reminisce and grow with storytelling as we realise the impact that stories have on each of our lives. This introduction offers the reader something that very few other theory books do – enjoyment, a sigh of relief is almost audible from college libraries. O’Connell positions each aspect of the process as a craft in itself which needs to be explored; no stone is left unturned here.
The main focus here is filmmaking and the creation of national cinema after the reactivation of the Irish Film Board in 1993, O’Connell sugar-coats nothing in her study, and a chapter on the Irish Film Board is not mere historic diatribe peppered with dates. It is almost a memoir, humanising the often tense relationship between Ireland and film, making her theories accessible to a wider audience.
New Irish Storytellers is an extremely far-reaching exploration which doesn’t merely explore traditional linear methods of storytelling. O’Connell bravely takes the Irish model and positions it within classically ‘Hollywood’ genres and creates symbolic links between Irish, European, and Hollywood cinemas. Whilst Irish romantic comedies may not be everyone’s first movie choice, O’Connell charts the integral difference between Irish romantic comedy and other models, revealing more about our culture, than about the films themselves.
Here Irish film is concretely positioned as an integral part of our storytelling traditions and an inescapable part of our culture. O’Connell breaks her readers of their tentative hold on Irish cinema and presents something to latch national pride onto. The book fittingly closes with an exploration of Once, which is arguably the most recent film to open eyes to our film traditions, and leaves us to debate who our New Irish Storytellers will be.
New Irish Storytellers is clearly a labour of love and, having had the pleasure of taking classes on the topic led by O’Connell, I can say with certainty that it is a gift to have her teachings become available to a wider audience. New Irish Storytellers is an essential addition to the shelves of film students, buffs, and lovers everywhere. Whilst it is an enjoyable and informative read, it also shows that whilst we may be broke, unsure of what boxes to tick for the general election, and we are likely to get mass flu epidemics from weather changes, at the very least we make great storytellers, and as long as there are theorists like O’Connell, we will be able to effectively read them.
Ciara O Brien
# Paperback: 200 pages
# Publisher: Intellect Books
# Language English
# ISBN-10: 1841503126
# ISBN-13: 978-1841503127
# Product Dimensions: 25.9 x 19.6 x 2 cm