Amidst the bustle of the conferring ceremonies held in NUI Galway last week on Friday, 23rd November, another smaller yet unique event was taking place in the premises of the Huston School of Film and Digital Media; the graduate screening of films produced by students of both the MA in Production and Direction and the MA in Digital Media. A colourful and diverse selection, the eight short films spanned a wide scope of topics and exemplified the array of different voices and perspectives emerging from Irish film schools today.
Saving Turf, a short documentary about the conflict over state and EU regulation of turf cutting in Ireland, was first on the bill. Directed by Gearóid Hayes and produced by Michael Mann, the film effectively places archive footage alongside deftly executed shots of bogs and turf cutters as they are today. The tradition of turf cutting and how it is being curbed in recent times by Government intervention is underscored by a theme of man’s connectedness with land and how, in the Celtic Tiger era, this tie was loosened, but in the present downturn may need to be refastened.
The next film, Exodus, directed by Darren Hinchy and produced by Mairead Ní Threinir, takes the somewhat ubiquitous figure of the disillusioned white male and places him in a sci-fi setting, with ironic results. Taking the notion of commercially available time travel as its central plot device, the film makes clever use of visual effects without being overly flashy and playfully extols the lesson of ‘be careful what you wish for’.
Next up was a music video for the song ‘Head in the Clouds’ from Irish folk-pop outfit Amazing Apples, directed by Aisling Egan. The video is beautifully shot with a rich colour palette and convincingly evokes a bygone era of troubadours and barn dances, through clever use of costume and locations. It also comprises a tight edit, as all good music videos should.
Following on from this was As Long as I’m Here, a short documentary about Corofin native Martin Fleming and his work with children living in areas suffering from the effects of radiation after the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl in 1986. Directed by Dearbhla Tobin and produced by Katrin Salhenegger, the film tells the story of Fleming’s selflessness and dedication to his charitable work through the voices of those who work with him and members of the local community.
Next up was Liam Mellowes: Battle for the Legacy 1916, directed by Michael Mann and produced by Dearbhla Tobin. The film details the life of Liam Mellowes and his role in the Easter rising, and questions how the ideals of that uprising can be related to contemporary Ireland in its current crisis. While the events of that Easter week in Dublin are widely known, this film examines the lesser known facts about how the rising played out across the country, specifically in Galway. A well constructed documentary, it makes good use of archive footage and highly knowledgeable contributors.
Not Just in Tents, directed by Mairead Treanor and produced by Carla Maria Tighe, continued the documentary theme. The piece looks at the now disassembled Occupy movement in Galway, and imparts an overall message of action over passivity in the face of the financial crisis currently facing the country. Like much of the work at the screening, the film features highly competent cinematography and uses its visuals as a means to clearly reiterate its central message. The film invokes the power of the individual in the face of crisis and unreservedly places the onus on the audience to act instead of acquiesce.
The penultimate film, Martin McDonnell’s Grass and Lavender, takes a more abstract and experimental form than the other works. An eclectic montage of sound and visuals, in the context of this screening, the film shows the power of experimental work to subvert expectations and stir an audience out of their comfort zone.
Unheard, directed by Carla Maria Tighe and produced by Lynda Bradley, brought the screening to a close. This short film follows Aisling, a young musician, as she struggles with the loss of her hearing. A highly emotive piece, the film astutely depicts the effect of a sense, one that is often taken for granted, being diminished or taken away. Given the importance of music in Aisling’s life, her hearing difficulties are more palpably felt. The aural theme of the film is complemented by rich, colourful visuals, with inventive production design. This is an uplifting story of triumph over adversity, serving as a fitting finale to this thought provoking array of films.