Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Fís Na Fuiseoige

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Shane Croghan takes a birds-eye view of Aodh Ó Coileáin’s Fís Na Fuiseoige, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Fís Na Fuiseoige (The Lark’s View) is a gently-paced reflection upon the long-standing Irish relationship between land, literature and our own sense of self. Merging modern techniques of aerial cinematography with the words of Irish language poets dating as far as hundreds of years back, this documentary is a thoughtful examination of our heritage and an affectionate celebration of the relationship between person and place.

Director Aodh Ó Coileáin displays a clear passion for, and understanding of, the value of the Irish language in his handling of the topic. The informative, co-dependent relationship between person and place is evoked in the simple, yet effective, directorial decisions employed throughout Fis Na Fuiseoige. Introspection is encouraged in the slow movement of the camera, the considered cadence of the poetic delivery and the natural beauty captured by the swooping overhead drone. Even when we venture into the urban cityscapes, which are implemented later on in the piece, the reflective style of the documentary is never abandoned in favour of anything overtly dramatic. Instead, an almost meditative viewing is encouraged. The inclusion of these urban locations is an important addition, offering a contrast to the earlier rural settings and providing the viewer with a more complete snapshot of contemporary Ireland.

Though the beautifully crafted sequences of poetry and landscape imagery may set the tone of Fís Na Fuiseoige, the interviews with local people at each of the documentary’s locations are also an important component, serving to root the narrative in reality to some extent. Their affinity for their heritage, alongside their wealth of knowledge regarding their homeland, contextualises the more metaphorical, visually-driven sequences and further reinforces the theme of the film, that our proximity to the land allows us to better grasp a sense of our own existence. As well as presenting us with an affectionate exploration of our relationship to the land, Aodh Ó Coileáin offers an insight into the value of the Irish language and the potential loss of identity which can arise when a language begins to decline.

Fís Na Fuiseoige is an impressive directorial debut from Aodh Ó Coileáin. Both grand in scope and intimate in execution, this documentary is a warm study of our language, our land and ourselves. Director of photography Colm Hogan has captured some truly staggering images, presenting the topography of Ireland from a bird’s-eye perspective and providing his director with the ideal fodder for the narrative. This film is timely, given the recent centenary celebrations, and more importantly, it is delivered with conviction and brimming with genuine emotion.

 

Fís Na Fuiseoige screened on Friday, 8th July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.

 

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Films by NUI Galway Tutors Travel the World

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Two films by Seán Breathnach and Aodh Ó Coileáin (pictured), who teach film and journalism at NUI Galway’s Irish-language Acadamh, will be screened at film festivals around the world this month.

Maidhm was written and directed by Seán Breathnach and recently awarded best drama at Limerick Film Festival. It will be screened this week at the Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran and at the Long Week of Short Films Festival in Shanghai in May.  The film has already been seen at the Irish Short Film Festival in Malta, Dingle International Film Festival, Cork International Film Festival and the Galway Film Fleadh. Two other Acadamh staff members were also involved in the production, with editing by Ray Fallon and sound design by Fionn Ó Sealbhaigh. The film was produced by a graduate of the Acadamh’s media courses, Laura Ní Cheallaigh, who is currently working as commissioning editor in TG4.

Fís na Fuiseoige, written and directed by Aodh Ó Coileáin, premiered to critical acclaim at this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival. The film will be screened at the Earth Day Film Festival in San Francisco on Friday (22nd April), and at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway on Saturday (23rd April). It was screened earlier this week at the Irish Arts Centre in New York.

Maidhm is the story of an autistic child’s search for his mother following a tantrum which sets them apart.  “The young actor who played the autistic child portrayed the impact of autism, not alone on the person but on the entire family, very effectively,” said a critic at the Galway Film Fleadh.  Galway actress, Tara Breathnach, has been nominated for an Oireachtas Best Performance award for her portrayal of the mother. The film was funded by the Irish Film Board and filmed in Galway.

The focus of Fís na Fuiseoige is the love for the home-place as reflected in poetry and literature in Irish. In Ireland, landscape is not just geography, but a mnemonic for literature and poetry. Landscape and stories are inseparable. “Aodh Ó Coileáin’s beautifully intimate portrait of language and place is a reminder again of the importance of the language in the Gaelic Revival, the cultural rebellion that was the catalyst for the later rebellion. In serving as a pool of traditions that were lost under anglicization, the language was used as a means of re-imagining, of conceiving of a new identity,” said Seán Finnan, Film Ireland. The film was produced by Colm Hogan and Dr Marina L. Levitina of Counterpoint Films, and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and TG4.

Media courses offered by the Acadamh include GY122 BA Cumarsáid agus Gaeilge; the subject Léann na Cumarsáide on GY101 BA Arts (Joint-Honours); GYA93 MA sa Chumarsáid (full-time) and GYA50 MA sa Chumarsáid (part-time).

 

 

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ADIFF Irish Film Review: Fís na Fuiseoige / The Lark’s View

Fís na Fuiseoige

Sean Finnan gets the lay of the land at Fís na Fuiseoige, Aodh Ó Coileáin’s documentary which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Something that often gets forgotten about in the constant discussions of the Irish language is the wealth of history that it carries. The educational system and government policies certainly hasn’t helped this in turning the language into something of a bureaucratic necessity, a means of being employable in various civil service jobs, in the educational system and the fact that every legal and bureaucratic document has to be translated into Irish. Not to mention signposts. The language, in this way, has been pushed into a state of stasis where much of its emphasis on its value in the educational system is placed on offering students a means of employment in a field of tedious translation in the depths of meaningless bureaucracy.

Fís na Fuiseoige, the directorial debut by west Kerry man Aodh Ó Coileáin brings to the fore the voluptuousness of the Irish language in both the history it carries, its connection to place and the differing understandings of life that it carries. A far cry from the state supported life support it has been placed upon. Using the ever increasing quality of drone technology, Ó Coileáin offers us a slow contemplative picture of the Irish landscape seldom captured so evocatively before. With such stunning aerial cinematography the timelessness of the Irish landscape is evoked as the camera reflects over places as diverse as the Iveragh Peninsula, the Donegal Gaeltacht, Glendalough amongst others. In each of these various locations, a contributor guides us through the connection of the strong links between the Irish language and place, a connection so strong that in ancient Ireland it even inspired its own literary tradition, ‘dinnseanchas’.

This literary tradition still exists on the fringes of Irish literary life as highlighted by the contributions by the Irish language poets in this documentary, who continue to pursue a knowledge of the land’s relationship with language. In their contributions, the Irish language is associated with a reverence to place itself that pays not only homage to the land but evokes a sense of this land as being timeless, as if its history is ever recurring.

Professor Nuala Ní Dhomhnail’s contribution highlights the different way in which people conceived of themselves as a result of a habitat within a language that, quite literally, gave every surrounding a story and a history based on a tradition.

Such reflections abound in this documentary and offer the viewer another way of understanding the importance of the Irish language that has lost in its bureaucratisation this intimate connection with its surroundings. As Declan Kiberd points out, the loss of the language is something like a forgetting and if the Irish landscape is a manuscript of meaning, we are quickly losing the codes of reading it. In this centenary year, Aodh Ó Coileáin’s beautifully intimate portrait of language and place is a reminder again of the importance of the language in the Gaelic Revival, the cultural rebellion that was the catalyst for the later rebellion. In serving as a pool of traditions that were lost under anglicization, the language was used as a means of re-imagining, of conceiving of a new identity.

Serving as such a reminder, Fís na Fuiseoige is a documentary to be treasured. Few others have made the argument of the importance of the Irish language’s survival in such a subtly celebratory manner while in the process highlighting its absurd vacuous place in Irish official life.

Fís na Fuiseoige screened on 24th February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 – 28 February) 

Irish films at ADIFF

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Interview: Aodh Ó Coileáin, director of ‘Fís Na Fuiseoige’

Fís na Fuiseoige

Sean Finnan talks to filmmaker Aodh Ó Coileáin about his documentary, which explores the connection between people and place, as expressed in Irish poetry and local lore.

Fís Na Fuiseoige screens at the Light House Cinema on Wednesday, 24th February 2016 at 6:15PM as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 

 

Where did the idea of the documentary come from?

Well, the company Counterpoint Films was contemplating a film on sense of place. When I became involved, in March 2013, the canvas was extremely wide. We were looking at English language short stories, English language drama, English language poetry, Irish language poetry. After a number of processes we decided to place the focus on the literary tradition on this island, which is poetry through the medium of the Irish language, in that it can be traced right back to the early centuries – the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries; the monks writing poetry in places like Skellig and Glendalough. Of course the tradition is intact right up to the present day, as illustrated in the film, with some of our most brilliant Irish language poets… or just poets full stop. Paddy Bushe, Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Biddy Jenkinson, Jackie Mac Donncha and Louis de Paor.

At the start of the film you quote lines from the first century AD Irish poet Aimhirgin, who names the place before he steps foot on it. That idea that poets have the power to create a sense of identity with the landscape.

Yes. West Limerick poet Michael Hartnett said that the very act of poetry is a rebel act. And this idea of naming Patrick Kavanagh called the “love act”. There is a strong tradition of naming places in Ireland, like Úirchill an Chreagáin and Sliabh Geal gCua na Féile, and these place names being used in poetry as if to validate a place in the poet’s head.

It reminded me of Yeats and how he uses Irish language place names. These Irish words have a magic around them, whereas the English feels flat. Because of their authenticity they bring something else to his poetry.

I think the very sound of the words were attractive to Yeats. Also, he had a certain appreciation of the history and lore and poetry in itself attached to these place names. They had value in their own right to be included in their Irish form. Louis de Paor mentions in the film that the translation of these places was a translation into gibberish. That Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Tipperary have no meaning. They are Anglicisations of the Irish place name and that the project of the coloniser was to separate the people from the place by calling the place something else.

That runs through the whole documentary, that fracturing, that loss of identity. That it was the biggest act of  dispossession. Even more than the taking of the land physically was the taking of the identification of the land.

That is the central theme in the film. If you take John Montague’s poem A Lost Tradition, he speaks of:

All around, shards of a lost tradition:
From the Rough Field I went to school
In the Glen of the Hazels. Close by
Was the bishopric of the Golden Stone;
The cairn of Carleton’s homesick poem.

He goes on to say, and Professor Declan Kiberd quotes it in the film, that:

The whole landscape a manuscript
We had lost the skill to read,
A part of our past disinherited;
But fumbled, like a blind man,
Along the fingertips of instinct

and if these codes, this ability to read the landscape, was taken from the people then it wouldn’t be so difficult to control the people or to colonise the people.

The film takes on a further significance in the fact that we’re in the centenary of 1916.

When one considers that from 1890 onwards that there was a cultural revolution in the country and that it was people like Patrick Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, Joseph Plunkett and James Connolly, who were all poets. 4 out of 7 of the leaders of the Rising were poets. Much of their project was to retake or re-seize Ireland’s cultural heritage and to promote it. By the end of the day, of course, by 1915 and the following year they realise that they needed an armed uprising as well as a cultural uprising.

This film re-ascertains the Irish people’s connection with the land, the Irish people’s love of the land, and why these men thought it was worth going out and doing what they did… because what they did didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

And today?

The fact that we have put on the screen six very brilliant Irish language poets makes a statement in its own right – what if the field be lost; all is not lost. The tradition continues. While it is small, while maybe few enough people read the poetry in English, and even much fewer in Irish, at least it is there and these people still feel it is still worth writing in Irish.

On that point, I should mention that the support we got from TG4 and the BAI shows that there are still idealistic people around who believe in films like this because they are intrinsically good and are therefore worth making. That, in its own right, 100 years after the Rising, is evidence that the importance of the cultural is still very much alive in Ireland. 

Fís Na Fuiseoige screens at the Light House Cinema on Wednesday, 24th February 2016 at 6:15PM 

The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 

 

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