Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival 2019: Cork on Camera

Emma Keyes checks out a programme of Cork-themed films from collections at the IFI Irish Film Archive. 

The Cork on Camera programme, put together by the Irish Film Institute, consisted of short films made in and about Cork between, with the earliest from 1902 and the latest from 1978.  The sound section included a short documentary about the sculptor Seamus Murphy, “The Silent Art” from 1959, directed by Louis Marcus, a half-travelogue, half-advertisement commissioned by the DuPont Chemical Company in 1978, “Travels Through Erin”, and a short film directed by Colin Hill in 1972 called “Dark Moon Hollow”. The silent section included three very short films by the Kenyon and Mitchell Film Company from 1902 and an un-finished travelogue, “Car Touring,” directed by Jim Mullerns in 1965. Paul Smith provided improvised piano accompaniment to the silent portion of the program.

“The Silent Art” looks at Cork through the lens of Murphy’s work there. The narration states, “These are people of character in a city of contrasts,” but the twelve-minute film does not much delve into what exactly makes Cork a city of contrasts. Still, the film lingers over Murphy’s work all over Cork, including the Church of Annunciation and sculptures and carvings at University College Cork and the Cork City Hospital. The bells of Shandon Tower serve as a auditory through line as the film returns to them again and again. We get an inside look at Murphy’s studio and Murphy and his young daughter as he works on a bust of her. The film ends with some musings on Cork and art. The film is a worthwhile historical glimpse of a city and one of its storied residents. “The Silent Art” can be viewed on the IFI Player online.

“Travels Through Erin” shows Ireland through the eyes of outsiders. (“Beauty abounds in the land of the leprechaun” is a real line that is said in this short.) The film could be compared to cotton candy for its airy quality and lack of substance, but it was an enjoyable watch nonetheless. More than a film, this piece is an advertisement for the sweaters made out of the acrylic yarn created by the DuPont Chemical Company, but the models are charming and beautiful and they pose in all kinds of picturesque locations around County Cork. Sometimes there’s no need for more.

An elderly man (played by James Dempsey with voiceover narration by Dan Donovan) goes on a journey “walking the River Lee to its source in Gouganne Barra” in “Dark Moon Hollow.” This lovely little film takes its time following this man from one end of County Cork to the other and listening to his musings about life as he goes. As the man says at one point, “London is a long way off from this place.” The bells of Shandon feature again, of course, as one of County Cork’s most distinctive sounds and views. Although mostly in English, the man includes some Irish, some of which he translates and some of which he leaves untranslated: a small prize for those in the know. And Gouganne Barra looks much the same now as it does in the images in this film from 1972. 

The three Kenyon and Mitchell films are examples of early “actuality films”. Each short is only a minute or two long and shows Cork City people going about their lives. “Tram Ride from King’s Street to St. Patrick’s Bridge, Cork” and “Views of the Grand Parade, Cork” both show the streetscape, complete with streetcars with open double-decker tops, horses pulling carts, and people of all stripes walking the streets. “Cork Fire Brigade Turning Out” showcases the Cork Fire Brigade as they go through various fire-fighting exercises. These three shorts are entertaining as a small anthropological glimpse into Cork City of more than a century ago.

Finally, the last film in the programme, the unfinished travelogue, “Car Touring” exudes 1960s vibrancy. The clothing, the hairstyles, the cars, the furniture, and just about everything else speak to such a specific historical moment. The unnamed people/characters eat and drink their way around County Cork, seeing Ireland in the way that most people say you should: just driving around and stopping when you feel like it. They kiss the Blarney Stone, they go to Kinsale, they stroll the streets of Cork City. Life unfolds around them in both color and black and white footage. The film match cuts scenes of a young woman driving one car with a young man in the passenger seat with another young woman driving a second car. That film also cuts to various gorgeous shots of the Cork landscape. It’s just a shame this film was never finished, but I found it delightful to watch nonetheless and the piano accompaniment here was particularly good.


The Cork on Camera programme screened on Fri., 16th Nov 2019  as part of the Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November 2019).


The IFI Player Launches




The IFI have launched their IFI Player, a virtual viewing room where audiences across the globe can instantly access parts of the rich collections housed in the IFI Irish Film Archive. This is very a significant step in the history of film archives, truly democratizing access to these remarkable collections which includes content from as far back as 1910

Initially over 1200 minutes of content has been loaded onto the IFI Player including footage from what is believed to be the first ever piece of animation, home movies, newsreels, travelogues, animations, feature films, public information films and documentaries, in an effort to reflect all aspects of indigenous amateur and professional production. It also includes the following film collections:The Gael-Linn Collection, The Horgan Brothers Collection, The O’Kalem Collection, The Radharc Collection, The Father Delaney Collection, The Bord Fáilte Film Collection, The Department of Foreign Affairs Collection, The Desmond Egan Collection, The Monsignor Reid Collection. Additional content from the archives will be added over the coming months and years making this an ever growing resource.

To access the IFI Player simply log on to and begin to explore.

Speaking at the launch today, IFI Director Ross Keane said, “The IFI Player is a ground-breaking development for the IFI, as it allows us to fulfil our mission to make our collections from the IFI Irish Film Archive available to a much broader audience base. Through the IFI Player, audiences across the country and around the world will have the opportunity to access this rich heritage online, and from the comfort of their own homes. It is a highly significant step for us and we look forward to building on the content over the coming months and years. It will truly democratise national and international access to our collections.”

Part of the IFI, the Irish Film Archive collects, preserves and shares Ireland’s national moving image collection, a diverse resource that chronicles over one hundred years of Irish heritage and experience. The Archive collection spans 1897 to the present day, and the most important social, political and historical events of the last century are represented, enabling us to explore our cultural identity and connect with the past.

The IFI Player is a virtual viewing room for these remarkable collections, giving instant access to this rich heritage. Kasandra O’Connell Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive said “The content on the IFI Player has been selected to give audiences a taste of the breadth and depth of the material preserved by the Archive. This project is the result of an extensive Digital Preservation and Access Strategy developed over several years and the collections go through a long process of management, preservation and digitisation before they can be shared with the public. The final clip of film that audiences can access on the player, is the result of months and even years of work by Archive staff.”

Amongst the content on the IFI Player are the following collections:

(please note all images used must be credited as follows: Available to view now on the IFI Player – Courtesy of the IFI Irish Film Archive)

The Gael-Linn Collection

Amharc Eireann (A view from Ireland) collection is a series of  Newsreels showcasing Irish interest subjects from hard news stories to lighter magazine like items. Produced by Gael- Linn, Amharc Eireann screened in cinemas from 1956 to 1964.

The Horgan Brothers Collection 

The Horgan Brothers’ films (1910- 1920) are some of the earliest moving images made in Ireland. Brothers George, James and Thomas Horgan began their careers in the late 19th century in Youghal, Co. Cork as shoemakers and photographers. They ran magic lantern shows in Youghal and in the surrounding villages and townlands. From 1900, following the success of their photographic studio and magic lantern shows, James Horgan began to use a motion picture camera to capture current events and their local community.

The O’Kalem Collection

The O’Kalem films can be considered important not only for their claim to be the first fiction films made in Ireland and on two continents, but also because they tell us much about the Irish emigrant experience in America at the start of the 20th century. They are also fine examples of silent era filmmaking by a large American studio.

The Radharc Collection

Radharc was an independent production company established by Father Joe Dunn, Father Desmond Forristal and other like-minded priests to make programmes for television and non-theatrical exhibition.  Between 1961 and 1996 they made over 400 films in 75 countries on social, political and religious issues.

The Father Delaney Collection

Father Jack Delaney was ordained in 1930 at the age of 24 and served as a parish priest in Dublin in the 1930s and 1940s. He served mainly in Sean McDermott Street, Rutland Street and Gardiner Street. His images provide us with a fascinating glimpse of life in inner city Dublin in the 1930s.

The Bord Fáilte Film Collection

Films made for Bord Fáilte provide not only a beautiful record of Ireland’s landscape and topography throughout the 20thcentury, but also serve to illustrate the development of the Irish tourist industry and the image that ‘brand’ Ireland was endeavouring to project, as it marketed itself as an international tourist destination.

The Department of Foreign Affairs Collection

The Department of Foreign Affairs, also known as the Department of External affairs, was one of the many state bodies in Ireland to commission films to be produced on its behalf. Often partnering with the National Film institute (now the IFI) they generally made films on subjects considered to be culturally worthy and educationally important.

The Desmond Egan Collection

Desmond Egan was a skilled amateur filmmaker with a background in professional production. His collection of silent, colour films includes home movies, short dramas and documentaries on a range of subjects. His professional experience no doubt influenced his own film-making activity. His films, unlike those of many other amateurs, are finely-crafted and edited works.

The Monsignor Reid Collection.

Father, later Monsignor, William Reid acquired his first ‘movie’ camera in the mid-1930s. He continued to film a wide variety of subjects until the 1970s.  He filmed in the United States, where he lived for most of his life, and also religiously documented life in Ireland with family and friends during his regular trips home.