Living in a Coded Land – Review of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh

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Stephen Totterdell deciphers Living in a Coded Land, Pat Collins’ film essay that makes unexpected links between events and locations, history and contemporary life. The film screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

This film tries too hard. It’s extremely self-indulgent.

And yet, it offers sound analysis of Irish society in a way that most films don’t. It makes no concessions to its audience, and can come across as preachy; but if its viewers can stick with it they will find value. It excavates – slowly – some of the ideology at the heart of modern Ireland. It offers a vocabulary for liberation in a thoughtful manner, rather than a shouty manner.

There has been much talk about the reasons for Irish artist’s disinterest in critiquing Irish society during the financial crisis. Most writers and filmmakers seem content to ignore what has been happening, and write about tea instead; or the power of sticking together or whatever. A few, such as the poet Dave Lordan or the novelist Julian Gough, do their best to shoot from the sidelines. It is still rare, though, and that makes this film a welcome manifestation of concern.

The code of the title is the set of behaviours, mannerisms, social rules that one learns to manipulate in order to rise to the top. Those who achieve it aren’t necessarily the best or the brightest; they just know the right things to say in order to slip through. More often that not, this is due to an accident of birth; they were born into a “good” family or they went to a certain school. They learn to latch onto the part of society that rises to the top. Whereas in the past it might have been the world of oil (or milkshakes), today it is finance

What the film achieves is that it makes explicit the mechanisms at work, so that laymen can understand them. It demystifies the processes at work, which will hopefully help the population to feel more confident in criticising those processes. It is easy for those in these high status positions to accuse the “lower” classes of being overly passionate or not knowing the specifics of a situation, but, as with the many violations of the last few years, we can see that these “higher” classes don’t really know the specifics either. It’s a power system, and this film attempts to teach people to navigate it in order that they can begin to dismantle it.

That is an ambitious and admirable project. That Collins indulges in too much arthouse imagery is forgiveable, but I hope that he improves on this front in the future. This is one of the few contemporary Irish artworks that tries to say something important.

Click here for our coverage of Irish Film at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh  (8 – 13 July, 2014)

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Film at Tread Softly

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Sligo’s Festival in Celebration of the Yeats Family

27th July – 8th August

www.treadsoftly.ie

The third Tread Softly festival, celebrating the link between Sligo and the Yeats family, will take place this year 27thJuly – 8th August. The many dimensions of this family of famous artists will be brought to life over two weeks of theatre, exhibitions, cinema, music, literary events, talks and tours, alongside a programme of children’s events.

This year’s festival will screen two films as part of the programme.

Living in a Coded Land by Pat Collins will be screened 8pm Wednesday 6th & Thursday 7th August at The Model. Making extensive use of archive material, the poetic film essay seeks to explore the more elusive layers of meaning that make up this country, exploring unexpected links between events and locations, history and contemporary life. It revolves around the notion of a sense of place and stories associated with place, reflecting on the subterranean traces of the past in the present. Tickets: €7 Duration: 80 mins Harvest Films directed by Pat Collins.

Sanctuary, written by Malcolm Hamilton, will be screened 1.45pm Tuesday 29th July at The Factory Performance Space.  Originally produced for the stage in 2001 by Blue Raincoat Theatre Company, the work was described by The Irish Times as “A beautiful lament for childhood. An elegy for the past.” As it opens, a woman stands isolated and barefoot at the edge of the sea. When she speaks it is of suburban seaside memories, family holidays, parents at peace. This film version features Sandra O Malley and Phoebe Henry Seitz and is directed by Niall Henry.

The Tread Softly festival runs alongside the 55th annual Yeats International Summer School, Ireland’s longest running summer school, which will be opened this year by Alan Gilsenan at the Hawk’s Well on 27th July. The Summer School continues until 8th August.

Tread Softy… is an initiative of Blue Raincoat Theatre Company, Hawk’s Well Theatre, The Model, Yeats International Summer School and Sligo Live, supported by Fáilte Ireland and produced by Sligo Yeats Partnership.

For full information and programme details:  Log onto www.treadsoftly.ie or contact Sligo Tourist Office O’Connell Street Sligo on Tel: 071 91 61201 

Ticket Booking: The Hawk’s Well, Temple Street, Sligo Tel: 071 9161526 www.hawkswell.com

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Living In A Coded Land: Preview of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh

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The 26th Galway Film Fleadh (8 – 13 July, 2014)

Living In A Coded Land

Sun 13th July

IMC 7

17.00

According to director Pat Collins, “Living in a Coded Land is a poetic and imaginative film essay that makes unexpected links between events and locations, history and contemporary life. The film revolves around the notion of a sense of place and stories associated with place, reflecting on the subterranean traces of the past in the present and probing themes such as the impact of colonialism, emigration, the famine, land, housing and the place of art in society. Making extensive use of archive from RTÉ and the IFI, the film seeks to explore the more elusive layers of meaning that make up this country.”

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at www.tht.ie

Director: Pat Collins

Producers: Pat Collins, Sharon Whooley

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkzyLp5K4Dw

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Cinema Review: Living in a Coded Land

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DIR/ PRO: Pat Collins • DOP: John Conroy • ED: Tadhg O’Sullivan • Camera: Colm Hogan, Feargal Ward • Sound: John Brennan

Ambitious, intelligent and beautiful to watch, Living in a Coded Land marks an impressive follow-up to Silence for director Pat Collins and his talented team. The film investigates the Irish landscape, people and their culture, making interesting links between past and present.

The film makes a sustained argument, explaining contemporary Ireland through its past, so Living in a Coded Land plays as an essay film. It develops an original idea of historian Dr Patrick J O’Connor, taking places such as the Hill of Uisneach, the site of the Battle of Aughrim (1691), Castletown House and Dublin’s former tenement buildings and interrogating them for possible meaning or codes. It traces the emergence of an influential middle class in Ireland that acts as intermediaries for foreign capital. Historians Conor McCabe, Heather Laird and Tony Farmar provide the commentary.

The nature of the relationship between art, culture and politics forms another strand that runs through the film. Folklorist Henry Glassie talks about “the universal of the contextual … of the local”. Collins weaves particular places and artworks into a grander narrative. He even matches discussions of culture with contemporary scenes from GAA matches and practice sessions, expanding the cultural realm to include the national sports.

Living in a Coded Land boasts poetic qualities that make it an enchanting documentary. Collins fills his film with characteristic long takes and striking images (notably a stark moon shining over a still lake). His use of music and archival footage is particularly effective, indulging in sequences in which Séamus Ennis plays his pipes and accordion player Tony McMahon entertains a hall full of students. Austere piano accompanies a sequence in which Dublin’s Georgian buildings decline into the slums. Poets Seamus Heaney and Michael Hartnett read their works, complementing the film’s carefully composed images, rhythms and sounds.

Living in a Coded Land presents an imaginative and thoughtful look at Ireland’s past, an explanation for its present and hopes for the future.

John Moran

80 mins

Living in a Coded Land is released on 25th April 2014

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Living In A Coded Land

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Living In A Coded Land

Wednesday, 19th February 2014

6.30PM @ Light House

According to Director Pat Collins, “Living in a Coded Land is a poetic and imaginative film essay that makes unexpected links between events and locations, history and contemporary life. The film revolves around the notion of a sense of place and stories associated with place, reflecting on the subterranean traces of the past in the present and probing themes such as the impact of colonialism, emigration, the famine, land, housing and the place of art in society. Making extensive use of archive from RTÉ and the IFI, the film seeks to explore the more elusive layers of meaning that make up this country.”

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

Director: Pat Collins

Duration: 80 minutes

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

 

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