John Moran checks out the work of the socially and politically committed filmmaker at a Tribute to Kieran Hickey, which took place as part of the  11th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (14-24 February 2013)

Tribute to Kieran Hickey 

Sat, 23rd  February


Theatre director Patrick Mason introduced the first programme of the now little seen films of Irish director Kieran Hickey.  Exposure and Criminal Conversation reveal Hickey to be one of Ireland’s finest cinematic satirists.


Mr Mason described Hickey as a socially and politically committed filmmaker who worked at a time when filmmaking was neither profitable nor fashionable.  He referred to the historical centrality of theatre, particularly the works of Tom MacIntyre, Tom Murphy and Tom Kilroy, in critiquing Irish society.  “Theatre’s written on air,” he said, describing how theatre is ephemeral and trapped in time.  Film allows Hickey’s work to be screened again, nearly 20 years after his sudden and early passing in 1993.  He said that the screenings meant Hickey was “once more amongst us”.


Sunniva O’Flynn, curator of the Irish Film Institute, referred to Hickey’s perspicacity.  His examination of middle class social, cultural and sexual mores demonstrates how he was “so immediately engaged with the society of his day,” as Mr Mason put it.


Originally shot on 16mm, the Irish Film Archive restored and exhibited the films in digital format.  The films register period details such as fashion, but the themes Hickey explored remain relevant today, questioning the cruelness and pitilessness of Dev’s legacy.  As Mr Mason says, Hickey was “ahead of the game”.


Hickey, a gay man and contemporary of filmmaker Derek Jarman, was not a gay filmmaker; he was an Irish filmmaker, and his sensibility attuned him to the crisis of women’s sexuality and men’s “wounded sexuality”.  The films’ concerns with marriage offer perspectives on an institution now fought for by gay activists and defended vigorously by conservative traditionalists.  His films problematise basic assumptions in Irish society.


A scene in Criminal Conversation in which Charlie brags about having a drunk driving incident quashed because he knows “people” provides just one example of how remarkably resonant Hickey’s films continue to be.


The film festival pays tribute to an important and remarkable Irish filmmaker.

John Moran

The tribute continues today at the IFI at 3.40 with the screening of of Attracta & The Rockingham Shoot.


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