Gemma Creagh checks in on Ciara Nic Cormaic’s culture clash through music.

Ciara Nic Cormaic is no stranger to documenting creatives. Her 2022 film Clouded Reveries, a dreamlike poem in itself, looks at the life and work of poet and essayist Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Now Ó Bhéal sees this artist documenting artistry once again. This time, Nic Cormaic turns her lens to the Irish hip hop and electronica community, in which talented musicians bring a modern spin to our native traditions, ancient poetry and Sean-nós singing. 

After a brief introduction to the form, Ó Bhéal spans the various elements of music creation, delving into the creative worlds and lives of four musicians: Seán ‘Mory’ Ó Muirgheasa, Oisín Mac, Fehdah and Strange Boy. Nic Chormaic forensically examines the technical processes of these very different artists and how each uses their unique skills and vantage points to bring depth and authenticity to their art. 

Limerick rapper Strange boy is a wordsmith, his sharp, raw and avant garde music captures something angry and earnest. Fehdah is a bright and brilliant young producer and multi-instrumentalist who blends her West African heritage with a deep understanding of Irish Trad music to create moving compositions. Finally Irish Language rappers Seán ‘Mory’ Ó Muirgheasa and Oisín Mac use their words and voices for activism. Both poised and passionate about change. Nic Chormaic provides us with a unique perspective into the practices involved in the creation of their art, from the inspiration stage to the recording and collaboration phase. 

The real power behind Ó Bhéal lies in the performances. We journey from music festivals to tiny bars and loud sweaty venues. The black and white shots, often candid, and always capturing the emotion r behind a performance, deliver 1990s nostalgia. This aesthetic tribute to the MTV/VH1 “Behind the Scenes” era was beautifully captured by DOP Colm Hogan. Nic Cormaic again uses her distinct pacing – working with editor Genevieve Jordan. The content and interviews are punctuated with rich visuals, an atmospheric texture and soundscape that all form into flowing chapters. Through the voices of the musicians themselves, Nic Cormac asks bigger questions about the function of art: is it a call to action, a cathartic expression of self or a complex form of communication?

This is yet another example of the interesting and vibrant work TG4 is doing to support Irish culture and language. Ó Bhéal demonstrates how important public funding is in documenting and celebrating artists.  In a time when the world is at war, and the cost of living crisis pushes people to the brink, this film beautifully encapsulates the essence of a movement, and shines a light on the pockets of creativity and joy found in music around our small island. Immersive and concise, this film sits comfortably and justifiably at 68 minutes.

Ó Bhéal is in cinemas from 10th November 2023.


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