Talking Movies

November 28, 2020

Irish Film HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK by director Pat Collins wins InScience Audience Award

Pat Collin’s new feature film, HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK has won the NTR De Kennis van Nu Audience Award at InScience Film Festival.

InScience is a unique festival in the Netherlands, an international platform for scientific documentaries.  The themes in the InScience program are endless. About the possibility of tinkering with the basis of life, about the symbiosis of art and science, about the minuscule hope of an eternal life, about researchers being daredevils, and about revising our past and building our future.

Pat Collins in his acceptance speech thanked the film programmer Rob Van Der Berg and said it was “an honour to win the InScience Audience Award and to bring Henry Glassie’s work to a wider audience. The film is a true collaboration and couldn’t have been made without Henry’s creative input and generosity.  Henry has always acknowledged the debt he owes to the people who taught him – his teachers within the universities and the artists he has spent his life with, out in the field.  It’s very satisfying to see Henry’s long life of learning getting this acknowledgement, from a festival so dedicated to building bridges between the worlds of science and arts. Producer Tina O’Reilly of South Wind Blows said “It is such a pleasure to work with a director of the calibre of Pat Collins.  I’m delighted that the audience at InScience also felt the beauty and inspiration that we experienced collaborating with the truly remarkable Henry Glassie. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland for their significant support of our film, from concept to closing titles.”

Following on the success of ‘Song of Granite’, Henry Glassie: Field Work from Director Pat Collins also won Best Irish Documentary at the 2020 Galway Film Fleadh. It is a magisterial portrait of the most renowned American folklorist and ethnologist Henry Glassie now in his seventies. This film is a beautifully intricate exposition of Glassie’s life’s work which displays this director’s trademark deft touch and remarkable eye for details of the deepest significance. Glassie’s subject is folklore but his deep abiding love for the people who create it resonates throughout the film. “I don’t study people . I stand with people and I study the things they create.” Field work is at the heart of Glassie’s lifelong engagement with folklore. In the words of poet Seamus Heaney “where the perfect eye of the blackbird watched, where one fern was always green I was standing watching you”  ‘Fieldwork’ – 1979.

This film celebrates Glassie’s work, the people with whom he stands and their artwork.  Glassie’s long professional life encompasses the people and folklore of his native southern states; from the sublime vocal purity of Ola Belle Reed whom he befriended and recorded in the sixties, to the potters, sculptors, metal workers, gilders and painters of sacred art in Brazil, the ceramic masters and the women rug makers and weavers of Turkey, the story tellers and singers of Ballymenone on the Northern Irish border to mention just a few. Pat Collins’ sensitive positioning of Glassie’s own archive photographs, film and exquisite hand drawn maps deepen our understanding both of Glassie and the folklore he has so tenderly honoured in his work over decades of study scholarship love and friendship.

Filmed in Brazil, Ireland and the US in Glassie’s benevolent presence, artists like the sculptor Edival Rosas from Salvador city describe their practice as one where body and spirit are integrated, where in Glassie’s words the creative act brings “a momentary fullfilment of what it is to be human”. Under Pat Collins’ ever mindful direction the process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands, of the physicality of that work , and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work. Pat Collins’ achievement with Henry Glassie: Field Work is to bring these makers of art, in wood, fabric, yarn, paint, clay, metal, in song and story to our attention through their work, through the raw materials they shape into art objects and the through the undeniable passion they carry to their work. In this way the work is accorded profound meaning for the societies out of which it is generated an aesthetic value which is transcendent.

“What matters is passion and the devotion” and also “sincerity and fullness of being”. Without this, for Glassie, no art work can claim authenticity. The film itself stands as a realisation of this sincerity and fullness of being. Over the last 50 years the celebrated American Folklorist Henry Glassie has been writing in-depth studies of communities and their art.  Inspired by the writings and ideas of Glassie – ‘Field Work’ is an immersive and meditative documentary set among the rituals and rhythms of working artists across Brazil, Turkey, North Carolina and Ireland.  The process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work.

HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK will open at Irish cinemas in early 2021

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