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

August 11, 2017

A Statue for Bill Clinton

Tom McEnery, former mayor of San Jose, turns playwright with a whimsical take on the locals of Ballybunion attempting to crash the news-cycle in 1998.

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Jackie Costello (John Olohan) is trying to put some hope back into Ballybunion, but the other members of the local civic Committee aren’t much help. John Joe (Frank O’Sullivan) wants a statue of the O’Rahilly, Shamie (Enda Kilroy) doesn’t care, Hannah (Joan Sheehy) is preoccupied waiting for a mystical island to rise, and local politician Austin (Damien Devaney) is more concerned with the cost of preserving the local ruined castle than with the prestige of preserving it. Local enigma Ted provides a solution, which, with the help of visiting emigrant Jimmy (Mark Fitzgerald), might be a real boost for Ballybunion. Dedicate a statue to Bill Clinton to lure the President into town for a game of golf beside Costello’s pub while visiting to celebrate the Good Friday Agreement’s adoption. The only objections come from Kathy (Liz Fitzgibbon), Jackie’s cynical daughter.

Watching A Statue for Bill Clinton is a disconcerting experience. Everything feels made for export: Irish characters in Ireland, as written by an American for Americans. Much quoting of Wilde, Shaw, Heaney amid analyses of Ireland, while can-do American spirit provides the answer to all ills. Not that how hoping that getting POTUS to do a photo-op will magically rejuvenate the town’s economy is ever interrogated as dubious ‘self-help’. The pub setting, returning emigrants, and dreams of success and idealism recall Conversations on a Homecoming and Kings of the Kilburn High Road. Which is unfortunate as it clearly does not aspire to their depth. But then despite billing itself as a true Irish comedy, it doesn’t attack the comedic jugular either. Instead Jackie speechifies hopefully and Kathy speechifies cynically on the motion of the superstitious backwardness of dear old Ireland.

Things pick up in the second half as the characters wince their way thru radio reports on the deepening Lewinsky scandal, and shenanigans abound with dodgy sculptors and mischievous local rivals. You wish that McEnery had either concentrated on this material from the beginning, or done another draft to trim some of the thematic posturing and deepen the characters. At times it feels like he’s 80% towards a successful script, if only he would make the economic homilies a little less on the nose, the relationship between Jimmy and Kathy a little less of a homage to that Irish theatrical trope from John Bull’s Other Island to Translations of the instant romance between the Irish girl and the arriving foreigner, and stop making 1998 quite so anachronistic: pretending the Church is all-powerful, while also anticipating the demise of the Tiger.

A Statue for Bill Clinton is enjoyable, but it’s not quite a comedy and it’s not quite a proper drama either.

2.75/5

A Statue for Bill Clinton continues its run at Belvedere College until the 13th of August.

July 27, 2012

A Thought of Sligo: Yeats on Film @ Tread Softly…

Tread Softly… (www.seasonofyeats.com) is the inaugural festival celebrating the link between the Yeats brothers, William Butler and Jack B, and Sligo. Featuring a mix of theatre, music, film, readings and visual art the festival runs from the 29th of July to the 11th of August.The film strand comprises of three separate elements which will be screened at The Model in Sligo throughout the course of the festival. Featuring collaborations between visual artists and musicians, as well as intriguing theatre and readings, the festival will also host a vintage day where the whole of Sligo town will come out dressed in Edwardian style. The festival will welcome some amazing talent to Sligo for 10 days of high summer, including musicians from Kíla and Dervish as well as The Waterboys who recently released An Appointment with Mr Yeats, an acclaimed album of interpretations of various poems by WB. Writers such as Nobel laureate poet Seamus Heaney, Solace novelist Belinda McKeon, and versatile writer and Waterboys collaborator Brian Leyden, will also to help celebrate Sligo’s artistic heritage.
 Film Listings:

Date: Sunday 29th July, Sunday 5th August.Venue: The Model, The Mall, Sligo.

Time: 4pm Tickets: €4

Soul of Ireland, Sean O’Mordha’s two-part 2007 documentary telling the story of the evolution and development of landscape painting in Ireland through the experience of six living artists: Sean McSweeney, Barrie Cooke, James O’Connor, Mary Lohan, Martin Gale and Dorothy Cross. Each part is 52 minutes and there is a 15-minute break between the first and second part.

Date: Wednesday 1st August, Wednesday 8th August.

Venue: The Model, The Mall, Sligo.

Time: 6pm Tickets: €4

A series of short films including the Oscar-nominated and Golden Bear-winning documentary Yeats Country (1965) directed by Patrick Carey. Also included are Bat Eyes, the beautifully made Australian finalist in this year’s YouTube short film competition, which revolves around Yeats’ poem ‘When You Are Old and Grey’, and archive footage of Yeats in Stockholm accepting his Nobel Prize for Literature (1923), and of his funeral in Sligo at Drumcliff Churchyard (1948). Sinead Dolan’s short film Sligo, Yeats and Me; which explores the relationship between ordinary Sligo people, young and old, and W.B. Yeats’ poetry; rounds off this hour long programme.

Date: Friday 3rd August, Friday 10th August.

Venue: The Model, The Mall, Sligo.

Time: 6pm Tickets: €4

Another programme of short films connected with the Yeats family. The Art of Ireland (1950s) produced by Brian O’Doherty, who was a friend of Jack Yeats, traces the development of visual art and architecture in Ireland over 20 minutes. W.B.Yeats – A Tribute (1950) is a 21 minute a film by George Fleishmann and J.D. Sheridan in which readings of WB Yeats’ poems are set to striking visuals of the Sligo countryside, Dublin and London.

Tread Softly… is an initiative of Blue Raincoat Theatre, The Hawk’s Well Theatre, The Model and Sligo Live. Bookings can be made at Hawk’s Well Theatre, Temple Street, Sligo (www.hawkswell.com)  and for more festival information contact Sligo Tourist Office, O’Connell Street, Sligo (+353 71 9161201).

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