The programme was the second in a series of IFI-curated film programmes appearing in New York this year, all part of Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland programme of Irish Arts in the America throughout 2011. The first strand was the documentary series Hidden Ireland which was hosted by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts earlier this Spring.
The invitation to present an Irish feature film programme was issued to us by Rajendra Roy, Chief Curator of the Film Department at MoMA. We were keen to select a programme that would surprise and intrigue US audiences, and would present new perspectives on old and new, Irish and American films. We were delighted then to welcome on board Ireland’s Cultural Ambassador, Gabriel Byrne, as curator of the programme. Gabriel brought a passion and a broad-ranging knowledge of Irish and American cinema to the project and, over a series of lengthy and involved discussions with MoMA Curator Charles Silver, IFI Director Sarah Glennie and I, a programme framework was devised which allowed us to whittle a programme of 15 or so titles from a starting list of hundreds. Revisiting The Quiet Man: Ireland on Film is a programme which is neither exhaustive nor chronological. It takes Ford’s iconic masterpiece as a starting point from which to explore other films which echo his preoccupations with exile and identity, women and the Catholic Church, history and politics. It asks “Who are we? How do we perceive ourselves? Who has created these film versions of ourselves?” Gabriel points out that, until a national film studio was established, we had to be content with other people’s versions of us: “we had no blank page to write our own stories on”.
Still to come on June 1st is a programme of silent films: Lad From Old Ireland (1910), Come On Over (1928), and Come Back to Erin (1912), the last being a lively emigrant drama from the Kalem canon, filmed in Killarney and Queenstown in 1912, believed lost until we identified an over-looked negative at MoMA in the course of researching this season. The programme will be presented with traditional piano accompaniment from Ben Model and, probably for the first time ever, with live uileann piping from New York-based Irish player Ivan Goff. I’m particularly sorry to miss this one – it will be a magical experience – both for the music and for the unveiling of the lost Kalem classic now restored by MoMA with support from IFI and Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland programme which has made all of our New York endeavours possible. Do tell all your Irish and film-loving friends in New York to go along for this, possibly once-in-a- lifetime experience – Uileann Pipes in the Museum of Modern Art!!!