Friday, September 21, 2012

A Night To Remember – a most stressful time at the IFI

Friday December 10th 1993 – excitement was running high in the offices of the Irish Film Institute on the eve of the re-premiere of the War of Independence drama Irish Destiny.

The adventure had  begun years earlier when, prompted by the discovery of two enormous, original posters for Irish Destiny under the lino of a house in Ringsend, we began a search for the film of which little had been heard, since its release in 1926. A print was eventually found and restored in the Library of Congress in Washington.  A score was commissioned from Micheál Ó Súilleabháin who composed a score. The only job left was to turn the NCH into a cinema for the night.

Micheál Ó Súilleabháin

A 35mm mobile projector and a big giant screen were en route from London.  Too heavy to fly, we had booked a man and his 2 tonnes of equipment on the B+I car ferry. We awaited their arrival.
Hours passed and word filtered through that the man and his truck were stuck – on the boat in the middle of the Irish Sea.  It wasn’t  actually a national emergency, so a call to David Andrew’s people in the Department of Defence asking for a loan of their rescue helicopter, was fruitless.

Saturday dawned with the truck still on board. There was no option but to call Westair Private Jets from whom we hired a helicopter to fly over and winch the bloody truck off the boat.  And then a pit-stop at an RAF Airbase in Valley in Wales where the irony of the RAF facilitating the screening of a republican drama was not lost on us. In Dublin a high-speed dash from the airport through the city with Garda out-riders and a super-quick set up with mere moments to spare before the rehearsal-free curtain up. Proinnsías Ó Duinn’s baton was raised; the projector whirred to life; the title sequence unspooled;  and the opening notes of Micheál’s score filled the hall.  But then - the baton dropped. The music stopped.  Proinnsías walkie-talkied “Stop the film ! – There is an Overture to be played!”.  Much laughter from the audience – with, according to the Evening Press, “President Robinson, a patron of the IFI, particularly amused”.

A frantic rewinding of the 35mm reels. Baton up. Overture played.  And then Irish Destiny burst forth  in all its splendour.  And all were thrilled– from President to pauper.  And IFI staff collapsed with relief and thought, never again.  

Sunniva O'Flynn
IFI Curator

As part of the 2012 Culture Night and IFI20: Celebrating 20 Years in Temple Bar, we present a special 20th-anniversary screening of Far and Away on Friday, October 21st (20.00). Tickets are FREE and available only in person in Meeting House Square on the night of the screening.

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