Friday, October 5, 2012

Coming Home to Dreamtime Ireland

I remember the first time I came across the work of John Moriarty. I was sitting alongside Peadar Ó’Riada (the film’s composer) in his home studio in Cúil Aodha, his father Seán looking on from a prominent poster image on the wall above us. Parallel to Peadar’s central role as composer and musician is his role as a form of community chieftan – steeped in the sean-nós world of the gael – and he has become a marked guiding presence and influence in my creative life over the past few years. I was on one of my frequent visits home from New York, it was well past midnight and Peadar and I were having one of our heated ‘discussions’. In order to seal the ‘discussion’ in his favour, Peadar played me an excerpt from one of John Moriarty’s talks. It was a talk that John gave upon one of his visits to neighbouring Baile Mhúirne that explored Irish mythology and its relevance to how we live now. I listened amazed to this sonorous, almost shamanic Kerry accent and for the first time in my life I heard so much of the essence of the world’s wisdom and spiritual traditions (that had interested me personally for the last 20 years in my travels around the world) essentialised within the context of Irish myth and culture.

That was in 2008 and parallel to my visits to Cúil Aodha I would be visiting Julius Ziz (my co-director) and his family who live in the heart centre of the magical limestone landscape of the Burren. Close friends of mine from New York, Julius (a renowned Lithuanian filmmaker) managed the legendary Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan while I ran the Ocularis Screening Series in Brooklyn and, given both of our long associations with experimental film in New York, it was inevitable that any collaboration we would undertake together would be influenced stylistically by experimental film.  

My visits to Julius and his family were filled with many conversations about local Irish folklore and it’s almost palpable presence embodied in the surrounding myth-laden landscapes of the Burren. This inevitably fed into our idea of collaborating on a project that would somehow draw upon Irish myth, and once we encountered the work of John Moriarty it was only a matter of time before those conversations would evolve into the film that became Dreamtime, Revisited

In his obituary The Guardian would write that John Moriarty was “widely regarded as having one of the finest minds of his generation” and that “many consider John as a major writer, comparable to Yeats, Joyce and Beckett.” 

It shocked and saddened both Julius and me that John’s work is not more widely known, even at home here in Ireland. I think it may be a matter of years, if not decades, before the significance of John’s unique contribution will come to be fully recognized and appreciated and hopefully our film will serve in some way to further that process.

There is a quote from John’s book Dreamtime that, ever since I’ve come across it, influences so much of my own work in one way or another.  And given the current crisis of identify we face as a nation it seems like an invitation too welcoming to refuse: "Isn't it time, after centuries of uncharted exile, we ourselves came home. Isn't it time . . . we came home to Dreamtime Ireland." 

Dónal Ó Céilleachair 
Film Director

Dreamtime, Revisited opens from October 12th to 18th, exclusively at the IFI. 
There will be a post-screening Q&A with co-directors Dónal Ó Céilleachair and Julius Ziz after the 18.20pm screening on Friday Oct 12.

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