Friday, March 15, 2013

From Ireland with love...

IFI International, with the support of Culture Ireland, is teaming up with cultural partners across the EU to mount a major programme of Irish film during Ireland’s EU Presidency, running from January to June 2013.

The first six months of 2013 mark the seventh time that Ireland has held the Presidency of the EU. It provides Ireland with a central role in the machinations of European politics, but it’s also an opportunity for our wind-swept island to attract the attention of our cosier mainland European neighbours. Yet for all the important business being done in our capital at present, the Presidency is perhaps quite opaque to most of the Union’s 500 million citizens, both here in Ireland and farther afield.

In January the Irish Government launched the Culture Connects programme to engage Irish artists in Europe, and European artists in Ireland. It serves up a smorgasbord (or depending where in Europe you are, a mezze platter or tapas selection) of Irish arts and artists to audiences across the EU and beyond. There’s a wide diversity of art forms being showcased, and between now and June the IFI is packing its bags and bringing Irish film on tour.

This weekend the 1926 silent film Irish Destiny is making its way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Brussels. The first fiction film dealing with the Irish War of Independence, it delivers all the thrills and spills an audience would expect of a romance narrative with a dashing hero – but it also combines rare actual newsreel of wartime events, making it also to an astonishing historical record. Now almost 90 years later, it’s brought even more to life with a rousing score by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, to be performed live in concert by the 22-player Orchestra of Wallonie. 

Irish Destiny is just one of three ciné-concerts that the IFI is touring for the EU Presidency. Guests of the Nation is destined for London’s Barbican next month, with Niall Byrne’s score set to soar under the baton of David Brophy. In June, Willy Reilly and His Colleen Bawn takes to the road with composer Bernard Reilly and a group of 12 musicians, for screenings and concerts in Berlin, Paris and Madrid.

Combining film and live music in overseas venues is not a straightforward process. How can it be dark enough for projection but bright enough for musicians? How can we fit two languages worth of translated subtitles into the same frame as the original intertitle cards? What if the harp gets in the way of the screen?! For the duration of the Presidency I am in daily contact with our venue partners throughout Europe, and working through the challenges and rewards and languages and cultures that a project like this presents. But these are fascinating programmes to work on, presenting a very rich intersection between two arts forms and combining old and new, showcasing not only some of the best of Ireland’s film heritage but also some of its most talented contemporary musicians. It breathes a whole new life into the enjoyment and appreciation of these films; both in the creation of a completely new score to enrich and enlighten the film narrative, but also in bringing the thrill of live performance into each screening. 

Lucy Healy-Kelly
International EU Presidency Coordinator

Read more about IFI International and our EU Presidency Programme in 2013.