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The Liberties gain recognition through films

In the last ten years, film-making in Ireland has changed dramatically. While cameras have been widely available to purchase for many decades, the arrival of digital technology has made it cheaper and easier to make films. Digital still cameras usually have the option to shoot video footage. People can even make films with their friends using their mobile phones.

This change has meant that Irish cinema has seen an increase in the number of independent films that have been made since the turn of the 21st century.  More and more people are making films as a means of expressing their ideas and opinions.

The Liberties has not been excluded from this trend. An area as diverse and interesting as the Liberties is perfect for making films. The number of recent films that come from the area show that.

Perhaps the best example of this is the documentary The Liberties. Filmed and directed by Shane Hogan and Tom Burke in 2008 and 2009, the documentary consists of fifteen short films featuring local residents, from butchers and green grocers, to animators and boxing clubs. It even features one of the community’s most famous residents, the Oscar winning Brenda Fricker. The film premiered at last year’s IFI Stranger than Fiction Documentary Festival.

A still from the film Rialto Twirlers.

Two short films with a Liberties connection were screened at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Rialto Twirlers, a documentary about majorettes, was directed and edited by Anne Maree Barry. In a swirl of pom-poms, twirling batons, sparkles and feathers, Rialto Twirlers captures a secret moment of unity and beauty as five girls rehearse their routine for the final time before a national majorette competition. Not as acrobatic as their American cheerleader compatriots or as military as their marching bands founders, the Rialto Twirlers are a creative fusion of hard graft, skill and energy that is associated with our pluralistic age in which anything is possible. This observational short film incorporates their passion for performing whilst capturing a subculture whose beginnings evoke a sense of nostalgia and a forgotten skill – baton twirling.

A short film, Dolls House, devised and made in Fatima and directed by acclaimed director Vinny Murphy, captures a child’s wish turning into a nightmare before the magic of Christmas saves the day. A subtext of the story is a man trying to be a good father by struggling to meet the needs of his child despite the odds. Local people were trained in all aspects of film making production – camera, sound and script-writing – for over a year. The story was developed by Joanie Whyte, a woman born and bred in Fatima Mansions, now working with Fatima Groups United. While the outline of the film was broadly scripted, the final take was improvised with the actors involved.

Dave Carr, an actor in the production, spoke about his involvement in the project. “I was part of a group that Joanie started, that wanted to develop film-making in the community. I had previous experience as an actor, and I was working in the community teaching drama. A number of us came on board, and the plan was to learn a new set of skills and to produce our own films.”

“We had intended to make a feature following this short,” he continued. “But of course, the economy collapsed in the meantime. It’s all really a question of funding. Films are the best medium to get through to people in the community.”

Phyllis Corish, Dave’s co-star in the film, also spoke about the film. “I was in a drama class with Joanie and she decided to make a film about her own experience. I was very happy to be asked to play the mother, especially as I have a grandchild (Megan Byrne, who plays the lead role in the film) her age!”

As Vinny Murphy said, “The potential for film-making in Fatima is great as there is a community culture of drama, music and story-telling. Film-making is an extension of this and allows local stories to become universal.”

Even though film-making has really taken off, it is more than likely that the recession will affect the blossoming industry. Without funding, many projects will have to be shelved. There is still room for low budget films to continue, but without the training to back it up, it is often not as good as it has the potential to be.

Only time will tell if the Liberties will still be a hub of film-making activity in the next few years.

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