Liberties short film: Dublin 8 Portrait


With just a camera and a bicycle, film director Mia Mullarkey jumped into the deep end of community in the Liberties to create a special short film, Dublin 8 Portrait, for Culture Night.

Mia set off on a month-long immersive journey through the Liberties, meeting and witnessing some of the people and events that makes the area what she calls “the heart of the city”. “I wanted to let them do their own thing,” she said. “Normally when I do documentaries there’s a six person crew with lots of pre-shoot meetings, but for this project it was just me.”

That’s one of the beauties of Dublin 8 Portrait: with no intimidating technology, Mia was able to capture an authentic vision of the Liberties in an observational style. “Once you’re there long enough, they forget you’re filming and become natural again, so you get to see these little moments of magic happening” she said.

The 20-minute long film was commissioned by the Digital Hub, based in Dublin 8, where Mia’s residency with The Dublin International Film Festival is based. Street by street the documentary flows, with each chapter named after a different part of the Liberties giving a sense that you’re travelling through the area as it progresses.

Dublin 8 Portrait kicks off at the community gardens at Bridgefoot Street, where kids are running amuck while helping the local Men’s Shed Group do some gardening. While digging a hole, they stop and point right into the camera and ask “What’s that?”. After being told by Mia that she’s making a film they exclaim “This isn’t a film — we’re just digging!” Their childhood innocence reels you in and shows off the special charm that runs through the Liberties.

Many more projects, events and people are showcased: beekeeping at Watling Street; a group of retired Guinness workers who meet up to play bowls; the Teeling Whiskey Distillery and whiskey museum, and a captivating soccer match between local people and Gardaí based in the Liberties.

Organised each year by Garda Liam Holland, this match is one brimming with energy and drama. In the film Garda Holland explains how the match is an effective way for the locals to see Gardaí as part of the community again, not just people in uniform. Joy and laughter is a plenty on the sidelines as onlookers come out in droves to watch a clash of pride unfold. Friends and family can be seen shouting and cheering the players on, while the kids run around with visible glee while stuffing their faces with sweets.

Mia tells of the warmth she received from the community while creating the project: “The Liberties is a tight knit community, but they were so welcoming and friendly. I wanted this film to be for the very people I was filming, so they could have their stories heard.

“Sometimes when you film people they present themselves and have a mask,” she continued. “But I felt all these people and places I filmed were not like that — they were authentic with no facade.

“People wear their hearts on their sleeves in the Liberties, and I kind of fell in love with everybody as a result. People are witty and have a great sense of humour, there’s all this banter and you get pulled in so quickly.”

“We filmed a trad session in a pub on Meath Street and everyone would take a turn to sing a song. It’s that ancient practice we have of singing songs and sharing songs with each other during the night and everybody’s in on it, everyone knows the lyrics, full of celebration and cheer.

“When someone would perform a song about 1916 or war everyone would become real poignant, putting their heads down and really listening from the heart. I got a sense of that real old Irish feeling which they’ve held on to, it was culturally precious.”

I asked Mia what she took away from her experience of the Liberties. “I actually took away that I’d love to live here. My boyfriend’s brother lives in Sweden and he saw the film and straight away after he saw the film he exclaimed ‘I want move back to Dublin!’ — He instantly missed the city.

“When I finished editing the project I had this sudden feeling of ‘gosh what a warm, welcoming place’. It’s full of all the problems that every other place deals with, but there’s a sense of spirit, culture and connection between the people.

“The Liberties lives and breathes what Dublin is about.”

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