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Irish Film Series: 'Troubles Cinema', Copenhagen

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About the film series:
This year formally marks the 20th year since the conflict in Northern Ireland ended with a peace agreement, but the turmoil still burns slowly without flame. With Brexit entering the stage, however, it is now more flammable because of the many uncertainties which come with it. The conflict, which ravaged in 1968-1998, was never officially declared a real war and therefore went by the name ‘the Troubles’, simplifying and diminishing the events. This film series presents some of the artistic and commercial attempts on portraying the conflict in its many variations and dimensions: as a humanly drama; as an incomprehensible spiral of violence; as international politics; and as an example for the posterity.

There is a proportionally big catalogue of films about the conflict which holds everything from hammy Hollywood productions such as The Devil’s Own (1997) with Brad Pitt as an IRA man, to the exploratory and critically acclaimed films like Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game (1992) and Steve McQueen’s debut Hunger (2008). Film on the Troubles have often been accused of depoliticising the problems and instead pull the focus towards individual fates trapped in the violence. These films do not try to explain structural differences or the role of states, but rather use the conflict as a chaotic backdrop or dull element of suspense. A similar critique states that films on the Troubles present a division too clear-cut between the public (the conflict) and the private (family life) where peaceful and moral choices for ‘ordinary’ people becomes turning away from politics and activism. An example of this is the film Some Mother’s Son (1996), which is about two mothers whose sons are on hunger strike in the prison Maze/Long Kesh in 1981. Here, the black-and-white choice is pushed to extremes: One mother lets her son go the whole political hog, whereas the other mother takes her unconscious son off the hunger strike and leaves the public scene, all while a priest and a politician are left behind still arguing in the background.

In the 1990’s, the British and Irish governments started conversing with the groups they had formerly labelled terrorists, and this was evident in films about the conflict. Earlier, the paramilitary organisations and members were often portrayed as criminal, violent, and psychopathic pariahs, and it was immensely controversial if the manuscript tried to ascribe political motifs to them. In films from the 1990’s, it is more normal to see members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who have more complex and shifting relationships to ideology and political violence. Examples of this include Michael Winterbottom’s Love Lies Bleeding (1993) and Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer (1997). Contrarily, a cinematic view into the Protestant paramilitary is continuously poor and probably reflects their inadequate participation in the peace process more.

In the past 20 years, film makers have profited from understanding the Troubles backwards instead of telling it from the eye of the storm. This has resulted in both reflexive and tightly drawn films on the most violent years of the conflict, such as Peter Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday (2002) and Yann Demange’s 71 (2014), but also examples of how it is now possible to radically rewrite the history of the conflict and its ending. In The Journey (2017), the peace agreement in 1998 is barely marked, even though the agreement led to the leaders of the two biggest parties then to receive Nobel’s Peace Prize. Instead, the story starts in 2006 when the power in Northern Ireland had shifted from the more moderate middle to the extreme wings on both sides, and as main characters, we find the political leaders Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness who took the longest to find a peaceful solution, but ended at the top.
Effective start/end date06/11/201818/11/2018


ID: 140903381