Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Ciara Chambers
Media and History: Crime, Violence and Justice
Rethinking the Violent Irish in the “Second Life” of Cinema Newsreels
Paris (Université Panthéon-Assas)
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Before the widespread advent of television in the 1950s, newsreels were the only form of onscreen news available to the general public. While the newsreels were often dismissed for their triviality and light touch, they remain important social documents, charting contemporary events, personalities and changing cultural patterns. Given the lack of a sustained newsreel industry in Ireland, Irish audiences were catered for and covered by British and American newsreel companies. Early twentieth-century Ireland was the site of ongoing political conflict with the Home Rule movement, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the signing of a much contested peace treaty that partitioned the country and led to civil war. Coverage of this period of Irish history was problematic as the newsreels struggled to address a range of shifting political sensibilities throughout the country. Ultimately a “partitionist” mentality emerged in news representations that evoked north and south differently, culminating in huge differences in the coverage of north and south during the Second World War. The recent centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising saw a revisiting of the events of the Easter week insurgency in 1916 and there will be a similar return to the events of the War of Independence (1919-21) and Civil War (1922-3) as these centenaries approach. This offers a chance to critically interrogate historical representations the Irish conflict with a contemporary perspective. Éire na Nuachtscannán (Ireland in the Newsreels is a collaboration between documentary filmmaker Mac Dara Ó Curraidhín as director and academic Ciara Chambers as screenwriter and associate producer. The six part television series for the Irish language broadcaster TG4 interrogates the newsreels’ representations of a conflict-ridden period in Irish history and considers the problematic nature of dissemination of local news from external perspectives. This paper will discuss the process of excavating the archives and negotiating modern audiences’ expectations of appropriated archival content. Due to recent digitization initiatives, much of this newsreel content is now available online and accessible to a wide range of interactive audiences: questions about the place of such material in examining modern Ireland’s relationship with its turbulent past will also be considered.