Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Ciara Chambers
Capturing Conflict: The Irish War of Independence and Civil War on Film
The Revolutionary Period in Cinema Newsreels
Irish Film Institute
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Cinema newsreels offered the only form of onscreen news available to audiences during the first half of the twentieth century. A significant mass medium, they were viewed in the collective space of the cinema, a place of entertainment. They attempted to avoid controversy and rarely provided contextual details for items covered, preferring to focus on sport, personalities and current affairs. As a result, they struggled with the contentious and complex nature of Irish politics in the 1910s and 1920s. Their potential for propaganda was well recognised by governments internationally and they were often mobilised for persuasive purposes, particularly during wartime. In the absence of sustained indigenous production, Irish audiences mostly watched British newsreels. The news provided by the main companies of the day (Pathé, Topical Budget, Gaumont) was pro-British in outlook and the stories reported were often at odds with the lived experience of Irish viewers. This paper will consider the pro-establishment and often misleading slant of the British newsreels in covering the revolutionary period. It will show how the Easter Rising was depicted as a disloyal rebellion during a time of global war; the War of Independence as a manifestation of an inherently violent Irish disposition; and the Civil War as an Irish tendency towards self-destruction in the pursuit of independence. It will also explore a growing partitionist mentality in the newsreels in their presentation of contrasting depictions of north and south as well as attempts to evade reporting the brutality inflicted by the Black and Tans. The difference in tone in coverage by Irish Events, a short-lived independent local newsreel with the tagline ‘British for the British – Irish Events for the Irish’, will be included as a counterpoint to larger-scale British news production.
Irish Film Institute