Irish Cinema in the Twenty-First Century: searching for Irish film’s soul

Review: Ruth Barton comes up with some workable answers to her own questions

Saoirse Ronan as Eilis in the film Brooklyn. Photograph: Kerry Brown / courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

Saoirse Ronan as Eilis in the film Brooklyn. Photograph: Kerry Brown / courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

The challenge for Irish film academics has altered in recent years. Put simply, there is a lot more to write about. In times past, the task involved the discussion of a few brave pioneers – sometimes ambitiously posited as an “Irish New Wave” – and much digging among promising short films, no-budget experiments and competent television features. There was no equivalent of the Anglo-Irish industrial-literary complex in film academia.

Beginning with the reconstitution of the Irish Film Board (now Screen Ireland) in 1993, the industry has grown steadily to provide a busy mix of international drama, genre entertainment and arthouse head-scratchers. Its annus mirabilis came in 2016 when, thanks to John Crowley’s Brooklyn, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and Ben Cleary’s short Stutterer, the Irish Film Board secured more Oscar nominations than Universal and Paramount combined. The nation ground to a halt for the release of The Courier in 1988. Irish films now arrive in cinemas on a fortnightly basis.

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