Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Yet More Glimpses of Galway

One of the more interesting programs at the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh was an afternoon screening of short films from the archives of the Irish Film Institute in Dublin and the National Museum of Ireland’s Country Life site at Turlough Park, outside of Castlebar, County Mayo. Under the rubric “IFI Local Films for Local People,” this was a follow-up to a previous program of films that documented life in the West of bygone times, mainly drawing from the 1950s and 1960s. Presented by Sunniva O’Flynn, the IFI portion of the program consisted of instructional or promotional films as well as an ethnographical film by German Heinrich Becker. There were also home movies of family holidays. The National Museum films documented certain traditional skills and practices that were on the verge of disappearing. The latter movies were silent but, to the audience’s delight for this presentation, accompanied by the live violin music of Deirdre Ní Chonghaile from the Aran Islands, who matched traditional tunes to the times and places of the clips.

We see the traditional gathering of seaweed in the Connemara region of County Galway, the making of tweed in Oranmore, and the spreading of turf in Inverin. A newsreel by Gael Linn documents the arrival of electricity to Connemara in 1957. The looks on the locals’ faces—an elderly gent marveling at transformers being attached to ESB poles, a woman and children marveling when a kitchen light is turned on for the first time—make the experience priceless. Home movies by Hugh Thomas Seale show a family enjoying a seaside holiday. These could easily have been lost or have gone forever unseen but for the donation of them by Seale’s son to the IFI.

A 1969 instructional film for young male farmers on how to behave properly on a date, filmed in Glenamaddy in 1969, would remind Americans of similar types of films shown in U.S. elementary schools in the 1950s. The young men’s faces are full of smirks as a young woman explains how to dress for a date and to eat soup properly. The life of the lonely farmer, local women having left the West for Dublin in search of work, is explored. We visit Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, a spa and holiday destination where a local priest takes on the traditional role of matchmaker.

These are precious glimpses of life as it was not all that long but which has, to a large extent, vanished and could easily be soon forgotten in the rush toward the future—but for the work of the National Museum of Ireland and the IFI. (Attended 12 July 2017)