The good news for those of us teaching film and media on university courses is that employers do value the skills developed through academic study. Research skills, critical thinking and an awareness of the historical and contemporary media sphere are to be celebrated it seems. The problem is that students may not realise this until they are well into employment and it is too late to return to campus and engage with their studies more enthusiastically. This was just one of the findings from the illuminating Media Graduates at Work: Irish Narratives on Policy, Education and Industry (Anne O’Brien, Sarah Arnold and Páraic Kerrigan) reviewed by Stephen Boyd. This review joins four others in this year’s section. The hefty Companion to British and Irish Cinema should have been included last year, but due to my oversight, it is featured here instead. Its reviewer, Loretta Goff, notes that it is “a volume that is sure to be heavily engaged with by scholars for years to come” so hopefully its esteemed editor and contributors will forgive its late appearance in these pages!
Páraic Kerrigan’s LGBTQ Visibility, Media and Sexuality in Ireland, reviewed by Allison Macleod, explores the challenges faced by the growing LGBTQ community in Ireland to “claim space in the public sphere” from 1974-2007. The book explores activism, the interconnection of national identities and globalisation and, crucially, considers the previously underscrutinised medium of television. Michael Lydon reviews The Commitments: Youth, Music and Authenticity in 1990s Ireland. Nessa Johnston’s monograph explains the enduring fascination with Alan Parker’s classic film and contextualises its broader cultural significance in Ireland and beyond. It offers a significant intervention into the field of Irish film by examining The Commitments as an “event” that marked the transformation of a country awakening from an insular and repressive past.
Eileen Culloty’s review of the third volume of The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press (edited by Martin Convoy and Adrian Bingham) extends this section’s focus on screen production to consider the press’s integral status as central to public media consumption. Print journalism (from hard news to magazine articles) has increasingly converged with other sources of audiovisual “infotainment”. This evolution is directly linked to the ways in which big-tech conglomerates now shape our view of the world across many platforms. The collection, which explores news production in Britain and Ireland from 1900-2017, focuses on text, image and context, raising issues of gender, ethnicity, suffrage, identity and propaganda.
The books included here testify to a vibrant and diverse culture in Irish film and media. The research landscape for 2022 is promising amidst a flurry of commemorative activity as the decade of centenaries enters the final stretch. There are several local events with a direct or indirect focus on Irish film and media that may, in time, produce published proceedings: Capturing Conflict – The Irish War of Independence and Civil War on Film at the Irish Film Institute; the annual Irish Screen Studies Seminar at Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Irish Civil War National Conference at University College Cork. As we finally return to in-person events and a more traditional sharing of research ideas, it is hoped that robust discussions on the place of media representation at the heart of Irish culture over the past hundred years will continue to develop.
While archives have been badly affected by the pandemic, they too are opening up again, and many researchers are returning to abandoned projects. It is heartening that Irish film and television heritage is now easier to view than before through a number of pioneering digitisation initiatives. The IFI archive player, available to view across the world, is a rich repository of short, feature and information films, television, newsreels, advertisements, animation and amateur cinema. The Irish Independence Film Collection in particular, has added a significant dimension to academic and public discourse on the Irish revolutionary period. Northern Ireland Screen continues to develop its Digital Film Archive with a current initiative funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Department of Communities seeing a range of programming from the archives of Ulster Television appearing online; much of this material has not been seen by the general public since it was originally broadcast.
Northern Ireland Screen and Screen Ireland both issued impressive reports this year charting their recent achievements and plans for the future. NI Screen’s “Adding Value Vol. 3” and Screen Ireland’s “Building For a Creative Future 2024” showcase prestigious work In storytelling for local and global audiences, as well as demonstrating the cultural and educational value of activity in the growing screen sector. As this sector continues to thrive north and south, it offers us a wealth of new material to research, teach, and write about.