Roddy Flynn
School of Communications, Dublin City University, Ireland | Published: 17 March, 2023 | Views:
ISSUE 18 | Pages: 330-370 | PDF | DOAJ |

Creative Commons 4.0 2023 by Roddy Flynn | This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.


 “The Irish Are Coming”: Irish Cinema Comes of Age

“Phew! What a year it’s been!” may sound like a phrase from the opening of a round robin letter, the kind someone in your given circle feels obliged to send every Christmas, as well-intentioned as it is boastful. On this occasion, however, it is a phrase that genuinely befits the historic year that 2022 represents in Irish film.

For how else to characterise it but with a “Phew!”? Even if the overall level of screen production expenditure dropped significantly (to €361m) after the outlier that was the €500m spent in 2021, Irish cinema (if not Irish television) has simply never enjoyed anything like the profile it currently does. This is in no small part down to the role played by an awards ceremony which takes place 8,000 kilometres from Ireland and which, while we know it to be a profoundly imperfect yardstick of the quality of global cinema, is nonetheless a harbinger of an unprecedented era in Irish film.

This review will go to press before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 95th awards ceremony takes place but, as of now, we bask in 14 nominations related to Irish films or Irish crew. Nine of these are accounted for by The Banshees of Inisherin (including all four of the lead cast along with Martin McDonagh who, as writer, producer and director, could potentially take home three gongs), and another by Paul Mescal for his role in the Scottish film Aftersun. An Cailín Ciúin became the first Irish-language film to make it to the shortlist for Best International Picture, while the Tom Berkeley/Ross White-directed, darkly comedic Northern Irish short An Irish Goodbye will seek to emulate Terry George’s 2012 success in the Best Live Action Short category.

Though less heralded, Jonathan Redmond was also nominated for Best Achievement in Film Editing (with Matt Villa) for Baz Luhrman’s Elvis and Richard Baneham the Ballyfermot Art College graduate who previously won an Academy Award in 2010 for his Visual Effects work on Avatar –was, fittingly, nominated in the same category for his work on the sequel to that film Avatar: The Way of Water.

Even before the Oscars, Banshees had already won three Golden Globes, three BAFTAs and two Golden Lions at Venice (along with a too-long-to-list-here string of other awards). An Cailín Ciúin had taken eight (“EIGHT!”) awards at the IFTAs I n March 2022, and also returned with two awards from the Berlin International Film Festival: a Best Cinematography award for Kate McCullough from the European Film Awards and Foreign Language Film of the Year at the London Film Critic Circle.

The idea that identifying individual works of art as superior to others is inherently problematic is hardly controversial (doubly so when those awards are the Oscars or Golden Globes which, even acknowledging their recent efforts to incorporate “global” cinema content, rarely look far beyond Anglophone material in drawing up shortlists). Nonetheless, in the context of the screen policy of small nations, international awards really do matter, if only because award nominations and successes constitute a notionally objective proxy for assessing the quality of the screen output supported by state incentives. (Banshees received between €5m and €10m from Section 481 while An Cailín Ciúin was entirely funded by state agencies.)

Though long established – Section 481 is in its fortieth year – the ongoing operation of such incentives cannot be taken for granted and the industry must continually lobby for their retention. The most recent example is “The Cultural Dividend generated by Ireland’s Section 481 Film and Television Incentive”, a report commissioned by Screen Ireland from London-based consultants Olsberg SPI. That report repeatedly cites the successes of Section 481 productions “at the world’s more prestigious international awards ceremonies and festivals” as proof not only of the intrinsic quality of this work but as a “benchmark of cultural impact”. Moreover, the Olsberg SPI report was published on January 10th 2023, a fortnight before the Oscar shortlists were announced. The inclusion of so many Irish nominees emphatically underlined the report’s conclusions.

Those two words in the report’s title – “Cultural dividend” – alert us to the key shift that has occurred in the rationale underlying Irish screen policy in the last decade. When the Irish Film Board was re-established in 1993 and Section 481 (then Section 35) was radically overhauled some months later, the state’s largesse was conditional on a net financial gain for Ireland Inc. For a decade, reports from the employers’ association IBEC routinely concluded that Section 35/481 and the Irish Film Board did indeed have a positive impact on the national balance sheet. However, as the methodology used to arrive at such optimistic conclusions was increasingly subjected to external scrutiny – and, worse, when on occasion even IBEC concluded that sometimes such incentives were actually costing the state money – both Section 481 and the then Irish Film Board were subjected to existential threats from the Department of Finance and later, in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, “An Bord Snip”.

Some nimble footwork on the part of the Film Board, SIPTU and Screen Producers Ireland kept these threats at bay in the 2000s, but it was increasingly obvious that a simple profit/loss approach could not be relied on to sustain political support for those supports. A new, complementary rationale was also required.

This emerged slowly but references to the concept of a “cultural dividend” featured extensively in the 2018 Department of Finance Review of Section 481, the first undertaken after that incentive shifted to a tax credit model. In assessing the €243m spent on Section 481 between 2015 and 2017, the Review defined the cultural dividend as “the unquantifiable benefit of developing a robust film industry in Ireland and the related Irish cultural impact.”[1] In effect, what the Olsberg SPI report amplifies and reinforces is the idea that support for the network of screen production incentives – Section 481, Screen Ireland, the Sound and Vision fund and even RTE and TG4 – is legitimate because, though unquantifiable, the “cultural dividend” is regarded as compensation for any net financial costs to the state of funding these support infrastructures.

The very suggestion that such supports might be legitimated on cultural grounds rather than economic ones marks a sea change in policy thinking. It’s a universe away from the Creative Capital report of 2011, which scarcely mentioned “culture” beyond references to Culture Ireland and, when it did, was more than likely to associate it with commerce – “entrepreneurial culture” – than notions of identity or creativity.

Exactly what the Department of Finance understood the unquantifiable benefits of the cultural dividend to be in 2018 was not fully spelled out. However, in preparing their report, Olsberg SP borrowed from a framework developed by the progressive UK thinktank Demos. Demos defined three kinds of cultural dividend values:

  • intrinsic (the inherent quality of the work supported)
  • instrumental (how the work affects those who live in the society that produces it, how it might shape their sense of national identity) and
  • institutional (how the work projects the nation into the international arena, invoking notions of soft power).

Unsurprisingly, the January 2023 report concluded that the work made possible by Section 481 comprehensively met all three criteria. The Report refers to the results of an Amárach survey of 1,000 people, which found that most respondents strongly engaged with Irish television and 59% were more likely to watch a film or television series if it was Irish. 79% of those surveyed considered Irish film and television programmes to be distinctive. However, the manner in which these findings were tied to Section 481 projects was somewhat opaque: asked which Irish films and television shows were most important to them, respondents included in their top ten “News and Current Affairs”, Derry Girls, Fair City, Father Ted, The Commitments and My Left Foot, none of which were supported by Section 481. Somewhat awkwardly, when it came to more objective markers of cultural identity – setting, use of Irish talent – the report notes, but does not spell out the implications of, the fact that the level of Section 481 funding for projects is in inverse ratio to the presence of local cultural markers. That is, the more Section 481 money a project received, the less likely it is to feature an Irish setting or to use Irish cast and crew.

The report counters this by noting that respondents adopted a positive attitude to “larger international inward productions”, such as the last Star Wars trilogy, on the grounds that they showcased Ireland to global audiences. (That Irish respondents “feel” this doesn’t necessarily make it true: can we know that international audiences recognise Luke Skywalker’s hermitage as an island off the Kerry coast for example?)

Olsberg SPI are able to offer more empirically grounded support for their assertions regarding the institutional element of the cultural dividend, that is the capacity of Irish film and television to, in the words of the Department of Finance, project to global audience images of Ireland as “a country with a rich history and a thriving cultural community”. These are characteristics which are assumed to play a positive role in how Ireland is regarded internationally by, amongst others, those considering making significant capital investments here. (Though whether this can compensate for the more mundane resources such a place to live remains opens to question.)

Of the 286 projects included in Olsberg SPI’s sample, 43 received theatrical releases outside Ireland “in a median of four countries”. If 43 seems low, it is worth noting that Section 481 largely benefits television/streamer producers: just 26% of Section 481 projects are initially aimed at a theatrical audience. Furthermore, 50 of the productions in the sample were streamed outside Ireland, with outliers like Normal People becoming de facto global hits, available to audiences in 102 countries. In this regard, the report once again rehearses the significance of Award nominations and wins in terms of attracting international attention to Ireland: an appendix lists productions as diverse as Wolfwalkers, Sea Fever and Normal People as securing nominations and wins at the Emmys, BAFTAs, Oscars and Golden Globes along with the Cannes, Sundance, Venice and Berlin Film Festivals. The Oscar nominations of The Banshees of Inisherin and An Cailín Ciúin subsequent to the report’s publication clearly endorses this argument, especially given their overt setting within Ireland.

It seems safe to say that Irish fiction cinema is playing its hoped for role in the State’s long term Global Ireland agenda admirably. And given Olsberg SPI’s conclusion that 82% of production expenditure on Irish productions and 89% on incoming productions could be attributed to Section 481, it’s unsurprising that in September 2022, Minster for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin announced that Section 481 would be extended until 2028. For the medium term at least then, the future of Screen Ireland and Section 481 seems secure (even if there are rumblings that, if anything, the current per project funding cap on Section 481 expenditure is acting as a block to bringing some very high budget films to Ireland, not least given the ongoing cutthroat competition amongst nation states for footloose screen productions).

Some of those rumblings emerged from the wide-ranging work of the Future of Media Commission, the report of which was finally made public in July 2022. Originally established to investigate RTE’s apparently permanent funding crisis, the Commission’s remit was expanded to include more or less the entire Irish mediascape: print, broadcast and online. Its pages consider, inter alia, the challenges posed by contracting advertising revenues for all legacy media, the threat of mis- and disinformation and the shrinking of the Irish public sphere.

In point of fact, the Commission’s comments on Section 481 are relatively brief although it strongly recommends allowing broadcasters, rather than just production companies, to directly access the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland-administered Sound and Vision fund. In passing, we should also note that by the time this editorial is published, the BAI will have been formally superseded by the new Media Commission. However, it does make a number of recommendations germane to this review. We mention some of these below but they include advocating for an increase in the percentage of RTE’s content expenditure budget devoted to independent production to 25%. It also suggests that the Steering Group charged with driving the Government’s Audio-Visual Action plan should explore “whether there is further potential for the internationalisation of Irish content”. In this regard, the Commission identifies RTE as potentially playing a key role as “a springboard for the creation of distinctive Irish content” and exhorting it to “establish and build a wider global brand for Irish storytelling and content creation”. As we note below, it’s arguably the case that RTE is already very much engaged in the internationalisation of its content.

Regarding the original question of how to deal with RTE’s finances, the Commission added its voice to a well-established chorus identifying the Television Licence Fee-funded system as unfit for the realities of the 21st century broadcasting environment. Thus it strongly recommended that “From 2024, the source of public funding for PSM [Public Service Media] should change from the current system of TV Licence Fee combined with general Exchequer funds to a system based entirely on general Exchequer funds.” The report also made suggestions as to how RTE should be funded in the intervening period. Remarkably, of the 50 recommendations made by the Commission, the government committed to implementing all of them – except the one relating to the licence fee. Admittedly the solutions offered for the interim period up to 2024 offered the government some wriggle room here but it does seem incredible that the finances of one of the key funders of television drama in Ireland will remain tied to a 20th-century funding model for the foreseeable future.

But what of the content supported by these infrastructures? Surveying work commissioned and actually screened in 2022, a number of themes – gender, the Irish language and the inherent unpredictability of cultural production – emerge across film and television.

There were other Irish films released in 2022, even if few came close to the audience impact of Banshees and An Cailín Ciúin. As Covid restrictions finally wound down for good and we became reacquainted with the idea of physical proximity to strangers, cinema admissions rose sharply over 2021. Although Republic of Ireland-specific admission figures for 2022 are still not available, UK and Ireland ticket sales were up by 60% according to the Film Distributors Association. We do know that box office in the Republic was up 89% in 2022; combining this with Comscore admission figures for 2021 (5.8m), it looks like 2022 admissions were approaching 11m, a huge improvement on 2021 but still well shy of the pre-pandemic figure of 15.1m recorded in 2019.

Even allowing for the still depressed state of the theatrical market, most Irish titles struggled to find big screen audiences. Theatrically released in the UK and Ireland in July 2022, renowned documentary-maker Emer Reynolds’ feature fiction debut Joyride was an odd-couple road movie, in which Olivia Colman played a new mother and Charlie Reid a 13-year-old who’s just lost his own mother to cancer. Colman’s star power alone might have been expected to propel the film into the public consciousness – and both she and Reid offered committed and compelling performances – but the film’s occasionally absurd plot developments and reliance on “quirky” rural stereotypes did not find wide favour. Depending on which source you rely on the film may have taken as little as €70,000 or as much as €180,000 in the UK and Ireland.

Another film built around a female lead, Frank Berry’s Aisha, received much stronger notices after its inclusion as an Official Selection at the June 2022 Tribeca Film Festival and in advance of its November 2022 cinema release. Indeed, in review of the film in this edition, Anthony P. McIntyre argues that Sky Television’s decision to commission the film may have been prompted by the perception that Aisha might prove to be an award-friendly text.

Having critiqued the Irish prison system in 2017’s Michael Inside, Berry returned to institutions of incarceration, this time the Direct Provision system, offering an excoriating assessment of the impossible demands of immigration bureaucracy centred around British thespian Letitia Wright’s portrayal of a Nigerian immigrant. Again, however, Aisha’s cinema run was relatively truncated, although it quickly became available for Irish viewers via Sky’s streaming platform.

The same was true of Sebastián Lelio’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s folk horror novel The Wonder (reviewed here by Graham Price). A curious blend of Brechtian distanciation and 19th century gothic, The Wonder clearly fitted commissioner Netflix’s strategy of populating the shelves of its streaming service with “blue chip” titles to prevent subscriber churn. That the film received generally positive reviews and featured the star power of Florence Pugh kept it in cinemas even after it debuted on the Netflix platform.

As Arts Council-supported experimental works, Robert Manson’s Holy Island (following two lost souls trapped in the purgatory of a remote coastal town) and Dean Kavanagh’s Hole in the Head (wherein an amateur film-maker restages the disappearance of his parents 25 years earlier) might not have been expected to break out of the IFI/Lighthouse/Pálás cinema arthouse circuits. However, it was more disappointing that even positively reviewed, genre work struggled to find a big screen audience. Two such films emerging from Screen Ireland’s POV scheme (which offers up to €400,000 for female-led projects). Released in March 2022, Kate Dolan’s low-budget but frequently terrifying urban folk horror You Are Not My Mother was critically lauded – called it “arguably the greatest Irish horror ever made” – as was the Antonia Campbell-Hughes-directed psychological thriller It Is In Us All, released in September and described by the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw as “the work of a director with a real sense of landscape and place” and  a “forthright and fiercely intended drama”.

Both disappeared almost as they arrived in cinemas but, equally, both remained available to stream on Netflix and Apple TV respectively. (Non-POV works like Brendan Muldowney’s horror The Cellar and Stephen Fingleton’s ambitious single-shot actioner Nightride fared no better with the latter following a March 1st screening at Dublin International Film Festival with a Netflix debut on March 4.)

However, in a year which saw the tragic passing of Tom Collins, the only director to have seen two of his films put forward as Irish contenders for the Best Foreign Language Oscar (Kings in 2007 and An Bronntanas in 2014), it was fitting that it was Irish language films that punched above their weight. Released two months before An Cailín Ciúin, Seán Breathnach’s Foscadh, a belated coming-of-age tale set in Connemara, made relatively little impact in cinemas. However, in September, Róise & Frank – another project funded through the Screen Ireland/TG4 Cine4 scheme which supported Foscadh and An Cailín Ciúin – became distributor Breakout Pictures’ third Irish-language film in a row – after Arracht and An Cailín Ciúin – to take more than €100,000 in Irish theatres. Directed by Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murray, the film’s winning tale of a widow who encounters a dog with startlingly similar characteristics to her former husband had charmed audiences at a number of festivals, winning audience awards in Dublin, Santa Barbara and Sonoma. Without taking away from the film’s intrinsic merits, Its domestic box office take tantalisingly suggests the possibility that An Cailín Ciúin may have broken down some local audience prejudices regarding Irish-language content.

The success of the Cine4 scheme on the big screen redounded to the benefit of the broadcaster associated with it, TG4. In July, the Future of Media Commission recommended that the 25% allocation of Sound and Vision funding to Irish language content should, at a minimum, be sustained and that consideration should be given to increasing it further. The Commission also argued that any funding emerging from the imposition of a content levy on tech giants (as provided for in the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive) should be similarly top sliced for Irish-language content. In the same month, at the Galway Film Fleadh, TG4, Screen Ireland and Northern Ireland Screen announced three new schemes, respectively focused on developing scripted television drama, fiction shorts and documentary shorts.

Two months later there was further good news – also stemming from A Future of Media Commission recommendation – when Catherin Martin announced the allocation of an additional €7.3m to TG4 for 2023, the single largest increase granted to the broadcaster since its establishment in 1996.

What such funding might result in remained to be seen in 2022. For the most part, television drama in 2022 remained resolutely Anglophone. Furthermore, as the survey below suggests, and Future of Media Commission recommendations notwithstanding, there’s quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Irish television drama is already highly internationalised.

Exhibit A in this regard is the AMC/BBC-commissioned Conversations with Friends, which arrived on Irish screens in May 2022 and arguably carried on its shoulders the greatest pre-broadcast weight of expectation in Irish television history. The unprecedented success of Normal People created demand for something similar not just from commissioners Hulu and the BBC but arguably from a wider global public. Production company Element Pictures was only too happy to fulfil this and though not a sequel, Conversations shared many of the characteristics of People: based on an earlier Sally Rooney novel; set in the same rarefied interior, middle-class Rooney-land milieu; part-directed by Lenny Abrahamson and part-written by Alice Birch. And yet it simply didn’t land with audiences in the same way as People. Some questionable casting didn’t help but neither did the less fully realised source material. Indeed, in interview Jemima Kirke, who plays the key role of Melissa, bluntly suggested that Rooney’s depiction of a loveless marriage was perhaps the creation of someone who’d never been married [which was the case for the author at the time of the book’s publication in 2017], driven more by the demands of plot than stemming from character. It’s telling that, as yet, no plans have been announced for an adaptation of Rooney’s third novel, the well-received Beautiful World, Where Are You published while Conversations was in production.

Element, in any case, had bigger fish to fry as Conversations went out: in May it was announced that a majority stake in the company had been acquired by Fremantle, the global production and distribution giant, itself a subsidiary of RTL and thus, indirectly, of media Leviathan Bertelsmann. How this new corporate ownership will impact on the production decisions of a company already furiously active in international production remains to be seen.

But, at a funding level at least, local content seen in Ireland was almost universally reliant on international financing, often in ways which directly impinged upon the narrative. The most obvious example of the narrative implications was North Sea Connection, a Swedish-Irish co-production centred around an international drugs operation between Ireland and Scandinavia which met a muted response on its Autumn 2022 broadcast. The last series of Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls began its run in April 2022, with an episode featuring a memorable cameo from Liam Neeson, and, as ever, came courtesy of the largesse of UK broadcaster Channel 4. Sharon Horgan’s latest opus, Bad Sisters featuring herself, Eve Hewson, Eva Birthistle and Sarah Greene as the eponymous siblings, is a black comedy set in the Dublin’s middle-class suburbs. It arrived in August 2022, this time financed by the platform hosting it Apple TV.

There was some local funding in The Dry, a story of a newly sober emigrant returning to the problematic embrace of her Irish family, written by playwright Nancy Harris but even here RTE partnered with Britbox, the BBC/ITV streaming joint venture. Over on Virgin Media, though their flagship autumn 2022 drama Holding, an adaptation of Graham Norton’s bestselling novel of the same name, was set and filmed in Cork and populated with a Irish cast – albeit one familiar to international viewers from, variously, Game of Thrones, Derry Girls, Peaky Blinders and Normal People. It was also an ITV commission and screened in the UK in April 2022, four months before Irish viewers could access it.

Ironically, Smother, the noir-ish family drama which saw its second series go out on RTE in June 2022 and the third series of which is coming to a conclusion as this editorial is being written, is both commissioned and largely funded by RTE but is actually made by the BBC with Treasure Films as a local production partner.

Nor is there any reason to think that this pattern is likely to shift. On the plus side, 2022 saw a plethora of new or renewed television drama productions announced. That February, it was announced that a second series of Kin, the most successful Irish television drama of 2021 (reviewed here by Eoin Ó’Gaora), would commence production in the summer, funded against by US streamer AMC+ “in association” with RTE. Three months later, it was announced that a third series would be filmed back-to-back with the second.

In June, in another instance of funding apparently shaping the text, RTE and the IFC Cable Channel (itself owned by AMC) had greenlit Sisters about two women living on either side of the Atlantic who discover they are siblings and embark on a quest to find their errant father. Two months later, in a clear echo of the structure of 2021’s Hidden Assets – which teamed an Irish cop with her Belgian equivalent – RTE announced that they were partnering with TVNZ in New Zealand to produce The Gone, which follows an Irish Garda detective searching for a missing Irish couple on New Zealand’s South Island.

Based on the descriptions available thus far, Clean Sweep, another forthcoming RTE collaboration with AMC (via their Sundance Now channel), will be largely set in Ireland and built around Irish characters, as is Northern Lights, a co-production between TG4 and Streamz, a Belgian Video on Demand service. Sundance are also partnering with Virgin Media on The Vanishing Triangle, a six-part series based on the real-life disappearances of several woman in 1990s Ireland.

Made with partial funding from Screen Ireland and the Sound and Vision fund, RTE had no direct involvement in the production of Obituary, a macabre comedy shot in Donegal by Irish production company Magamedia and the French/UK APC Studios. However, as per Normal People, RTE acquired Irish broadcasting rights for the series in November 2022. Finally, June 2022 saw principal photography commence in West Cork on Bodkin, a comedy thriller series Netflix commissioned from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production vehicle Higher Ground.

Taking all these together – along with Netflix’s March confirmation that they would renew two more series of Vikings: Valhalla – it is hard to imagine just how much more international Irish television drama production could be.

The promise of so much activity certainly supports the case for the plethora of new studio builds in the planning stage. In April, the Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital, already owners of Ardmore Studios and Troy Studios, confirmed their development of the new Greystones Media campus with a project total investment of €300m. In September 2022, An Bord Pleanála gave the go-ahead to the Tara Film Studio project in North Wexford and in the same month Westmeath County Council voted to materially contravene their own development plan in order to facilitate the construction of Hammerlake Studios outside Mullingar. Taken together, these projects would more than quadruple the total studio space available in Ireland.

As a final comment, we have often observed before, that it is in the realm of non-fiction that we find a local mode of address most consistently in evidence. However, as the list of feature fiction discussed above suggests, this distinction is much harder to maintain in looking at 2022. Not only were Irish language titles to the fore but, for the most part, there was less of a sense of writers and directors shaping their material for unspecified, international audiences.

This is not to suggest that non-fiction was not as focused on local concerns as ever. Whilst Kim Bartley’s fascinating Pure Grit following a young Native American woman as she pursued her passion for bare back riding looked beyond these shore, Pat Collins’ career-long engagement with the esoteric elements of Irish tradition found new expression in The Dance which observed the development of choreographer Michael Keelan-Dolan’s extraordinary Mám through rehearsal and into performance. Screen Ireland supported Adiran Sibley’s intense warts-n-all portrayal of Limerick’s most famous thespian in The Ghost of Richad Harris which combined Harris’s own words with extensive interviews with his contemporaries and, most poignantly, his sons as they picked through his archive. Though stylistically very different – the first ethereal, the second earthy – Alan Gilsenan’s Baggotonia and Luke McManus’s North Circular both evinced a concern with urban spaces, how they are constructed and they in turn construct those who live in them.

However, perhaps the most overt thematic connection across non-fiction work came for this reviewer as he exited the Light House Cinema’s Screen One, having watched Nothing Compares, Kathryn Ferguson’s rehabilitation of oft-maligned singer Sinead O’Connor. Walking through the cinema I noted posters for current and forthcoming releases: Sasha King’s Vicky, a quietly furious (like it’s subject) study of institutional neglect of individuals within the Irish health care system; Alison Millar’s Lyra a reconstruction from personal recordings of the life and work of the young journalist murdered by paramilitaries whilst covering a protest in Derry in 2019 and Ciara Nic Chormaic’s Aisling Trí Néallaidh: Clouded Reveries, a study of the creative process of acclaim writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa. In other words: four documentaries by and about women. This female focus (reflected too in fiction pace the aforementioned POV scheme but obviously in titles like Aisha and An Cailín Ciúin) is hardly an accident and suggests that the post-#WakingTheFeminists reset of Irish cultural production is not merely rhetorical. This is not to suggest that the struggle for a more equitable infrastructure of representation is over: initiatives like the various iterations of the X-Pollinator scheme supported by Screen Ireland, the BAI, Northern Ireland Screen, the BBC and Creative Europe remain vital if we are to encounter the work of female identifying and non-binary people on screen. But it does suggest that change is possible.


[1] P. 220 of Review IV: Cost Benefit Analysis of Section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 – Film Corporation Tax Credit. Department of Finance 2018).

Works Cited

Department of Finance (2018). Review IV: Cost Benefit Analysis of Section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 – Film Corporation Tax Credit. (Dublin: Government of Ireland)

Future of Media Commission (2022). Report of the Future of Media Commission. (Dublin: Government of Ireland)

Olsberg SPI (2023). The Cultural Dividend Generated by Ireland’s Section 481 Film and Television Incentive. (Dublin: Screen Ireland)