As the centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising enters its final quarter, it was marked at the Fingal Film Festival with a special 1916 screening. A showing of The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach’s film about the tumultuous years in Ireland that followed the Rising, was preceded by a trio of short films set during that fateful week in Irish history. In a year that’s seen the most famous names from the Rising plastered all over the city, it’s refreshing that all of these shorts focus on more unsung participants. As part of our coverage of the Festival, Film In Dublin takes a closer look at these shorts.
Summon Her Children
Director Wesley O’Duinn tells the story of the Laois Volunteers and their less heralded contribution to the Rising. As British soldiers began responding to events in Dublin, the Fleming brothers Eamon and Paddy, the Muldowneys and the Bradys, along with Paddy Ramsbottom, Michael Gray, Colm Holohan and others set out to destroy the railway line at Colt Wood near Portlaoise to prevent British reinforcements travelling to Dublin in response to the Rising. O’Duinn capably puts us into the period with visuals that would not look out of place on RTÉ television and performances that sell the gravitas of the situation in these men eyes. Unfortunately, poor sound design does its work to take us back out of it again. Stock sound effects and occasionally hard to hear actors mar what is otherwise an effective short.
A Soldier’s Rising
A Soldier’s Rising is directed by Mick Rochford, featuring still images (art be Dee O’Shea) narrated over by Joe Duffy to tell a tragic story from the other side of the fighting on 1916. While former comrades of soldier Thomas joined the Volunteers, he remained in the British army and he leaves his wife and two young sons for Sackville Street to take it back from those he once fought alongside. Yet one of those he ends up shooting turns out to be one of his own sons, and poor Thomas doesn’t last much longer himself after this realisation. The subject of children dying during the Rising is one close to Duffy’s heart, (his book Children of the Rising is devoted to them) and his narration, combined by a listing of the children’s names following the short, is suitably poignant.
Writer and directtor Maureen O’Connell ensures Proclaim! adds some levity to the sombre (if merited) dedications to the past. The short tells the true story of three Dublin printers tasked by James Connolly himself with printing the now iconic image of Ireland’s first proclamation, having to do so in secret, overnight. With the clock ticking and a shortage of resources (the ‘c’ in ‘Republic is a smeared ‘o’), the men scramble across Dublin to get the job done, aided by two women shopkeepers, an English printer and anyone else willing to lend a hand. The film has enough energy and fun to it to balance out the slightly preachy reading of the proclamation to close things out. O’Connell’s confident direction helps to make Proclaim! the strongest of the three shorts.