Four Newsreels

Four newsreels, 2010

Sarah Pierce

Sinopale 3, “Hidden Memories, Lost Traces”
Curator: Rana Öztürk & Vaari Claffey

Amongst the Irish Film Archive’s vast holdings of Irish cinema, are the Amharc Éireann newsreels, produced by Gael Linn between 1957 and 1964. The newsreels were broadcast in the Irish language without English subtitles, and were shown in cinemas throughout the country as a way to promote the Irish language and its heritage. While viewing the newsreels, Pierce began to consider what they reveal about how people in postcolonial, pre-‘troubles’ Ireland gathered, from sporting to protest events, from religious masses to fashion shows, and how these gatherings convey a story about nation, history, territory and language.

At the time the newsreels were made, the Irish army was engaged in several peacekeeping missions in Africa. For the most part, people accepted that these did not threaten Ireland’s neutrality. In fact, Ireland’s political involvements in places like South Africa, Nigeria, the Congo, Cyprus, were rationalised in terms of a response to colonialism – primarily to fight against partition, at all costs, in these places. Yet, in a tragic twist, the most notable loss of Irish life during this time occurred in the Congo, when local Baluba tribesmen ambushed a platoon of eleven UN troops. Nine Irish soldiers were killed… [T]he word ‘baluba’ entered Ireland’s urban lexicon as a derogatory description of a person or event.

The four newsreels that the artist have chosen here present an account of the past. They have commissioned English subtitles and an accompanying script in Turkish for the presentation in Sinop.