The Irish in Film Series begins at Fairfield University October 6

5 minutes of heaven
"The Irish in Film," a free movie series sponsored by the Irish Studies Committee at Fairfield University, opens on Wednesday, Oct. 6 with four diverse films. The series, now beginning its fourth year, is part of Fairfield University's Arts & Minds season of cultural and intellectual programs.

The films will be shown in the Multimedia Room of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and a member of the faculty will introduce each film. Fairfield University welcomes students as well as the greater community to this free event. Light refreshments will be served.

On Oct. 6, Dr. Kevin Cassidy, director of Irish Studies, introduces the series with "Five Minutes of Heaven" (2009), a drama based on an actual shooting of a 19-year-old Catholic laborer, Jim Griffin, by a 17-year-old Protestant, Alistair Little, that took place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1975. The teenager was motivated to kill a Catholic by the fame he would receive from the local pro-British Unionists. The stunned witness to the murder is Jim's younger brother Joe, a boy of 11. Now, more than three decades later with the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accord in effect, the murderer (Liam Neeson) and the traumatized Joe (James Nesbitt) are scheduled to meet for the first time on a TV talk show to see if there is any possibility of reconciliation. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the film depicts a remorseful Neeson, who seeks forgiveness from the unpredictable and vengeful Nesbitt, who wants his "five minutes of heaven." In reality, the two men never faced each other on TV, but were separately interviewed by the film's screenwriter, Guy Hibbert. Cassidy teaches "Northern Ireland" and "Politics of War and Peace."

The second film, to be shown on Oct. 20, "An Everlasting Piece" (2000), is a comedy also set in Belfast. It is the story of two barbers, a Catholic and a Protestant, who work in a mental hospital and decide to improve their lot by becoming toupee salesmen. Based on the experiences of screenwriter Barry McEvoy's father, and directed by Barry Levinson, the film offers a pair of opposites with Colm (Barry McEvoy), the determined Catholic barber, and his dour Protestant partner George (Brian F. O'Byrne). The two are in a competition against two other salesmen of Toupee or Not Toupee to see who will sell the most hairpieces by a certain date. The winning team will be rewarded with the Northern Ireland franchise from their British supplier. It would hardly be Northern Ireland if the IRA weren't somehow involved, but even scarier is The Scalper, a former hospital barber who got a bit carried away with cutting hair, played by the Scottish comic actor Billy Connolly. Dr. Robert Epstein, department of English, will introduce the film.

The third in the series on Nov. 3rd is "The Field" (1990), a drama adapted from a stage play of the same title by Irish writer John B. Keene. Directed by Jim Sheridan, the film stars Richard Harris as 'Bull' McCabe, an impoverished tenant farmer and a throwback to a tribal chieftain, who has been cultivating a field for years with the hopes of eventually gaining ownership for his son Tadgh (Sean Bean). Bull tells his son that without land they'd be like "dandelion seeds scattered to the wind." Tadgh, however, does not possess his father's land obsession and is attracted to a beautiful, insolent girl, a member of the rootless tinkers who travel throughout Ireland in caravans. When a wealthy Irish-American (Tom Berenger) shows up, he sees the field as land to be paved over and developed into a business opportunity. The Yank plans to acquire the field in a public auction and is not intimidated by Bull's threats, which leads to violence that involves Sean, and ultimate tragedy for all concerned. The film concludes with a stunning reference to the Irish mythological hero, Cuchulain, and his legendary fight with the sea. Dr. Nels Pearson of the English department will present the film.

The final film in the fall series on Nov.17th is another comedy, "Puckoon" (2002), based on a novel by Spike Milligan, directed by Terence Ryan and starring a cast of offbeat characters: Sean Hughes, Elliott Gould, John Lynch, and Richard Attenborough. The film gives a fictitious account of how the border was drawn between the North and the South in the imaginary town of Puckoon, and the ludicrous problems it poses for those living on either side of the divide. The film depicts absurd scenarios to make its point: The line of demarcation runs through the only pub in town and as the price of beer is a tad cheaper on the Protestant side, the Catholics get no business. In another scene, the difficulty in burying deceased Catholics whose cemetery lies in Protestant territory is made ridiculous as the corpse is required to produce a passport at the border crossing. There is continuous absurdity depicted in the two Irelands, yet Milligan skillfully mocks both groups in equal measure, portraying the Catholics as a bit dense and the Protestants as twerps. The humor is all in good fun. Dr. William Abbott, associate professor of history, will present the film.

For more information, visit the website at or please contact Marion White, Irish Studies Committee, at 203-254-4000, ext. 3021 or e-mail her at

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950,

Posted on September 13, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 42

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