The Irish in Film spring series begins at Fairfield University March 30

Fairfield University's Irish Studies Committee presents "The Irish in Film," a spring series of four films beginning on Wednesday, March 30 in the Multimedia Room of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library at 7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. The popular series is free and open to the public. The annual series, which began in the spring of 2007, is part of Fairfield University's Arts & Minds season of cultural and intellectual programs.

Image: HungerA Fairfield University professor who teaches in the Irish Studies minor will introduce each of the four Wednesday screenings. Dr. Kevin Cassidy, director of Irish Studies, initiates the series with British director Steve McQueen's "Hunger" (2008).

The controversial and powerful film is based on Bobby Sands' blanket protest and hunger strike in the Maze prison, Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1980s. The 27-year-old Sands, played by Irish actor Michael Fassbender, suffered a 66-day hunger strike in protest of the British government's refusal to acknowledge him and his fellow republican inmates as political prisoners, not terrorists.

One of the film's highlights is the 20-minute uncut scene between Sands and a priest, as they discuss the morality of the hunger strike that the IRA leader is about to undergo. During the strike, which created international headlines, the dying Sands was elected as a Member of Parliament. The film's graphic imagery and brutally realistic portrayal of the historic event was awarded the Cannes Film Festival's "Palme d'Or" in 2008. Cassidy, who teaches "Northern Ireland: The Politics of War and Peace," will answer questions after the film.

Next, on April 6, is Neil Jordan's latest film, "Ondine" (2010). The film stars Colin Farrell as Syracuse, a poor fisherman, who catches a beautiful young woman in his large net. Played by Alicja Bachleda, the mysterious woman from the depths of the sea calls herself Ondine. When Syracuse's luck begins to change with his increasingly large hauls of fish, his adolescent daughter (Alison Barry) convinces her father that his bounty is due to Ondine who is really a selkie. In Irish folklore, a selkie is a seal that can magically change shape into a woman for seven years, after which she returns to the sea. As Ondine and Syracuse develop a romantic relationship, the possibility of Ondine being a supernatural creature out of a fairytale also increases. The film is perfectly charming and offers credible surprises. Dr. Robert Epstein, who teaches "Myths and Legends of Ireland and Britain," will present the film and lead the discussion afterwards.

Image: The PlayboysThe third offering on April 13 is "The Playboys" (1992), about Irish village life in 1957 and a beautiful unmarried woman, Tara Maguire (Robin Wright), who shocks the community by giving birth out of wedlock and refusing to name the father of her son. Moreover, Tara rejects the persistent marriage proposals of the hard drinking local police sergeant (Albert Finney), who insists the infant is his.

As directed by Gillies Mackinnon with a script by Shane Connaughton, the film depicts the dreariness, pettiness and problems of the poor farming community, including IRA smuggling across the border. The village becomes alive when the "playboys," a traveling troupe of undistinguished actors, make their annual visit and set up their tents. The handsome and fun-loving playboy Tom (Aidan Quinn) romances Tara, while Freddie, the troupe's impresario (Milo O'Shea), provides his audience with some delightful, albeit, hammy entertainment. Professor Marion White, who teaches "Irish Women Writers," will introduce the film.

The final film on April 20th is "The Secret of Kells" (2010), an animated film inspired by the art in the medieval Celtic manuscript of the Latin gospels, "The Book of Kells." Directed by Tomm Moore with a script by Fabrice Ziolkowski, the Oscar nominated film for best animated feature mixes Irish culture, history, and fantasy in vivid imagery.

Image: KellsIt tells the story of Brendan (Evan McGuire), a 12-year-old redheaded boy artist at the Kells monastery, where the sacred text was compiled. Brendan befriends Adrian, an ancient scribe, who has just escaped with the manuscript from a Viking raid at Iona, the monastery founded by St. Columcille. Brendan's task is to help complete the unfinished "Book of Kells." He is assisted by Pangur Ban, the monk's playful white cat, a character from a 9th-century Irish poem, and Aisling, another name for Ireland, and rendered here as a woodland fairy. The Irish director is quoted as saying that the film has a universal theme; that of" being an artist and expressing yourself creatively."

The film is shown as a complement to the exhibition, "Kells to Clonmacnoise: Medieval Irish Art in Context," running concurrently at the University's Bellarmine Museum of Art in Bellarmine Hall, April 18-May 23. In addition to other works of art on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a facsimile of "The Book of Kells" that was donated to Fairfield University and is usually on display on the main floor of the Library will be on view as part of the exhibition.

"The Secret of Kells" is a film for children of all ages. Dr. Marice Rose, who teaches "Celtic and Early Irish Art," will introduce the film and field questions after the showing.

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

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

Posted on March 4, 2011

Vol. 43, No. 226

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