Friday, March 28, 2014

Irish Film Institute Archive at Lunchtime

Located in Dublin's famous art, cultural, and party district Temple Bar is the Irish Film Institute.  The center screens many films that would not make the mainstream cinemas.  Many films screened here are of the non-Hollywood blockbuster type.

We were paying a visit to the Institute to see their Archive at Lunchtime series.  This ongoing program screens a program of various old short films by Irish filmmakers.  Each week, a new program of short films is selected from the vaults of the Institute to show at lunchtime- for free.

I don't need to hear anything past "free" to sign myself up.  On a recent Saturday afternoon, we were in City Centre and decided to check out this week's St. Patrick's Day film program.

The first film we caught was a short newsreel film about the 1960 Industrial Parade and Kennel Club Dog Show.  It had the grainy black and white look with newsreel quick cuts and film that seems to be running too quickly.  Remember how fast Babe Ruth looked lumbering around the bases in the old game footage?  That's the look I mean.  It was brief and interesting... and the narration was in Irish.  More people must have spoken conversational Irish in here in 1960.  Maybe it was made by the Irish language board for further Irish Exposure?

Part II of the program was a longer film from 1971.  It was in color and in English, because it was produced by the Irish Tourism Board as an advertisement (probably aimed at Americans) to visit Ireland during St. Patrick's Day week.  It mostly followed an American high school marching band as they performed at Paddy's Day parades and events around the country for a full week.  At each city, they visited the popular sites and performed for the cheering crowds.  It was great to watch, even though it was a half-hour commercial for Ireland.  We weren't sure what would come next.  The film hilariously showed its age with the clothing styles, hairdos, and cigarettes.  So.  Many.  Cigarettes.  How did anyone get out of the 60s and 70s alive?

Especially smileworthy for me was the uniforms of the American high school marching band from '71.  Being a former high school band director myself, I have dealt with more marching uniform issues than I care to remember.  Modern marching uniforms trend to the simple, comfortable and form-fitting.  Appropriate cuts for men and women made of breathable (and easily washable!) materials are used by more and more bands.  Not so with the poor kids of this group.  Baggy, shaggy, scratchy coats and pants with nightmarish buttons, sashes, straps, capes, and spats. Spats!  That was just the rank-and-file member uniforms.  Drum majors and the (thankfully) now-extinct old-school majorettes had their own garish and uncomfortable uniforms, complete with meter-high puffy hats.  All of these wacky accessories had to be collected, inventoried, cleaned, and maintained.  What a mess that must have been for those poor kids and directors.

Anyway, we'll be back to the IFI to catch their next program of free archival films soon.  What a great opportunity it is to live in a place with such a rich variety of reasonably-priced cultural entertainment.

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