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News Release

Focus On Film Drama During NI Crisis

26th June 2009


During the ‘The Troubles’, the vast majority of television dramatists and filmmakers steered well clear of exploratory dramas about Northern Ireland to avoid political upset or the risk of being labelled anti-government, according to University of Ulster academic Professor Martin McLoone. 

The Director of the Media Studies Research Institute at Ulster’s Coleraine Campus, Professor McLoone is one of six authors who were invited by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) to contribute to the 'Troubles Archives' project. Each author was commissioned to write a pamphlet discussing how his or her chosen art form had responded to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Professor McLoone, who has written extensively about film and television in Britain and Ireland, and in particular, film and television and the Troubles, will give a public lecture at the QFT in Belfast tomorrow (Saturday) at 5 pm.

His lecture will explore the different approaches and styles of the films and television drama made between 1968 and 1998 and assess the way in which these reflected the conflict in Northern Ireland.

“During ‘The Troubles’, with some notable and famous exceptions, most films and television dramas tended to be uncontroversial human stories and did not probe any sensitive political issues,” says Professor McLoone. 

 “Instead they concentrated on the humanist angle and to a very large extent ignored the conflict or relegated it to the background – even though at the same time it was being played out nightly on television news.“

Following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, television dramas and films became much more politically adventurous and hard hitting with films like Divorcing Jack, Bloody Sunday, Mickeybo and Me, and, more recently, Hunger and Five Minutes of Heaven.”
 
However, while most dramatists and filmmakers avoided the conflict, there were notable exceptions. “Alan Clark's Elephant, a television drama made for the BBC and networked on BBC2 in 1988 was considered to be very avant garde. The film depicted 18 killings with very little dialogue and was a critique on the way The Troubles were being reported in the news at the time.  

“The title of the film refers to ‘the elephant in the room’ and was a commentary on the collective denial of what was happening in Northern Ireland.”

Professor McLoone adds: “Although the film was critically acclaimed, it was considered very distasteful and caused a huge public outcry, prompting more complaints than any other television drama before or since.

“Ironically though, the underlying theme of the film was how communication lines need to be opened up and, although no one knew at the time, this was exactly what was going on behind the scenes.” 

The ACNI’s Northern Ireland Troubles Archive will be a web-based resource about the ways in which the Arts reflected the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It will cover a broad range of Arts activity, including visual art, literature, drama, film, radio and television, music and architecture.  

The Archive will also contain recorded interviews with artists, writers and other practitioners, speaking about their lives and work in the context of the Troubles and will seek to serve a wide community of researchers, students, academics, visitors to Northern Ireland and survivors of the conflict.  Tickets for Professor McLoone’s lecture are available from www.queensfilmtheatre.com.

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