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Film Studies: National Cinemas

This guide highlights selected resources for various national cinemas.

Introduction to Northern Irish cinema

After Irish independence in 1921, six counties in the north of Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. However, there was no attempt to cultivate a local film industry and the region remained reliant on imports from mainland Britain and the US. The kinds of religious and moral campaigns waged against the cinema in Ireland were echoed in Northern Ireland, though with Protestant inflection. During the 1930s a number of films passed by the British Board of Film Censors attracted local censorship, including a complete ban on James Whale’s Frankenstein in 1931. A handful of British musical comedies starring Northern Irish actor and singer Richard Hayward, including The Luck of the Irish (Donovan Pedelty, 1935), The Early Bird (Donovan Pedelty, 1936), and Devil’s Rock (Germain Burger, 1938), were made with some state support, and played a role in the cultivation of a distinct Northern Irish identity. During World War II, a small number of propaganda documentaries were made, including The Story of the Ulster Home Guard (1944), promoting the war effort in Northern Ireland and comparing it favourably with Ireland’s neutrality. After the war a number of informational short documentaries and travelogues were funded or part-funded by the Northern Irish government, including Ulster (1948) and Land of Ulster (1951): these attempted to establish a distinct, though pro-British, regional identity. The difficulty of such a project was explored in a number of unofficial and independently-funded films that were openly critical of pro-British sentiment and ideology. These included Belfast Remembers ‘98 (1948) and Fintona—A Study of Housing Discrimination (1953). Tensions within the region became more pronounced with the beginning of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombing campaign in 1956, and the UK government was active in funding pro-British documentary films, including This is Ulster (1958) and Ulster Heritage (1960), while censoring films deemed sympathetic to Republican ideology. The earliest British film about ‘the Troubles’ is Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947); and the critical success of Hunger (2009) by Turner prize-winning artist Steve McQueen and ’71 (Yann Demange, 2014) indicates that the subject is still a compelling one for British filmmakers and audiences. The formation of the Northern Irish Film Council in 1989 brought about an increase in film production in the province; and since 1995 a number of lottery-supported films have been produced, including Divorcing Jack (David Caffrey, 1998) and Wild About Harry (Declan Lowney, 1999). The animated film The King’s Wake (John McCloskey, 2000) has been acclaimed for its bleak deconstruction of Ulster myths. More recent notable films include The Shore (Terry George, 2011) and Good Vibrations (Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, 2012). Although local production is minimal, Northern Ireland is home to some runaway production, which makes use of the Paint Hall Studio in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, as well as the surrounding rural landscapes. See also Britain, film in.

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Northern Ireland, film in. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 Aug. 2022

In the library's collections/Searching the online catalog

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book title(s)

Other library resource(s)

Finding scholarly articles and journals

You can find scholarly literature for Northern Irish films in a variety of journals. However, if you want to do targeted searching, you can use a subject specific database such as Film & Television Literature Index. You can also use the search box at the top of the page.

Selected movie titles

Find more films from Northern Ireland in the library's online catalog. For another list of films, see the Internet links below.

Internet resource(s)

Keeping up with Film Studies journal literature

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