February 2012        


Radharc documentaries at the Irish Film Institute

More than four hundred films made by the Radharc team are stored at the archive of the Irish Film Institute; and because 12 January was the fiftieth anniversary of Radharc’s first broadcast on RTE, in 1962, some films from the collection were screened during last month at the IFI’s cinemas in Eustace Street, Dublin.
     From 1961 to 1996 Radharc made documentaries on diverse themes of social justice and religious issues, not only in Ireland but in seventy-five different countries. Many of those films continue to pose radical questions about inequalities in our society, the legacy of colonialism, and outlooks on history; and a quick perusal of titles and themes will give some idea of what a rich resource we have in this archive. Here are just four examples: 40,000 Years Is Not a Bicentennial (on Aboriginal culture in Australia), Condominium or Pandemonium (what happens when a small Pacific island is ruled jointly by two colonial powers), We Are Their Biggest Problem (about people with special needs being housed in the suburban estates of modern Ireland), and 1798: the Protestant Revolt.
     Radharc Films was set up by a Dublin priest, Father Joe Dunn, in 1959 with the support of the archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who lent them money for their first camera and released other priests as required for film production. They were also subsidised by RTE. Father Dunn and Father Des Forristal were sent to London and New York for training; they in turn trained others to help them in their work.
     Film production ceased in 1996 on the death of Joe Dunn, but the Radharc Trust continues his legacy by preserving and promoting the films, which is considered one of the most important collections in the Irish Film Archive. Many of the films are now being put on DVD. The trust has employed an archivist to catalogue all the items in the collection and also now jointly funding, with UCD, a PhD student on the subject of “Historicising the Radharc Collection.”
     The trust also presents Radharc Awards every two years to professional and amateur documentary film producers for films with the same ethos as Radharc. Another award is presented annually at the Fresh Film Festival in Limerick for documentaries made by young people between the ages of eight and eighteen. [MNM]
■ In April the Progressive Film Club will be hosting a day’s screening from the Radharc Collection at the New Theatre (East Essex Street). Details will be in the March issue of Socialist Voice and also on the film club’s web site at www.progressive filmclub.ie.

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