The Irish Border
Border Country: When Ireland Was Divided (Guy King, 2019)
The project will investigate how the past, present, and uncertain future of the Irish border resonates in fiction film, documentary and amateur cinema. Ever since the 1921 partition of Ireland, the divide of both nations has been a site of contestation and conflict. While the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have succeeded in putting their troubled pasts behind them with the 1998 Good Friday Agreements, there’s a growing concern that the 2020 Brexit might reinvigorate old antagonisms. Initial plans of an Irish backstop aimed to avoid the implementation of a hard border between the 499-km divide between both nations at all costs, but generated concern with Unionist sides that Northern Ireland might be affected by British trade tariffs or result in a sea border. As the recent Belfast uprisings demonstrate, these economic predicaments are complemented and enhanced by symbolic and historical variables that sharpen the edges of a border that has for long been part of the everyday life of Irish and Northern Irish citizens alike.
While the cinematic representation of the Irish civil war and the post-partition conflict have been subjected to a great deal of scholarly attention, the Irish border as a narrative topos and political site of struggle has been lacking in research. Notwithstanding, the border has been a point of discussion in a wide number of genres, movements, periods and modes of representation. Ranging from famous stage to screen adaptation, such a Puckoon (2002), indigenous Irish art cinema, or even reconciliatory romantic comedies in the 1990s, such as Run of the Country (1995) and A Love Divided (1999), narratives of the Irish border experience have been ubiquitously present in Irish and Northern Irish screen histories. With Ireland having become an ever-growing screen industry since the 1990s, cinema has also taken up an important role as memory maker. In light of Brexit, these questions have become particularly pertinent. How film funding institutions, filmmakers, and other creative agents are to engage with these changing conditions will therefore form one of the focal points of our investigation.
Click the thumbnail below for a detailed look at this case study’s preliminary film selection. Please note that this list is under construction and may be subjected to changes in the near future. If you are a filmmaker working around the Irish border, or have suggestions to further complete this list, please get in contact with Lennart.Soberon@vub.be.