FIST 332 is a three-credit Film Studies course that introduces students to the cultural, political and social context of Irish and Irish-related cinema, with a concentration on the last twenty years. The course is divided into two parts: the first half will consider the range of Irish issues mostly pertinent to the Republic of Ireland – the rural/urban divide, the role of the Roman Catholic church, the War of Independence and its legacy, the crisis in the Irish family, the Irish Diaspora and the influence of the United States.
Students will watch films that address these topics. The second half of the course will focus on the history and visual representations of the Northern Ireland “Troubles”, 1968 to present.
Permission of the course instructor.
FIST 332 has at least five learning objectives. After taking the course, students will:
- Gain knowledge of the social and political contexts of Irish cinema
- Understand the differences between and among American, British and Irish representations of Ireland and the Irish.
- Become aware of the issues relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland and their visual representations
- Learn how to write organized essays on fictional visual representation.
- Learn how to participate and express themselves in on-line discussions
Section A: The Republic of Ireland and Irish Cinema.
Six units plus an optional unit.
This section reviews and discusses influential representations of the Republic of Ireland, from mostly humorous Hollywood depictions (The Quiet Man and Far and Away), to serious British and Irish renderings of the War of independence period and Civil War (Ryan’s Daughter and Michael Collins), and on to visualizations of past and present urban life in Limerick and Dublin (Angela’s Ashes and The General). The optional unit focuses on the Oscar-winning My Left Foot. As background to this particular section of the course, you should read Brian McIlroy’s “Irish Cinema: A Short History” available on the course webpage.
Section B: Northern Ireland and its filmic representations.
Six units plus an optional unit.
This section of the course takes you through some of the most important and influential narrative representations of the Northern Ireland “Troubles.” This section begins, however, with a look back at a classic British film set in Belfast, Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, which has influenced many subsequent renderings, including Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game, whose unit follows. We then move on to the issue of Women and the “Troubles” through an analysis of Terry George’s Some Mother’s Son, important because of its focus on the 1981 Hunger Strikes. Hollywood’s recent attempts to cover the conflict are discussed through contemplation of Alan Pakula’s The Devil’s Own. The violent role of some Loyalists and Protestants is depicted in both Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s Nothing Personal and Marc Evans’s Resurrection Man. And finally, we look at Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer, a film that acts as a forum for debate about violence and the peace process after 30 years of conflict. The optional unit allows discussion of Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda.
There are four assignments in this course.
First Assignment (10%):
- Choose one of the following three films: The Quiet Man, Ryan’s Daughter, and Far and Away.
- Select a scene lasting no more than five minutes in length.
- Briefly explain what happens in this scene to the characters, and why they are doing what we see them doing.
- Comment on the use of the locations (interiors or exteriors or both) to indicate why that location is chosen for this particular scene.
- Comment on the position and angle of the camera, the types of shots, the length of shots, and why you think the director shot the scene in that particular way.
- Comment on the use of music, if any.
- Comment on the acting style that seems to be in use.
- Your account should be no more than 1500 words.
Second Assignment (40%):
This assignment focuses on the issues raised in Section A to do with the Republic of Ireland and its representations. Choose one of the following topical themes:
- The rural versus the urban
- The Irish family in crisis
- Religion in Irish life
- Tradition and Modernity
- Genre and Irish cinema
With reference to at least two films viewed in the course, explain how your chosen topic is addressed in the Irish and Irish-related films you have seen and the writings on them that you have studied. In your answer, try to combine your awareness of character, setting and theme with filmic issues of camera treatment, use of music, editing style, etc.
Third Assignment (40%):
For this assignment, you should write an essay of at least 3,000 words, focusing on the films you have viewed in the second half of the course on the Northern Ireland “Troubles.” You may choose from the Alternative/Contrasting Film lists as well. You may contact your instructor via email to help narrow your topic.
- Choose two of these films and research and obtain at least two substantial reviews of each film.
- Use these reviews as a starting point in your discussion of the Northern Ireland crisis and visual representation.
- In your essay, try to address the limits (both thematic and formal) of representation of a political situation in narrative films.
- Attach copies of the reviews with your submitted essay.
Fourth Assignment (10%)
10% of your grade will be assigned for your participation in the discussions on the films viewed.
On the Discussion Forums:
You are asked to fill in a Biopage online. This allows the instructor and fellow students to get to know each other better. Depending on the size of the student numbers in the course, it will allow the instructor to divide up the group into two discussion groups. You will be assigned a discussion group and the instructor will expect you to contribute online to both student comments and the instructor’s study questions. As you work through each unit, you should feel at ease to post comments on the discussion forum. Your comments do not have to be totally thought out or mini-essays, but somewhere in the region between one paragraph and five short paragraphs, enough, in other words, for others to consider your
perspectives without having to scroll down too much. After settling into the course, you should be able to start posting after the first two units.
The materials for this course consist of the FIST 332 website (which contains the course contents, film list, website activities, and assignments), a textbook, assigned readings, and videos.
Required Reading Materials:
- Brian McIlroy, Shooting To Kill: Filmmaking and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. (2nd ed.). Steveston Press, 2001. ISBN 9780968799604
- UBC Custom Course material: FIST 332 (formerly FILM 332): Irish Cinema and Culture.
- Short Guide to Writing about Film. 7th edition/2009, PEARSON EDUCATION. ISBN 9780205668946
- The films studied in this course should be available for rental from any major video rental outlet. If students are unable to rent a film for a particular unit, the students may choose to do the optional unit at the end of each section.