A Student of History

June 29, 2006

More on The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Filed under: Ireland,Wars — John Maass @ 2:18 pm

There seems to be a lot of interest in the new movie from Ken Loach, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.  I have previously posted on this, and get many inquiries.  The film is not in the US yet, but will be by the Fall 06. 

At this site, there is a lot more background on the movie and the song, written by Robert Dwyer Joyce.  Here’s a bit of the review:

The Wind that Shakes the Barley is not an easy film to watch. It is, as one expects from director Ken Loach, superbly made, and it won the Palm D’Or at Cannes. Set in the beautiful surroundings of County Cork, with sets and costumes in appropriately muted colours, it is extremely atmospheric. Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography and George Fenton’s score (along with some traditional Irish songs) create exactly the right feel. The difficulty is entirely with the subject matter. It is more than a little uncomfortable to have the brutality of British rule portrayed so starkly, and it is both moving and distressing to see the desperation of the Irish and the poverty to which they were subject. Loach is always a very political director, and his realist approach to film-making (historical accuracy as far as possible in sets, costumes and dialogue as well as in the historical context itself; natural lighting;  shooting the story in sequence; and long takes) helps to bring out the seriousness and the complexities of the situation. This is a film which makes clear the ugliness of occupation by foreign powers and of armed conflict. But while it is frank and graphic in its portrayal of the violence, there is no lingering over it or celebration of it.

And the reviewer, who it must be said has some keen insight to the film and the history of the era, goes on:

Regardless of the details of the historical and political situation, The Wind that Shakes the Barley is a film which honestly explores these tensions which are very real and probably part of every struggle against injustice. The reality, as Loach makes clear, is that human beings always bring their own agendas to a conflict, and that the roots of such conflicts are firmly in the soil of fallen human nature – greed, grasping after power, prejudice, resentment, arrogance, exploitation and rivalry. The church is a key part of the backdrop to this story, but the deepest tragedy of all is that the good news of Jesus Christ – and its message of peace, reconciliation and justice – seems not to have been taken to heart by the major players in the conflict.  It had never brought about the complete transformation of hearts and minds which was so needed – and which has been the testimony of a number of former paramilitaries from both sides in Northern Ireland in our own generation.

What can the world do to help end the fighting that continues to disrupt the North of Ireland?  Although a lot of the violence has toned down since April 1998 when the so-called “Good Friday Agreement” was reached, sectarianism is not over there.  It is not likely to disappear there any time soon, either.  It seems like the structure of society there in the counties of Ulster perpetuate “the Troubles.”  When one motors about the countryside, one sees Irish Republic flags flying from the homes of Catholics, but the UK flag from the places of Protestants.  Roadsigns pointing to Londonderry have the word “London” spray-painted over.  I just read that 95% of schoolchildren in the North go to schools segregated by religion.  How are the next generations supposed to get along with each other if they grow up having so little contact with each other?

Image of the British and Irish flags

One way to do this is to support the Children’s Friendship Project/Northern Ireland, which my family is doing this summer.  This is a program in which Catholic and Protestant teens are paired with each other (they are 15-17 yeras old), get to know each other a little bit in Ulster, and then come to the US for a month to live with an American family. This gives them time to develop a bond of friendship with a person of the “other side” of the sectarianism, and to become (hopefully) friends for life.  This is a great way of getting young people to make a bond at such an early age.  Host families are not paid, but the teens pay their way over to the US, and they pay for their own health insurance. Hosts do not act as tour guides–the kids live with American familes in thir day-to-day routines, which is a way for them to relax outside of the problems in their home counties, and get to know their new friend.  We will be hosting 2 girls (age 16) from Co. Tyrone.

Political map of Ireland.

For additional information about the Children’s Friendship Project, here is the contact info: Christine Robidoux, 133 Howard Hill Rd., Temple, NH 03084. Ph. # is 603-878-6196.

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