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Galway 2015: Older Than Ireland

This is a guest review from Carol Mulligan



The Galway Film Fleadh provided a welcoming and receptive audience to this charming and heart warming feature documentary about Irish centenarians on Friday July 10th. Director Alex Fegan was there to introduce the film and his enthusiasm was not only evident, but infectious. Older than Ireland is a gently-paced, humorous and yet insightful documentary centred on a topic that is relevant to everyone. It flows back and forth from the everyday to the historical, and zig-zags from the comical to the poignant, whilst all the time steadily building a portrait of a cross section of Ireland that spans gender, class, religion and the urban/rural divide!

Fegan’s humble interview technique fades into the background and allows the focus to always be on the stars of the show themselves. We are brought into the many and varied homes of these 100+ year old citizens.  We are allowed access to their thoughts and reflections and it is a privilege from start to finish.  The director kept his concept simple, and doesn’t overcomplicate what is already an intrinsically interesting subject.

Face of the film, Dubliner Bessie Nolan (pictured above), walks on shot for the opening scene, sits down on the couch and lights a cigarette. The audience in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway laughs aloud in unison and settles in to get to know Bessie and a stream of some 29 other Irish centenarians interviewed for the film. Fegan clearly has a great sense of comic timing and this is far from the only laugh aloud moment in the film. Older than Ireland addresses some of the myths that surround old age and this is refreshing and inspiring.

We are also privy to the heartache and pain of this very special cross section of Ireland.  Fegan seamlessly hops from light hearted anecdotes of school, early romances and courting to the trauma of losing a spouse.  Each of the centenarians describe these experiences in their own words, in their own way.  They are the storytellers of their own lives and therein lies the charm and integrity of this film. Amongst the interviewed was the last living witness of Bloody Sunday, who was a young child when he attended Croke Park in 1920.  This brings a certain gravitas to the film as we realise that we have access to public history as well as private histories through these centenarians.

Older than Ireland is more than an enjoyable trip down memory lane, it is an important historical record as well as an investigation into Irishness itself.  It not only immortalises the memories of Ireland’s oldest citizens, it also gives us an insight into their current daily and weekly routines.  Hats off to you Snackbox Films, your name hints at your interest in the intrinsically and comically Irish and your documentary confirms it.  I look forward to seeing more great things from you.

Older than Ireland is released nationwide on September 25th 2015

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