South Wind Blows’ Keepers of the Flame, the new feature-length documentary by Emmy Award winner Nuala O’Connor, in her feature directorial debut, will screen at the Galway Film Fleadh on Wednesday July 11th.
Keepers of the Flame delves into the archives of the Irish Military Service Pensions and what emerges is a truly personal retelling of a brutal and divisive period in the birth of a nation and the devastating legacy it left in its wake, for the individuals who took part and their families who suffered long after the fighting ended. More than 85,000 applied for the Irish Military Service Pension. Just over 18,000 received any payment.
The film brings to light the diverse experiences of some of the 85,000 ordinary Irish men and women who made pension or dependents allowance claims for having actively served during the violent revolutionary period from Easter 1916 to the end of the Civil War in 1921. Their stories lie in the Irish Military Pension Archives, stack upon stack of applications detailing involvement and actions, thousands of different interpretations of the same events lying side by side.
This remarkable documentary looks at the long-term impact of a great reluctance to talk about the events of the period, the lack of desire to relive actions and decisions, and the secrecy and silence that further isolated individuals and families. The film sheds light on the nation’s post-war psyche. Many of these men, women and their families felt that they were effectively abandoned by the state, their service unrecognised and in most cases, refuted. Families and communities torn apart by the Civil War were left destitute. Thousands were coping with physical and mental trauma for the rest of their lives, for which there was little support or understanding, unable to provide for their families or take care of themselves.
Keepers of the Flame examines the Irish journey in search of a collective courage to remember and acknowledge the deeds of the past, recognise the wrongs that were done, realise the context of the events and establish common ground to enable an understanding of who we are as a nation. It reveals just how problematic commemoration and remembrance can be – this is true of all wars but especially civil wars. The story is timely coming as it does in the run up to 100th anniversary of Ireland’s Civil War.
Keepers of the Flame is directed by Nuala O’Connor, from an original concept by Diarmaid Ferriter and written by Diarmaid Ferriter and Nuala O’Connor. Produced by Tina O’Reilly. Executive Producer Philip King. Director of Photography is Colm Hogan, Sound by Bob Brennan and Editor is Eoin McDonagh
Archive readings are performed by Mary Black, Aiden Gillen, Philip King, Aine Lawlor, Eoin McDonagh, Dermot McLoughlin, Aisling Ni Shúilleabháin, Joseph O’Connor, Olivia O’Leary, Iarla O’Lionaird and Marian Richardson. The soundtrack is composed by Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Keepers of the Flames is a South Wind Blows Production, made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, in association with the Irish Film Board/ Bord Scannáin na hÉireann and RTÉ.
Tickets are on sale now for the screening at the Galway Film Fleadh. Eclipse Pictures will release the film nationwide later this year.