Arts

Put down the green beer and watch these six movies on St. Patrick's Day

Imagine a St. Patrick's Day that, instead of being about overpriced imported beer, could be about celebrating a nation of poets, rebels and musicians. Radical, yes, but not so hard to achieve: below is a list of films for those who want to mark St. Paddy’s in a different way.

Enough malarkey — it's time to celebrate what it really means to be Irish

A scene from The Wind That Shakes The Barley, directed by Ken Loach. (Handout)

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

This quotation from poet William Butler Yeats is rarely heard on St. Patrick's Day. Instead, revelers in shades of green are more likely to yell (or slur), "Kiss me, I'm Irish!"

If something can be done to bring a sense of decorum back to the tri-colour, it may as well start here, and it may as well start in 2016.

After all, March 17 is seen, and marketed by the beer company that essentially owns it, as a free pass to get drunk. Because, of course, everyone's Irish on St. Paddy's, and the Irish are notorious for their drinking. (Let's leave aside the World Health Organization statistics that put France, Australia and most of eastern Europe ahead of Ireland in terms of per capita alcohol consumption.) 

But if something can be done to bring a sense of decorum back to the tri-colour, it may as well start here, and it may as well start in 2016 — a year that marks the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising, the rebellion against the British Empire. You know, the event that turned the tide against colonial British rule in Ireland, leading to the partition of the North, a bloody civil war, the establishment of a free state and the renewal of the Gaelic language? No small feat, but one that's rarely toasted by raising a glass of green beer.

Which is a shame, as some 14 per cent of Canadians trace their roots back to this island nation — it can't hurt to understand where this sizeable chunk of the population comes from.

Imagine a day that, instead of being about overpriced imported beer, could be about celebrating a nation of poets, rebels and musicians. Radical, yes, but not so hard to achieve: below is a list of films for those who want to mark St. Paddy's in a different way. A list for those who want to go against the grain, fight against the majority and break the rules to forge them on their own terms — because there's nothing more Irish than that.

The Commitments (1991)

Based on a novel by Roddy Doyle, this 1991 comedy-drama about a struggling soul band was a box office hit and spawned a successful musical. Shot on location in Dublin during tough recession years, the film isn't just a portrait of Irish musical spirit, but nods to the economic struggles that have long-plagued the nation.


The Snapper (1993)

This comedy is also based on a Roddy Doyle novel, but here the theme of music is replaced by sexual politics. In director Stephen Frears' hands, the story of a young girl who gets pregnant and refuses to name the father comically points to poignant issues in Ireland: abortion and women's rights.


Bloody Sunday (2002)

The 1970s were a dark time in Irish history. Known as The Troubles, this period was marked by violence and unrest, as Republicans fighting for a unified Ireland clashed with British soldiers and their supporters. In this film, director Paul Greengrass applied his past work as a journalist to make a gritty and realistic retelling one of the bloodiest days in Irish history, January 30, 1972: during a civil rights march in Derry, British Army paratroopers fired on demonstrators and killed 13 people. (Yes, this is also what that U2 song is about.)


The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

After the Easter Rising in 1916, Ireland fell into internal conflict, as political parties split on the issue of partition of the North. From 1920-1922, civil war erupted. Renowned director Ken Loach addressed this period by telling the story of two brothers who find themselves on opposing sides of the war.


Once (2007)

If there's one inescapable thread in the Irish experience, it's emigration. (Remember that sizeable chunk of Canadians who can trace their roots back to Ireland?) But in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, after Ireland experienced an economic surge leading to the country's economy being dubbed the "Celtic Tiger," the trend briefly reversed: for once, Ireland saw significant immigration. Director John Carney's musical nods to this in telling the love story of two street musicians, one from Dublin and one newly arrived from Czechoslovakia.


The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood (1986)

Room and Brooklyn have been making headlines as the Irish-Canadian co-productions du jour. But what this film lacks in Irish funding, it makes up for in the the Irish ancestry of the filmmakers, Andy Jones and Mike Jones, not to mention the influence of James Joyce's style of surrealism. Starring a young CODCO crew (of which Andy was a member), a Newfoundland office clerk daydreams of ruling the province and plans to secede from Canada.

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