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Irish turf-cutting film premieres at major film festival

Poignant short doc Home Turf makes the cut at Hot Docs in Toronto – one of world’s biggest documentary festivals.

Still via Home Turf/True Films

A SHORT DOCUMENTARY about traditional turf-cutting practices in Ireland is getting its international premiere this evening at the prestigious Hot Docs documentary festival in Toronto, Canada.

The international festival is one of the biggest annual documentary festivals in the world. Home Turf, a film funded by the Irish Film Board’s Reality Bites scheme and supported by Culture Ireland, is one of 189 documentaries chosen from thousands of entries from around the world. It is one of only two Irish documentaries screening at the festival this year – the other, Dreams of a Life, is a co-production with the UK.

While turf-cutting has been creating headlines in Ireland recently with turf cutters squaring up to the Government on an EU directive on preserving raised bogs, this documentary focuses on the personal experiences of an ageing band of friends who “go to the bog” every year to cut turf for their home fires every year.

Filmmaker Ross Whitaker said:

The idea came about when we were driving around Ireland for a previous film and we saw all of the bogs alongside the road and these machines doing the cutting. Everyone remembers family members cutting turf and we wanted to see if we could document the last of those that cut turf by hand.

The doc was shot in north Kerry, from where Whitaker’s co-filmmaker Aideen O’Sullivan hails. She said that the response in Toronto to the very singular Irish subject of the film has been intense. She told TheJournal.ie:

It’s a combination of Canadians who are curious to find out about this dying tradition that they knew nothing about and Irish ex-pats who want to come to the film because it has touched a chord with them. It feels like turf-cutting is part of the Irish collective memory.

Rather than focus on the political furore around turf-cutting, Home Turf chronicles the traditions observed by this particular group of pals – and how that tradition is gradually being extinguished by time, technology and disinterest from the younger generation. One of the men observes:

We never thought we’d see a bog machine. It was a great invention and it cuts out all the hard work but they’re cutting too much of it now. It’ll do away with the bogs – there’ll be no turf left. There’s maybe a year or two left in this bog but that’s it. When the machine came in, sleán was gone.

This is the trailer for this elegant little film:


(via RossWhitakerTV/Youtube)

Home Turf is made by True Films; director – Ross Whitaker; producer – Aideen O’Sullivan; camera – Alex Sapienza; editor – Andrew Hearne.

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