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These incredible Irish documentaries are available online for the first time - here's what to watch

Some recommendations on what you can view from Volume 1 of the Loopline Collection, which was released on the IFI Player earlier this week.

A still from Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin.
A still from Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin.
Image: Loopline/IFI

THIS WEEK SAW the launch of the Loopline Collection on the IFI Player, which grants access to a wealth of Irish documentaries and video from the last 30 years.

The influential Irish production, Loopline Film, was founded by filmmaker Sé Merry Doyle and its films covered a range of topics on Irish life from the Dublin street trader protests of the 1980s, to intimate documentary portraits on the likes of godfather of Irish modern art Patrick Scott and poet Patrick Kavanagh.

Volume 1 of the Loopline collection is the first selection from the 900 hours of footage that has been digitized and stored by the Irish Film Institute (IFI) through the BAI (Broadcast Authority of Ireland) Archiving Scheme.

The documentaries, television programmes, and video footage tell the story of Ireland through the last 30 years and more and hold up a light to many of the social issues during an often turbulent period in recent Irish history.

We had a look through some of the titles on the IFI Player to give some recommendations from this great resource of Irish film and documentary. 

Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin (1999)

Image2 Source: Loopline/IFI

Directed by Sé Merry Doyle, this film chronicles the lives of Dublin street traders while examining the changing streets and societal structures of Dublin City as money flowed in from the Celtic Tiger, old buildings were torn down to be replaced with upmarket properties, and drug-use became a serious problem in many inner-city communities. 

It was filmed in stages over many years, and uses rare archival footage that captures the demolition of the tenement houses on Sheriff Street, and former social hubs like the Iveagh Market slowly being closed down.

The documentary features lyrical moments with the poetry of Paula Meehan, and photos and video from different time periods that attempt to strike at the heart of what Dublin as a city means to its community and what happens when – in some of the interviewees’ view – that city abandons that community.

Footage of a young U2 playing a benefit concert on Sheriff Street in 1982 features, as well as songs by Frank Harte.

Mairéad Farrell: An Unfinished Conversation (2014)

Image3 Source: Loopline/IFI

Directed by Martina Durac, this documentary investigates the life and death of Mairéad Farell who was shot dead, along with two other members of the IRA, by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988. 

The film follows Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, who was writing a book on Mairéad Farrell just before she was killed, as she visits her home town, Armagh Prison where Farrell was incarcerated, the scene of the killings, and has conversations with politicians, historians and those who knew her.

The film attempts to go behind the mythologising and demonisation of Farrell and tries to understand who she was as a person.

Spoken in both Irish and English, Mairéad Farrell: An Unfinished Conversation is an insight into the mindset of someone who was not only willing to live, but also die for her beliefs. 

 Essie’s Last Stand (1999)

Image4 Source: Loopline/IFI

Directed by Liam McGrath, this 20 minute documentary looks at 76-year-old Essie Keeling and her fight – alongside her dog Georgie and neighbour Karl Byrne – against eviction from property developers.

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The film can’t help but draw comparisons to Dublin’s current housing crisis when viewed 19 years later, as the developers in question want to turn her home into luxury apartments (at one point offering her £1,000 to make her leave).

Though short in duration, the film also demonstrates the power of protest and community when Keeling, Georgie and Byrne find allies in the locals who are also under threat from an ever-changing Dublin during the Celtic Tiger years.

A Good Age (TV series, 1997)

Image5 Source: Loopline/IFI

This was a six-part series, directed by Sé Merry Doyle that looked at aging by tackling its myths and misconceptions through in-depth interviews with elderly Irish people approaching retirement.

Each episode tackles a different topic through titles like Ageism, Looking After Yourself and Fighting Back, and explores elements around age like media coverage, housing schemes, consumerism and its impact on senior citizens. 

Each episode runs for just under half an hour and features an array of colourful characters that are not afraid to speak their mind when it comes to how they believe wider society should view and treat those stepping into older age.

All titles can be viewed on the IFI Player App or website

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