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Postponed | A Night of Storytelling and a Day of Fieldwork: Irish Encounters in the Work of Robert Flaherty, Alan Lomax, and George Stoney
March 26, 2020 - March 27, 2020
Note: These events have been postponed and will be rescheduled (date TBD).
**Events are Free and Open to the General Public**
In 1934, the esteemed filmmaker Robert Flaherty released Man of Aran. Following in the footsteps of the writings of John Millington Synge and Lady Gregory, this documentary was part of a wave of outside documentation that sought to capture the essence of everyday life in the majority Irish-speaking communities of the Aran Islands, found at the mouth of Galway Bay, off the west coast of Ireland. A commercial success, Flaherty’s film permanently changed the lives of these islanders, transforming the archipelago into a popular destination for folklorists and tourists alike, and introducing oral traditions and folkways from the hearthsides of Ireland’s Gaeltacht to audiences around the world.
This spring, almost nine decades after Flaherty’s film was first released, film historian Martin L. Johnson and folklorist and inaugural Visiting Lecturer in Scottish Gaelic Studies Tiber Falzett, both faculty in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will present two films that build on Man of Aran’s legacy, as well as a contemporary Irish documentary on another prominent American folklorist and documentarian, Alan Lomax, who conducted fieldwork in Ireland in 1951.
Over the course of a night and a day, this program, titled A Night of Storytelling and a Day of Fieldwork: Irish Encounters in the Work of Robert Flaherty, Alan Lomax, and George Stoney, will feature film screenings and discussions with faculty from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill about Irish film culture and folklore, as well as the cultural, social, and ethical legacies of documentary fieldwork in Ireland, the American South and beyond.
With support from the Center for European Studies, the SHUSA Visiting Lectureship in Scottish Gaelic Studies at UNC-CH, Film Studies, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, University Libraries, the Irish Consulate General in Atlanta, the Irish Film Institute, An Chomhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council, and Cultúr Éireann/Culture Ireland, the program presents three rarely seen films about Irish culture, including the North Carolina premieres of Robert Flaherty’s recently rediscovered Oidhche Sheanchais/A Night of Storytelling (1934), the earliest known Irish language sound film, and Declan McGrath’s Lomax in Éirinn (2018), winner of the Celtic Media Festival’s 2019 Spirit of the Festival award. In addition, How the Myth Was Made (1978), a documentary by the North Carolina native, and UNC alumnus, George Stoney about Flaherty and the making of Man Of Aran (1934) will be screened along with the public
premiere of never-before-seen archival images, sounds, and footage from the making of Myth, part of the George C. Stoney Papers at Wilson Library.
The events will also feature discussions with researchers who have engaged with the legacies of these figures who bridged Irish and American cultural expression and folklore, including Natasha Sumner, associate professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University; Glenn Hinson, associate professor of folklore and anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill; Joseph Decosimo, award-winning performing artist and lecturer of folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill; Emily Kader, Rare Book Research Librarian at Wilson Special Collections Library; and Aaron Smithers, Special Collections Research and Instructional Services Librarian.
Please see the schedule below for more details.
**Events are Free and Open to the General Public**
A Night of Storytelling: Robert Flaherty, George Stoney, and Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin
Nelson Mandela Auditorium, Fedex Global Center
7 pm – 9 pm
Thursday’s night program will feature two films, and a presentation of never-before-seen archival material from the George C. Stoney collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.
- How the Myth Was Made (1978), d. George Stoney — This documentary revisits the people and locations that appear in the Man of Aran, and offers Aran Island inhabitants the opportunity to correct the many myths about their community that Flaherty’s film helped create. 60 m.
- Oidhche Sheanchais/A Night of Storytelling (1934), d. Robert Flaherty in cooperation with Séamus Ó Duilearga, then Director of the Irish Folklore Commission — This recently rediscovered short film, made just after Man of Aran, is the first Irish-language sound film, and features the Aran storyteller Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin. Natasha Sumner, of Harvard’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literature, who transcribed and translated the film providing Irish and English subtitles, will discuss the film’s recent rediscovery at Harvard University’s Houghton Library and its significance. 11 m.
- Archival materials from the making of How the Myth Was Made (1978) — In 1999, George Stoney donated his archives to UNC’s Wilson Library, including production notes, audio, and outtakes from the making of his documentary on Man of Aran. Aaron Smithers will present materials from this collection.
Following the films, there will be a discussion with Emily Kader, Natasha Sumner, Aaron Smithers, and Martin L. Johnson, moderated by Tiber Falzett.
A Day of Fieldwork: Reconsidering Alan Lomax’s Global and Local Legacies
Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library
1:30 – 3:30 pm
We will screen a new documentary on Alan Lomax, which will be followed by a discussion on Lomax’s legacy.
Lomax in Éirinn (2018), d. Declan McGrath.
In 1951 American musicologist Alan Lomax travelled to Ireland and, guided by piper Séamus Ennis, began recording and collecting traditional Irish songs and music. Released as the album Ireland, and credited with the folk and traditional music revivals of the 1960s and 1970s, these recordings sparked Lomax’s ambitious journey to gradually record the folk music of the world. Clannad’s Pól Brennan traces the roots of folk and blues songs from marginalised black communities of the American South, showing how Lomax’s 1933 recording of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” later came to be recorded in Irish by sean nós singer Cití Ní Ghallchóir in Donegal. Declan McGrath’s documentary weaves archival footage, atmospheric landscapes, and interviews with contemporary musicians to investigate the man who first chronicled what we know today as world music.
This film screening is sponsored by the Consulate General of Ireland in Atlanta as well as the IFI (Irish Film Institute), An Chomhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council, and Cultúr Éireann / Culture Ireland. 52 m.
Following the screening at 1:30 pm, we will have a panel discussion on the film and Lomax’s legacy on approaches to both fieldwork and performance with Glenn Hinson, Joseph Decosimo, Natasha Sumner, and Tiber Falzett. Martin L. Johnson will serve as moderator.
These events are organized by professors Tiber Falzett and Martin L. Johnson in the UNC Department of English and Comparative Literature.