Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film goes to … The Shore

Don’t worry, I’m not claiming credit for it. But great that a short film called The Shore, set and made in my native Northern Ireland, won an Oscar last night. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m of course heavily into shore metaphors and a sucker for anything Ulster-ish, so I expect at the very least it will be interesting.

The Shore – background

Hopefully film successes like this, the increasing prominence of our golf and the 2012 Titanic centenary (I watched the men in hard hats coming and going from the almost finished new exhibition centre in Belfast at the weekend – due open in April) will bring a few more visitors into the Province this year and beyond. The NI economy certainly needs it.

However, as a County Antrim man, I should say that while Co Down (the Mournes and the Ards peninsula especially) can be stunning, the North Antrim coast is the jewel in Northern Ireland’s crown. The other-worldly children’s story I’m working on starts there … anyone want to make a film of it? I can guarantee it will be better than anything from the other side of the Belfast Lough.

I once saw Belfast described on a tourist website as a “Hibernian Rio”, on the basis that it’s by the sea and it has a few hills around it. I wonder if the real historical divide between people in Northern Ireland is between realists and fantasists. I’d be on the side of the fantasists in normal circumstances, but in Northern Ireland these people come heavily armed so are much less fun. They also tend to have rubbish fantasies, usually involving mythical Celtic warriors or Eddie from the Iron Maiden album covers and in which they themselves are a heroic mix of the crucified Christ and Charles Bronson. “Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it.

Sadly, while I hope to enjoy The Shore, I have worries too, despite the Oscar. The history of the treatment of Northern Ireland in film has been a disappointing one for those of us from the Protestant community. As Brian McIlroy of the University of British Columbia put it in Shooting to Kill: Filmmaking and the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, “the Protestant community is constantly elided by both British and Irish filmmakers and videographers.” I gather The Shore is about reconciliation told through the story of an Ulster emigré; I’ll watch with interest to see if it really can manage to succeed where many others have failed.

Post script: showing my shakey knowledge of cinema triv, I googled the director Terry George, to be reminded he was behind the resolutely partisan and much resented Some Mother’s Son – and that he was himself involved in an extreme nationalist terror group in the 70s. Suffice to say, my hopes have taken a nosedive, but if he’s managed to make a new non-sectarian start with this film, good luck to him. I will watch with interest. If proof were needed Northern Ireland is a divided place …

Published by Simon Riley

Qualitative researcher in the UK. I listen to people from all walks of life and think about what it all means. I work for leading brands, media companies and government.

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