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April 27, 2012 > Historic film about Ireland coming to Niles

Historic film about Ireland coming to Niles

Submitted By Rena Dein

A special talkie matinee, "Man of Aran" (1934, Gainsborough Pictures), will be screened at the Niles Silent Film Museum on Sunday, April 29. A poetic triumph and world success, this film established the romantic mystique of Aran that has endured for eighty years.

Non-fiction filmmaking pioneer Robert Flaherty's first sound feature elaborates on themes presented in his two previous major works, "Nanook of the North" and "Moana." In all four of his major features, including "Louisiana Story," Flaherty explored the relationship of man to his natural environment. This film was shot between 1931 and 1933 on the Aran Islands, west of Ireland's Galway Bay. Flaherty's screen "family" was actually composed of three unrelated islanders chosen for their photogenic appeal: Colman "Tiger" King is the title character, a no-nonsense fisherman, Maggie Dirrane plays his wife, and Michael Dillane his young son.

Flaherty is more interested in recording the natural beauty of the islands, which are largely rock, and the surrounding sea than in presenting any formal information on the lives of the islanders. Life here is as elemental as it was for the Eskimos in "Nanook" and the South Seas islanders in "Moana." Though the film came under fire from some critics at the time of its release for not presenting the social conditions that hampered the lives of the islanders - many of them renting from absentee landlords indifferent to their economic well-being - it has come to be accepted as work of film poetry rather than a social document.

"How the Myth Was Made: A Study of Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran" (1978, George C. Stoney Associates) will also be shown; George C. Stoney returned to Aran forty years after Flaherty to examine how "Man of Aran" affected the island and its people.

Both films will be introduced and discussed in person by W. Jack Coogan, Director of the Robert and Frances Flaherty Study Center of the School of Theology at Claremont, California, since 1972.

Man of Aran
Sunday, Apr 29
4 p.m.
Edison Theater
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
37417 Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 494-1411

Tickets: $5 suggested donation

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