A Song for Ireland is one of eight documentaries made in Northern Ireland by Irish-American filmmaker Arthur MacCaig. It traces a history of Ireland through music and explores how the nation’s musical heritage has been influenced by its long and tumultuous political struggle, one in which music and rebel songs became cultural weapons in its anti-colonial resistance. The film uses archival footage to chronicle key points in Irish history – the 1916 Rising; the birth of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland in 1969; the IRA hunger strikes in 1981 and the unfolding of the peace process in 2001 – interweaving interviews with, and performances by, Irish and Irish-American musicians.
Filmed in Derry, Belfast and New York City, A Song for Ireland features music from Chris Byrne, Declan McLaughlin, Eileen Webster, Pol McAdaim, Maria Cahill, and the Wolfe Tones. Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, an IRA leader imprisoned during the Eighties, and later a composer and singer, performs a number of songs with the group Tuan and discusses the historical and political roots of Irish music.
Notes by Sunniva O’Flynn