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Tradfest: The Memory of a People

Director: Robert Manthoulis

Duration: 54 mins Colour| 1972


This remarkable film, commissioned by French broadcaster ORTF 3 in 1971, was one of a series Un Pays, Une Musique, which explored the social, cultural and political identities of the peoples of the world through their music.

Director Robert Manthoulis set out to make a film about ‘the Irish people and their music, ¬the music being a mirror of the nature of a community and of its struggle to preserve its identity in the face of continual and erasing cultural globalization’.

The resulting film provides an invaluable record of Irish traditional music at the height of its popularity in Ireland and worldwide. A broad sweep of the musical landscape draws in vibrant performances from Willy Clancy, Mrs O’Tuama, Christy Moore and Planxty, The Dubliners, Ceoltoiri Laighean, Tony MacMahon playing in lecture theatres in Belfield; in pubs from Doolin to Dublin and in the Piper’s Club, Dublin. The film was made shortly after the death of musician Sean O’Riada but it includes an interview with his widow Ruth and a rare interview with O Riada himself, unearthed by the director in Norway. The film is punctuated by scenes of urban and rural landscapes that convey a changed but familiar Ireland different but familiar and that capture an essence of Ireland

The documentary, a lost treasure, was broadcast once in Ireland in 1974 and has not been seen since. Recently restored by the IFI Irish Film Archive, it is sure to fascinate and delight contemporary audiences in its presentation of a vibrant musical scene and of a different but not forgotten Ireland of more than thirty years ago.

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