Galway’s confluence of artists celebrated in new documentary

Aodh Ó Coileáin's new film on what makes Galway 'Galway'

Aodh Ó Coileáin, film-maker, chair of An Taibhdhearc, and NUIG lecturer.

Aodh Ó Coileáin, film-maker, chair of An Taibhdhearc, and NUIG lecturer.

CUMAR – A Galway Rhapsody is a lyrical new feature-length documentary featuring some of Galway’s best known artists. A bilingual film directed by Aodh Ó Coileáin and produced by Paddy Hayes of Magamedia Teo, it will premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh.

Cumar examines the influence of Galway city and Connemara on six artists from varied fields - musician/composer Máirtín O’Connor; novelist Mike McCormack; poet Rita Ann Higgins; Noeline Kavanagh, artistic director of Macnas [pictured below]; singer-songwriter Róisín Seoighe; visual artist Pádraic Reaney; and comedian Tommy Tiernan. Galway Street Club make a guest appearance with their own brand of music.

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‘Cumar’ can be translated as ‘confluence’ and the film interweaves the physical confluence of Galway’s waterways and cultural confluence of its diverse artists. Long a crossroads of sea, of land, of thought and story, Galway has always been receptive to new influences and the city bears the imprint of many civilisations and cultures.

“What struck me about Galway when I came here to college in 1986 is that it is the confluence of Ireland’s two main languages, Irish and English,” Ó Coileáin tells me. “You hear Irish on the streets, in the shops. The fusing of the two languages reflects the theme of the film which is this confluence of waters; lake, river, and sea.”

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In Cumar, novelist Mike McCormack says that when he first arrived here, he developed a private mythology of Galway as a city on the edge of the world where one has to turn around to look at the world and to comprehend it. Galway, he says, has a great curiosity about the world. The film also features an entertaining canal-side conversation between McCormack and Tommy Tiernan in which they reminisce about being on the dole in the 1980s and yet how those years also shaped their own creative endeavours.

“I wanted to avoid a nostalgia for those times,” Ó Coileáin notes. “Mike and Tommy have known each other since the 1980s so I decided to put them together and bring the camera along. I found out they had both lived in New Road and felt that would be the right place to do it so we filmed them there and it worked out very well.”

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Ó Coileáin’s last film, Fís na Fuiseoige/The Lark’s View, was premiered to critical acclaim at the Dublin International Film Festival in 2016 and went on to win awards at the Earth Day Film Festival in San Francisco and the London Irish Film Festival. He is chair of An Taibhdhearc and lectures in NUI Galway. Cumar – A Galway Rhapsody was selected for the 2017 ilDÁNA commission. The ilDÁNA scheme is for documentary filmmakers and is a partnership between TG4 and the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, in association with Galway Film Centre.

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Beautifully shot, and with an evocative score by Jake Morgan, Cumar – A Galway Rhapsody combines visually arresting imagery with candid and thoughtful contributions from its participants.

Cumar premieres in the Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday July 10 at 2pm as part of the Galway Film Fleadh. It will also screen at this year’s Clifden Arts Festival and at Shorelines Arts Festival in Portumna in September. It will be shown on TG4 at a later date.

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