Some final words then on The Wind That Shakes The Barley
I was at the premiere a short while back, and the night was a great success, attended by a who's who of Kansas City Irish people.
There was red carpet, there was tears, there was Irish music, and there was lots of food. And there was even tootsie rolls.
Well done to all concerned for putting together the whole event. The back room in Kelly’s of Westport never looked better; and I didn’t feel like a slice of pizza once.
Trad group Kelly entertained the mingling throngs before the movie, and Eddie Delahunt straight from a boat on the River Thames, did the business with Gabe and Brett afterwards.
Máirtín was a busy man all night and he didn’t disappoint a crowd that had waited a long time to see his mug on the large screen. And then in Kelly’s he finished off his singing performance with a reprise of Óró sé do bheatha ‘bhaile as he sang it in the movie.
You could well argue though that it may have been more appropriate to finish with Amhrán na bhfiann, which he also sings in the film. But that might have been harder to teach to the singalong masses.
And then last Sunday I attended Barley again, this time with a not-particularly-Irish crowd. Differences? At the premiere there was a lot of laughter. At the ordinary showing there was no laughter - except for one moment, a moment that I believe wouldn’t get any laughter in Ireland or Britain. I didn’t laugh at that point.
And the other big difference in the crowd reactions was at the end. Don’t read the next 2 paragraphs if you like to attend films innocent of endings.
The main character who originally had to be persuaded to participate in the fighting is now more idealogically convinced of a cause than some of those who did the persuading, including his brother who after giving the order to the firing squad to shoot him, then gives the news of his death to the woman who would have been his sister-in-law.
If you don’t know your history you don’t know if the main character’s side wins (they don’t - but if it’s any consolation they gave up guns in 1927 and evolved into the largest political party in the state and the most corrupt). The ending, you might say, is a bit of a damper cinematically.
At the premiere the effect was stunning, leaving people palpably thrown and visibly down. At the ordinary showing however was the nonchalent shrug of a people used to going to movies where the main guy may not win.
Judging by what some people said to me after both performances, I think what happened was that some of the premiere crowd were confused by the film ending with Irish people rather than the English being responsible for killing Irish people - and how overall the the whole thing was rather murky and grey and not at all a black-and-white situation, or even a green-and-orange one.
Indeed one person after the premiere asked me if the English were still doing what they were shown to be doing in the film, because if they were, he’d sign up to kick their asses. I tried to explain to him the scene where the English left, and the concept of civil war. I think I saved some English asses.
And that scene where both crowds laughed, and I didn’t? Drink. It’s when the English are leaving the town and the lads are watching them outside the pub, with banter going both directions from the local volunteers to the foreigners. One of the Irish volunteers asks the rest of the group if they wanted another drink to which they all gesture in the affirmative.
Maybe I’m out of touch with Ireland but I can’t imagine an Irish audience laughing at that. It struck me as entirely natural and unremarkable, a scene played out at millions of funerals and weddings so why not at the leaving of foreign soldiers?
The laughter at that scene was much stronger among the premiere crowd than the non-premiere crowd. Whatever it means I think it’s interesting and I have noticed similar different audience reactions to non-Irish films in Kansas City compared to what I’m used to in Ireland.
The premiere was a benefit for the Jennifer Ireland Foundation and please visit the official Jennifer Ireland Blog for ongoing ways to continue to help the Jennifer Ireland Foundation.
Kevin Kiley of trad band Something for the House in Arkansas posted his pictures of the event.
The film is still running at the Tivoli in Westport.
And finally check out reviews, and a slew of articles I’ve written earlier, about The Wind That Shakes The Barley here following the official trailer