MOVIE Memories, which premiered at the Fastnet Film Festival in Schull last weekend, is a new documentary that records the memories of cinemagoers who grew up in towns and villages throughout the county, including Ballinascarthy, Bantry, Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Skibbereen.
Co-written and directed by Gwenda Young and Dan O’Connell of University College Cork, it features memories dating back to the 1940s and anecdotes about village halls transformed into picture palaces.
It features evenings of entertainments in the travelling Cinemobile; school excursions to see holy pictures; memories of people fighting off fleas or amorous suitors in the dark; and falling under the spell of movie stars from Hopalong Cassidy to Johnny Depp. Gwenda and Dan travelled the length and breadth of the county to interview people for the documentary, and among them were Phil Young, Tony O’Connell, and Dympna O’Donovan, who shared their memories of going to the pictures in Dunmanway’s Broadway cinema.
They remembered how important the cinema was to the town and how, during the 1940s and 1950s, the cinema owners, Sabina and Barney Deane, operated a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone found misbehaving.
Filmgoers have ever and always found the cinema to be a break from the mundane, a chance to escape for a couple of hours into glamorous, exciting worlds of cowboys on the frontier, or romance in high society.
Movie Memories features interviews with some of the cinema owners, including Charlie McCarthy, who operated a cinema in Skibbereen – in what is now the Ludgate digital hub – and who had to tread a fine line between turning a profit and keeping the Church happy.
Charlie remembers having to trim risqué material out of The Agony and the Ecstasy when it was shown in the town in the 1960s.
As more and more cinemas close in rural Cork, it was appropriate that this premiere took place in the newly refurbished Roadhouse Cinema – formerly known as the Cinemobile – in Schull, a village that, despite the absence of a cinema, plays host to one of the most vibrant celebrations of cinema and filmmaking in Ireland.
As part of the project, Gwenda and Dan are developing a web archive featuring podcasts of moviegoers from all parts of Cork, as well as articles by film fans, photos and memorabilia of cinemas in Cork. See: corkmoviememories.com. They would welcome submissions from the public. A trailer of Movie Memories can also be found on the website.