Now I don't often rant like this, so bear with me. Tonight out of curiosity I just had a little look at a list of all known films set in Northern Ireland. Out of all the ones I could get information on (around 50 films), I counted five that didn't explicitly use the Troubles as a plot point. FIVE. Now, my source is Wikipedia, so obviously this could be inaccurate. And this has not been a thorough search on my behalf. But if this is anything to go by, it looks like 9/10 films based in NI revolve around the Troubles. And I have issues with this.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against making films about sectarianism or the Troubles. It's our history, and a real part of many people's lives, we obviously can't ignore it. And yes, you could say it's a interesting and gripping subject for filmmaking. This is not me putting down any film about the Troubles. This is not me putting down the stories that are being told here. There are great films about it out there, Mickeybo and Me happens to be one of my favourite films. Yes, sectarianism is still a big issue for us, not as much as it has been the entire time our country has existed, but yes, it's still there. We can't deny these things and therefore obviously they're going to be a big part of our art. But come on!! Have we nothing more to give?
Northern Ireland has a booming film and television industry. Anybody who's familiar with Game of Thrones probably knows this already. We have one of Europe's largest film studios, a fantastic crew based there, a vast amount of talented actors and filmmakers, and we've hosted some really well known Hollywood films in the past few years. We have the capacity to make amazing films about anything we want to.
A sidenote: It's worth noting (as my boyfriend pointed out to me) that it's only recently, within the peace process, that films not about the Troubles are most likely to be made, because it isn't as present an issue anymore. That is true. But it's also worth noting that the Northern Irish film industry is only a recent thing itself, with the vast majority of all these films, about the Troubles or not, being made in the 90's and onwards.
Northern Irish filmmakers, I get it that you want to make films about your history. And that's okay. That's good. Embrace your culture. Deal with your past. Tell those stories you've grown up hearing. And yes, keep making those films! But hear me when I say this. The Troubles are a huge part of our lives, but they do not define us. What does define us? Our infectious friendliness, that crazy accent of ours that other countries somehow find attractive (what), our dark sense of humour and ability to laugh in the hardest situations, our overuse of the word 'situation', our little inside jokes, our fine baking skills, the way we know everyone and their cousin, our musical culture, and so much more! Can we focus on that instead? We lack the diversity that other countries have in their films, and I believe we need to fix this, for our own sake.
It may not be true that 9/10 films set in Northern Ireland are about the Troubles, but certainly this is the impression we're giving. Let's show the world that we are not all the sectarian extremists that they might believe us to be. Let's make romance films that aren't retellings of the Romeo and Juliet story between a Catholic and Protestant couple. Heck, let's make a thriller film where the murderer kills people unbiasedly, instead of just people from the opposite side of the community! Make a documentary film about the farmers in the Mourne Mountains. Make a fantasy epic based at the Giant's Causeway. Make a drama about the workers at Harland and Wolff. I love Northern Ireland, I believe we have so much to offer. Let's show the world that.