Artist Talk and Screening, 54mins/HDV/Col, UK, 2009
Is there ever a ‘right’ time to discuss contentious issues from our past? What benefit can be gained by remembering a wrong? Can a wrong be righted in the remembering? Can film making be used to aid understanding and healing? My contention is, that the use of recording devices in post conflict societies, can aid individual self-reflective remembering in the re-telling of past events. Combined with openness of officialdom, with regard to access to historical documents and records, a history can be re-storied and told in a way that aids and facilitates closure on past events. This can be of value not only to individuals who feel their story has not been heard or understood, but to a post conflict society as a whole were large public inquires are not possible or economically viable.
The case study
In December 1956 at the age of 23, my father, P.J. McClean, was arrested and taken to Crumlin Road Prison Belfast. He was accused of ‘having acted or being about to act, in a manner prejudicial to the Peace and Order of Northern Ireland’. Because he would not sign a paper admitting to this, he was held indefinitely by the then Minister of Home Affairs, W.W.B Topping. This turned out to be for almost four years of his life. He was never taken to court or given a reason why he was selected for internment but when he was released it was an ‘un-conditional’ release. He left there never having a prison record, having never been a sentenced prisoner. At that time, Dad was only one of several hundred men interned from across Northern Ireland. This period in our history has been largely forgotten due to the more ‘explosive’ news stories in the late 60’s and early 70’s and the increase in communication/media technologies and the use of public campaigns. Can his story be remembered and discussed now in a way that does not alienate or inflame an old wound?
The focus in the film FOR THE RECORD is my father’s prison diary, secretly written on the inside of envelopes during the first 30 days in his cell. It brings the viewer into the intimate space of personal testimony and record. This intimacy is also reflected in the interviews between my father and myself, by the use of close up camera shots and the nature of the discussions themselves. The space between asking questions, as an interviewer might, and having a daughter/father conversation, is blurred, bringing into question the nature of conventional documentary filmmaking technique used in recording testimony.
Throughout the film, the prison diaries are illustrated with experimental Super8 and 16mm footage of home life in County Tyrone, shot by me over a period of 10 years. The intention of the work is to record and remember that which has been left unrecorded and unseen through media representations of the conflict to date. Personal remembering combined with the airing of closed public records has led to a necessary and timely catharsis:
“Remembrance and commemoration are difficult peace-making strategies and memories of the conflict can be obstacles to successful post violence adjustments, nonetheless memory must become an object of public policy after communal violence.”
_Memory, truth and victimhood in post-trauma societies, John D Brewer
- Mairéad McClean’s (Ireland, 1967) work disrupts and restructures events from the past highlighting the unreliability of official recorded history. By examining the sound and image connect, material evidence is opened, evaluated and interpreted to create a new vantage point. Using archive footage, sound recordings and self-filmed sequences, she produces work that touches on the themes of memory, identity and migration.