If you want to know the basics about living in Ireland, Babylon Radio is certainly your place. But there are some things that we can’t tell you, things that only the people who have lived long enough can know. Older Than Ireland, Alex Fegan’s new documentary, features the life stories of more than 30 centenary men and women. After all, they’ve witnessed the birth of modern Ireland, who would know better than them?
Fortunately, the documentary doesn’t fall into topics such as glorifying the past, because, as we hear, these were hard times. They talk about school and the brutality of teachers that most suffered: teachers were “brutes,” “savages” and “they got away with it”. These were also dangerous times, especially through the War of Independence, of which we hear from a witness of the 1920 Croke Park massacre. Living history.
In a country like Ireland, marked by migration, such stories couldn’t be left out. Tales like Kathleen Snavely’s, a 113 year old vibrant woman who left Ireland with twenty five dollars in her pocket in the thirties and, after setting up a dairy business with her husband in the US, ended up donating $1 million to Syracuse University.
Above all, the anecdotes share a sense of positivity and humour which will make you smile through the whole documentary. “Then one day I woke up and I figured out I was 100 and I said to myself ‘Get up. Get up… keep going!” says a man from Tipperary, 101. “I think God forgot all about me. I’m not on the [death] register”, explains Bessie Smith, a 103 Dubliner who walks everywhere, loves Tenerife and smokes a couple of Superkings cigarettes per day. Some other stories, such as the ones about first loves and the loss of beloved people, might even make you shed a tear or two.
In Fegan’s words, the documentary is “a homage to their memories and captures the wisdom they have gained through a century of life”. If you want to know what living in Ireland is like, just talk to them, surely they’ll be happy to tell you.
If you want to watch it (you definitely should) in Dublin, I’d recommend you to go to the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar. You can get the tickets here, but check out the trailer first!