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Turlough Ó Cinnéide of Dolmen Films who has made a film about the mythology of East Clare. Photograph by John Kelly

Film celebrates legendary Gráinne’s East Clare legacy

MYTH, legend and folklore from East Clare have been beautifully brought to life in a new documentary, ‘Born from Fire’.

The short feature from Dolmen Films celebrates the legacy of Gráinne and documents how the legendary daughter of a local chieftain came to be buried in East Clare.

Her burial place gave Tuamgraney its name and she is remembered in many other features of the local landscape. 

“I grew up with these stories and legends,” said Turlough Ó Cinnéide of Dolmen Films, who directed the documentary alongside Marta Di Giovanni and produced it with Joseph Palmer. 

The Scariff man, who also shot some of the work and edited it, wanted to create a visual tribute to the area’s mythical landscape. 

“East Clare is very beautiful and there’s something magical about the landscape,” he said.

“I was reared with stories about the area and when we were young, we had a book of folklore stories by Ruth Marshall. I suppose I wanted to make people aware too of the origins of the name of Tuamgraney and to celebrate that.”

The film tells the story of Gráinne and her place in the wider early Christian society of East Clare. It also documents a sculpture project, with blacksmith and sculptor Mark Wilson. Together Turlough and Mark work to create a visual representation of Gráinne as a Tree of Life symbol.

The documentary was shot in recent months and the painstaking editing process completed last week. Limerick-based Marta proved to be a strong collaborative inspiration in directing the work.
“Marta is Italian originally and we went to college together,” Turlough explained. “She has a great eye and was involved from start to finish.”

During the project, the directors decided to dedicate the film to Turlough’s late sister Lasairfhíona, who sadly passed away from cancer last year.

“Originally I hadn’t thought of dedicating it to anyone but as I was developing the idea and visual concept I realised that it was a perfect representation of my sister’s character,” Turlough said.

“She was an incredibly kind and gentle girl who left a lasting impression on everyone she met and faced life’s ordeals with strength and grace. I feel that the last segment of the documentary where I talk about magic and remembrance, I said that with her in mind. The documentary’s goal was to further the remembrance of Gráinne but for me it’s a remembrance of my sister.”

Coincidentally, Marta had the same idea while working on the film and contacted Turlough to suggest the dedication, after stumbling across a file of images of Lasairfhíona ballet dancing. 

The tribute is especially appropriate, Turlough added, given the link between Lasairfhíona’s name and the title of the documentary.

The filmmakers originally chose to call the film ‘Born from Fire’ because Gráinne’s mother was reputed to be a sunbeam. However, Turough’s mother recently reminded him that Lasair means ‘flame’.

‘Born from Fire’ is also very much in keeping with the founding inspiration of Dolmen Films.

“I set up the company in 2017 with the idea of drawing together other film-makers in the West of Ireland,” Turlough explained.

“I wanted to showcase talent and to highlight folklore and legends which are in danger of being forgotten. I really think it’s important for communities to come together to catalogue their heritage in a visual way. I also founded Dolmen Films as a way of helping people to make work without having to rely on State support, which can be very difficult to secure.”

Currently, the film is available on YouTube and soon the company will be pursing opportunities to exhibit it at festivals at home and abroad.

“The festival submission deadlines will be coming up soon and if we do well in Ireland, we’ll be be looking at international festivals,” Turlough said. “I’m fairly confident the film will do well.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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