Cyprus Mail

Cyprus needs an Irish wish



Apart from Ed Speleers, the trailer for An Irish Wish was uninspiring. I’m not a Lindsay Lohan or rom-com fan. Still, it was a chance to enjoy the real star – Ireland. I was curious, why it was Cyprus’ Netflix number one. Did Alexander Vlahos’ name draw locals?

Born to a Welsh mother and a Greek father, he has a solid acting pedigree. With fine Irish actors at home and abroad, why have a Welsh-Greek play an Irishman? Ireland is awash with internationally recognised writers, acclaimed women among them. Yet Vlahos’ poor author role was ghosted to success by an American woman.

I made a wish after I’d watched it: that filmmakers would stop making twee films about an Ireland that in most cases never existed and where we speak as American script writers perceive us to, begorrah. Ireland is technologically advanced, one of the EU’s richest countries.

For Cypriots, it would be the same as films where the vragga is still worn and peasant Cypriots speak pidgin English.

Reputable Wild Atlantic Pictures, Ireland was involved in Wish, so why the ludicrous, sashaying St Bridgid dressed in odd green attire with a hijab-type scarf draped around her winkie-eyed head? Irish wishes are usually made on the Blarney Stone at Cork’s 15th century Blarney Castle. Bridgid, a celebrated, notable saint cum ancient goddess combined, may have been a mythical, real person pick n mix invention by early Christians but what we know of her showed a strong woman totally in control of a large, mixed monastery, protegee of a liberal-minded St. Patrick.

Compare the remake of the Shogun series which embraces author James Clavell’s respectful, informed understanding of Japanese history and culture with Wish’s silly take on Ireland. Hiroyuki Sanada, a worthy successor to the great Toshiro Mifune.

Filmland Irish are often shown downing pints of Guinness, a very popular, lucrative, international export. We are not alone. Finn McRedmond wrote in The Irish Times how ‘one in nine pints sold across the UK is Guinness’, and for discerning pint drinkers, the Devonshire near Piccadilly is renowned for its ‘good pint’.

McRedmond also wrote, ‘…Mark O’Connell’s review of Banshees of Inisherin is “at once beautiful, unique and irredeemably cliche.” Irish filmmakers are, at times, as presentation guilty as non-Irish. I found aspects of that movie out of kilter, including a fill-the-gaps-viewer storyline. Brendan Gleeson, chopping off his fingers as if he were painlessly chopping carrots sucked. Ireland’s moist, verdant green beauty once again, a saving grace in a film from which I expected more.

Still, movies are huge investments that may come with contract conditions, star names for example. As yet Cyprus lacks that internationally, Ireland does not. Or do some film investors persist on portraying ye quaint, olde Oirish cuteness? Will Cyprus also have to toe that line? It has in the past.

There were films where Cyprus got the same as-we-see-it treatment. One gave Limassol a non-existent airport. Cyprus filmmakers, after a very long but persistent, non-assisted struggle may be making some headway. Serving (2nd term) Irish President Higgins’ far sightedness decades ago geared Ireland’s fledgling film industry to expand.

Praise for Irish movies and actors increases each year. Ireland has even made acclaimed films in Irish; that’s progress! Is there a Cypriot minister with such vision? Cyprus has educated, tech talent on tap, but can local stars eventually make an impact beyond the island?

Neeson, Brosnan, Farrell and others paved an international path for actors such as Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott. Cillian Murphy won an Oscar for Oppenheimer. Well-established Saoirse Ronan and emerging Irish female stars have made their mark. Irish creatives know the ‘real’ Ireland with all its faults and sins, use them. Showing us as simple folk, mere props for star names, or script writers who only know Ireland second-hand needs fixing. We’re an ancient race, the mysticism is there, love of the written and spoken word is there, love of music and dance, love of a beautiful land whose body was bought and sold over centuries but whose spiritual nature still offers creatives inspiration.

Sound familiar, Cyprus? To thine own self, history and culture be true!

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