The Radio Eye
Cinema in the North Atlantic, 1958-1988
Publication Year: 2009
The Radio Eye: Cinema in the North Atlantic, 19581988, examines the way in which media experiments in Quebec, Newfoundland, the Faroe Islands, and the Irish-Gaelic-speaking communities of Ireland use film, video, and television to advocate for marginalized communities and often for “smaller languages.”
The Radio Eye is not, however, a set of isolated case studies. Author Jerry White illustrates the degree to which these experiments are interconnected, sometimes implicitly but more often quite explicitly. Media makers in the North Atlantic during the period 19581988 were very aware of each other’s cultures and aspirations, and, by structuring the book in two interlocking parts, White illustrates the degree to which a common project emerged during those three decades.
The book is bound together by White’s belief that these experiments are following in the idealism of Soviet silent filmmaker Dziga Vertov, who wrote about his notion of “the Radio Eye.” White also puts these experiments in the context of work by the Cuban filmmaker and theorist Julio García Espinosa and his notion of “imperfect cinema,” Jürgen Habermas and his notions of the “public sphere,” and Édourard Glissant’s ideas about “créolité” as the defining aspect of modern culture. This is a genuinely internationalist moment, and these experiments are in conversation with a wide array of thought across a number of languages.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Film and Media Studies
Acknowledgements in academic works are famously long-winded and self-indulgent. I promise to uphold that high standard here. Research for this book was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and it was indispensable. ...
Notes on Sources and Language
...This notion of "film-truth" or "Kino-Pravda," the source of the term cinéma vérité 2 seemed to achieve a new immediacy with the rise of radio technology. Indeed, David Hogarth has written of the way in which radio documentary of the pre-1940s period anticipated the rise of vérité, especially in Canada. ...
PART 1 THE ISLANDS
1 Pierre Perrault
Of all the figures under discussion here, none are more closely tied to both cinema and radio than Pierre Perrault. Although he is best known for NFB-produced films such as Pour la suite du monde (1963) or Un pays sans bon sens! (1970), he actually got his start in media at Radio-Canada in the 1950s, writing text for the traditional music programs Au bord de la rivière and Le chant des hommes. ...
2 The NFB's Newfoundland Project
One of the more curious elements of the discussion around Colin Low's "Newfoundland Project" of 1967-69 is that hardly anyone has compared it with Pierre Perrault's Île-aux-Coudres films, despite their common origin at the NFB (albeit across the linguistic divide). ...
3 Sjónvarpsfelagið í Havn
The Faroe Islands, which lie halfway between Scotland and Iceland and are constituted as a "self-governing region within the Kingdom of Denmark" (and thus have the same status as Greenland), were the last European society to get television. Their distance from the European mainland may preclude some from thinking of them as a "European society," but at any rate...
PART 2 THE GAELTACHT
An Introduction to the Gaeltacht
On a typically stormy late-fall night in 1987, several residents of the Connemara Gaeltacht put up an unlicensed television transmitter, which they planned to use to stage illegal television broadcasts in Irish Gaelic. "It was erected during a windy and wet October night on the bleak slopes of Cnoc Mórdáin, near Cill Chiaráin," writes Bob Quinn in his autobiography Maverick. ...
4 Desmond Fennell and Pierre Perrault
Although he has now shifted his attention to what he sees as a broad and worldwide cultural decline, Desmond Fennell once had, as one of his central intellectual and polemical concerns, the future of the Gaeltacht. Articles, pamphlets, and books that he published in the 1960s until well into the 1980s bore the mark of Gluaiseacht Chearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta...
5 Cinegael and the Newfoundland Project
If you want to read about the videos made by Bob Quinn's production group Cinegael, there's no point in going to the standard histories of Irish cinema. Kevin Rockett, Luke Gibbons, and John Hill's 1987 Cinema and Ireland doesn't mention these videos at all, nor do more recent books such as Martin McLoone's Irish Film: The Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema or Lance Pettitt's Screening Ireland ...
6 Teilifís na Gaeltachta and the Faroes
On 11 September 1987, the Connacht Tribune ran a headline that read "Gaeltacht TV discussion at Oireachtas." That article reported that "the symposium on the possibility of initiating a Gaeltacht television service will be discussed in the light of the service available to the people of the Faroe Islands, which have a population which numbers only half the Gaeltacht population. ...
I said I ended the main body of this book with Teilifís na Gaeltachta because it represented something of a culmination of the Radio-Eye idea. But I ended there for another reason too; the success of Teilifís na Gaeltachta was mixed, and its philosophical and political positions were either rejected or forgotten by its successors. ...