The Rising of the Moon

“History is written by the victors”, the adage goes. History on film is no exception, James Slaymaker states in the accompanying text to his video essay on the struggle for Irish independence. “The representation of Irish identity on screen remains largely dominated by British cultural forces,” he writes. And yet, there is a rich repository of counter-narratives and counter-images produced by Irish filmmakers (and their sympathizers). Slaymaker mined those movies and documentaries for this moving and powerful exploration of several key periods in the Irish struggle for sovereignty.


The Rising of the Moon (published by MUBI) is a masterfully executed piece of associative editing. This approach was inspired by that of other archeologists of the image such as Harun Farocki, Chris Marker, and Jean-Luc Godard, Slaymaker readily admits. He finds striking visual and auditive echoes in films from very different periods and genres. In weaving them together, he makes tangible the emotional and ideological threads that run through these many decades of conflict. His editing technique makes history felt, not just seen and heard. That each excerpt is given the time to breathe, to unfold and even to sing contributes to the impact of this montage: this is an antidote to the usual quick fire style of compilation video essays.


The classic historian works with facts. Slaymaker’s facts however are feelings: the emotionally laden cinematic representations of a century-old strife. Like a conventional historian would connect the dots between facts, this video essay connects decades of frustration, anger and despair into an atemporal cinematic canvas that allows for a different kind of understanding of the Troubles.