Monday, 18 February 2008

Celtic Youth Film 'Hip Hedonism' and Justin Kerrigan According to Martin McLoone and Steve Blandford

Justin Kerrigan is shooting a new Welsh film in South Wales, and he's best known worldwide for his 'global youth party culture' film Human Traffic, set in Cardiff, Wales.

[Pictured above: Emmy nominee Robert Carlyle stars in Justin Kerrigan's newest film currently being shoot in South Wales.]

Emmy nominee Robert Carlyle, who found fame in 'The Full Monty' and 'Trainspotting' and whose credits have since included 'Carla's Song', 'The World is Not Enough' and '28 weeks later' is currently filming Cardiff born, Justin Kerrigan's new feature film 'I Know you Know' in Bridgend, and Port Talbot.

Kerrigan is often lumped together with similar directors who seem to be exploiting this transnational popular culture craze, making films that are loaded with codes and signifiers that 'only the kids' can understand.

Kerrigan is best known for his 1999 hit 'Human Traffic' for which, amidst several other awards, he won a BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Director and was nominated for a Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer at the BAFTA 2000 awards in London.

Human Traffic Trailer -- Miramax Films

How does Kerrigan fit into the pantheon of Welsh filmmakers who have overcome the odds to make a film and get it out of Wales?

How does Kerrigan fit into the array of recent 'Celtic Periphery' filmmakers, i.e., coming out of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales?

The Twang - Two Lovers -- Also directed by Justin Kerrigan

I've written about this elsewhere, and I include this excerpt of my new book on the National Cinema of Wales (not yet published) called, 'A Welsh New Wave?'

A Welsh ‘new wave’?

Blandford notes that the quartet he is describing created rumours of the beginnings of a new Welsh film ‘wave’ of production and freer expression, while they managed to offend the government, the tourist boards, the local communities where the films were shot, the Welsh religious establishment, and just about everyone else inclined to be offended.

Blandford alludes to a general weariness in Welsh society, surrounding the cultural controversy, and longs for a respite from the ‘dead-end arguments’

"During the next decade it will be interesting to see whether a film culture develops with the confidence to make films without even the ironic reference to traditional Welsh iconography that this latest wave has made" (Blandford 2000: 20)

Blandford seems to perceive that this ‘wave’ is related to a larger cultural malaise within a post-modern British and trans-national milieu, as he compares the quartet of Welsh films to similar films set in Scotland, Trainspotting (1996) and Wickerman (1973).

Martin McLoone identifies the same type of films becoming popular in the emerging economic and cultural ‘Celtic Tiger’ ascendancy of Ireland, and coins the name ‘hip hedonism’ to describe and explain the film waves’ meaning and impetus

"This might well explain the preponderance, in recent years, of another kind of urban-based film — what might be called a cinema of ‘hip hedonism’. This is a cinema that celebrates, even glorifies, an urban lifestyle dressed in the signifiers of contemporary global youth culture and populated by the beautiful people of Celtic Tiger Ireland" (McLoone 2006: 97)

Ruth Barton frames the films of post World War II Ireland in a chapter entitled ‘Negotiating Modernism’ (Barton 2004: 65), and one has to wonder if in some way, McLoone and Blandford are not describing Irish and Welsh cinemas, respectively, which are representing a new generation’s negotiation with the problems of trans-national post-modernism, including the paradox of rapidly rising incomes of younger professionals in Cardiff and Dublin paralleling the fatalism and political detachment implicit in the music and lifestyles of the nightclub, pub and ‘Rave Culture’, and its various cultural cousins.

Either way, the films of Scotland, Ireland and Wales in this period seem to be tapping the same vein of ‘I can’t be bothered’ attitudes endemic to the Celtic up-and-coming

"They are Irish, certainly, but they epitomize a kind of trans-global ‘cool’. Drugs and crime still form part of the background, but they are presented as lifestyle choices or get-rich schemes removed from any social consequences."

"Most importantly, these films are lighter in tone than the more political films, as well as being driven by a deliberately irreverent humour" (McLoone 2006: 97).

In the quartet of Welsh films that Blandford describes, which we will assert form the backbone of a Welsh version of McLoone’s designated Irish cinema of ‘hip hedonism,’ we need to ask what values are being challenged, and what social and cultural tensions are being transgressed or offended, and what possible meaning this might have.

Barton, R. (2004). Irish National Cinema. London, Routledge.

Berry, D. (1994). Wales and Cinema, The First Hundred Years. Cardiff, University of Wales Press.

Blandford, S., Ed. (2000). Wales on Screen. Bridgend, Wales, Seren, Poetry Wales Press Ltd.

Blandford, S. (2003). “Old Wales is Dead”, Film, Theatre and TV Drama in Contemporary Wales.” New Welsh Review, Theatre in Wales Supplement Autumn.

Blandford, S. (2003a). “Film, Theatre, and TV Drama in Contemporary Wales.” Culture+the State James Gifford & Gabrielle Zezulka-Mailloux, Editors (Culture+State Conference, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada).

Blandford, S. (2005). Film, Drama and the Break-Up of Britain. Inaugural Professorial Lecture, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, Wales, University of Glamorgan.

Blandford, S. (2005a). “Wales at the Oscars: ‘heritage’ cinema and Welshness in the 1990s.” Cyfrwng: Wales Media Journal 2.

Blandford, S. (2005b). Dramatic Fictions in a Postcolonial Wales. Postcolonial Wales. J. Aaron and C. Williams. Cardiff, University of Wales Press.

Blandford, S. (2007). Film, Drama and the Break Up of Britain. Bristol, England, Intellect Books.

Blandford, S., B. K. Grant, et al. (2001). The Film Studies Dictionary. London and New York, Arnold Publishers and Oxford University Press.

Hannan, P. (1999). The Welsh Illusion. Bridgend, Wales, Seren, Poetry Wales Press Ltd.

Hannan, P. (2002). 2001, A Year in Wales. Bridgend, Wales, Seren, Poetry Wales Press Ltd.

McLoone, M. (2001). ‘Internal Decolonisation? British Cinema in the Celtic Fringe.’ The British Cinema Book. R. Murphy.

McLoone, M. (2006). National Cinema in Ireland. Theorising National Cinema. V. Vitali and P. Willemen. London, British Film Institute: 88-99.

The Phrase Hip Hedonism was coined by Martin McLoone. Read more about his newest work here:

Film, Media and Popular Culture in Ireland
Cityscapes, Landscapes, Soundscapes
by Martin McLoone

This collection of essays from Martin McLoone takes a new look at
contemporary culture in Ireland through the filter of three main
developments – the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy in the South, the peace
process in the North and the general rise in Ireland of ‘diasporan

The book considers the impact of these three factors on
the film, television, and music produced in Ireland, mostly since the
1990s, and speculates on how this popular culture reflects both what
has been gained in the new Ireland but also what has been lost.

Specific concerns of the book are the secularisation of Ireland and
popular culture’s assault on the Church generally (and the priest in
particular); the changing cityscapes and landscapes of the new Ireland;

the ‘death’ of politics; sexual freedom and personal liberation; the problem of representing unionist culture in the North; Van Morrison’s Belfast and the rise of ‘possessive individualism’ in Ireland.

The book celebrates the new Ireland but also raises issues about the loss of aspects of Irish identity that were valuable and suggests the need for a new ‘collective imaginary’ that might reinvigorate Irish identity in the new millennium.

AIM: ATRiuM Intelligent Media

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff

Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries


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