Irish food has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. So have Irish food films.
An abundance of ready-made content in the form of landscape, producers, chefs and restaurants is one thing. But what has really driven these short films is their shareability on social media. The results are helping to build the legacy of 21st century Irish food online. Here are three of my favourite.
1) Small Green Fields, by Imen McDonnell
Imen McDonnell is an American food writer who fell in love with an Irish farmer. She lives in Ireland today, and blogs about her adventures on farmette.ie. This 12-minute film sees her travel across the country to meet a handful of the personalities driving Ireland’s remarkable artisanal food industry.
What I love about it is the love that clearly went into it.
McDonnell can’t have made much (or any) money making this. But the attention to detail, the quality of the contributors (not to mention their unbridled enthusiasm) and the surprising cinematography of Michael Hartzel far exceed any expectations you have when clicking play on an online video.
My favourite line? “I would define Irish food, in a word, as being real.”
2) Flavours of Ireland, Tourism Ireland
The first in the ‘Flavours of Ireland’ series promoting the Irish foodie scene sees Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse in Cobh talking about how he creates his smoked salmon, the artistry and effort that goes into the best of independent produce, and the importance of fresh Irish ingredients.
It’s so easy for videos like this to come over all corporate and fluffy. But Greystones-based production studio Tiny Ark dispels those fears within seconds. Hedermann has a beautiful voice and a way with words, but it takes talented filmmakers to frame them with this kind of photography and pace.
It’s a tall order for a short, but it comes off wonderfully. “When you handle a salmon you hold it by the head and by the bottom, as you would a baby,” he says. The film got the same TLC.
A second film on Fermanagh is here.
3) Once Upon a Time in Mayo, Gourmet Greenway
Sure, the acting can waver in Once Upon a Time in Mayo. But it gets an A for effort and imagination. And it’s fun – not always a given in Ireland’s earnest foodie scene.
The idea of getting local characters to ham it up Sergio Leone-style for the cameras isn’t original, but the idea of a small community in Mayo bringing its artisan producers and chefs together to sell the destination as a whole certainly is. In Ireland, businesses sometimes prefer simply doing their own thing.
The ‘destination’ in this case is of course The Great Western Greenway, a 42km cycle trail linking Achill Island and Westport along the route of an abandoned railway line. The local community has bought into it big time, with the ‘Gourmet Greenway’ this film celebrates just one spin-off initiative.