Book or Play: Asking for it under review

Book or Play: Asking for it under review

The book: the origin of everything

Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It follows a teenage girl named Emma who is raped by a group of football players at a party in her hometown. 

One of the strengths of Asking For It is that the protagonist, Emma, is definitely not a “nice girl.” She’s unlikeable, arrogant and slut shames other women at the beginning of the book. This was an excellent choice on O’Neill’s part:in the end, the reader doesn’t feel sorry for Emma because she’s a lovely, likeable person, they feel bad because what happened to her should never ever happen to anyone.

In her small town in County Cork, Emma has significantly less power than her attackers. They’re stars of the local GAA team, and are held on a pedestal, seeming that nothing can touch them. The book has a lot of commentary on the patriarchy. Characters say things one would often see posted by anonymous accounts on Twitter under articles regarding assault. “Girls are all the same. Get wasted and get a bit slutty, then in the morning try and pretend it never happened because you regret it.” 

Emma’s attackers post images of the assault on a Facebook page called “Easy Emma.” Emma is completely unable to escape the situation, and it’s difficult and painful to read about because you want to help her. She doesn’t have a good support system at home or in school and it’s hard to watch her crumble.

O’Neill is an exceptional writer. There’s many moments and pieces of writing in this novel that will stay with the reader. Emma thinks, “My body is not my own anymore. They have stamped their names all over it.” This is such an incredibly powerful quote, one of several in the novel. It’s striking how real the teenagers sound in their way of acting and speaking. The events of this novel feel like they could happen in any town.

Asking For It should be required reading in secondary schools in Ireland as consent is such an important subject matter. This book is an essential read for young people in Ireland and across the world. It made O’Neill one of leading voices of feminism in Ireland.

 

The play: another immersive experience

The stage adaption of Louise O’Neill’s award-winning 2015 book Asking For It returned to the Gaiety Theatre during the month of October. This nauseatingly authentic play illustrates the life of the beautiful, queen bee Emma O’Donovan, whose life is torn up before her eyes after becoming the victim of a gang-rape and subsequent social media attack. This harrowing production artfully and poignantly depicted the all-too-common mentality victim-blaming prevalent of people in Ireland and beyond. 

The beginning of the play with its narration of Emma and her friends, going about their daily life, is a situation all too familiar for the majority of the audience, filling the viewer with even more dread about what we all know is to happen next. The characterisation of Emma as not so sympathetic an individual makes this even more striking. Despite the fact that we could go so far as to dislike her during the early part of the play, we nevertheless are filled with empathy for her when the aggression occurs.

The second half of the play is utterly disturbing and distressing. We see Emma and her life after the incident. She is a shell of her former self; a shadow. The difficulties caused to her parents by the situation also result in some fantastically moving and upsetting interactions that are sure to touch the viewer right where it hurts. During the final scene the room is filled with this deafening silence, and the tense emotion is absolutely tangible. There is almost an unwillingness to applaud at the end – how could one show appreciation for such an agonisingly excruciating event?

Aisling Kearns deserves chief credit for her captivating portrayal of complicated Emma. However, the energy and ultimate genuity afforded to the stage by each actor is a work of genius and has afforded thousands of audience members the invaluable opportunity to challenge the harmful attitude of rape-culture and to ask the question “Is anyone ever asking for it?”

 

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

 

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Short shorts film festival 2019 in Dublin – What to remember

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National Harp Day: Centuries of Song

National Harp Day: Centuries of Song

On Saturday October 19th, Ireland celebrated its third annual National Harp Day. 

Harp is well known in Ireland and around the world. From Trinity College to Guinness, to the Government, the harp is a symbol of Ireland. Less well known, however, is the historic tradition of Irish harp music.

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland hosted a Discovery Day event at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre aimed to help the public learn more about the ancient instrument of Ireland. 

The event began with a lecture about the history of the harp given by renowned historian Simon Chadwick. His talk, attended by approximately 60 people, explained the differences between the musical traditions of the brass-strung early Irish harp and the modern nylon-strung harp.

Simon Chadwick shared analysis of the physical and instrumental aspects of the historical harp, including details about the willow wood and metal strings used in construction. He connected the instrument to the rich cultural tradition of travelling harpers in Ireland, with brief histories of Aurthur O’Neill and other such influential musicians. 

He also discussed  the 1792 Belfast Harper Society festival, attended by O’Neill and ten other harpers. It was dedicated to the preservation of harp music, and Edward Bunting, who later went on to publish influential work on traditional Irish music, was tasked with transcribing the harpers’ songs. 

Both the 1792 festival and the 2019 National Harp Day had the same goal: the preservation of the harp musical tradition in Ireland. The parallels between the 18th century three-day festival and the present day three-part event are a clear tribute to the lasting influence of harp music on Irish culture and identity. 

Following the talk, there was a lovely lunchtime recital of 17th and 18th century harp songs and instrumental pieces, performed by harper Siobhan Armstrong (director of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland) and singer Roisin Elsafty. The most striking element of this performance was the traditionally strung and structured harp itself – played expertly in the traditional style/technique by Siobhan Armstrong. 

As explained by Siobhan Armstrong, “this was the kind of harp played by Carolan and others, long ago, but the unforgettable sound of its brass-wire strings is only now being rediscovered once more. Though everyone is familiar with the medieval harp image on the Euro coin and a certain brand of beer, the chance to actually see, hear and play the instrument is unfortunately all too rare.”

For the final event of the Discovery Day, the Historical Harp Society of Ireland offered a beginners’ workshop. The workshop provided a wonderful opportunity for members of the public to engage with the historical harp tradition first-hand. Public interest in this workshop was high and all spaces were booked in advance of the event, illustrating the high demand for such interactive musical events in Dublin. 

National Harp Day was a significant cultural event that allowed the public to engage with harp, not just as a symbol for Ireland, but for the rich musical and cultural tradition that it represents. 

The harp in Ireland is not just a musical instrument; it is simultaneously a symbol of the rich historical past, as well as a symbol of present national identity. 

More information about the harp can be found on the website of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland at http://irishharp.org/.

 

Photo by Michael Pereckas on Flickr

 

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The haunted lives of the Syrian workers

The haunted lives of the Syrian workers

Formalist filmmaking that has garnered several awards in the festival circuit, Taste of Cement directed by Ziad Kalthoum, is an unavoidable masterpiece. The visuals and sounds play an equally important role in the documentary. This documentary projects the plight of the Syrian migrants in Lebanon, who have little choice but to make a living by working on construction sites. The documentary demonstrates brilliantly the irony of the role of cement in their lives, where in one hand they are building a multi-story tower overlooking the Mediterranean sea while back home the only remnants of their homes are just cement and rubble. The vicious circle of structures being erected in one place and being demolished is the crux of this film and their lives disrupted by years of destruction as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Not much happens throughout the film. The director has avoided interviews of the characters in this movie but mastered his craft of piecing together the images and finds harmony between sound design and the background scores. There are hardly any dialogues except for the occasional voiceover by an unnamed worker describing the memories of his father coming back home to Syria decades before from Beirut, smelling of cement. His rough hands told him stories of a life that would eventually cast upon himself in years to come. A new generation of Syrian men embarks upon this journey to build the future while their own lives crumble beneath their feet back home. 

Cement is everywhere. In the air of construction in Beirut and in the howls of fear in Syria. The shocking images of rescuers trying their best to scoop out rubble to get to people who may be buried underneath are haunting. This contrasts with the silence of the Syrian construction workers quietly retiring to their living quarters to the bottom of the poorly lit tower by 7 pm while succumbing in silence to the shrieking images they watch on their mobile phones.

This film is ultimately a film on war and refugees who struggle for their lives in a world that has snatched their freedom to live.

 

Photo ©Basis Berlin on IMDB

 

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Gods of Molenbeek: a look beyond terrorism

Gods of Molenbeek: a look beyond terrorism

A notorious place in Brussels known as a Jihadi hotbed, Molenbeek, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for the last few years. In her debut feature called Gods of Molenbeek, Finnish director Reetta Huhtanen tells us the story of this neighbourhood through the eyes and voices of 6-year-old residents. She definitely acknowledges its reputation but is certainly far from damning its residents. 

The superstars of this documentary are the six-year-old Aatos and Amine who are extremely deep thinkers, curious and bright. They ponder upon god, life and life after death. Aatos is Finnish and Chilean. He speaks French, Finnish and Spanish and attends a Steiner school while Amine is from a Moroccan Muslim family and is learning Arabic at school.

This film is a delight. The ever so interesting children of Molenbeek bring hope to the audience. As used to singing Happy birthday song in almost every other language, the social understanding of life and God is ever so varied with respect to every little kid growing up in this district. The director has responded to the label of Jihadi hotbed by keeping her point of view as close to that of the boys as possible. Molenbeek therefore, through this film, is shown as an accepting place with people from all faith and ethnic backgrounds living together and accepting each other. The child’s perspective showers throughout the movie reminding the audience where the truth lies and lets the audience ponder on what is forgotten which is to accept each other.

 

 

Photo by GeoMovies on Twitter

 

 

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Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

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New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The publication of the first piece on Weinstein led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism.

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Scorsese’s latest $150 million passion project details the life of the mob hitman Frank Sheeran, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family as well as the disappearance of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

Joker: A cry for attention

Joker: A cry for attention

The year is 1981 in Gotham City, where the rich have become richer and the poor are getting poorer. Isn’t this a story told a number of times? Joker (portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix) tells us the story of  Arthur Fleck, a troubled professional clown and wannabe stand-up comedian, who sits in front of a mirror, slowly painting his face. His quest to smile from ear to ear is never so lasted naturally unless he forces it. Joker is a story of a troubled, ignored, abused man. He is a man who is often mocked and misunderstood. He considers himself an outsider in an ever-growing city that has gone from bad to worse. He tries to overcome his laughing fit as the world shuts the door behind him. This movie is ultimately what Joker is: an origin story.

Despite an 8-minute standing ovation at the Venice film festival, Todd Phillips’ origins picture about the birth of Batman’s nemesis has become the focus of a moral backlash, with critics using words such as “toxic”, “cynical” and “irresponsible” to describe its relentlessly embittered tone. Joker does everything but gives you easy answers. It is a story of a chaotic invisible individual calling for acknowledgement.

The filmmakers have heavily drawn in equal measure from Martin Scorsese’s media satire The King of Comedy, and Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke. It has a similar worldview filled with characters drunk on self-pity and self-gratification. The main question here would then be whether this movie is about the mental, moral, emotional and physical makeup of an individual who cruises through a number of murders along his way to prove something. Are voices of isolation, abuse and self-pity being acknowledged or even addressed in the society anymore or just being heard and ignored? The feeling of empathy for Arthur Fleck musters momentum for a while but as Arthur screams around the edges of his sanity, this empathy towards him is not guaranteed.

Todd Philips (Director) has definitely thrown open a disturbing subject into popular media. Some critics have heavily criticised this movie due to the portrayal of the mass shooting and extreme violence. While some others have given this movie a standing ovation. A serious issue such as mental health is a subject that needs to be heard and addressed in every form that is possible even if it is through the story of the origin of a villain.

 

Photo by Niko Tavernise (Warner Bros)

 

 

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Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

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Scorsese’s latest $150 million passion project details the life of the mob hitman Frank Sheeran, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family as well as the disappearance of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

Tarantino review: violence and violence against women

Tarantino review: violence and violence against women

Spoilers ahead!

In Tarantino’s new film, ageing actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) avenge the Manson family’s murder of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) through a fictional retelling of the story.

 

I was dragged off to the cinema last week to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (OUaTiH). I wasn’t too excited because I’ve never been much of a Tarantino fan: I find his plots too basic and his violence too extreme. His films usually make me feel as though I’ve stopped to enjoy someone else’s car crash or gone to the modern version of a public execution. 

I found OUaTiHa bit more sophisticated than Tarantino’s usual gore-fests: his views on murder and gender politics were original. Recently the world – myself included – has been obsessing over serial killers and famous murders (eg. Netflix and Hollywood’s new documentaries about Ted Bundy and Madeleine McCann).

The problem is that mentally ill and violent people are being made glamorous. The stories are horrible but engrossing, and many murderers such as Manson and Bundy have attracted fan clubs – people drawn in by their notoriety and by the mystery that surrounds them. 

Tarantino does not romanticise his violence in the same way. He strips it of its mystery and shows it as it is: colourful, brutal and animal – almost healthy. There is no glorification of any murderer – neither Cliff Booth nor the Manson family are shown as admirable characters. 

Both Booth and the Manson family are sinister: scenes with Booth and his monster-like dog hint at his sordid past. There’s a rumour that he murdered his wife, and it’s believable. The Manson family is brilliantly sketched – Tarantino focusses particularly on their movements, giving them the terrifying physicality of a brainwashed but sexually intriguing army.

Tarantino has never been a sensitive director, but for me, this film was about himself. The title pays homage to his love of Westerns, but also describes the film as a love letter to the industry. There was a warmth to it: this is a director who has had a long and successful career, who has worked with actors dealing with the highs and lows of fame.

The film does what La La Land didn’t: it captures humanity in Hollywood. It’s also very much about its director’s trademark violence. He plays with his audience. The film covers short periods of time with a huge attention to detail and, unusually for Tarantino, follows a linear storyline. Except for the last 10 minutes, the film contains only hints of imminent violence. 

The film almost ends without bloodshed. Knowledge of the Charles Manson story adds to the suspense: we already know where and when the violence will be. There will be no surprises, it will be a simple and satisfying climax. But when the violence arrives, announced by Rick Dalton’s TV – “Here comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” – Tarantino takes back control. 

Instead of being true to historical events, Tarantino twists the story so that the murderers become the murdered. Every viewer in the cinema exacts revenge on an infamous group of killers, and enjoys it. The punchy music and the gags make watching two men murder three teenagers a hugely enjoyable experience.

Criticism of the film has honed in on Tarantino’s violence against women. It’s set in 1969, and an eloquent 10 year old gives a comical rant about feminism to a hungover Rick Dalton, who looks lost. She is later thrown on the floor at his suggestion. Booth heroically rejects the advances of a teenage member of the Manson family, because she is too young. Sharon Tate is given very few lines, which has surprised many of Robbie’s fans. Later on, two female Manson family members are viciously murdered by two men.

If looked at from a certain perspective, these facts add up to an uncomfortable portrayal of women. But I don’t think this is what the film was trying to say. Robbie’s character is powerful: it represents a new generation of hollywood and the gentle thrills of burgeoning fame. The 10 year old may have been inserted as a joke, but her character helps a gloomy Rick believe in himself: her speech has an impact. Booth’s rejection of the girl who almost forces herself on him simply confirms that more men should ask how old girls are before they sleep with them.

The murder of the two women at the end of the film seems almost “an eye for an eye”: in real life, these girls stabbed an entire household to death. And Cliff Booth is no hero – Tarantino does not justify his actions, he simply shows a version of humanity that is in us all. An animal desire for violence. 

 

 

Photo by SONY Pictures Entertainment

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get our top news straight to your inbox.

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The publication of the first piece on Weinstein led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism.

Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is a Mob Drama of Epic Proportions

Scorsese’s latest $150 million passion project details the life of the mob hitman Frank Sheeran, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family as well as the disappearance of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa.