Irish Film Studies: The Colleen Bawn

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This is the first journal entry I wrote, about our class discussion on The Colleen Bawn (week 1).


For our first class of Irish Film Studies, we were introduced to the Irish world with the screening of three films by the O’Kalem Company. One of them, The Colleen Bawn, led us to a little and rather interesting class discussion where we had to answer the following question: “Imagine that you are screening The Colleen Bawn here in Montréal. What can you do at the level of exhibition to render your screening a rival to classic or contemporary cinema?”

I first have to say, it’s lucky our teacher explained the entire film before the screening, because this strange love triangle (was it a triangle? I’m not even sure anymore) based on a true story involves a complicated plot that can be pretty hard to follow. The screening itself was not the best experience (in a class not very well organized for screenings). So, the part I enjoyed the most was the class discussion after it. Indeed, how can we attract a contemporary public who is much more used to American blockbusters to see The Colleen Bawn? Well, the good and original ideas weren’t missing. What I’m the most thankful about this discussion is that it was a way for us to develop our creativity, which is something that can sometimes be lacking in Film Studies courses (if we compare to Film Production for example).


There will be a lot to do to attract everyday people to see such a film. Because we, of course, have to make the distinction those who study films and those who don’t. What I first thought about is the fact that, here, in Quebec, about 1/4 of people have Irish blood. It’s somehow part of our culture, so why shouldn’t it be part of our cinematographic culture too? And as it is an “old movie”, it can become part of our historical culture as well.

The Colleen Bawn is a film that surely needs to be presented with a minimum of external entertainment to become something cool. Things such as special guesses or special settings are always welcomed. Among the ideas that were discussed, I think my favourite one was to transform the movie theater in one of the movie sets so it would really make us “feel” the film.

But overall, I think the priority to enjoy any cinematic experience would be to present the film in the best visual and sound conditions.


Words: 400

Images sources:

“Blazing the Trail to Ireland: The Kalem Film Company.” Irish America, Jan. 2012,

“The Colleen Bawn, Sidney Olcott.” Irish Film Institute, n.d,