Aisling jpg

Embracing Galway in the heart of Chicago

Aisling Ni Fhlaithearta


By Mike Houlihan

Ireland is a preview of heaven. There is no more beautiful place in the world than Eire. And Galway is Ireland’s cultural heart: home to artists, musicians, singers, painters, writers, and performers in search of her muse; Galwegians all.

Galway has been designated the 2020 European Capital of Culture but romantics have long reveled in her mystical embrace.

The finale in our annual trinity of Irish films for our 5th Annual Irish American Movie Hooley is a gorgeous new film by director Aodh O’Coileain, “CUMAR, A GALWAY RHAPSODY,” premiering in Chicago at 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 29 at The Gene Siskel Film Center.

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Aodh moved to Galway in 1986 from Dingle, and has always had “a strong sense of Galway as a meeting of the waters; Lough Corrib, the river Corrib, and the Atlantic Ocean. The film uses this as a metaphor for confluence of an array of ingredients which seem to come together to make Galway Galway!”

To explore this confluence (Cumar in Irish), Aodh has assembled six artists, “who either grew up in that space or who work as artists in the space.”

Those six artists guide us through the aural, visual, and passionate senses of Galway and reveal their personal philosophies regarding the City of Tribes. Their reflections, along with dazzling cinematography from Colm Hogan, make this a film you don’t so much watch, as immerse yourself in its beauty.

Among the six pilots in this journey through Galway are writer Mike McCormack, who says “When I first came to Galway, I developed this sort of private mythology of Galway as this city on the edge of the world.”

Comedian Tommy Tiernan contributes his unique perspective on his Galway vibe, along with musician Mairtin O’Connor, poet Rita Ann Higgins, painter Padraic Reaney, and especially singer/songwriter Roisin Seoighe, who brings a whole new perspective to “singing in the rain.”

The most infectious spirit on camera has to be Noeline Kavanagh, artistic director of Macnas, a spectacle and street performance company that lights up the city annually with their parade of phantasmagoric images, colors, sounds, and caricatures that bring out the kid in all of us.

She and her company are mesmerizing. Macnas is the Irish word for “joyful abandonment” and you will be wowed by their magic.

Movie Hooley audiences will be lucky enough to meet CUMAR producer Aisling Ni Fhlaithearta at the Chicago screening. She’s a proud Galway girl herself, having grown up in the Aran Islands, on Inis Mór, where her mom and dad own the bar Joe Watty’s. I’ve had a few pints there myself.

Aisling gushes over the CUMAR experience, calling it “such a joy, the most beautiful journey, the most enjoyable thing that I ever worked on!”

Aodh tells me she was integral to the shoot in Galway and getting things together on set “often in threatening weather!” Well she is from the Aran Islands after all.

Aisling tells me about shooting in the Macnas costume shop/prop work shop. “It was Alice in Wonderland on steroids,” she said.

Aisling says: “We had to get Galway in all its beauty, the ruggedness, the crazy waves…” and reflects on the audience reaction to the premiere screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, “You could feel the room was just glowing in the cinema…It’s a dream, a real feel good dream.”

We invite you to join us in that dream at the 5th Annual Irish American Movie Hooley on Sunday Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. in the Gene Siskel Film Center for “CUMAR, A GALWAY RHAPSODY.’

You can meet Aisling to discuss her distinctive new film then. And we’ll all be heading over to The Emerald Loop Pub around the corner after the screening that night, and also enjoying some complimentary Paddy’s Irish Whiskey in our lobby.

These “are such stuff that dreams are made on.” See you at the movies!