Monochrome waves rock a ferry on its way out to Inis Oírr, at the mouth of Galway Bay.
We see the island in black and white, as it looked way back in 1934 in Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran, and continued to look for decades since on postcards, tea trays and thousand-piece jigsaws.
The travellers on board this boat are carrying their own puzzle pieces, the makings of a half-pipe, a dream fixture for the clique of young skateboarders on the island.
The project in 2022, and subsequent film, Titim Isteach, came out of a collaboration between Goblin magazine and the Inis Oírr Community Development Cooperative. An online campaign raised money for the ramp in days, and not weeks or months as was expected.
For the kids on the island, dreams are close to coming true. But then there’s the building of the pipe, the hard work that too often happens in the blink of an eye thanks to a video-editing suite. Here, the construction becomes a focal point of the documentary.
Unlike Flaherty’s men of Aran, the participants here relish the work. There’s none of the wave-battered hardship, fictional or otherwise, of ’30s island living here.
The sun is out, the sky is blue and directors John Lyons and Philip Halton capture smiling faces amid the busyness of the building. Not by accident, but because this is a labour of passion and love.
Many shots of the half-pipe and the skaters are captured in a Ciné film style. It’s as though Lyons and Halton are creating mind’s-eye nostalgia in the present.
In 10 years, they’ll look back on this and it might have the same washed out, sun-bleached tones and jumpiness of the film stock. Stills of this footage overlaid on the closing credits look like the pages of a holiday scrapbook.
The kids on the island are visibly bursting with excitement. We hear about treacherous downhill rides, near misses with cars and other heart-in-mouth incidents. The half-pipe, despite the dramatic surroundings, seems to offer up far less potential for serious injury.
Lyons and Halton, in their interviews with the skaters and their parents, show skating as a gateway to a wider world.
Before the pipe, the kids would head over to Galway to use the facilities in the city. For the parents, there were concerns. With a half-pipe now on their doorstep, a world of possibilities comes home.
Now, their hobby can be fostered on Inis Oírr, it can build a community, tying them to their roots while expanding horizons through the social and skating skills that develop from having a shared space such as this.
As the visiting skaters test out the pipe with flips and grinds you can see the eyes of the kids light up. In those moments, they see a future for their passion on the island, where there was little to none before.
We end on a high, on the infamous hill mentioned earlier in the film, as the camera follows skater after skater down the slope in a joyous communal downhill jam.
Titim Isteach, which is 16 minutes long, played on 29 September at the Irish Film Institute. The first in a series entitled Spás Poiblí (Public Space), and coinciding with the launch of the new issue of Goblin, this film and subsequent screenings are meant to encourage discussion around the use of public space in Dublin and other areas of the country, according to the organisers.
The next three screenings are scheduled for the first three Fridays in October and feature films on Dublin Digital Radio, Portobello, and a history of public space in Dublin. All screenings are followed by panels and audience discussion.