"McManus has fashioned a remarkable contemporary document
of places, people, lives and times with North Circular, as past,
present and future smash together in front of our eyes."
North Circular is a documentary musical that travels the length of Dublin's North Circular Road, from the Phoenix Park to Dublin Port, exploring the history, music and streetscapes of a street that links some of the country's most beloved and infamous places.
Told in black and white 4:3 Academy ratio, the film evokes many narratives from the history of the city and nation, from colonialism, to mental health, to the struggle for women’s liberation while also engaging with urgent issues of today, including the battle to save the legendary Cobblestone Pub, centre of Dublin’s recent folk revival, from destruction at the hands of cynical property developers.
The film also includes musical performances from artists local to the North Circular, including Lisa O'Neill, John Francis Flynn, Séan Ó Túama, Eoghan O'Ceannabháin, Ian Lynch & Gemma Dunleavy.
"Conjures ghosts & memories...
articulate, sombre, Rembrandtesque"
Photograph courtesy of Marcelline Roulleau
Gemma Dunleavy in the chapel of Sean McDermott Street Laundry
Photo: Meabh McManus
DIRECTOR'S NOTE BY LUKE MCMANUS
North Circular is a personal film. I have lived just off the North Circular Road itself for two decades and remain fascinated by the variety, by the contradictions, by the competing tensions that it finds within itself.
North Circular is a film in a tradition of the great documentaries of urban place, such as Gianfranco Rosi’s, Sacro GRA and Zed Nelson’s The Street, films that choose a physically proximate geography to be the thread that connects a diverse collection of narratives, characters and themes.
The use of music as a specific technique of storytelling is both an aesthetic and a editorial decision - to make a new innovative form of documentary which combines the musical and the factual film in a way that isn’t simply a documentary about music but is more a documentary musical, a form that reflects the traditional of musical storytelling and narrative in Dublin that began with Peadar Kearney and Dominic Behan and that continues with Lisa O'Neill, Lankum, John Francis Flynn and Gemma Dunleavy today.
The use of black & white imagery reiterates the connection between the values and culture of the past and those of today - there is a timeless quality to the challenges that face our characters with yesterday reflecting in their eyes as they live their present lives.
There are numerous themes, characters and issues bubbling beneath the surface of the North Circular Road when you walk along it. A certain darkness at times, a celebratory energy at others: this singular road encompasses so much diversity of human experience.
North Circular will only ever be a glimpse of life on a couple of moments in the complex story of this multi-faceted place.