Director: Aoife Kelleher
Running Time: 83 minutes
Release Date: October 31st
Collins is in there. Dev too. Constance Markievicz, Luke Kelly, Dermot Morgan and someone you knew personally, they’re in there too. That’s the myth, the legend; we’ve all got someone in there. One and a half million if records are to be believed. And each with a story to tell.
That’s what director Aoife Kelleher and producer Rachel Lysaght aim to do, shed some light on Glasnevin Cemetery’s inhabitants while exploring its vast history. You’re exposed to everyone and anyone who visits — a teenage daughter visiting her mother; French and Vietnamese ladies laying flowers at Michael Collins’ grave; Luke Kelly fans serenading his headstone. Shane MacThomais — author, historian and tour guide of the cemetery — leads you through the stories behind those that rest there. He’s a warm, gregarious and immensely knowledgable of the cemetery, but most importantly, he has a deep love for its history and what he does. As such, he’s the perfect entry point.
One of the beauties of One Million Dubliners, and there are many, is that it hooks you on the intrigue of all its residents but then shows its true story; Ireland’s relationship with death. Death is universal, knows no boundaries and holds no ledger; it’s chaos. As a nation, traditionally we don’t talk about until it’s unavoidable. Kelleher and Lysaght crack that right open. You meet grave diggers, cremators and funeral directors, all speaking about their experiences not just in the day-to-day but in their beliefs on what happens and what they want to happen when they die. Their candidness is both touching and refreshing.
Cinematographer Cathal Watters beautiful films the cemetery with haunting timelapses, shots drenched in the shadows of tombstones and silhouettes against the amber and purple skies. Being Dublin, it’s raining half the time but it still doesn’t take away from the care in framing.
It talks of a million but this could easily have been called One Dubliner. Shane is the shining light of the movie, who along with encyclopaedic appreciation, brings a light humour to what can be a tough subject, whether it’s cracking jokes for tourists or spooking kids with stories, he’s the light keeper who ushers you through the darkness.
It falters a little, moments seem to be included just because they were filmed, but it, like death, is imperfect, and that’s okay. It still resonates, serving as a fitting tribute to both the cemetery’s immense history and all that dwell there.