My wife and I attended the Washington, D.C. premiere of “On A River In Ireland,” which was among the showings on the last day of the 22nd annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capitol. The film, directed by John Murray and narrated by Colin Stafford-Johnson, was released last year under the title “The Secret Life of the Shannon.”
There’s some really incredible wildlife cinematography in this 60-minute film, including slow-motion footage of water bats, red squirrels and several specials of birds. Irish America posted several short videos from the film, including the mesmerizing murmuration of starlings at twilight.
One of the most poignant scenes of the film, not in the link above, are the lonely call of a male corncrake. The once-common species has suffered drastic population declines and is threatened with global extinction.
Stafford-Johnson makes several references to the impact that rapid development in Ireland is having on the Shannon. Other than himself paddling a canoe, the only glimpse of human touch on the river are silhouettes of ancient ruins along its banks, including Clonmacnoise in County Offaly.
The film is not a headwaters-to-mouth journey on the river, but rather a more season- and species-focused exploration. Nevertheless, I was disappointed that the film ignores the Shannon Estuary west of Limerick. This is clearly the more industrialized, seaport portion of the river, but an area that still has a vital role in the natural world as fresh water mingles with salt water.
The area also is personally special to me, since my ancestors are from the north Kerry townlands within view of where the Shannon meets the Atlantic Ocean, one of my favorite parts of Ireland.