SEAMS

An American filmmaker’s fascination with parachutes leads her on a historical journey investigating Irish and Northern Irish women’s labor during the Second World War. A personal essay and animated documentary told through the voices of women who endured and overcame cultural divisions in neutral Ireland, partitioned Northern Ireland, and war-torn Britain, Seams is a cautionary tale about the dangers of both nationalism and colonialism. Yet it is also a hopeful look at a culture’s movement from conflict toward peace.

 

 

THE STORY

As a child of a military family, I am fascinated with miltary parachutes--a seemingly fragile material that holds the weight of a human body in mid air. The beauty and the draw of the parachute is the beginning of a look into its creation, its use, and its cultural meaning. It leads me to ask, “Whose hands made this object?” My question sends me on a journey through Ireland and Northern Ireland, unfolding a much larger story than my original inquiry. 

My search leads me to Margaret, a Northern Irish Protestant who sewed the seams of linen parachutes. I also meet Ruby, a Protestant linen mill worker from Belfast, and then Joan and Elsie, two Irish Catholic soldiers in the British Army (ATS) from Co. Cork, and finally Jane, an Irish Catholic nurse in London from Co. Clare.

A story about borders, identity, and cultures in transition, Seams is a complex look at the Anglo-Irish definition of “enemy” and the deep-seated religious, national, and economic divides of two fledgling societies at odds with each other during a global war. The women’s testimonies of the horrors of the Second World War, of the tragedy of the Northern Irish Troubles, and of the slow progression of peace over decades visually unfold through portraiture, archival footage, poetic live-action shots of landscapes and buildings, and hand drawn stop-motion animation made with tea and ink on Irish linen.

The music is a collaboration with composer and violinist, Shaw Pong Liu.

The research advisers to the film include the Northern Irish playwright, historian, and author, Philip Orr and Dr. Mary Muldowney whose book, The Second World War and Irish Women: An Oral History was the first comprehensive look at the war's impact on the lives of Irish women. She is an authority on oral history in Ireland and founding member of the Oral History Network of Ireland.