Irish Film: Shem the Penman Sings Again returns to Cork and cinemas nationwide

Cork film Shem The Penman Sings Again screens at Triskel Christchurch Thursday, 14 January to mark the 75th anniversary of the passing of iconic Irish writer James Joyce on 13 January. Shem The Penman Sings Again is the début feature film by director Pádraig Trehy who will introduce the film and partake in Q&A session on the night. 

Shem is the very first Irish Film Board feature produced by a Cork City production company. During its world premiere last July in the Galway Film Fleadh, the film received a rapturous reception which was repeated at its Gala Screening on the 13th of November 2015, as part the 60th Cork Film Festival celebrations.

[quote title=”Pádraig Trehy -Director”]All of the trials and tribulations involved in the making of Shem the Penman Sings Again evaporated for me during its very special screening during last year’s Cork Film Festival. The film may not have Cork as its subject but its production was exclusively Cork-based and probably wouldn’t have been possible to make anywhere else for its budget.  The warmth of its reception by a Cork audience meant the world to me and I am very much looking forward to screening the film in the very special surroundings of Triskel Christchurch.[/quote]

Shem The Penman deals with the actual and much fabled friendship of James Joyce and Count John McCormack. The iconic writer and the extraordinary tenor first met in 1904 when Joyce still had hopes of becoming a professional singer himself. They reconnected in Paris in the 1920’s and Joyce used his firsthand knowledge of McCormack to create the character of Shaun the Post in his famously ‘unreadable’ final novel, Finnegans Wake. As Joyce struggled with the book, he portrayed himself in it as Shaun’s lowly twin brother, Shem.

Joyce’s twin obsessions, singing and literary experimentation flow through the film as his and McCormack’s encounters are re-imagined in a variety of early cinematic styles, interrupted by four short films-within-the-film charting the exploits of Shem and Shaun. With Joyce’s eyesight failing as the film unfolds, a mix of archive recordings and imaginary radio broadcasts carries the narrative along, providing an emotional connection to an increasingly isolated Joyce.

The Triskel Christchurch screening of Shem the Penman Sings Again on 14 January is part of a limited national release, beginning 13 January at Dublin’s IFI with subsequent screenings scheduled in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway; and The Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast.