Dissolving THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH is a short videographic study of this 1994 Irish children’s film and its layered and polyphonic storytelling and aesthetics. It was made by Professor Catherine Grant for Birkbeck, University of London's annual Arts Weeks events, online in May 2020.
THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH is U.S. writer-director John Sayles’s much-loved Irish children’s film-story of return, recovery and reconstruction. An adaptation of the 1959 novel SECRET OF THE RON MOR SKERRY by Rosalie K. Fry, it tells of Fiona, a girl transplanted with her father and older brother to an East coast city in the north, after the death of her mother and the disappearance of her younger brother on their ancestral West coast island of Roan Inish (Island of the Seals). Through Fiona’s return to Roan Inish and the loving care of her grandparents and cousin, she grieves her loss, solves its mysteries, and reunites her family with their ancient home.
In my short video essay, Sayles’s magical film is here distilled and studied through the digital editing technique of chronologically collecting its numerous dissolves (transitions between shots in a film ‘that [superimpose] a fade-out over a fade-in,’ to use David A. Cook’s technical definition). In setting out to do this, my work aimed at producing a new, sensuous, affective and concise audiovisual experience of the centrality of the dissolves to this film-story, in relative isolation from many of the movie’s other components.
For the rest of this written reflection on Dissolving THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH please go to: catherinegrant.org/2020/05/18/dissolving-the-secret-of-roan-inish
This video is dedicated, with much love, to my Irish family – it is so good to know you at last
For other Birkbeck Arts Weeks 2020 events and activities, visit: bbk.ac.uk/annual-events/arts-week/arts-week-2020
* David A. Cook, , A History of Narrative Film (1996). P. 963.