Seeking traces of women in early Irish filmmaking: The O’Mara sisters and the archive

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Johnson, Veronica
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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Recent research by Díóg O’Connell and Donna Casella has brought to light the work of Ellen O’Mara Sullivan with the Film Company of Ireland (1916–20). These scholars trace the personal archive of Ellen O’Mara Sullivan’s descendants and use this data to create a trajectory of her role within this first significant Irish film company. While the official record of the Film Company of Ireland is considered limited, there are traces of the company in trade papers, archives and newspapers. In comparison, information about the role of women in this company is difficult to discover as women often slip from the official archive in this period. In the case of Ellen O’Mara Sullivan, she is frequently hidden behind her husband’s record as owner and director of the Film Company of Ireland, or behind her more famous father and brothers, well-connected Republicans, Mayors of Limerick, and successful businessmen. This paper will examine the role of Ellen O’Mara Sullivan and her sister Mary Rynne in the development of the Film Company of Ireland by examining the archival records available and exploring how to find information about these women when they elude the official record. Working in particular on documents found in the Rynne family archive, Special Collections, NUIG, this paper will attempt to trace the financial contribution of Mary Rynne to this film company and to bring to light the role these two sisters played in the development of the early Irish film industry.
Female film pioneers , Silent film , Irish film history , The Film Company of Ireland , Knocknagow
Johnson, V. (2021) 'Seeking traces of women in early Irish filmmaking: The O’Mara sisters and the archive', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 20, pp. 28-37.