Directed by Pat Collins, Song of Granite is a film about Joe Heaney (1919–1984), the most famous singer of the Irish sean-nòs genre of a cappella music. However, according to the director, it is by no means a biographical film. Heaney is said to have known more than 500 songs by heart and his international stardom did not begin until relatively late, at the famous Newport Folk Festival in the United States in the 1960s. His sold-out performances became nationwide successes and praised by people such as avant-garde composer John Cage.
Collins’ film focuses on three stages of Heaney’s life: his childhood in Connemara in the 1930s, the trips he made to Britain and America in the 1960s, and finally Heaney as an old man reminiscing about his past and his artistic legacy.
To the director, the enigmatic character is like a transforming Trojan horse, whose life chapters (or especially his cryptic emotional life) are rather vague, apart from the fact that he worked as a doorman in Manhattan and taught at Washington University. The lyrics of the traditional Irish songs performed by Heaney were untranslated for the film on purpose, so that the rawness in his voice and his Irish identity would maintain their entire transcendental and primitive power. (LT)