Boy was the new film “Jimmy’s Hall” playing at the Bow Tie in Red Bank a very pleasant surprise. Set in very rural Ireland in the early 1900’s, this film unravels at a slow steady pace the along the lines of that community.
Clearly the Church and the large land owners call all the political shots and those breaking with longstanding traditions, values and norms are dealt with strongly and publicly. Tells the true story of young activist Jimmmy Gralton (played well by Barry Ward). In a part of the country that was devoid of work, money, entertainment etc., he helped create a “Dance Hall” locally in the early 20’s that also had education, art, music, culture components. The underpinnings of free thinking and pushing the norms that was encouraged within the hall caused great angst among the powerful and Jimmy was forced to leave his homeland for the USA for a decade.
He returns some 10 years later (during the depression 1932) and still lots of the same conservative power brokers are in place. Free speaking, community activists leading the locals to see/learn about new things & ideas are quickly labeled communists.
Fearless Jimmy, beautifully supported by his quiet and strong Mom, had simply planned to return to help her run the farm. However, the decade dormant community (young and old alike), turn to Jimmy to lead them to re-open the Hall and then some. Seeing and hearing the pleadings from the the young community to introduce them to new ideas, culture, thinking reminds himself of those inner fires and the magic of “new” he learned when he went west.
Jimmy has brought with him 10 years of education and exposure to the US culture in NYC which he shares with hometown. Things like American Jazz, the influence of the African Americans and politics is shared by Jimmy to his hometown is a small town way.
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Hence the struggle between traditionalists and free thinkers. Our world history is littered with these heroic grass-roots leaders that inspire and change the course of history. The journeys are long and the major changes often come many years later. Old vs new, tradition vs. change is an endless historical battle in all cultures. Often lines are drawn in the sand and painful fights ensue.
So it was fascinating to watch and learn how this “agitator” who saw a greater good and a dedication to help his down on its luck neighbors unwittingly lead social change.
The setting, the music, the culture in this film works on many levels. I guess I just like the underdog, open mindedness and youth. Loved learning about this true story in this magical, non-fiction film.