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DIFF Student Reviews: Playback x DIFF

Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival
5 min

As part of our partnership with the Dublin International Film Festival, several Media students were given the opportunity to screen and review films appearing at the festival. Here, Andy Martin reviews the festival's new initiative, Playback x VMDIFF: Irish Hip Hop & R&B, a selection of the best hip hop music videos in Ireland today, selected by producer Mike Donnelly V and musician Erica Cody.

If you’ve ever sat at the kitchen table and debated with your parents or other relatives about the popularity of hip hop and R&B and its effects on young people, then Playback x DIFF is the perfect reference point to show how artistic and collective the contemporary genre has become. Erica Coady has meticulously curated a fine collection of some of Ireland’s most popular and up-and-coming hip hop artists that is not only diverse but also showcases the extremely talented musicians Ireland has to offer.

Primarily, the film poses the question to viewers – “Why do we make music videos?” The answer to this is explicit throughout the piece, highlighting the importance of bringing your music to life. Gemma Dunleavy’s video for “Up De Flats” epitomises the sense of unity and togetherness music can bring to us all. Watching her family and friends dance around the streets just proves the point that you don’t need glitz and glamour to show happiness in your own skin regardless of your location. That is what Gemma was attempting to display in her music and it is brought to life in her video.

Each of these videos brings something different to Irish music. Whether it’s vibrant and colourful visuals or intimate imagery, each video brings something different to the table. There’s plenty of naysayers out there who believe the future for Irish hip hop is non-existent. They’ll tell you it doesn’t suit our culture. That our accent just makes it sound weird. And more importantly, they’ll argue that our lives here in Ireland do not compare to the grimy streets of London or the gang-run communities of Compton. This film demonstrates that they are wrong. There is a multitude of talented Irish hip hop and R&B artists out there and their messages are as bold and unique as their American counterparts.

A vast array of visually gripping performances from James Vincent McMorrow, Tolu Makay and Rejjie Snow capture the different styles emerging from the Fresh Èire. The Zoom-conducted interviews about each project give us a deeper insight into the minds of each of these stars and where their inspiration came from. From what is on display, it is evidently clear that rising stars are conveying their messages through film on a level that most people probably never imagined would be possible from an industry that is not so well-documented by conservative-based media outlets. Whether you’re interested in listening to sick new grime beats by the likes of Mathman or Rebel Phoenix or you enjoy listening to more poetic-driven lyrics by artists like Denise Chaila, this collection will interest and intrigue you so much so that you may well end up part of the Fresh Èire movement. Some of these performances are not only gripping and imaginative but they all have the common goal to bark down on the cultural door of Irish society.

As Coady stipulated towards the end of the piece, she could have chosen a list of 50 different songs and artists that were fitting of being promoted in this film. To those naysayers who believe there is no future for this genre in Ireland, please watch this film and tell me you are still right.

Andy Martin is a master's student in TV and Radio Journalism with an interest in sport, entertainment and hip hop music. Having worked in the media production industry, Andy is looking to branch out into journalism in the hopes of reviewing films, music and sporting events. 

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