Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Under normal circumstances, comparing a feature film to a home movie would seem like harsh criticism, but in the case of the new documentary "Our Irish Cousins," that is pretty much the only way to honestly describe it. The difference is that this one has been made with such genial spirits and good humor that viewers won't mind spend 90 minutes watching it, which is more than you can say about most home movies, including your own.
The film is the brainchild of Mike Houlihan, a Chicago-born writer (who penned the "Houli in the Hood" column for the Chicago Sun-Times between 2002-2005), actor, filmmaker and all around-raconteur of the highest order. Among his multitude of credits is the "Hooliganism" column that he has written for the Irish American Times since 1996, consisting of stories, anecdotes and tall tales largely inspired by his experiences growing up as the seventh child of a South Side Irish-Catholic family. In 2008, he compiled his best columns into the anthology "Hooliganism" and "Our Irish Cousins" follows him as he sets out to promote the book.
As Houlihan makes a string of personal appearances around Chicago, it becomes apparent that this tour is not exactly going to be a bonanza from a financial perspective. And yet, while the crowds may not be large, they are enthusiastic and, more important, they all seem to have unique perspectives on what it means to be Irish-American and are willing to share them with Houlihan and his camera. The one thing that they, Houlihan included, have in common is that while they proudly declare themselves Irish-Americans, few of them have ever actually been to Ireland.
A few weeks later, in March, 2009, Houlihan sets off for Ireland with his family in tow. Ostensibly, the trip is to promote the book, but he's also out to trace his own ancestry and to examine the intense pride that the Irish feel about their heritage. His quest takes him from Fitzpatrick Castle in Dublin to the town in Limerick County where his grandfather came from, with the occasional pub stop along the way. As he continues his journey, he gets further perspectives of what unites and separates the Irish and Irish-Americans, in both the grand scheme of things and in personal terms.