Pat Murphy (director)

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Pat Murphy
Born 1951 (age 65–66)
Dublin, Ireland
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Years active 1982–2002

Pat Murphy (born 1951)[1] is an Irish feminist filmmaker and lecturer, the director of Maeve (1982), Anne Devlin (1984) and Nora (2000).


Born in Dublin, Murphy graduated from the Ulster College of Art and Design, followed by a BA in fine art at Hornsey College of Art and an MA in film and television from the Royal College of Art in London[1] where she studied under feminist theorist Laura Mulvey. Hoping to train as a cinematographer, in 1977 she was the first European to achieve a scholarship year at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, influencing her decision to become a director.[2] She completed a short film, Rituals of Memory, before returning to Ireland to work on her first feature film.

Early career[edit]

Co-directed with John Davies but generally attributed to Murphy, Maeve (1981) was funded by the British Film Institute and later judged by Irish Times film critic Tara Brady to be "Ireland's first bona-fide feminist film." In 2012, Murphy recalled her approach: "I didn't think about story. I'd think something like: representations of Northern Ireland are unsatisfactory: I'm going to make Maeve and sort it all out... Maeve was asking how does a woman position herself against the background of what was going on in the North and within the history of republicanism and memory and landscape... I was influenced by [Jean Luc] Godard and [Bertholt] Brecht."[2] The film's narrative and timeline meander far from the linear throughout.

Murphy's second film, Anne Devlin, was a less cut-up affair, with the filmmaker working from the prison diaries of 19th Century Irish revolutionary Robert Emmet's housekeeper to rediscover her life and times. "I was amazed by how cinematic it was. Scenes were described in enough detail to construct shots for the movie. I think after making Maeve I became more interested in story. And with Anne Devlin's journal I wanted to tell a story that was like a ballad".[2] It represented Ireland at international festivals such as Edinburgh, Moscow,[3] Chicago, Toronto and London.

In 1987, Murphy was a founder board member of the Filmbase facility in Dublin's Temple Bar. The following year saw her write and co-direct the two-part documentary Sean MacBride Remembers, an exploration of the Irish republican and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She then turned her hand to a mixture of artistic disciplines: in theatre, with The Parade of Innocence and The River Parade (1989), in fine art practice and curatorship with the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), in installation with a 1992 film for the Strokestown Famine Museum, and 1993 saw her co-direct Reflections from the Roof of the World.


Her most recent feature film was Nora (2000), a study of writer James Joyce's partner Nora Barnacle, with Susan Lynch in the lead role and Ewan McGregor as Joyce. After researching Joyce in the hope of filming an element of his life or work, Murphy found an appropriate point of entry through Brenda Maddox's biography of Barnacle, which "points out how the all-pervasiveness of Nora's voice in Joyce's writing has paradoxically rendered her invisible to the reader," she explained.[4] The film earned her the United International Pictures Director's Award and a slew of Irish Film and Television Awards. To date, the it is her only film that remains generally available.

In 2002, Murphy made the short film What Mira Saw and the following year was elected a member of Irish artists' group Aosdána, at which point she taught film at Queen's University Belfast and sat on the board of the Screen Directors' Guild of Ireland.[5]

In 2012, Murphy's three major films were included in The Sunday Times' list of the top 100 Irish films of all time. That July, they were presented along with a public interview in a retrospective at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin.[6] She is preparing a documentary on Muslim weavers and since the release of Nora was reported to have lectured in Singapore for three years and travelled around India for ten. She is an Associate Arts Professor at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Asia graduate film programme.[6]

Her latest work is an Irish language film entitled, "Ar lorg Sorcha" [Searching for Sorcha] about the sean-nos singer Sorcha Ni Ghuairim from Carna, Connemara. This was shown in 2006 on TG4, the Irish language television channel.


  1. ^ a b "MURPHY, Pat (director-producer-scriptwriter) (1951–)". Irish Film and TV Research Online. Trinity College Dublin. 
  2. ^ a b c Brady, Tara (20 July 2012). "Look back with candour". Irish Times. 
  3. ^ "14th Moscow International Film Festival (1985)". MIFF. Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Interview with Filmmaker Pat Murphy". Kinema: A Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media. 
  5. ^ "Director Pat Murphy Elected to Aosdána". Irish Film and Television Network. 
  6. ^ a b "Irish Film Institute". Focus on Pat Murphy.