Seams is an imaginative oral history film, questioning definitions of “enemy” by focusing on the memories and lives of women from Ireland and Northern Ireland who participated in the Second World War as factory workers, medical professionals, or soldiers in the British forces. Based on oral history recordings with over twenty women north and south of the border, the film poetically visualizes the women’s stories through interviews, archival footage, and hand-painted, stop-motion animation.
Stills from an interview with Rose and Ruby, two of six sisters from Kilkenny who all joined the British Land Army:
The animation is made from ink washes on Irish linen. Linen is a significant material in Ireland. It fuelled Northern Ireland’s industrialized economy and was used in much of the war industry for its strength and resilience. The animation creates an imaginative and sensitive space for audiences to contemplate the stories that the women share. Their memories are often difficult, filled with the complications and sadness of this time period. They discuss the lack of opportunity in Ireland, which caused them to join the British forces or to seek work in England. Some describe the discrimination that they faced for being Irish, while others describe the difficulty of talking about their experiences when they returned home to Ireland. Some witnessed the horrors of war and the heartbreaking aftermath in both England and Germany. However, much like the durability of linen, the women maintained a strength, resilience, and incredible love of life in the midst of all of the hardship.
The purpose of Seams is not to create a historical document, but instead to reflect upon memory—the memory of the women in the film, the memory of their communities, and the unfortunate reality of our collective forgetfulness. Seams will give Irish women from both sides of the border a platform to remember and to be remembered.
Dr. Mary Muldowney is a research adviser to the project. Her book, The Second World War and Irish Women: An Oral History was the first comprehensive look at the war's impact on the lives of Irish women. She is an authority on oral history in Ireland and founding member of the Oral History Network of Ireland.