Ireland has lost its sense of community, says David Puttnam

Story by John Donohoe

Thursday, 13th June, 2019 12:37pm

Ireland has lost its sense of community, says David Puttnam

David Puttnam. Photo: Justine Walpole

Renowned film producer, Lord David Puttnam, states Ireland has lost its sense of community and that society struggles with a lack of empathy. 

Speaking on the latest episode of the University College Cork (UCC) podcast, Plain Speaking, Lord Puttnam stated; “I can't pretend that I see the same commitment to community amongst the children and grandchildren of the people I met and were my neighbours for 30 years that was here when I arrived.”

Appointed ireland's 'digital champion' in 2012, Puttnam contributed to the development and implementation of the Government’s National Digital Strategy, published in 2013, where he used his role to raise the profile of national digital objectives. He stepped down in 2017.

A Labour peer in the House of Lords, David Puttnam lives in West Cork and stated that in recent years, he has seen a loss in the sense of a community in Ireland.

“In a way, we were able to- I'm guilty of it - retreat within ourselves. The need to go out, be convivial, deal with people, and to see that the richness of your life was mirrored in your interactions and interconnectivity with other people, I think that retreated, perhaps the whole business of pub life and people meeting on a very regular basis every Tuesday, every Thursday to do this, to do that. I think we have been atomised and we have been insulated.”

“We have a society that struggles with empathy.. we've got to stop looking at people as just numbers, crude numbers or masses, and see them as individuals, see them as a kid that we might give a home to or a child that we might help to get into a college or primary school.”

The value of an arts degree 

Lord Puttnam spent thirty years as an independent producer of award-winning films including The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Bugsy Malone. Together these films won ten Oscars, ten golden globes, twenty-five Baftas and the Palme D'Or at Cannes. The film producer was on the UCC podcast to discuss the value of an arts education.
“Take the creative industries including the digital world, there's been a quite extraordinary explosion to the extent that, now there are far more jobs year on year in the creative industries, what people might call the creative industries, than there are in finance. You tell that to the average parent and they look at you as though you're crazy but, in fact, that is the case.”
Puttnam who works with film and media students at UCC, is highly critical of the Leaving Certificate on the podcast as "very artificial and has little to do with their real skills."

Hollywood is predatory in its instincts 

Responding to recent criticism of Hollywood, Lord Puttnam stated cinema has forgotten what it is about.
“As an industry it's predatory in its instincts. It sometimes forgets what it's about, it sometimes forgets that it's actually about communicating with people. It sometimes forgets that the one amazing quality about cinema is its quality of allowing people to find the best of themselves in the cinema, and then to share the best of themselves. That's what great movies do.”
“Cinema tends, tragically, to forget that time to time and backs off into superhero movies and this awful myth that some way or other these people out there who are going to solve all our problems for us, they're going to swoop down from buildings, they'll wear masks and have got capes so they can fly, and that they're going to solve our problems for us. It ain't like that. We're the only people who can solve our problems.” UCC’s Plain Speaking podcast is available on iTunes and Spotify. Past episodes include Professor Keith Humphreys, the former drug advisor to President Obama, on the US opioid crisis and former Irish President, Mary Robinson, on climate change.

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