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'Make Inishturk Great Again'

'Make Inishturk Great Again' heads to a small island that became the subject of an Internet frenzy.

If you don’t take your politics – or, for that matter, the role of a documentary film – too seriously, there are a few minutes of fun to be had watching “Make Inishturk Great Again.”

The short film, one of the selections for Missoula’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, takes us to an island nine miles off the coast of Ireland. (The 58 residents may prefer the alternative description, that Ireland is an island nine miles off the coast of Inishturk.)

Anyway, last May, Mary Heanue, the Inishturk development officer, was quoted as saying that, “I’ve heard there are quite a few people in America looking to move to Ireland and other countries if Donald Trump becomes president. I’d like them to know that we’d love to see them consider moving over here.”

If we gloss over the fact that Heanue later denied ever mentioning Trump or any U.S. politicians in the interview – and the film certainly does – there’s still no denying how the one disputed sentence brought the small island international attention.

The original headline, “Remote Irish island seeks Americans fleeing Donald Trump presidency,” spawned others on the Internet during months that fake news made news.

From Yahoo: “There’s a remote Irish island we can all move to if Trump becomes president.” On Reddit: “Ireland is now officially accepting Trump refugees.”

“What we weren’t expecting was that so many people would take it seriously,” says one of the island residents, who are not identified, in the film.

***

Director David Freid hops between the mainland and Inishturk, and also intersplices footage of Trump talking about Ireland, where he owns a golf course.

In one clip, in which no context is provided, Trump is seen telling people, “In the old days you’d leave New York and go down to Florida. Now, because of the way the world is, so different, you leave the United States and go to Ireland.”

Freid spends an inordinate amount of time asking Irish people on the mainland if they would leave Ireland if Trump were elected president of their country. He veers off to the mainland again to talk to a man in Doonbeg about Trump’s desire to build a wall – this one considerably shorter in both height and width than his proposed wall on the Mexican border – to protect his golf course from the ocean.

“If he builds this wall, he’ll stop the sands from replenishing the dunes,” the man says. “He’ll actually kill the whole dune system.”

And there’s a jarring segment, again on the mainland, with a Mexican immigrant (to Ireland, not the United States), who made a Donald Trump piñata and invited people to “whack it for charity.” You watch people, including children, take a baseball bat to a likeness of Trump dangling in the air.

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All of that tends to detract from the point of a film – made before Trump had secured the Republican nomination, much less won the White House – that should be about the unintended consequences, for the residents of a remote island, of what began as a single story on the Internet.

There is no evidence any American actually moved to Inishturk before or since the election, but plenty apparently explored the possibility and at least dreamed about it for a bit.

The film’s charm, humor and beauty can be found when Freid’s camera is on Inishturk. The island is only 59 acres (that would be one 37th the size of Flathead Lake’s Wild Horse Island), with only 58 people.

“There’s no crime. No chain supermarkets,” one woman says. “It’s just a lovely place to live.”

The attention, one resident decided, did force Inishturk to examine what it wanted to be.

“Is the community the families who have been here always, or is it something else if lots of people come in?” he asks.

They may want to be careful what they wish for. Inishturk looks like it’s already great.

As one woman explains, “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love it.”

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