Irish language in film increasing?

By Leah Kilby

In 2019 Arracht (meaning Monster), a historical drama depicting the struggles of the famine times in Ireland, was released. The film is set in Connemara and the story is told through the eyes of Colman. 

As can be assumed this film is not a lighthearted one as not only does it show the hardship people had to endure during the famine but depicts how people could become ‘monsters’ as the title suggests. It was well received, the Irish Times review giving it ⅘ stars.

“There is much in Arracht about the casual outrages of 19th-century imperialism. There is much about the eternal sorrows of the human condition.”

The film went on to win several awards in the Dublin Film festival, glasgow film festival and the American Golden Picture International Film Festival. It was also selected as the Irish entry for best International feature film in the 93rd Academy awards, however it did not receive the nomination.

The main point of interest for this film is that it uses the native Irish language throughout. It is one of the latest films to be released in Irish. This makes it one of 30+ feature films that use the language. 

Other notable films in Irish include Song of the sea, an animated film where Brendon Gleeson reprised his role for the Irish language version. It was nominated for best animated feature at the 87th Academy awards.

In an Interview with Irish filmmaker, Paddy Hayes, for Screen Daily he suggested that with support and funding there could be more Irish language films to come. 

“There’s an element of coming of age generally in the film industry,” said Hayes. “The Irish language has been late to the party. That has been put to right to a great extent which is very exciting.”

The decline of the Irish language has been a topic often discussed, while mandatory to learn in school there are very few people that speak the language on a daily basis. A census published by the central statistics office in 2016 showed that 1,761,420 people in Ireland spoke Irish, however when asked how regularly they spoke it only 73,803 use Irish daily. 


Could more feature length films in Irish spark people’s interest to continue to use the language? This year funding for TG4 to produce five young contemporary drama series was given. In a press release they had this to say: 

“Our Cine4 partnership with Screen Ireland and BAI has already produced feature films of the highest quality and we believe that this new collaboration with Screen Ireland will lay the foundation which will allow multiple original and innovative drama series in the Irish language to emerge.”

The next few years it’s possible that we will see a rise in interest if these series are to be produced. It’s also possible with the current achievement Arracht and other Irish language films have made that more funding for similar projects might be encouraged. 

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