Oscar nods for 2022 film The Quiet Girl is a boon to the Irish language

“For a language to survive, it must have a cultural presence.”

This is how Colm Bairéad, whose devastating debut The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin) became the first Irish-language production to be nominated for an Academy Award for International Feature Film, explains the importance of representing the Irish mother tongue in cinema. It’s an occasion that has fueled the already deep national pride of Irish people, whether they speak the language or not.

Based on the novella ‘Foster’ by Irish author Claire Keegan, Bairéad’s soft-hearted debut in cinemas on Friday centers on an intuitive 9-year-old girl from a poor family who spends the summer of 1981 with relatives – a married couple – who have experienced something a personal tragedy.

Although the Irish language is spoken fluently by a small percentage of the country’s population, mainly in rural areas, the Irish language is still taught in all schools today and its preservation remains a cornerstone of the post-colonial Irish state. However, until recently, the language was underrepresented in local film production.

The Quiet Girl was developed and later realized by Cine4, an initiative dedicated to producing Irish language features for theatrical performances. Funding comes from TG4, the Irish language broadcaster established in 1996; Screen Ireland, the state film agency; and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The aim is to mainstream the Irish language through the reach of a medium such as film.

“When we were setting up this program I said in interviews on the first day that the aim would be to one day get an Oscar nomination for an Irish language film,” said Alan Esslemont, General Manager at TG4. “We wanted to let people know that this is a program with ambition.”

Since 2017, Cine4 has supported two Irish language projects each year with a budget of around €1.2 million (about US$1.27 million) each.

Six films have been completed to date, including historical drama Arracht, set during the Great Famine that decimated Ireland in the 19th century; and two topical narratives, the sombre coming-of-age tale Foscadh and the light-hearted dramedy Róise & Frank.

Catherine Clinch, left, and Carrie Crowley in a scene from "The quiet girl."

Catherine Clinch (left) and Carrie Crowley in a scene from The Quiet Girl.

(Great via AP)

Bairéad and his producer and wife Cleona Ní Chrualaoí had collaborated with TG4 on short format Irish language content and documentaries over the years. The creation of Cine4 was a bespoke opportunity for her to venture onto the big screen.

Raised bilingually, Bairéad has a deep personal connection to the Irish language, although he resisted it as a teenager. “My father has never spoken English to me,” he said. “Even though I grew up in Dublin, in an ordinary suburban development, we were a little different as a family because we had this language that other people around us didn’t speak.”

As he grew older, the filmmaker came to appreciate the cultural relevance of the language, and now he and Ní Chrualaoí are raising their two children through the Irish language.

Although “Foster” was originally written and published in English — Hiberno-English, to be precise, the dialect spoken in Ireland that has Irish-derived inflections and syntax — Bairéad believed he could replant, since Keegan’s story is fully up two farms the action takes place in an Irish speaking region and it would still seem believable to local viewers.

“When I create in the Irish language, I’m always very aware that the language needs to be presented in a way that feels authentic to an Irish audience,” said Bairéad. “I would never write a script based in Dublin where everyone speaks Irish for no reason.”

Contrary to what one might expect, Bairéad says casting the extraordinary Catherine Clinch to lead Cáit was easier than finding professional adult actors who are fluent in Irish. The search for her young star required a seven-month process, but the pool of young Irish-speaking talent was plentiful.

In addition to all schools in Ireland which teach the Irish language as a compulsory subject, there is a smaller subset of primary schools across the island nation which teach pupils any subject in Irish. Bairéad met Clinch at one such school in Dublin.

Growing up, Bairéad also attended an Irish-only school, particularly the one his own father had started in their community. Although Bairéad’s father, a linguist, became proficient in Irish later in life, his love of Irish culture and languages ​​inspired him to be part of a surge in Irish language activism in the 1970s that led to the establishment of the Irish-only schools.

“This film is a product of people like my father who are dedicated to trying to preserve the language and finding new ways to promote it,” he said. “He had a clear sense that this was worth preserving, that it would be a tragedy if lost.”

It was also in the 1970s that Bairéad’s father taught Brendan Gleeson Irish – yes, that Brendan Gleeson, now the Oscar-nominated star of The Banshees of Inisherin, who was then preparing to become a teacher, which required knowledge of Irish Language. Gleeson has since championed the language.

“The Irish language can express nuances of Irish perspective that have been lost even in Hiberno-English,” Gleeson said via email. “It’s a gift for that alone.”

Gleeson, who voiced the father figure in both the English and Irish language dubbings of the Oscar-nominated Irish animated film Song of the Sea, agrees that Bairéad made the right decision in adapting Foster into Irish.

Andrew Bennett, left, and Catherine Clinch in a scene from "The quiet girl."

Andrew Bennett (left) and Catherine Clinch in a scene from The Quiet Girl.

(Great via AP)

“’The Quiet Girl’ takes a beautifully written Hiberno-English novella and gives it cinematic expression through Irish. It’s the interaction of two living languages,” added Gleeson. “The irony is that much of the film’s power comes from silence.”

Prior to the implementation of Cine4, only a handful of Irish language feature films had ever hit the country’s screens. Bob Quinn’s 1978 crime drama “Poitín” is considered the first of its kind. Quinn intentionally made it in Irish to recapture the notion of a genuine, true Irish identity in the Connemara region of western Ireland, away from bourgeois life .

But as Ruth Barton, professor of film studies at Trinity College Dublin, notes, Quinn’s political statement does not reflect most Irish people’s relationship to the language. Many generations associated the Irish language with the poverty of pastoral life because of the way it was forcibly taught to them in school.

“People of my generation had to learn Irish. You could fail your final exam if you failed Irish,” Barton said. “There was this strong resistance to learning Irish because it was being forced on them and also because the standard textbook called ‘Peig’ was about growing up poor and miserable in Ireland. It is only now that there is more of a slight cultural turnaround and many want to learn Irish voluntarily.”

After Poitín, it was several decades before another Irish-language production came into being: 2007’s Kings, about a group of Connemara men who emigrate to London. More recently there was Song of Granite (2017), a black-and-white biopic about a traditional singer, and the historical thriller Black 47 (2018), also set in the Great Famine; both were created outside of the Cine4 initiative.

Altogether there are still fewer than a dozen Irish language feature films, more than half thanks to the Cine4 support scheme.

“Everyone is very supportive of this current lineup of Irish language films because they’re not stuffing Irish down their throats,” Barton said of the Cine4 films. “They don’t say, ‘This is how you have to live.’ You can live in Dublin and speak Irish.”

Three men at a house party in the 1990s

‘The Quiet Girl’ director Colm Bairéad aged 15, center, with actor Brendan Gleeson, right, during a party at Bairéad’s house in 1997. At left is Bairéad’s uncle Paddy Barrett.

(Colm Bairead)

The Oscar nomination isn’t The Quiet Girl’s first historic achievement: the film is the highest-grossing Irish-language film of all time, the first to have its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival – where it won the Grand Prix in its section – the first to open the Dublin Film Festival and first to win the Irish Film & Television Academy Awards where it won seven awards including Best Picture.

Beloved source material, enthusiastic word of mouth and international acclaim all contributed to the film’s unprecedented impact and visibility. Throughout its awards campaign, The Quiet Girl also received support from notable Irish actors such as Pierce Brosnan, Chris O’Dowd, Caitríona Balfe and Michael Fassbender, some of whom hosted screenings. When the Oscar nominations were announced last month, there was a lot of anticipation among Irish people on social media.

“The connection between the Irish language and the glitz and glamor of Hollywood was something that people really couldn’t imagine, so it had a huge impact on the status of the language in Ireland and that’s what we wanted to do,” said Eslemont.

The tremendous success of The Quiet Girl has begun to have a positive impact on how the language is perceived locally, which Bairéad hopes means long life for the Cine4 initiative and continued support for Irish language storytelling by institutions and audiences alike .

“Hopefully my own children 20 years from now can look back on this new canon of Irish language cinema and have something to engage with and appreciate in their own indigenous language,” Bairéad said.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2023-02-23/the-quiet-girl-oscars-2023-irish-language Oscar nods for 2022 film The Quiet Girl is a boon to the Irish language

Sarah Ridley

Sarah Ridley is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Sarah Ridley joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing sarahridley@ustimespost.com.

Related Articles

Back to top button