Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Studies on Film

Publication Details

Representations of Ireland Conference. August, 2012. Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church, Budapest, Hungary.


Portraying Migrants’ Experiences in Irish Documentary Film

In this presentation I critically analyse the types of narratives and formal characteristics, as well as the variety of social issues that filmmakers in the Republic of Ireland have engaged in, in creating stories about transnational migration and the immigrant subject in recent Irish documentary film. As a result of the Celtic Tiger economy from the mid-90s until 2008, Ireland has experienced a major transformation in its ethnoscape (Appadurai, 1996) by becoming a ‘country of immigrants’, with an estimated 12% of the population born outside the country. Through the analysis of such documentary titles, as Here to Stay (2006, Alan Grossman and Aine O’Brien); Saviours (2007, Liam Nolan and Ross Whitaker); and Seaview (2007, Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley), I explore the strategies and processes of documenting the lived realities of the migrant subject, and the concomitant formations of ethnic, diasporic, and hybrid identities as experienced in Ireland. The documentary films in question, although varying in style and form, agree in striving to combine cinematic spectacle with a strong sense of social commitment. With the exception of just one, all relevant films have been produced in the context of the ‘creative documentary’ funding programme of the Irish Film Board. How did the attempts to create good cinema shape the artistic choices filmmakers have made in their work? What do these documentary films tell us about the Irish experience of immigration? Recent documentary films engaging with the theme of immigration represent Ireland from a lesser-explored perspective: it is is multiethnic, multicultural, transnational.