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Visions of Ireland

Gael Linn’s «Amharc Éireann» Film Series, 1956–1964


B. Mairéad Pratschke

The Amharc Éireann film series (literally translated as Views/Visions of Ireland) was a cultural nationalist project sponsored by Gael Linn, an organization whose mandate was the revitalization of the Irish language through the use of modern media and technology. It was produced by Colm Ó Laoghaire, a member of a well-known Irish literary and nationalist family, the Plunketts. As the first and longest-running Irish-language documentary and news-film series, Amharc Éireann represented an attempt on the part of a few committed Irish-language enthusiasts to present Ireland to the Irish in a way that would instil a sense of pride in the country, and to promote the language in a way that the public would accept. Created during a period of rapid social, economic and political change, it reflects and records the dramatic transformation of Ireland from a rural, underdeveloped and relatively isolated nation into a modern member of the international economic and political community.
This book, the first full-length investigation of the Amharc Éireann series as a historical artefact, makes an original and important contribution to our understanding of the complexities of twentieth-century Irish history.
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Chapter One: Introduction


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This book is about the representation of Ireland in a series of short documentary films and newsreels made in the 1950s and 1960s called Amharc Éireann. The title means Views of Ireland in Irish, and conveys exactly what the producer and sponsors intended – that Irish cinema audiences look at images of Ireland, rather than of Britain or the United States – or worse, at foreign-made representations of Ireland. The Amharc Éireann series was sponsored by Gael Linn, a cultural organization whose purpose was, and continues to be, the promotion and protection of the Irish language and culture through the use of modern media. The films are all in Irish, and the series constituted the first of its kind in Irish history.1 This is Ireland for the Irish, a cultural nationalist project that finally put the native language on the screen.2 Irish-language filmmaking began with the Amharc Éireann series. Indeed, it was the risk taken by Gael Linn in producing it that led to the sponsorship of the other, higher profile Irish-language productions such as George Morrison’s Mise Éire and Saoirse?

The period in which the series was made (1956–64) is generally seen as a watershed in Irish history, during which Ireland began its economic, ← 1 | 2 → political and social transformation into a modern member of the international community. Production began during a deep depression and the series’ lifetime overlapped with the much-applauded recovery and rapid growth of...

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