There are a number of films available online which detail various aspects of Irish History. Viewing these films may help you to better contextualize the history of your family within the history of Ireland. If you know of any other films which you would like to see added to the list, just email me at irisheyesjennifer at gmail dot com.

A Stranger's Notebook on Dublin

Running just over twenty-three minutes, this film offers a look at Dublin and its people from the perspective of a Polish TV producer by the name of Chris Malkeiwicz, who worked for RTÉ [Radio Television Éire] in the 60s. The features Dubliners talking about their city as the camera scans Dublin scenes. Also, Aidan Grennell reads from the works of James Joyce.This film was first broadcast 20 October, 1966. 

This film is especially interesting because it was broadcast just over 50 years after the 1916 Easter Rising, and politically speaking — having entirely taken leave of the British Empire in 1949 (18 April 1949; Constitution 29 December 1937) — Ireland in 1966 was still a very young country.

This film is available on YouTube:

Dublin Inner City Folklore

Produced by Loopline in 1999, this film features Terry Fagan — a researcher with The North Inner City Folklore Project — in discussion with those who lived in the north inner city of Dublin. The purpose of the folklore project was the preservation of stories and recollections about what life was like living in the tenements and corporation buildings in Dublin City.

I especially like this film because it presents glimpses into inner city life in the modern era. Sometimes family history researchers believe poverty in Ireland is only a part of the distant past, but this film demonstrates that it remained a reality for many well into the 20th century.

'O Bhéal go Béal - Scéim n Scol': Mouth To Mouth: The School Scheme

This documentary short film in Irish with English subtitles details the 1937 Irish Folklore Commission programme the Schools' Folklore Scheme. The purpose of this programme, within the Irish school system, was to have children document the folklore and local history of their own home areas.

Each week the children were assigned a specific topic, and were instructed to conduct research on the subject matter, and to talk with their parents, grandparents, and oldest members of their community. Their goal was to gather stories, histories, and memories which were applicable to the subject. Following these discussions they were to write about the topic in a copybook which had been specially provided for the task.

There was a copy of this film on YouTube, but unfortunately it was removed by RTÉ. For more information about this film and others, see my post 'From the pens of babes': Recording Folklore and History in Ireland

Cumann na mBan:

Check out the series of films on YouTube which offer details of the history of the Irish women's revolutionary organization Cumann na mBan. Some of the films are better than others with respect to historical accuracy; however, most of them include original footage. The series Irish Women Revolutionaries (#1-6) is especially good.

Death or Canada aka Fleeing the Famine:

This deeply moving docudrama contextualizes the immigration story of the Willis family within the larger history of An Gorta Mor, the Great Famine of 1845-52, and emigration out of Ireland in the period. The official website of the film offers extensive information including an essay on the famine migration of 1847 by Professor Mark G. McGown with Mark Chard of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.

You can view the film on the Ballinran Productions site at 
On the Ballinran site click on Films and choose Death or Canada

Faces and Places Wicklow:

If you need a break from the films of a much more serious nature, then this RTE travelogue film from the 1980s is worth a look. It offers a light hearted look at County Wicklow, popularly known as the 'Garden of Ireland'.

View it, along with other 'Classic' films such as 'Connemara and its ponies', on the RTE site at

Remembering A Memory:

This film, produced by Ronald Rudin (Concordia University) and directed by Robert McMahon of the Royal Ontario Museum explores the various stories inspired by the immense Celtic Cross constructed in 1909 on Grosse-Île.

Grosse-Île is a tiny island in the St. Lawrence Seaway, in the Île-aux-Grues archipelago, about 48 km east of Quebec City. It is the landing and quarantine site which was established in the 1830s for those immigrants entering Canada during the Cholera outbreak, and the site of landing for those Irish fleeing An Gorta Mor, the Great Famine of 1845-1852. (See my post: The Great Famine...)

Grosse-Île is the site of the largest cemetery outside Ireland connected with the famine. This film reflects on how and why the memories evoked by Grosse-Île have so dramatically shifted over the past century.


If you are interested in feature films with an Irish theme visit this post
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