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BBC documentary films Irish identity

Rachael Schermitzler | Wednesday, September 15, 2004

This weekend Notre Dame played host not only to Michigan, but also to a BBC film crew who was constructing a feature segment about the Irish Language Department. Antaine O’Donnaile, the producer for BBC’s Gaelic television magazine, focuses on finding places all around the world where people use the Irish language. While last year’s selection was a 10-minute segment on Spain’s Gaelic community, this year’s hit closer to home.O’Donnaile chose Notre Dame because of the University’s Irish identity and the many renowned Irish scholars who teach on campus. Arriving Thursday and gathering information on Friday and Saturday, the crew was pleasantly surprised by the experience. “We came to Notre Dame thinking we would do a 10-minute segment on the Irish language,” O’Donnaile said. “After the weekend, I have enough information to propose an entire documentary.”Friday, the BBC team met and interviewed several of Notre Dame’s leading Irish scholars, conducting almost all of the interviews in the Irish language. Professor Eamonn O’Ciardha of the Keough Institute for Irish Studies said he is excited to be involved in this project.”There is the desire to report home on the performance of Irish Studies and the teaching of the Irish language at Notre Dame,” O’Ciardha said.The film crew also had a chance to experience Notre Dame outside of a conference room, attending the pep rally, football game and tailgates – which allowed both the academic and social sides of the University’s Irish culture to show through, O’Donnaile said.”When I came here I quite honestly thought the Irishness was weird, but over the course of the weekend, I see it is a very inclusive thing, something the people in Ireland could learn a lot from,” he said.Above all, O’Donnaile enjoyed tailgating the most, calling Saturday’s scene not just a day of drinking, but a social gathering with a lot of tradition behind it. O’Donnaile said the BBC’s mission – to discover the forms and presence of how Notre Dame’s Irish culture – was accomplished.The 10-minute version of the film will air next month in Gaelic on the BBC channel, while the documentary is pending.