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The Irishmen: An Impression of Exile

Director: Philip Donnellan


Directed by pioneering television documentarian Philip Donnellan, this social-realist documentary about Irish workers in the UK proved too controversial to ever be screened on British television. It is not surprising why; employed to drive the crucial infrastructural projects which would power post-war Britain, migrant Irish labourers are shown working in harsh conditions and living austere lives that are always threatened by unemployment. Interviewees condemn British attitudes towards the Irish whilst Ireland itself is decried for the 1950s depression which drove so many people out of the country. The film is interspersed with scenes from the journey of a young man from his home in the West of Ireland to London by boat and train. Traditional music sessions and scenes of a hurling match at Wembley Stadium alleviate grim scenes of gruelling labour, whilst a lively, energetic soundtrack of folk ballads performed by Paul Lenihan and Joe Heaney intelligently plays off these images of hard labour that comprise the film.

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