Director, Producer, Writer
An Dubh ina Gheal: Assimilation explores the existence of a new colonial identity in Australia - that of the Indigenous Irish Australian, proud to be Aboriginal and proud to be Irish. However colonial history has had devastating consequences for indigenous Australians, and this documentary explores how the Irish, as white Australians, were also complicit in the dispossession of the Aboriginal people. Weaving social and personal history with poetry, An Dubh ina Gheal is the hidden story of the Irish in Australia.
Presenter and poetry by: Louis de Paor
Featuring Kev Carmody, Gary Foley, Ann McGrath, Bill Brock-Byrne, Henry Reynolds, Shane Howard, Len and Brett Clarke, Pat O’Shane, Michael Long.
DOP: Colm Hogan, Sound: John Brennan, Editor: Conall de Cléir, Music: Ronan Browne. A Saoi Media production for TG4 and the BAI. Supported by Film Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive’s Zero Licensing Scheme. Duration: 53 minutes.
Official selection Galway Film Fleadh, the Cork Film Festival, Irish Film Festival in Sydney, and screened as a part of the Irish Film Institute's 'Ireland on Sunday' series. Nominated for Golden Torc Award at the Celtic Media Festival, Program of the Year at the Irish language Media Awards, Prix Circom Commendation for Minorities in Society.
Returning to Australia for a time after spending years living on the Aran Islands and in Galway studying Irish, I had a totally different perspective on Australia as a colony and the Irish experience there. I wanted to make a film about the connections, disconnections and the complicated relationship between Aboriginal Australians and those who identify as indigenous Irish, but there was very little written on the subject. Finally I came across Ann McGrath’s important essay Shamrock Aborigines: the Irish, the Aboriginal Australians and their children, and it gave me the courage to take an exploratory approach. Ann was subsequently interviewed in the documentary.
I knew instinctively that the way in to telling the story was through the Irish language, and remembered that Louis de Paor had written poems in Irish exploring some of these themes from the perspective of an Irish immigrant during his time in Australia. This isn’t his area of expertise, but he was open to the approach, and no better way than through the prism of poetry and language. The documentary took its title from one of his poems woven into the narrative.
In addition to a pretty astonishing list of contributors, Bill Brock-Byrne came into my life at the eleventh hour. He wanted to tell his story as a member of the Stolen Generations, and as someone who was proud of both his Aboriginal and his Irish heritage, despite all the contradictions. It wasn’t confirmed that he was related to Joe Byrne from Ned Kelly’s gang until we were on the shoot and in transit at Sydney airport. I got a call from Geraldine Byrne, another relative, who wrote an account of pastoral life in Tom and Jack, A Frontier Story. All leading to an unforgettable day at St Mary’s Football Club in Darwin with Bill, Micheal Long and the extended family connecting the Aboriginal and Irish family tree.