This three part landmark documentary series examines the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the subsequent events that led to the establishment of an independent Irish State and indirectly to the breakup of the British Empire.
It was a seminal event in Irish history and its ramifications were felt as far as India and other far flung parts of what was then the British Empire. With the centenary of the Rising a, it is timely to take a fresh look both at the events themselves and their significance in world history.
Narrated by Liam Neeson, this series places the Irish Rising in its European and global contexts as anti-colonialism found its voice in the wake of the First World War. It explores the crucial role of the United States and of Irish America in both the lead up to and the aftermath of the events.
Liam Neeson said: "1916 is a significant documentary series. As an Irishman, it is, of course, part of my history. The series puts the Easter Rising in a broader, more international context than has ever been done, and shows how it inspired similar movements around the world. What attracted me most was that the series also focuses on the personal stories of those involved. These stories are very human and powerful."
1916 will broaden public understanding of the historical interconnections between Britain, Ireland and the United States, connections that continued to have significance up to and including the recent Irish peace process.
Episode One, RTÉ One, Wednesday, February 10th at 9.35pm
Episode One is crucial in setting up the context for our dramatic story for the events of Easter week.
Here we introduce our audience to the main characters and the main players of Easter Week on all sides and through them make the audience aware of the political and cultural currents playing out in Ireland, Europe and the World including the role of Empire, the outbreak of the first world war, the rise of socialist, feminist and nationalist thought and self-determination. By the end, we find ourselves on the cusp of the week itself.
1916 is part of "Ireland 1916"
The series is an initiative of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame and was produced by COCO Television Productions, Limited.
1916 was created and written by Bríona Nic Dhiarmada. Executive Producers for COCO Television Productions Limited: Linda Cullen, Director of Television, and Stuart Switzer, Chief Executive Officer. Producers: Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, Jackie Larkin. Directors: Ruán Magan, Pat Collins. U.S. Executive Producers: Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel. Composer: Patrick Cassidy.
Music is performed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra; "Mise Éire" is performed by Sibeal Ni Chasaide.
Bríona Nic Dhiarmada Q&A
What is 1916?
1916 is a major thre part historical documentary series made for RTÉ and for public television in the US. It will be shown on over 120 PBS affiliate stations in the US and throughout Europe. It will also be shown at screenings worldwide from Argentina to Australia.
Conceived and written by myself, it is produced by Jackie Larkin for Coco Television and directed by Pat Collins and Ruán Magan and shot by DOP Colm Hogan. Liam Neeson narrates with an original score from LA based Irish composer Patrick Cassidy with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Sibéal Ní Chasaide performs the hauntingly beautiful theme Mise Éire, a new setting of the Pearse's poem. Annie Atkins who worked on the Oscar winning The Grand Budapest Hotel was in charge of graphic design. Executive producers were Linda Cullen and Stuart Switzer (Coco Television) Christopher Fox (Notre Dame), Niamh O'Connor and Seán MacGiolla Phádraig (RTE)
How did it come about?
It's an initiative of the Keough Naughton Intitute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where I am a professor. The Director of the Institute, Chris Fox and I decided a number of years ago that we wanted to do something special coming up to the centenary of 1916.
I'm a concurrent professor in Film and Television and a documentary series that combined top scholarship and research with the highest production values seemed the way to go. We wanted to do for 1916 what Ken Burns had done on American television for the Civil War - to bring serious history to a broad audience in a compelling manner.
After a number of years in development, we partnered with COCO television here in Dublin to produce the series. We approached RTÉ who came on board at the very beginning and have had both financial and editorial input.
We raised 80 per cent of the finances through Notre Dame through the generosity of our donors - some based in Ireland but the majority in the US. As we based the production in Ireland we were able to draw on Section 481, (a Govt initiative to attract film production to Ireland) and the remainder came from RTE.
What struck you about the leaders of 1916?
The leaders of 1916 were remarkable men and women. The American poet Joyce Kilmer wrote in the New York Times in the immediate aftermath of the Rising that they had gone out with a gun in one hand and Sophocles in the other. One of the things that increasingly struck me as I researched this was an inordinate loss they were to Ireland.
What was your approach?
One of the main things in our approach was to avoid the simplistic hagiography and glorification that we saw in 1966, for example, but also to go beyond the other extreme of demonization or amnesia that took hold throughout the seventies and eighties in particular, due, of course, to the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
At this stage in our history we hope to be able to look back in a more generous spirit and restore parts of the narrative that were omitted by accident or design - the Irish who fought in the Great War, for example. We wanted to restore the complexities of our history and also to emphasize the international aspect which has been too often overlooked.
1916 didn't just change Ireland, it was the beginning of a ripple effect, in India, in Africa which would play out in final dissolution of the British Empire, the Empire on which the sun never set.
Who are your contributors?
We draw on a wide range of leading historians from Ireland, Britain and the US. The historical consultant was Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh. Other contributors include Declan Kiberd, Joe Lee, Catríona Crowe, Roy Foster, Fearghal McGarry, Joanne Innes, Bob Schumhl, Mary Daly, Alvin Jackson, Ronan Fanning and Margaret O'Callaghan.
What next for 1916?
We have also cut a feature length version that will be shown as a global screening in Irish Embassies throughout the world to mark St Patrick's Day celebrations in 2016 as well as screenings at film festivals throughout the world.
There is also a companion book to the series entitled The 1916 Irish Rebellion published by Cork University Press in Ireland and by the University of Notre Dame Press in the US. The foreword was written by Mary McAleese.
Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, producer and writer of 1916
Bríona Nic Dhiarmada is the Thomas J. and Kathleen O'Donnell Professor of Irish Studies and Concurrent Professor of Film, Television and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame in the US.
A writer, academic and filmmaker, Nic Dhiarmada was educated in Trinity College and UCD. She lectured at UCD and worked in television for RTE and TG4 before returning to academia at UL in 2006.
She has been a Distinguished Visiting International Scholar at the University of Missouri and held a Senior Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame before joining the full time faculty as a tenured endowed professor. Nic Dhiarmada has written numerous screenplays and produced and directed award winning documentaries such as Ar Lorg Shorcha/Searching for Sorcha which told the story of renowned sean-nós singer Sorcha Ní Ghuairim.
She originated, wrote and produced the documentary series 1916 for RTE and PBS as well as a feature length documentary of the same name which will be shown on 5 continents to mark the centenary of the Rising.
She is the author of the companion book The 1916 Irish Rebellion which is published in Ireland by Cork University Press on Feb 18th.
She currently divides her time between North Tipperary and South Bend, Indiana.