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Irish filmmaker documents struggle to revive a fading language

By Bradley Leuchte

Maurice Fitzpatrick, an Irish documentary 7lmmaker from the northern part of the Republic of Ireland screened his latest film, “Translations Revisited,” late Wednesday afternoon in the Dwight Performing Arts Center as part of the Arts and Ideas series.

Fitzpatrick’s film chronicles the latest production of a groundbreaking Irish play by Brian Friel,

“Translations,” which first premiered over 30 years ago. “Translations” is about the efforts of the British Royal Crown to force all of the traditional Irish speakers to use English. The film documents the personal struggles of a select few oppressed citizens in 1833 who were forced into Anglicization during this time.

Fitzpatrick’s “Translations Revisited” is important because it compares the productions of the play during the “Troubles” that plagued the island in the 1980s and the relative calm of modern-day Irish society. Almost ironically, the majority of the voiceover work is in Irish, not English.

Today, traditional Irish is considered a “lost language,” according to Fitzpatrick, but “not dead.” Similar to other lost languages like Hebrew or Latin, Irish is still taught in school, and “could be revived, like many people have revived Hebrew.”

Fitzpatrick stressed that oppression of a culture such as Ireland’s would be “hard to push back,” which is why he decided to narrate his piece in Irish.

“It would be interesting to explore the same space,” he said.

In contrast, the actual play itself was written and performed entirely in English. In the film, Freil said, “It is a sad irony that it was written in English.” This is mainly due to the multi-generational divide, resulting in most Irish citizens only being able to understand and speak English.

In 1980, not long after the premier of the original production of “Translations,” Friel stated quite bluntly in the Irish political magazine “Magill” that it is “a play about language and only about language.”

“His enthusiasm for the subject was evident,” said senior Dan Cabral about Fitzpatrick. “I’m interested to see other works of his.”


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