Poitín is a 1978 film directed by Bob Quinn, starring Cyril Cusack, Donal McCann and Niall Tóibín. It is the first feature film ever to be made in the Irish language, and it tells the story of a poitín (moonshine) maker who is threatened and terrorised by two locals who want to steal his illicit brew. The film is set and shot in the village of An Ceathrú Rua (Carraroe) in the Connemara region of County Galway, which lies in the heart of the Gaeltacht region where Irish is still spoken as a living language.

The film was the first recipient of a film script grant from the Arts Council of Ireland, and it was also supported by Gael Linn, an organisation that promotes the Irish language and culture. Quinn, who had previously made documentaries and experimental films, wanted to make a film that reflected the reality and diversity of Irish life, especially in rural areas where English was not the dominant language. He also wanted to challenge the stereotypes and clichés that often portrayed Irish people as either romanticised rebels or oppressed victims.

Quinn hired local actors and non-actors who spoke fluent Irish, and he gave them freedom to improvise their dialogue based on the script written by Colm Bairéad, a local writer who had attended Quinn’s film course. The only exception was Donal McCann, who did not speak Irish but learned his lines phonetically with Quinn’s help. Cyril Cusack and Niall Tóibín, both well-known Irish actors, had Irish as their first language and were familiar with the Connemara dialect.

The film was shot on 16 mm film with a low budget and a small crew. Quinn used natural light and handheld cameras to create a realistic and gritty style. He also used the stunning scenery of Connemara as a backdrop, showing its white sandy beaches, glistening rivers and rugged mountains. The film has a minimalist plot and focuses more on the characters, their interactions and their environment. The film also has a dark humour and a surreal edge, as it depicts the absurdity and violence of human nature.

The film premiered in Carraroe on 25 February 1978, and then in Dublin on 16 March. It was also shown at several international film festivals, such as Cannes, Edinburgh and Toronto. The film received critical acclaim and won several awards, such as the Best Film Award at the Celtic Film Festival in 1979. However, it also caused controversy and outrage among some viewers, especially when it was broadcast on RTÉ Television on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1979. Some people complained that the film was vulgar, immoral and anti-Irish, as it showed Irish people as drunkards, thieves and murderers who spoke a language that few could understand.

Despite the controversy, Poitín is now regarded as a landmark in Irish cinema history and a cult classic among film lovers. It is also recognised as an important cultural document that captured a unique aspect of Irish society and identity in the late 1970s. The film has been preserved by the Irish Film Archive and has been re-released on DVD with English subtitles. The film has also been incorporated into the curriculum of most film courses in Ireland, and it has inspired many other filmmakers to use the Irish language in their works.


An Ceathrú Rua (Carraroe)

Screebe Fishing Hut



great film

March 20, 2022

an irish cult movie

simon jones