RTÉ One's three-part documentary 1916 has not only been picked up by 120 PBS stations in the US, it has been acquired by SBS in Australia, TF1 Histoire in France, TVE in Spain and Vietnamese TV, with more broadcasters closer to home set to be announced.
Written and produced by historian Bríona Nic Dhiarmada and narrated by Liam Neeson, the documentary will also tour international film festivals in an 86-minute feature-length version from March.
The series was made by Nic Dhiarmada for the Keough- Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, in association with production company Coco Television and RTÉ.
Making 1916 has been a two- year project, with the budget exceeding €2 million, says Stuart Switzer, chief executive of Coco and an executive producer on the series alongside Coco's Linda Cullen.
As with any documentary of this nature, obtaining rights clearances for archive material was a substantial element of the workload. “We used nearly 40 archives around the world, public and private,” says Switzer.
Chicago’s PBS member station WTTW pitched the series to its PBS affiliates in November, with the 120 stations to have taken it up so far including PBS members in New York, Boston and other cities where there is a high concentration of Irish-Americans. It airs on RTÉ One from next Wednesday, February 10th, and will be on US television from March.
Although RTÉ’s support accounted for a small proportion of the project’s budget, it was still important to get, adds Switzer. “Everyone wants the imprimatur of the public service broadcaster where they live.”
Neeson will attend a showing of the feature-length version at the National Concert Hall on March 16th, which will be broadcast simultaneously in Irish embassies across the world, while the film première will take place in Chicago on March 8th.
Nic Dhiarmada’s series examines both the Easter Rising and its consequences. It places them in an international context, exploring US connections and documenting how anti-colonialism found its voice in the wake of the first World War.