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Carlow director brings Quintessentially Irish to world

Carlow director Frank Mannion has told RTÉ Entertainment that he hopes his all-star feature documentary Quintessentially Irish “is the catalyst for some of the 82 million around the globe with Irish heritage to come and check out the Emerald Isle”.

The film sees President Michael D Higgins, US President Joe Biden, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Bob Geldof, actors Pierce Brosnan, Jessie Buckley, Sharon Horgan, Jeremy Irons, and Andrew Scott, Grand National winner Rachael Blackmore, Olympic Champion Usain Bolt, and many more all feature as Mannion finds out their thoughts on Ireland and the Irish.

London-based filmmaker Mannion recently agreed a worldwide distribution deal (excluding Ireland and the UK) with the US company Vision Films for Quintessentially Irish, with the film set to be released in North America theatrically and on VOD on Tuesday 12 March. An Irish and UK release will follow on Friday 26 April.

Prince Albert II of Monaco discusses his mother Princess Grace of Monaco’s Irish-American roots with Quintessentially Irish director Frank Mannion

“After the success of my last film, Quintessentially British with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench, it seemed logical to tackle Quintessentially Irish,” Mannion told RTÉ Entertainment. “I was inspired by the fact that many of the British cast had Irish connections. For instance, Judi Dench considers herself half-Irish – her parents met when her father was studying medicine at Trinity.”

“I am a proud Carlow man but moved to London after university and have actually been living there longer than I ever lived in Ireland. So, the film has somewhat of an outsider’s perspective, albeit a very affectionate one,” Mannion continued.

Pierce Brosnan and I bonded over the fact that we are two culchies from Navan and Carlow, respectively. There the similarity ends, as I will never get to play James Bond… except on a video game!”

When asked if his eyes ever glaze over when he talks to people claiming Irish heritage, Mannion replied: “What shocks me more is the number of people claiming Irish heritage who have never bothered to visit Ireland or, worse, think it is part of Britain! I am hoping that this film rights those wrongs.”

Frank Mannion meets Usain Bolt – Bolt’s agent is a Donegal man, Ricky Simms

Making the film has confirmed to Mannion that “Ireland’s greatest export is not U2, Guinness, Kerrygold or whiskey – our greatest export is people”.

“Ten million have left these shores over the centuries and that Irish diaspora has given us incredible soft power in the world, from JFK to the current incumbent, President Joe Biden,” he said.

“In fact, we were able to film in the White House on St Patrick’s Day because I persuaded the White House Press Office that they should let us tell the story of a proud Irish-American president being resident in the world’s most iconic building that was designed and built by an Irish architect, James Hoban from Kilkenny. President Biden even highlighted that in his speech that day, so maybe I will continue to be the White House’s unofficial ghost-writer this year!”

Pierce Brosnan in Quintessentially Irish

Mannion is looking forward to hearing what viewers back home think of the film when Quintessentially Irish arrives here in April.

“I think Irish people will find it entertaining and be pleasantly surprised by some of the storylines that we have pursued that benefited from having incredible access, such as President Michael D Higgins kindly opening up Áras an Uachtaráin to us.

“The film has made me even prouder to be Irish, despite our serious social issues. That’s why the film is an affectionate love letter to everything that we consider great and Irish.”

Mannion is about to start work on his next film, which has the working title Oxbridge.

“Given the success of Saltburn, I thought it would be an interesting world to explore. You will have to wait to see if there will be murder on the dancefloor!”

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