Brand Irish is a documentary from Padi Productions that was made in 2015. The NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s very own Hilary Beirne was interviewed for it. We asked Sara Gibbings, Director and Producer of Brand Irish, to share some of her thoughts and inspiration about making this documentary.

The preview for Brand Irish, a documentary by Padi Productions.

Sara Gibbings, Director and Producer of the documentary Brand Irish

Being Irish has saved my life on several occasions.

When I was nine years old my family was held hostage in a resort in Mexico. A water dispute resulted in the hotel being surrounded by armed men but our passports were our way out. The men with machetes waved us through the road blockade, paying forward, they said, the good deeds of the Battalion of St. Patrick.

When I was in college I accidentally sat next to a gang member on a motorcoach bus in Massachusetts who, with a gun tucked into his jeans, told me how he planned to entertain himself with me when we reached our destination. I had to talk him out of it somehow so I regaled him with tales from home; my Irishness turned up to the max. Eventually I was ‘allowed’ to leave unharmed. Close call.

Fast forward many years and working as TV Producer and Director I’ve found that, whether I’m speaking to Government officials, business leaders, or people struggling in the poorest neighbourhoods, being Irish opens doors.

Almost everyone I meet has a story about Ireland or a friendship with an Irish person they want to share to me. It happens so often that I wanted to find out what was behind it. Is our brand, Brand Irish, real or a just myth? Since I’m a filmmaker, the best way for me to answer a question like that is to make a film. And that’s how the documentary Brand Irish came to be.

The film Brand Irish is not a hurrah for Ireland as there are far too many serious issues facing the country to see it through rose-coloured glasses, but rather it takes a look at some of the elements that contribute to the brand. Note that it’s Brand Irish, not Brand Ireland, because so many of us live abroad.

Brand Irish is not an academic endeavour nor does it claim to be all encompassing, as it would be impossible to tell the stories of millions of people in a single documentary, but it gives insight into the brand by letting people share their own stories in their own words.

The film takes a look at some of the elements that have contributed to the brand:

  • The effect of mass emigration
  • The contribution to global culture, sport and business
  • The role of the Irish language
  • The drive for political leadership
  • A deep love of food, drink and great craic
  • And a profound commitment to social justice

There is no question that the reputation the Irish enjoy around the world is real. It has been earned over centuries by millions of hard working, risk-taking, hell-raising and truth-seeking individuals, both at home and abroad.

I had a fantastic time making this documentary. Everyone we filmed was fascinating and spoke with great passion both about their own work and as well as their take on Brand Irish.

The film is being shown in the 18th annual Craic Festival in NYC on Friday March 4th at Bow Tie Cinemas, Chelsea. Pop along if you can and you’ll see an amazing group of people telling their own stories, in their own way.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in New York City on the 17th of March, be sure to pop over to the see the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade: it’s a spectacle to behold!


The Documentary Includes:  

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