IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Treasa O’Brien, co-director of ’Eat Your Children’


Eat Your Children is an essay documentary that explores Ireland’s so-called acceptance of debt and austerity. Filmmakers Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary, two economic emigrants, return to Ireland to explore what seemed to be Irish people’s stoicism in accepting austerity and the country’s climate of complacency in the face of the nation’s current economic position.

Treasa O’Brien explains how the idea for the film came about 4 years ago “after my good friend Mary Jane O’Leary showed me a video online of Greeks protesting in Athens. They were chanting: ‘We are not Irish! We will resist!’ Mary Jane had just finished a year studying politics in Barcelona and was working for a European think tank. I had just finished a Masters in Film in London. Mary Jane dared me to make a film about why the Irish were not resisting. I said let’s do it together, and the rest is history. As we started to make the film, we realised the rest is history. Irish history is full of rebels and resistances, so why are we now so acquiescent and accepting?”

The film molds its essay in the form of a road-trip around the country, which, according to Treasa, was a way “to structure the film and also to involve the audience – you’re coming with us! We hope the structure allows the audience to discover with us, and also to keep asking questions and draw their own conclusions rather than ‘experts’ just telling them how it is. We both love the essay form as it’s a chance to explore a topic intellectually as well as emotionally, and it also gives room for a self-reflexive kind of authorship.”

Travelling around Ireland, Treasa and Mary meet Irish people on the streets, at protests, and seek answers from sociologists, politicians, historians, economists and activists on the nature of protest in Ireland. As a result, a lot of time was spent in the edit room to whittle the film down to the 78-minute final cut. “We shot over 40 long form interviews, less than 10 of which are excerpted in the film. The volume of interviews slowed down the editing process as we became attached to so many of the points made and wanted to cover everything – at one stage we were trying to make the short history of everything that ever happened in Ireland. So we had to get really ruthless in cutting the interviews down. We transcribed them all with some help and they have become an invaluable research and reference tool for us to have structured the film and informed our own thinking on the subject.”

I asked Treasa was there one thing that surprised herself and Mary the most on her journey around Ireland. “The Right2Water movement,” she replies. “We are really heartened to see this movement grow over the last few months. It seems to be bringing a lot of various groups and kinds of people together in solidarity, and of course it’s bigger than water. Water, our life force, is bringing people together against austerity, debt, and neoliberal privatisation and inequality. However, as inspiring and hopeful as it is, the vast majority of Irish people are still not protesting, even if they might support the Right2 Water movement from their armchairs. We also see the Irish media discrediting the protests and calling them violent. With all its globalisation and high media readership, Irish politics and media can still be very conservative.”

Looking at Ireland today Treasa thinks there is “a chasm between our conservative politicians and the real will of the majority of Irish people. Or at least I hope there is! I am home in Ireland now for the next few months and I will be here to vote yes for the marriage equality referendum. It is an important temperature gauge of how conservative or not the Irish really are – I wish we didn’t have to spend time fighting for things that seem so uncontroversial and obvious (to me, at least) as basic human rights such as the right to decisions over one’s own reproduction, the right to an equal marriage and the right to water.

“We have to think in a joined up and intersectional way – marriage equality, reproductive rights and racism are seen as identity politics, while labour rights and class struggle are left to the left. But, for example, reproductive rights affect poor people more than rich people, as the latter can travel more easily. We need that more intersectional approach which joins up movements and fights for something together as well as all the individual struggles.”


Eat Your Children screens on Sunday, 12th April 2015 at 13.00 at the IFI as part of its Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

Co-Directors Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary will participate in a post-screening Q&A.

Tickets for Eat Your Children are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie





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