“It’s really taken off,” beams producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi as she reflects on the success of her debut feature The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin), which scooped the grand prize in the Generation Kplus strand at the 2022 Berlinale.

It is also the first Irish-language film to win best film at the Irish Film & Television Academy awards — a prize she shares with its writer/director Colm Bairéad, who is her husband.

Ní Chrualaoi was born in Reading, UK to Irish parents, and from the age of four was raised in Meath, Ireland, where The Quiet Girl shot. She grew up glued to her Pulp Fiction and The Silence Of The Lambs VHS tapes with aspirations of being an actor, before deciding journalism seemed like a more responsible career choice.

After a stint at Dublin radio station Newstalk in the early 2000s, she moved into television, where her fluency in the Irish language gave her an advantage for jobs at native-language broadcaster TG4. She focused on documentaries and docudramas, and caught the feature-making bug.

She met Bairéad while working in television in 2009. In 2012, they set up production company Inscéal (Irish for ‘story within a story’,) but it was not until 2018 that they stumbled on Claire Keegan’s novella Foster. They adapted it from English into Irish and secured funding from the Cine4 scheme, designed to develop original feature films in the Irish language.

“Irish-language films are only in their infancy,” Ní Chrualaoi says. “The Cine4 scheme was set up only five years ago. Before that, you could count on one hand how many feature films were made in the Irish language.”

Ní Chrualaoi and Bairéad are raising their two children in their native language, and while she wants to continue to make films in Irish, she recognises its limitations. She has two projects in development, both in English: Broken Hands, about a faith healer with inner demons, and another set in Ireland’s notorious mother-and-baby homes. “It’s quite restrictive making Irish-language films. The budgets are lower, and you don’t have the same talent pool, but I’m so proud the first feature film I’ve made is in Irish.”

Contact: Cleona Ní Chrualaoi