DIRECTOR: Jeremiah Cullinane.
GENRE: creative documentary.
CO–PRODUCER: ERA FILM (Lithuania), Planet Korda Pictures (Ireland), Vinegar Hill (Northern Ireland),
BBC (Northern Ireland), TG4 (Ireland).
From 1863, Tsar Alexander II decreed an outright ban on all usage of the Lithuanian language which covered education, press, and publishing. Simple possession of literature in Lithuanian became a crime.
A new type of linguistic resistance fighter emerged: the knygnešys, or “book smuggler,” would smuggle books, from East Prussia and distribute them risking being shot.
Retracing the history of the book smugglers our documentary, presented through the eyes of an Irish-speaking poet, inevitably draws parallels with the decline of the Irish language during the same century, a delicate and sensitive issue far from free of controversy. How is it that a small nation under comparable conditions of occupation and oppression managed to survive and preserve their “minor” national language, to the point where practically all Lithuanians today speak it proudly? And what is the relationship, for them and for us, between national tongue and national and personal identity?