Gaelic dialects converge in Ireland's first Oscar contender


She Might be tiny, but Ireland is a Babel of dialects of the country's native Gaelic. A speaker from the west might have a hard time understanding a neighbor from Dublin in the east. What does this have to do with the Oscars? In a word: "Kings."

The first Irish film to be selected to contend for the foreign-language Oscar, Panorama Entertainment's "Kings" is entirely in Gaelic, with English subtitles. A huge dilemma for director Tom Collins was that all the actors spoke different dialects -- if they spoke Gaelic at all.

"We all came from different parts of Ireland," Collins says. "Early on, we realized we needed to tease out a way of getting us all speaking the same dialect."

The actors -- Colm Meaney, Donal O'Kelly, Brendan Conroy, Barry Barnes and Donncha Crowley -- attended a dialect "boot camp" with Conamara Gaelic-speaking drillmaster Peadar O'Traisaigh (also a "Kings" cast member).

"We booked into a local hotel, completely out of season. I suspect they may have opened the hotel for us. The whole time there it rained, and a bitter wind kept us inside," Collins recalls.

The film is centered around a group of six young men who leave their homes in the west of Ireland and sail across the sea to England with the hope of making fortunes. Three decades later, viewers encounter the friends as they face harsh realities.

The movie is based on Jimmy Murphy's stage play "The Kings of the Kilburn High Road," which was actually in English. Collins decided to make the film in Gaelic, he says, in large part to emphasize the Irishmen's spiritual, cultural and economic isolation in London.