January 2013 Column from The Irish American News

Mike Houlihan crossing the Shannon in OIC

Mike Houlihan

I’ve never really thought of myself as “European”, although I did have a moustache for a short time during the eighties. I don’t speak any other languages beside English. However, I have been known to sound like I’m speaking Chinese after way too many cocktails.

And I quit smoking years ago, thank God.

So I’m very flattered that my friend, Barbara Scharres, has invited me to premiere our comic documentary film, “Our Irish Cousins”, at the 16th Annual European Union Film Festival in Chicago this March at the Gene Siskel Film Center over on State Street.

My sons and I have been working on this masterpiece for over four years and we’re thrilled to be invited with films of the 27 nations of The European Union. We screened a sneak preview of a rough cut of our film last May at the Irish American Heritage Center, the Beverly Art Center, and Gaelic Park. The audiences were great and the response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive.

But how will Europeans respond to “Our Irish Cousins”?

Well one of the things I’ve discovered since becoming an Irish citizen is that Americans are not the only nation represented by the Irish Diaspora. Irish emigrants and their descendants can also be found in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and states of the Caribbean and continental Europe. It turns out we are all part of a global Diaspora and we are everywhere.

Since I am an Irish citizen, I’m welcome in any of the 27 countries of the EU. I could actually live and work in Slovenia if I wanted. I’m not exactly sure where the hell that is, but I seem to recall two hot babes with sexy accents who once worked at the front desk of The Chicago Athletic Association who were from Slovenia. So I got that going for me.

I made this discovery while doing some research on the European Union, which Ireland joined in 1973. For more history of the EU, go to their website, europa.eu

Something about that name, Europa, strikes me as very Orwellian. The excitement and apprehension of a futuristic society as limned by somebody like Aldous Huxley.

Walking the streets of Dublin with my sons a few years back struck the very same chord with me as the crowds scurried around us to the syncopated sounds of the ultra modern Irish traffic lights.

I guess that was one of the big surprises for me in Ireland. I was expecting The Quiet Man, but in Dublin it was more like Blade Runner With Brogues.

Ireland today is very much a 21st Century nation, and many of us Yanks don’t realize it. Kathleen Ni Houlihan has evolved from an agrarian society to a high tech industrialized nation. Regardless of Eire’s recent contemporary reputation however, their most precious resource and export will always be the people of this island nation. Irish culture is the sizzle that sells the steak.

Learning about other cultures is what enlightens us all and I like to think one of the endearing qualities of “Our Irish Cousins”, is the glimpse of not only the Irish culture in Ireland, but here in Chicago as well. And whether you’re from Poland, Sweden, Luxembourg, or even Slovenia; you’re going to get a kick out of our movie and our message to the global Diaspora, “Come Home!”

So please come see our film at The Siskel Film Center in March at The 16th Annual European Union Film Festival. It’s the largest festival in the nation showcasing films of European Union nations and with Ireland in the presidency of the EU; the festival will have a definite Irish focus.

I’ll keep you posted on exact dates and times of screenings of “Our Irish Cousins” and other Irish films as they are announced. Please say hello when you come to the festival. I’ll be easy to spot in the lobby.

I’ll be the guy wearing the beret, drinking a foreign beer while chatting up the gals with the hairy legs who were smoking their cigs in front of the theatre.

See you at The Siskel!