Bob Quinn was born in Dublin in 1935. His career as an independent film-maker began after a wide variety of jobs, including teacher, commercial representative, and television producer at RTE. In 1975 he made ‘Lament for Art O’Leary’ and soon after continued to establish his reputation with ‘Poitin’ (1978) and the multi-part ‘Atlantean’ (1984), which explores the relationship between the Gaelic and Arab worlds. One of his most acclaimed films to date is ‘Budawanny’, which was made in 1987 with the assistance of the Irish Film Board. Quinn adapted the script from a book by Padraig Standun, ‘Suil le Breith’. He also directed ‘The Bishop’s Story’ (1994) – a completed version of ‘Budawanny’ featuring Donal McCann in the lead role. His work has been exhibited widely, from Galway to Los Angeles, from Moscow to Missouri. His writing has been published by Quartet Books (London & New York), O’Brien Press, (Dublin), Brandon Press, (Kerry) and Cló Iar-Chonnacht, (Galway).
The film and video operation, Cinegael, which Quinn founded with Seosamh Ó Cuaig and Toni Cristofides in 1973 concentrates on the Gaeltacht of Conamara. Quinn still sees this Irish-speaking area in the West of Ireland as the grain of sand which, in the William Morris sense, contains and illuminates the world. Cinegael’s original intention was to reinforce the identity of this threatened linguistic minority: the group realised that in modern times man’s destiny was stated in political terms. Inspired by the National Film Board of Canada’s Challenge for Change programme and using pioneering closed-circuit TV techniques it recorded local events and controversies. It mediated successfully between local opinion and public bodies.
Gradually Cinegael began to engage with the larger polity of Ireland. It evolved into a maker of one-off film documentaries and dramas which were all screened on RTE, the Irish Public broadcaster, all well as on BBC, Channel Four, SBC etc. and which achieved other international recognition.
Bob Quinn still lives and works in Conamara, still in collaboration with Seosamh Ó Cuaig and others. In 1985 he was the first filmmaker to be elected member of Aosdána, the Irish Parliament of Artists. In 1995 he was appointed a member of the RTE Authority (Board of Governors), a position from which he resigned in 1999 and after which he wrote ‘Maverick’, the first intimately-informed account of Irish Public Broadcasting.
In 2001 Quinn was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Irish Film Institute. Quinn’s work is taught on most 3rd level Irish courses in film and media.