List Film

Profile: Sue Bourne - director of Irish dance documentary Jig

Director's cinema debut profiles World Irish Dancing Championships

Profile: Sue Bourne - director of Irish dance documentary Jig

London, then moved to Ayr, Scotland at one year old.

Bourne is an award-winning documentary maker who has made her name producing and directing work that sheds new light on familiar subject matter. Her films include My Street – where she knocked on the door of every house in her road, and The Red Lion/The Falling Man, an in-depth look at one of the most memorable and disturbing images from 9/11.

What’s she up to now?
Jig is Bourne’s first film made for cinema. It documents the strange universe of competitive Irish dancing, a world of wigs, fake tan and glittery dresses which one interviewee describes as resembling ‘a Shirley Temple convention’. The film follows an eclectic selection of competitors from across the globe in the weeks leading up to the 40th World Irish Dancing Championships, which were held in Glasgow last spring.

On discovering Irish dancing
‘I was taken into a world that I knew nothing about and didn’t know existed. In some ways the film has similar qualities to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding because of the dresses and the hair. Your jaw drops when you first see it and then you start watching the dancing and you realise this isn’t just pageantry, it’s not a beauty competition, these kids are athletes and it’s astonishing.’

On finding the dancers featured in the film
‘We were researching for eight months. We weren’t making a film that was all about the best dancers, that would have been boring. We had to choose the stories so that every one brought something different to the table. We entered the world of Irish dancing and started going around all the competitions; we went to America, Russia and Europe looking for the best stories.’

Interesting fact
Bourne had to do a lot of persuading to get permission to film at the World Championship. Traditionally photography has never been allowed due to the sensitivity that surrounds recording the choreography. Jig is the first time the controlling body for Irish dance has allowed an outsider to film the competition.

Jig is on selected release from Fri 6 May.

Jig Trailer


  • 2 stars
  • 2011
  • UK
  • PG
  • Directed by: Sue Bourne

Though undoubtedly a work of intense research and hard work, this documentary about the Irish dancing World Championships lacks context and conflict and drags when it ought to have you rooting for the winners.

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