An Gorta Mór: Passage to India

Revealing greater truths about the history and impact of immigration on the world that resonate today, this is the story of one man, John Footman, who left Ireland at the peak of the potato famine. However, unlike so many Irish immigrants who fled deprivation for the Americas, Footman found passage to India. The story traces the 7th generation Indian descendant of John Footman from his birth home in India to his Irish roots leading back to the very town in County Cork from which John Footman, was born, raised, and departed for his new life in India over 170 years ago.


Director on film

Fokiya Akhtar – Director and Producer, An Gorta Mor

Four years ago, I realized I had to make An Gorta Mór: Passage to India when I met Ian Michael who had researched his ancestor John Footman, an Irish who left Ireland during the peak of the potato famine in 1847. As I was listening to his fascinating research findings, my mind was creating visuals that looked very real in front of my eyes. I knew I had found a topic for my next documentary film project.

An Gorta Mór – Passage to India traces the migration of the Irish population during the Great Famine that took place between 1845-52. The film weaves together a compelling story of John Footman, who started the Footman family in India.

The co-producer of this film Dr. Ian Michael is a descendant of the Footman family who takes us through the story of migration during the Irish famine. Most Irish went to North America (USA & Canada), UK and Australia, and a minority sailed to India most of them joining the British East India Company as army recruits and other army units like the Irish and Scottish Fusiliers.

Looking back at the journey of Irish roots and talking with Footman descendants all over the world, I never would have thought that the historical events in Ireland that prompted John Footman to leave everything he ever knew and loved to seek a better life in India would find its analog in the contemporary stories of migration today. Like John, the flood of Irish immigrants to America during the Famine years were economic refugees only seeking the opportunity to have a future… Because John Footman found his destiny in India, it represents the continuation of his dreams for a better life for descendant’s he would never know. 

An Gorta Mór: Passage to India was edited from 90 hours of original footage shot in Ireland (Clonakilty, Dunbrody, Dublin) India (Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai). The film (overall budget approximately $50,000) is financially supported by RIF grant from the Zayed University, UAE.

Production Gallery

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