Ireland North and South toasts Oscar success

Northern Ireland Screen funded short film, An Irish Goodbye, written and directed by Ross White and Tom Berkley scooped the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film at the 95th Annual Academy Awards last night in Los Angeles.  Ireland also toasted another win for Dubliner Richie Baneham’s visual effects team from Avatar: The Way of Water.

Ross and Tom shared the stage with global A-listers at the glittering ceremony in the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood. Scenes of the jubilant duo alongside actors James Martin and Seamus O’Hara were beamed onto screens around the world. In a moving moment the packed Dolby Theater audience sang Happy Birthday to actor James Martin.

This latest accolade follows the film’s BAFTA win for Best British Short Film last month.  The heart-warming short film has been captivating audiences around the world having already screened at over 60 film festivals across 6 continents.  

Local audiences can watch the award-winning short film now on BBC iPlayer. There are also special homecoming screenings planned by Queen’s Film Theatre on 21 March to mark World Down Syndrome Day and The Strand Cinema on 22 March. 

An Irish Goodbye was filmed entirely on location in Northern Ireland, showcasing the beauty of our rural landscape in Co Derry/Londonderry, Saintfield and Templepatrick. 

The black comedy follows the reunion of estranged brothers Turlough and Lorcan after the untimely death of their mother. Under the watchful eye of odd-ball parish priest Father O’Shea, the brothers’ pained reunion is worsened by the fact Turlough must now make new care arrangements for Lorcan, who has Down Syndrome. A robust and dedicated farmer, Lorcan’s dream of continuing to work the land he grew up on is thwarted when Turlough decides he’s sending him to live with their aunt on the other side of Ireland. But when the brothers discover an unfulfilled bucket list belonging to their late mother, Lorcan senses an opportunity: he’ll only agree to leave the farm once he and Turlough have themselves completed every single wish on their mother’s list…all one hundred of them. 

The film stars Seamus O’Hara (The Northman, Game of Thrones), James Martin (Marcella, Ups and Downs), Paddy Jenkins (Hunger) and Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones, Fortitude).  

Ross and Tom have done us incredibly proud. This Oscar win not only raises the profile of the film industry in Northern Ireland but also the beauty of our landscape. To win an Oscar is international recognition at the highest possible level. This win, along with their recent BAFTA win, is a huge milestone for the professional careers of this filmmaking team.

Hundreds of thousands of short films are produced every year around the world and for Northern Ireland to win one really underlines the world class talent we have working in the industry here. With new filmmakers breaking through on shorts and first features, we’ve got a lot to be proud of, and so much to look forward to. We must also acknowledge the continued support of our partners, the Department for the Economy and Department for Communities, Lottery Fund and the Arts Council who allow much of this talent development to happen. Together we are creating an ecosystem whereby talent like this can reach its full potential.

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, TD, also congratulated the two Irish Oscar winners at this year’s 95th Academy Awards ceremony.

Minister Martin said it was a “historic night” for Ireland, adding that the occasion is testament to the wealth of talent that now exists in the Irish industry”.

Speaking from Los Angeles, California, where the Consulate and Minister were hosting an Oscars viewing event for producers, film executives and the Irish community, the Minister said: 

This evening’s ceremony has been a momentous occasion on so many levels; for the nominees who have received richly deserved plaudits for their creative endeavours; for the Irish film industry which is riding the crest of a wave; and for all of us in Ireland who are so proud of your achievements.   

The Oscars ceremony showcased our talent, our language, and the beauty of our country as a tourism destination to a global audience, and with the pipeline of exciting projects in production at the moment, there is no reason why we can’t be competing every year at the highest level, such is the creative talent within the country at the moment.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, TD

Meanwhile, the Minister of State with special responsibility for the Gaeltacht, Patrick O’ Donovan TD, complimented the team behind An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) on being nominated in the Best International Film category.

The film, which is adapted from the Claire Keegan book Foster, was shortlisted for Best International Feature Film.

It is the first-ever movie in the Irish language to get an Oscar nomination.

Minister O’Donovan, said: “I would also like to take this opportunity to commend TG4, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Screen Ireland for supporting the pipeline of high-quality drama content in the Irish language, especially An Cailín Ciúin.”

Minister Martin is currently in LA as part of a major US trade mission to boost investment in Ireland’s film industry, tourism and culture.

Reflecting on Ireland’s historic Oscars win, the Minister noted that films such as The Banshees of Inisherin and An Cailín Ciúin and many other productions are attracted to Ireland as a result of funding support from the Section 481 film tax relief. 

The Minister also pointed out that post-production and visual effects (VFX) has become a leading area of expertise in the Irish screen industry, with talent being recognised at home and on the global stage. 

The extension to the Irish film tax relief (Section 481) to the end of December 2028 will give valuable certainty to our film industry and is very welcome news for the sector. The tax relief scheme is central to the record number of Oscar nominations secured by Irish films and filmmakers this year.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, TD

Minister Martin’s trip – a key part of the Government’s St Patrick’s Day programme – includes meetings with world-leading US studios and production companies, including Sony and Disney, which includes representatives from Marvel, Searchlight and Lucas Film.

The trade mission aims to build on the recent critical success for the Irish screen industry and the recognition of Irish talent on the world stage. 

The Minister is using the visit to strengthen working relationships between the Irish screen sector and some of the world’s largest film studios and production companies, as well as strengthening Ireland’s reputation as a global tourist destination.