It was hard not to be proud when the Academy announced its nominations on 24 January, with Irish nominees accounting for 14 of the mentions. Martin McDonagh’s hilarious black comedy The Banshees of Inisherin accounted for nine of these alone; including Best Actor for Colin Farrell, Best Supporting Actress for Kerry Condon, Best Supporting Actor for both Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan, and Best Director for McDonagh himself.
An Cailín Ciúin became the first ever Irish-language film to be nominated, in this case for Best International Feature Film. A truly deserving nominee, it tells the story of nine-year old Cáit, who is sent to live with relatives in Gaeltacht na nDéise, against the backdrop of a nostalgic rural Irish summer.
Other Irish nominees include Paul Mescal for Best Actor in the heart-wrenching Aftersun, and a Best Live-Action Short Film nomination for The Irish Goodbye.
The ‘Golden Age’ of Irish Cinema
I believe a golden age of Irish cinema has been coming for a few years now. With the success of Irish films such as Once (2007), Brooklyn (2015) and Sing Street (2016), our small island has been slowly cementing its name among the big wigs of Hollywood. Irish actors such as Liam Neeson, Michael Fassbender, and Saoirse Ronan have long been associated with American films such as Schindler’s List (1993), Inglorious Basterds (2009), Ladybird (2017), rather than Irish films.
However, I think we are starting to see a turnaround. Irish actors being cast as Irish characters in Irish films made by Irish filmmakers is a true breath of fresh air. This marks a badly needed change from the days of terrible accents and stereotypes such as Julia Roberts’ notoriously bad accent as Kitty Kiernan in Michael Collins (1995), and Tom Cruise’s equally bad turn in Far and Away (1992). Critically acclaimed films such as My Left Foot (1989), and In the Name of the Father (1993) were the exception to the horrifically inaccurate “Irish” films.
Upcoming Irish films include Flora and Son, God’s Creatures, and The Deepest Breath, all releasing this year.
I believe that in the near future Irish actors will be household names, including Jessie Buckley, Amybeth McNulty, Fionn O’Shea, and Daryl McCormack. McCormack received a BAFTA nomination earlier this year for his role in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.
Is Irish cinema entering a “golden age”? I think it’s hard to determine what will happen before the Academy Awards ceremony takes place this year. As I mentioned, I believe that a ‘golden era’ has been happening for a while now. A sweep of awards could mark the end of this phase, or it could prove to be the start of a wonderfully successful new period for Irish cinema.