Iftas 2022: An Cailín Ciúin beats Belfast in ‘watershed moment for Irish-language cinema’

Iftas 2022: An Cailín Ciúin beats Belfast in ‘watershed moment for Irish-language cinema’

Colm Bairéad’s An Cailín Ciúin, an Irish-language adaptation of Claire Keegan’s story Foster, has beaten Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s multiple Oscar nominee, to best film at the Irish Film and Television Academy awards (Ifta). Bairéad won best director and best screenplay.

Catherine Clinch, just 12-years-old, took best actress for her performance in An Cailín Ciúin as an introverted girl who learns life lessons while staying with relatives in the country.

Accepting the best picture award at the virtual ceremony on Virgin Media One, Cleona Ní Chrualaoi, the producer, seemed genuinely moved. “I think this is a watershed moment for Irish language cinema and we’re just so proud to be part of this,” she said. In a conclusive sweep, the film also won for cinematography, editing, production design and original score.

No other film came close to its seven wins (and that doesn’t include Bairéad’s win in the rising star category). Clinch’s mother, the singer Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, was on camera to support the young actor. “Catherine said there was absolutely no way she would win,” Ní Mhaolchatha said. “So she didn’t prepare anything as that would look cocky and there was no way. So thank you so much!”

It is a remarkable achievement for the team behind An Cailín Ciúin. Belfast, nominated for seven Oscars at the upcoming ceremony, has been seen as an awards front runner since its triumphant premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September.

But An Cailín Ciúin’s win was not entirely unexpected. Last month, Bairéad’s film gathered acclaim as the first Irish-language feature to be screened at the Berlin Film Festival.

It more recently won best Irish film from the Dublin Film Critics Circle jury at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. Support for Ní Chrualaoi’s claims of a “watershed” in Irish-language cinema came with the simultaneous news that Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s Róise & Frank, a delightful comedy concerning a widow and a stray dog, had won the audience award at the prestigious Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California.  

Belfast did not go home empty handed. Branagh won the prize for best script. Ciarán Hinds took best supporting actor for his turn as the young protagonist’s grandfather. Accepting the award from, he explained, “a car in the backstreets of London,” the veteran actor, raised in Belfast, praised his director.

“As much as the story was of Ken’s childhood it was also the story of my childhood, and the people I knew, and the community and the wonderful, wry-humoured, stoic people of the north of Ireland,” he said.

The busy, popular Moe Dunford took best actor for his role as a hoodlum driving about Dublin in Stephen Fingleton’s one-shot Nightride.

Current Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley won best supporting actress for her role as harassed young mother in The Lost Daughter. “Thank you so much, this is so lovely,” Buckley said. “Thanks, Ifta. It’s not mine. It’s all of ours.”

Ifta presents the awards for film and for TV drama on the same evening. The runaway winner in the television section with six statuettes was the crime series Kin. Sam Keeley, Clare Dunne, Ciarán Hinds and Maria Doyle-Kennedy all won acting awards for the show.

As competing awards ceremonies such as the Oscars and this weekend’s Baftas return to the big stage, the Irish Academy stuck with a virtual event. The comedian Deirdre O’Kane, a successful compere in previous years, returned as host. An impressive array of A-list stars beamed in to present awards to remote winners. Chris Pine, the most recent Captain Kirk in Star Trek, was on screen to announce best film.

“I’ve had the pleasure of spending time in Galway, the Aran Islands, and Dublin, and just recently I had the good fortune to do some filming in Antrim,” he noted. Michael Moore, Oscar-winning director of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, was on hand to present the George Morrison feature documentary prize to Young Plato. Colin Farrell presented best supporting actress to Buckley. Actor Fionnula Flanagan was among those acknowledging the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“To the writers, the artists, the actors, the directors, the producers and everyone concerned with making film and theatre in Ukraine … our hearts go out to you,” she said. “We admire your courage … and we hope that someday soon you will have a peaceful future.”

The 2022 Ifta Awards for TV Drama and Film

Film categories

Best film: An Cailín Ciúin
Director film: Colm Bairéad – An Cailín Ciúin
Script film: Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Lead actor film: Moe Dunford – Nightride
Lead actress film: Catherine Clinch – An Cailín Ciúin
Supporting actor film: Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
Supporting actress film: Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter
Feature documentary: Young Plato
Short film (live action): Nothing to Declare
Short film (animation): Fall of the Ibis King

TV drama categories

Best drama: Kin
Director drama: Hannah Quinn – Vikings: Valhalla
Script drama: Peter McKenna – Kin
Lead actor drama: Sam Keeley – Kin
Lead actress drama: Clare Dunne – Kin
Supporting actor drama: Ciarán Hinds – Kin
Supporting actress drama: Maria Doyle-Kennedy – Kin

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