A CRITICALLY acclaimed Irish-language film has been put forward as Ireland’s entry in the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category at the 2021 Academy Awards.
Arracht was produced as part of a Cine4 initiative between TG4, Screen Ireland, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) with the express aim of developing more original Irish language feature films.
Written and directed by Tom Sullivan, Arracht stars Dónall Ó Héalaí, who was previously named among Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow for 2020, along with Game of Thrones actor Michael McElhatton, Dara Devaney and newcomer Saise Ní Chúinn.
It was produced by Cúán Mac Conghail for Macalla Teoranta while Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell of Fantastic Films served as executive producers on the film, which drew critical acclaim following its premiere at the 2019 Tallinn Black Nights Festival.
Set in Ireland in 1845, at a time when the Great Plague was beginning to unfold, Arracht centres on Colmán Sharkey, a local fisherman and family man who is convinced by his local priest to take a stranger into his home.
A former soldier, Patsy arrives in Sharkey’s just as the blight that would displace millions of Irish began. Along with Sharkey’s brother, the three men embark on a journey to their English Landlord’s house in the hope of being given a stay on rent increases.
However, those requests fall on deaf ears prompting Patsy to intervene in a set of actions that sends Sharkey’s once tranquil life spiralling out of control.
In a further twist, he must later readjust his perspective again to contend with the arrival of an abandoned young girl in desperate need of help.
Alan Esslemont, Director General of TG4 welcomed the decision to put Arracht forward for the prestigious award as a triumph for the Cine4 initiative.
“Too often, great creative talent in Irish is invisible in Ireland, solely because they create, act or broadcast in the country’s minority language,” he said.
"Thus when TG4, Screen Ireland and the BAI launched the Cine4 scheme, we said that we chose to go, not to the moon, but to the Oscars.
"The vision was to seek international validation for cultural and creative works in the Irish language.
"We want to see Irish language cinema develop, be recognised nationally and grow a global footprint of appreciation.
"I applaud Macalla and all those involved in Arracht for their talent, drive and belief in this compelling film which has already won major national and international awards and is now recognised and rewarded by the Irish Film and Television Academy."
The film’s writer/director Tom Sullivan was similarly effusive.
"I am overjoyed with the news that Arracht has been chosen by the IFTA selection committee to represent Ireland in the Oscar’s Best International Film category.
"This is recognition of the team's work and dedication and to be considered on this level is a huge honour and beyond exciting.
"It's been a funny old year to be in the film business but the support Arracht has received from everyone has really kept us going.
"Thank you to our funders Screen Ireland, BAI, and TG4 and thank you IFTA for all your support.”
“[With] stellar performances from the lead duo, a first time director that shows promise and a moment in history that made Ireland what it is today… you have a recipe for a memorable night at the cinema.” #Arracht #VMDIFF20
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - @Scannain_com https://t.co/nuJpA1YbSS pic.twitter.com/hfckhilhaQ
— ARRACHT (@ArrachtFilm) February 27, 2020
Arracht was selected by IFTA’s special Selection Committee, which included Director Lenny Abrahamson (Normal People, Room, Frank), Actor Ciarán Hinds, (Munich, The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Composer, and the first female conductor at the Oscars, Eímear Noone, Producer Macdara Kelleher (Foundation, The Green Knight, Black ’47), actress Fionnula Flanagan (The Guard, The Others) and David Flynn (Exec VP of International Strategy at Paramount TV).
The Committee was chaired by Academy CEO Áine Moriarty.
To date has garnered praise Arracht has won accolades at several notable film festivals including the Dublin International Film Festival, The Galway Film Fleadh, and the Glasgow Film Festival.
They must now wait to see if Arracht is included in the shortlist of 10 films, which will then be whittled down to five Oscar nominees who will be up for the award in April 2021.