17 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
“We needed to really blow the lid on it” – IFTA-Winning Director Richie Smyth on 'The Siege of Jadotville'
10 Apr 2017 : Katie McNeice
Richie Smyth accepting his IFTA for Best Director
The IFTA for Best Director in Film was awarded to debut feature director Richie Smyth last Saturday, April 8th at the Mansion House, Dublin by the Irish Academy.

Jason O’Mara also received the IFTA for Best Supporting Actor in Film for his performance as Jack Prendergast, to whom he dedicated his award.

The project also starred Jamie Dornan as real-life Irish Commander Pat Quinlan, the man who led Irish UN troops in their forgotten battle against French and Belgian mercenaries in the Congo, without losing a single man.

Smyth talks us through what the award means to him, the high calibre of talent in the category this year and most importantly the true story behind this incredible Irish title.  

To catch the full awards ceremony, tune into RTÉ One at 22:15 this Tuesday, April 11th. 

IFTN: What did it mean to you as a debut feature filmmaker to be nominated alongside such a high calibre of talent, such as Jim Sheridan for instance who has multiple Oscar nominations and Peter Foott and Darren Thornton, each with fantastic Irish films?
“It’s taken me a long time to get this movie made, seven years in fact, so to then find myself in the category with three great Irish directors was such an honour. Jim is a legend; his movies put Ireland on the world stage. And Peter and Darren’s movies are both epic and brilliantly directed so it was a great honour and very important nomination for me.”

IFTN: Did you envision the project getting such positive response from audiences and the public alike when you first started off, especially given the recognition the Irish soldiers have gotten since its release?
“When I first found the story it was just a paragraph in a book about the history of the mercenary soldier and how a small group of Irish soldier got surrounded by a formidable force of several thousand during the Congo Crisis of ‘61. I started research and uncovered the story of what happen at Jadotville. I was so immersed in the work, I really didn’t think about the final product, that is the movie at all.

“I was focused on finding out the ‘real’ truth and telling their story as accurately as possible. However as I dug deeper into the research I realised that it was definitely going to be controversial which was great because we needed to really blow the lid on it and get all the soldiers the recognition and justice the deserved. The Unit Citation was a great start but we are still hoping to see them all get medals as recognition for the heroes that they are.”

IFTN: Do you think you’re going to remain within the realm of true stories in your future work?
“It’s definitely a very specific path you take when you set out to tell a true story. It’s very exciting and challenging, so yes definitely. I’m a massive Kubrick fan; he consistently made definitive movies for every genre which I find inspiring. So I guess bottom line I want to make movies that tell great stories and grip an audience no matter what the genre. If they’re true stories, even better.”

IFTN: What does this award mean to you on a personal and professional level, going forward?
“I’ve wanted to make movies ever since I was a kid so on a personal level winning the best Director award after finally ‘finally’ making my first movie is incredible, it’s blown my socket. Professionally I’ve been directing music videos and TV commercial for many years so it’s a natural step to move into movies and I’m excited to make another.”

View all #IFTA17 Winners

Bloomsday Film Fest: Director Martin Turk and Line Producer Jeremiah Cullinane discuss Kino Volta
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