25 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Arracht eyes potential Oscar nomination as voting nears for 15-film shortlist
15 Jan 2021 : Nathan Griffin
With the Oscarsĺ Best International Feature 15-film shortlist expected on February 9th, Irish-language feature film Arracht is in with the chance to become the first Irish film nominated in the categoryĺs history.

The Oscars’ Best International Film contenders will next be shortlisted to 15 international finalists with 5 Nominees in the category to be announced on March 15th. Previously a 10 film shortlist in 2020, AMPAS revealed on Friday that the criteria has changed and the shortlist has been extended to 15 films for 2021.

The Oscar ceremony was originally scheduled for 28th February 2021, but has been shifted out to April 25th, due to delays caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic. AMPAS Members are currently viewing the submissions and will vote to select the shortlist between 1st-5thof February, with the 10 films to be announced on February 9th.

Recently tipped for a potential shortlist and possible nomination by The Hollywood ReporterArracht stands a significant chance of becoming the first Irish film in history nominated in the Best International Feature category (previously Best Foreign Language Film), with previous Irish entries Gaza, Viva, Song of Granite, As If I Am Not There, and Kings unsuccessful in receiving nominations. Paddy Breathnach's Viva did however make the nine film shortlist in 2015 for the previous Foreign Language Film award.

About the Film   

Set in 1845, Arracht is a poignant and inspiring story set on the eve of The Great Hunger. When Colmán Sharkey, a fisherman, a father, a husband, takes in a stranger at the behest of a local priest. Patsy, a former soldier in the Napoleonic wars arrives just ahead of 'the blight,' a disease that eventually wipes out the country's potato crop, contributing to the death and displacement of millions.

As the crops rot in the fields, Colmán, his brother, and Patsy travel to the English Landlord's house to request a stay on rent increases that Colmán predicts will destroy his community. His request falls on deaf ears and Patsy's subsequent actions set Colmán on a path that will take him to the edge of survival, and sanity. It is only upon encountering an abandoned young girl that Colmán's resolve is lifted. Just in time for the darkness of his past to pay another visit.

Written and directed by Tom Sullivanthe film stars Dónall Ó Héalai who is a ‘Screen International Star of Tomorrow 2020’, alongside Dara Devaney(An Klondike), Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones), and newcomer Saise Ní Chúinn. 

Arracht was produced by Cúán Mac Conghail for Macalla Teoranta.  It was supported by Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and TG4 as part of the Cine 4 scheme, a new initiative to develop original feature films in the Irish language. “TG4 and Screen Ireland were very supportive of the film and still are,” said producer Cúán Mac Conghail, when speaking to IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin about making a film under the new Cine4 initiative. Mac Chonghail also praised the cast and crew for their dedication to the film: “I feel I should name them all (cast and crew) because their commitment to Arracht was unflinching. It was a very tough shoot. Fun at times. Beautiful at other times, But always tough.”

Arracht’s 2020 Journey

At the outset of 2020, Arracht faced a promising year with apparently limitless opportunities. The Irish language feature film had its World Premiere at Tallin Black Nights Film Festival where it was received to wide critical acclaim, and described as “ a striking debut feature” by Screen Daily: “It’s a delight to see an Irish-language film attempt to blend the country’s tragic history with more modern elements of genre conventions.”

Arracht then went on to win the audience award at the Glasgow Film Festival in March and screened at the Virgin Media Dublin Film Festival where it picked up the award for Best Irish Film, whilst lead actor Dónall Ó Héalaí was also awarded Best Actor in the Aer Lingus Discovery Award at the festival. “Colmán was an incredible role,” said Ó Héalaí when interviewed by IFTN last year. “From the very first time I read the script, I was aware of how expansive a character he was. From his relationship with the land and sea – belonging to an elder Irish generation who were able to survive in any environment, in any condition due to his sheer stubbornness, determination, and heart.”

The Cine 4 feature had been acquired by Irish distributor Breakout pictures at the end of 2019, with the official nationwide release date for the film set for April 3rd, and plans for the UK release in summer 2020. However, Arracht’s release was indefinitely postponed with the closure of Irish cinemas in March.   

In July, Arracht led the way with 11 nominations for the 2020 IFTA Awards, including nominations for writer/director Tom Sullivan, lead actor Dónall Ó Héalaí, and supporting actor Dara Devaney. The film went on to win two awards at the IFTA ceremony, for Best Sound and Best Original Score.  

International Feature Selection

In November, the Irish Film and Television Academy announced that Arracht had been selected as Ireland’s entry for the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming 93rd annual Academy Awards.

The film was selected by IFTA’s 2021 Selection Committee, including Director Lenny Abrahamson (Normal People, Room), Actor Ciarán Hinds, (Munich, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Composer, and the first female conductor at the Oscars, Eímear Noone, Producer Macdara Kelleher (Foundation, Black ’47), actress Fionnula Flanagan (The Guard, The Others) and David Flynn (Exec Vice President of International Strategy at Paramount TV). The Committee was chaired by Academy CEO Áine Moriarty, who stated the film was “powerful and striking” and that it “will resonate with audiences of any language.”

“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,” said director Tom Sullivan.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.”

The nominations for the 93rdAcademy Awards will be announced on March 15th, whilst Break Out Pictures are planning to release Arracht in cinemas, Spring 2021 when it is deemed safe to re-open cinemas.

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