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IFTA Awards 2023: Attendees reflect on 20th anniversary at the red carpet
10 May 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Deirdre O'Kane, host of the 20th Anniversary IFTAs
The 20th Anniversary of the IFTAs was a star-studded affair, hosted by Deirdre O’Kane. The evening featured appearances by high-profile Irish and international guest presenters representing the very best in world-class filmmaking.

We spoke to nominees and guest presenters on the red carpet, taking a moment to reflect upon the 20th anniversary of the IFTAs, the growth of the industry in the past two decades, and its emerging new talent.

For many guests, this wasn’t their first time walking down the red carpet at the IFTAs. We asked what it meant for them personally to be attending such an important milestone in the industry:

“It means an awful lot,” said Andrew Scott, nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role (Film). “When I was first starting out I won a prize at the very first IFTAs, it was a really big deal for me and I have great memories of that. So I feel really happy to be here 20 years later to celebrate everybody. Amazing year for Irish film.”

Scott also presented the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama.

“20 years ago, I was just dreaming of becoming an actor and now I'm here working with people I love on stories I love,” added Moe Dunford, nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role (Drama).

We spoke with some of the Bad Sisters team, who were up for 11 nominations across Best Drama, Best Director (Drama), Best Script (Drama), Best Lead Actress (Drama), Best Supporting Actor (Drama), and Best Supporting Actress (Drama).

“I’ve been here half a dozen times now over the 20 years, and it’s a wonderful night out celebrating Irish talent,” said Eva Birthistle, nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Drama). “I think this year feels particularly special, not just because of the 20 year mark, but also because it's an amazing year for the Irish film industry. It’s never been better.”

The team took home the IFTA for Best Drama, Dearbhla Walsh won Best Director (Drama), Anne Marie Duff won Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Drama), and Sharon Horgan won Best Lead Actress (Drama).

We spoke with Horgan and other veterans of the industry, such as her Bad Sisters co-star Michael Smiley, about the change they’ve witnessed in Irish film and television during their respective careers.

“People are getting a chance to do what they do on a global scale,” said Horgan. “There's always been great content made here, but I just think seeing it lauded across the pond and all over the world is absolutely massive. It’s mad, everyone’s gone nuts for the Irish!”

“I live in London so coming back home, and to the IFTAs, is obviously a big deal for me,” added Smiley, nominated for  Best Supporting Actor (Drama). “This is my fourth time coming back. Every year you see Ireland grow and grow as a home for film and television. There’s so much talent coming through, and it’s getting younger. There’s a voice now that is so different. They’re not aping anybody else, and that’s very exciting.”

Guest presenter Pat Shortt walked the red carpet with his daughter, Faye. They are currently touring their live comedy show Well, and as expected Shortt had a few jokes to make about his own experiences with the IFTAs.

“I was lucky enough to win an IFTA in the past,” said Shortt. “So I think when you're in that time and zone, you don't really appreciate how important that is. It's usually that you're not winning anymore! You think ‘Geez, these things are hard to get!’.”

“So you do really appreciate what this is about,” he added. “It's a big event, and it's great to see all the new faces and the new stuff happening. And the industry has never been bigger.”

The red carpet featured a host of acclaimed directors who were also able to offer insights into Ireland’s evolving film industry.

“Ireland was one of the first to embrace the co-production aspect,” said Antonia Campbell-Hughes, nominated for Best Director (Film). “Screen Ireland were one of the first to go on that journey, and now it’s very much commonplace. It’s a huge part of the industry now.”

“I think Adam and Paul was the second year of IFTA, and it was lovely then because we hadn't had anything like that in the Irish film industry,” said Lenny Abrahamson, nominated for Best Director (Drama). “It's lovely that it’s continued for this long. The industry itself has expanded in that time. Huge amounts of change. I hope small independent things continue to get made, and I think they are.”

Irish films at a wide range of different budgets were celebrated on the night, with the Oscar-nominated Martin McDonagh film The Banshees of Inisherin taking home Best Film, and two of the five Screen Ireland Rising Stars being the leads of Lakelands, which was shot quickly on location in Granard, County Longford, and at a budget of €140,000, considerably low for a feature-length film.

“I’m just delighted that me and Éanna are doing it together,” said Danielle Galligan, nominated for Best Lead Actress (Film). “Both of our performances are so interwoven. It’s just gorgeous to be recognised at home, by your peers, they know you better than anyone. It’s special.”

“It feels very very special,” added co-star Éanna Hardwicke, nominated for Best Lead Actor (Film). “It’s recognition from your peers and in a very special year as well. So I’m delighted. The celebration of the industry, and seeing old friends as well, that’s the best part. It’s easy to let these things go by and kind of take them for granted. It’s a celebration of everyone’s hard work, so I’ll toast to that.”

Joining these rising stars were emerging talent and first-time nominees, such as Alisha Weir, lead of Matilda the Musical, and Roisin Gallagher, lead of RTÉ’s The Dry.

“Incredible, like very surreal. I can't believe it but I'm so grateful to be here,” said Alisha Weir, nominated for Lead Actress (Film), of attending her first IFTA awards.

“It's a real privilege to be a part of it while Irish film and television is in the spotlight,” said Roisin Gallagher, nominated for Lead Actress (Drama). “It feels a bit like I’ve run in at the last minute! I'm so delighted and feel really, really privileged.”

Of course, the night wouldn’t have been complete without celebrating all of the hard work that happens behind the camera. We spoke to the incredible crew who helped bring these acclaimed films to life. Simon Willis told us about his experiences working with Martin McDonagh on The Banshees of Inisherin, and the unique soundscape of the film.

“He took away everything, he wants no background,” explained Willis, nominated for Best Sound. “He wants the backgrounds as small as possible.”

“If I hadn't done such a fantastic job they would have been f*cked!” he joked. “The boys in the post-house were delighted with the stuff we gave them.”

Lorri Ann King, Hair Designer on The Wonder, told us about her experience making the film starring Florence Pugh and Niamh Algar, the latter of which was one of many special guest presenters on the night.

“I think it's great that everybody's celebrating our crafts,” said King, nominated for Best Hair & Make-Up. “The Irish film industry is amazing. It was just a phenomenal experience working with our director Sebastian, and working with our actress Florence Pugh and all the cast and crew. It was a period drama so hair was a big focus. I'm just so delighted to be here tonight and have the nomination.”

“I think just the ability to be all in a room together to celebrate the work is a joyous experience,” added Algar. “Showcasing the amount of work and talent that is coming out of this country is really special. It's really important to nurture that.”

Guest presenter Clare Dunne also spoke on the joy of being back in a room together after two years of the IFTA awards being held remotely.

“It's lovely to be here after the couple years of not having the live event,” said Dunne. “Both of the IFTAs that I won were incredible to achieve, but I wasn’t even here for one of them, and the other one I had a kind of limited party in my back garden. Now I’m getting to be with the whole crowd at IFTA and it's just lovely.”

It just so happened that the awards ceremony was taking place the same night as the finale of Kin season 2. The new season recently garnered 1 million streams on RTÉ Player. In 2022, Dunne won Lead Actress (Drama).

“I just feel very lucky to be part of something that's really gripping the Irish audience,” added Dunne. “Like I just had people come up to me on the street and say really incredible things to me. It’s good writing, it’s a good team, and an all around good production. I really hope we get another season.”

Fresh off the back of An Cailín Ciúin being in Irish cinemas for 52 consecutive weeks, and a series of premieres and Q&As throughout Europe, director Colm Bairead and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoí presented the award for Best Script (Film). Last year, Bairead won Best Director (Film) and Screen Ireland Rising Star 2022, and An Cailín Ciúin won Best Film.

“Yeah it’s been an amazing year. It’s kind of hard to summarise,” said Bairead. “There are days you wake up and you kind of feel like was that all a dream? It was just such an extraordinary roller coaster. We're just so happy and really proud to have been a part of that journey, and it’s still going! The film is still travelling around the world.”

Renowned Irish musician and political activist Bob Geldof presented the George Morrison Feature Documentary award, having previously won the Best Specialist Factual Programme award in 2016 for his documentary A Fanatic Heart: Geldof On Yeats.

“Well, documentary is my thing,” said Geldof. “For a long time I had a documentary production company and we did Milestone Dogs. I won an IFTA for one of my own things. Very proud, thank you! I love that distilled journalism that goes into a subject, unpicks it, and makes an argument. It’ll be a pleasure to give it to whoever wins.”

Kathryn Ferguson’s Nothing Compares won the award in question. The film follows Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor through her rise to fame and exploring the ways her iconoclastic personality led to exile from the pop mainstream.

The night was both a celebration of returning to normality after two challenging pandemic years, and of the Irish film industry reaching new heights at home and abroad.

The 20th Anniversary IFTA Awards are now available to watch on RTÉ Player.





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