The Irish production company, Element Pictures, founded by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe in 2001 and responsible for the BBC series Normal People and award-winning film The Favourite, is up for not one, nor two, but 22 nominations at the Irish Film and Television Awards this year.
Lenny Abrahamson’s culture-shaking Normal People, starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, has been nominated for 15 awards in total. Mescal, who captivated audiences as Connell in the series, is nominated for the Lead Actor Drama award, while director Abrahamson is nominated for Best Director. The series itself has been nominated for Best Drama.
Phyllida Lloyd’s highly anticipated Herself received six nominations; including a nomination for Best Actress Film for Clare Dunne, Best Screenplay for Clare Dunne and Malcolm Campbell, and a nomination for Best Film. Michael McCormack’s award-winning documentary Breaking Out has received a nomination for the George Morrison Feature Documentary.
Co-founders of Element Pictures say, upon hearing the news, “[w]e are very grateful to IFTA for recognising the incredible talent we have been so lucky to work with across two productions we are so proud of – Normal People and Herself. We are also delighted with the nomination for the wonderful documentary, Breaking Out, distributed by Element Distribution”.
In the past 20 years, Irish cinema has taken centre stage at many award ceremonies internationally, as Irish film and television production improves at rapid pace. Element Pictures can be credited for much of this progress, as the most well-performing pieces have been facilitated by this exceptional productions collective. Add some of Element’s ‘greatest hits’ to your must-watch list, if you haven’t already.
1. The Lobster (2016)
Colin Farrell and Olivia Colman star in this Yorgos Lanthimos-directed surreal love story/sci-fi/comedy/thriller – and while the story is difficult to pin to one particular genre, it was well received by both audiences and critics, and was one of the most talked-about movies of that year for its utter originality, and excellent acting performances. It received 82 nominations and 34 award wins, including one Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
2. What Richard Did (2012)
Jack Reynor, Irish-American actor (having spent his childhood in Valleymount, Co Wicklow) won an IFTA for his performance in this production directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Malcolm Campbell. The film is loosely based on Kevin Power’s bestselling fiction Bad Day in Blackrock, a 2008 novel inspired by the real-life death of Brian Murphy in 2000.
Reynor, now having solidified his position on the world stage after having performed alongside Florence Pugh in Midsommar, isn’t alone in receiving an award for What Richard Did – his win was one of five received for the production at the 2013 IFTAs, including Best Film, as well as the Golden Tulip at the Istanbul International Film Festival in Turkey.
3. The Guard (2011)
Starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, 2011 Irish buddy cop comedy production The Guard remains the most successful independent Irish film of all time, in terms of Irish box-office receipts. It overtakes emotional wartime epic The Wind that Shakes the Barley in this regard, which previously held that status. Both Gleeson and Cheadle received critical acclaim for their performances as polar-opposite agents of the law – with Gleeson receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination. Director and writer John Michael McDonagh was nominated for BAFTA for his writing achievement.
4. Room (2016)
Adapted from the award-winning novel by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue, Room (2016), starring Brie Larson, received international critical acclaim for its intimate portrayal of the task of parenting through trauma. Though its premise is harrowing – detailing the imprisonment and then, liberation of a mother and son, in and from a 10-by-10-foot room – viewers found it a heart-warming watch for its optimistic final notes, and Larson’s display of strength as Ma/Joy. Larson received an Oscar for her performance, while the production in general received an incredible 140 nominations and 134 wins worldwide.
5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
This psychological horror by Yorgos Lanthimos stormed cinemas in 2017. Starring Barry Keoghan, Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival that year, and won Best Screenplay Award at the festival, for Lanthimos’ and Efthymis Filippou’s creative work in the unsettling piece.
6. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
Winner of the 2006 Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) is often described as difficult to watch for its raw depiction of the cruelty and viciousness of the guerrilla warfare that raged in 1920s Ireland. Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney play brothers attempting to navigate the battle against the British security forces and Irish Unionist population who oppose their conditions for independence. The wartime epic received 24 Academy Award nominations and seven wins overall, including three IFTA wins, and five nominations.
The 2021 IFTA Ceremony will take place virtually on July 4. Visit the IFTA website for the full list of nominations and more information.