To no great surprise, the Irish Film and Television Academy has selected Colm Bairéad’s An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) as the Irish entry for best international feature at the 2023 Academy Awards. Recipient of rave reviews, the Irish-language film, an adaptation of Claire Keegan’s story Foster, looks to have an excellent chance of progressing to the 15-film longlist in December.
It could well go further. Anne Thompson, the veteran Hollywood observer, now writing for IndieWire, has listed the film among her likely contenders for the award formerly known as best foreign-language feature. To this point only one Irish film, Paddy Breathnach’s Viva, a Spanish-language production, has made it to the longlist. That film landed among the penultimate nine in 2016 but was not among the eventual five nominees.
Telling the story of a young girl’s engagement with life’s challenges, small and great, while staying in the country with kindly relatives, An Cailín Ciúin is still playing at Irish cinemas nearly three months after its release. Featuring Carrie Crowley and, in the title role, Catherine Clinch, it was the first Irish-language feature to premiere at Berlin Film Festival, and in March it beat out the Oscar-nominated Belfast to take seven Ifta awards. Scoring more than €600,000 at the combined Irish and British box office by mid-June, it is easily the highest-grossing Irish-language release ever.
“We are honoured beyond words that An Cailín Ciúin/The Quiet Girl has been selected to represent Ireland,” Bairéad and his producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi said in a joint statement. “Our heartfelt thanks to Ifta and its selection committee. We have always believed in the idea that an Irish-language film could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of world cinema, and we feel so proud to be representing our country and our language in this way.”
This award has had an eccentric and sometimes controversial history. Each country, big or small, is permitted to submit just one title for consideration. The decision is rarely difficult for a nation like Ireland, which produces only a tiny handful of features in languages other than English. In France many dozens of titles compete for recognition. That country’s scarcely credible failure to win the award in nearly 30 years was surely at the root of recently announced changes in its selection procedures.
Should An Cailín Ciúin progress further it will compete against some of world cinema’s biggest hitters. Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, from South Korea, Mia Hansen-Love’s One Fine Morning, from France, and Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage debuted to much acclaim at the recent Cannes film festival. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Bardo, from Mexico, is set to land at the upcoming Venice film festival. The early favourite, from Belgium, looks to be Lukas Dhont’s moving bereavement drama Close, winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes.
The 15 finalists will be announced on December 21st. Nominations are on January 24th, before the Oscar ceremony on March 12th.