Director of The Guard says Irish films are not ‘intelligent’

McDonagh doesn’t want Calvary regarded as Irish: ‘it’s just set in Ireland with lots of Irish characters’

John Michael McDonagh, director of The Guard and Calvary, has launched an extraordinary attack on the Irish film industry.

Speaking in a video interview, released recently, the film-maker made it clear that, despite receiving €975,000 in public funding from the Irish Film Board, he would prefer that Calvary not be regarded as Irish.

“Like I’m not a fan of Irish movies, I don’t find them to be that technically accomplished and I don’t find them that intelligent,” he said.

"So I'm trying to get away from the description of the movie as an Irish film in a way. It's not an Irish film. It's just set in Ireland with lots of Irish characters."

Earlier this year, Mr McDonagh, who was born and raised in London, was content to attend the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) where Calvary took the prizes for best Irish film and best script.

At the podium, McDonagh, brother to fellow writer Martin McDonagh, declined to thank anybody apart from himself. Calvary stars Brendan Gleeson as a priest who, given one week to live by an unidentified parishioner, tours the town, encountering various representatives of current Irish malaises.

The film has received raves throughout the UK and the United States. Notices in this country have been more mixed.

McDonagh went further in his denunciation of domestic cinema. “You see the problem is they [AUDIENCES]know that lots of Irish films aren’t very good and they’re actually hesitant about going to see the movie themselves.

“So when you’re making a film there, you’re trying to convince the Irish audience ‘no, it’s not like all those terrible Irish movies you’ve seen before.”

Despite his attempts to distance himself from the Irish film business, McDonagh, like Martin, has set his stories in the west of Ireland and has always been content to be identified as an Irish writer.

His first film, The Guard, took over €4 million domestically on its way to becoming the most successful ever Irish independent film on home territory. He is currently working on a third feature set in London.

Mr McDonagh has not yet offered to return his IFTA.

When asked about the quotes, chief executive of the Irish Film Board James Hickey said Calvary was a “great Irish film, telling an exciting and challenging Irish story with Irish creative talent in front and behind the camera”.

“The IFB supported both films which are culturally Irish stories featuring Irish talent throughout, and is happy to have done so. The excellent work of Irish cast and crew has contributed to making Calvary and The Guard the high quality films they are, which have been seen by audiences in Ireland and all over the world.”