Irish-language film An Cailín Ciúin takes two honours at Berlin film festival

Berlinale juries praise Colm Bairéad’s feature as ‘unique’ and ‘a beautiful film’

Irish-language feature An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) has taken two honours after its world premiere at the 72nd Berlin film festival.

The film, written and directed by Colm Bairéad and based on the short story Foster by Claire Keegan, has won the grand prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury for best film and received a special mention from the children's jury at the festival.

The first ever Irish feature film at the Berlinale, An Cailín Ciúin tells the story of a girl's summer with a foster couple, away from her dysfunctional family in 1980s Ireland. It will receive its Irish premiere next Wednesday at the Dublin International Film Festival.

The Generation Kplus International Jury praised the film as “a delicate story full of details about childhood, grief, parenthood and rebuilding a family”.

“The very strong narrative is combined with a stunning cinematography,” they added. “The sound and the images create a unique atmosphere.”

The children’s jury, in their special mention, thanked the creative team behind An Cailín Ciúin for a “beautiful film” that led them “into an emotional, natural world full of love”.

They singled out 12-year-old actor Catherine Clinch for her debut performance as protagonist Cáit, which they said "truly impressed us".

“I worked really hard on it and I wasn’t even sure how it would do in Ireland, so it’s crazy to think that even people from other countries enjoyed it,” said Catherine to The Irish Times.

Husband-and-wife team

The film is the work of director-producer husband-and-wife team Colm Bairéad and Cleona Ní Chrualaoí of Inscéal productions.

It was financed through Cine4, the Irish feature-film initiative promoting indigenous cinema in the Irish language that is backed by Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and TG4.

Ms Ní Chrualaoí said the film’s selection for and win in Berlin were “an overwhelming vindication” for Cine4’s “potential to reach far beyond our shores”.

“Small teams can do great things and we are very proud of what we and all the extraordinary cast and crew, most especially our young lead, Catherine Clinch, have achieved,” she said. “We are particularly proud that we can now share our film An Cailín Ciúin and our native tongue on the world stage.”

Best film

Best film overall at this year’s Berlinale was Alcarràs, the second feature by Spanish director Carla Simón, which is about a Catalan farming family facing eviction from their land.

A lifetime achievement award went to Isabelle Huppert, who also starred in an Irish co-production, About Joan, that was screening out of competition at the festival.

That film, about a French woman with a past life in Ireland, is the second feature from writer-director Laurent Larivière.

The 72nd Berlinale was the first major European film festival of the year and marked a return to on-site screenings for the festival despite a surge in Covid-19 cases in the German capital.

Held over 11 days and open to trade and the public, some 250 films were screened in all, down one-quarter on previous years. Screening cinemas throughout the city operated at half-capacity, with vaccination checks at doors.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin