Four Irish films have been announced as part of the Discovery programme at next month's Toronto International Film Festival. This strong showing at the most important festival in North America speaks to the continuing strength of the domestic industry.
Neasa Hardiman's Sea Fever stars Hermione Corfield, Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott in a science-fiction tale about a marine-biology student confronting a mysterious organism on an Atlantic trawler. "I'm thrilled Toronto has chosen to screen the world premiere of Sea Fever," Hardiman, who has directed such high-profile shows as Happy Valley and Jessica Jones, told The Irish Times. "The film is a tense, fast-moving sci-fi-inflected thriller with big themes of climate change, the outsider and the struggle to connect. Our brilliant ensemble cast reflects the diverse, transnational crews that work in the deep Atlantic."
Nick Rowland's Calm with Horses features Cosmo Jarvis and Barry Keoghan in a drama about an ex-boxer trying to raise an autistic son while acting as enforcer for a drug gang in rural Ireland.
Zeresenay Mehari's Sweetness in the Belly, featuring Dakota Fanning and Wunmi Mosaku, concerns an African refugee making a new life in England.
Screen Ireland (formerly the Irish Film Board) offered support for all those films. Shelly Love's delightful A Bump Along the Way, developed with Northern Ireland Screen, also plays in the Discovery programme. Already winner of best first Irish feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, the picture features a lovely turn by the national treasure Bronagh Gallagher as a middle-aged Derry woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant.
The Discovery programme, which presents work by first- and second-time directors, has launched the careers of such distinguished film-makers as Christopher Nolan, Yorgos Lanthimos, Barry Jenkins and Alfonso Cuarón. At last year's event the Cork director Carmel Winters won top prize at the strand for Floats Like a Butterfly. More than half of the films in this year's presentation are directed by woman. "This is where you want to look for the next decades' masters, Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto festival, explained.
Showing elsewhere at this year's Canadian event, which begins on September 5th, are Malgorzata Szumowska's The Other Lamb, a production between Belgium, Ireland and the United States, and Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn's Ordinary Love, a Northern Irish production starring Liam Neeson.
John Crowley, the Irish director of Brooklyn, will be by Lake Ontario for the world premiere of his take on Donna Tartt's bullet-stopping bestseller The Goldfinch. Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson and Ansel Elgort star in a film that has Oscar bait written all over it.
Other releases easing into the phoney war before awards season properly starts include James Mangold’s Le Mans ’66, Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang and Todd Phillips’s supervillain romp Joker.
In recent years the Toronto International Film Festival and the overlapping Venice International Film Festival have become more important than ever in defining which films will compete for Oscars. Peter Mackie Burns's Rialto, an Irish production financed by Screen Ireland and the British Film Institute, is to have its world premiere in the Horizons section of the Venice event. Mark O'Halloran, who also wrote the acclaimed Adam & Paul and Garage, adapts his play Trade, about a Dubliner processing the death of his father while coping with everyday life. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Monica Dolan star.