In 2016, this newspaper celebrated an extraordinary domestic performance at the nominations for the Academy Awards. As co-producer of Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and John Crowley’s Brooklyn, the Irish Film Board (now Screen Ireland) managed more nominations than Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures combined. Surely this would never be repeated?
Just seven years later, Ireland is enjoying its best ever haul in the Oscar shortlists. By the fairest calculation, 14 slots have been filled by Irish films or Irish talent. Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin broke the record for most-nominated Irish title in history with nine mentions.
Astonishingly, a quarter of the 20 acting nominees hail from Ireland. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan, Dubliners of three different generations, and Kerry Condon, raised in Thurles, are up for Banshees. Kildare’s Paul Mescal is mentioned for his turn in Charlotte Wells’s ecstatically hailed debut Aftersun. Jonathan Redmond, raised in Sandycove, is nominated in the best editing category for Elvis. Richard Baneham, from Tallaght, is nominated in the best visual effects race for Avatar: The Way of Water. Most notably, Colm Bairéad’s An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) is the first film in Irish to be nominated for best international picture.
A matrix of influences has spurred this success. The section 481 tax relief scheme remains the biggest draw for productions such as The Banshees of Inisherin. Expenditure qualifying for the scheme touched ¤500 million in 2021.
An Cailín Ciúin is one of several Irish-language features developed under the Cine4 initiative, a collaboration between TG4, Screen Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. Education and experience has encouraged domestic talent. Like the founders of the Cartoon Saloon animation studio– unlucky to miss out on a nomination for My Father’s Dragon – Richard Baneham, who won an Oscar for the first Avatar film, is a graduate of the acclaimed Ballyfermot College of Further Education. The next generation is eyeing this week’s success with eager ambition.