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IFTA Awards Focus: Feature Documentary
18 May 2015 : Seán Brosnan
‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ directed by Ciarín Scott
The IFTA Awards are now less than a week away (this Sunday, May 24), and we continue our coverage of the show with a look at the George Morrison Feature Documentary category.

Featuring an unprecedented three women directors out of the five nominated projects, all of this year’s documentaries have screened both nationally and internationally to strong acclaim, carrying on Ireland’s tradition of producing high-quality, socially and politically pertinent documentaries.

The nominated projects are ‘Blood Fruit’ (directed by Sinead O’ Brien), ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ (directed by Ciarín Scott), ‘One Million Dubliners’ (directed by Aoife Kelleher), ‘Road’ (directed by Michael Hewitt and Dermot Lavery) and ‘Unbreakable’ (directed by Ross Whitaker).

Documentary ‘Blood Fruit’ premiered last year at the Galway Film Fleadh to very positive reviews and subsequently won the Best Irish Feature Documentary Award.

Directed by Sinead O’Brien and produced by Ferndale Films, the documentary focuses on the day when 21 year old Mary Manning refused to register the sale of an Outspan grapefruit. She and ten other workers who supported her action were suspended from work with immediate effect and a strike ensued. The lockout was to last two years and nine months and only ended when the Irish government agreed to implement a complete ban of the import of South African goods until the apartheid regime was overthrown.

‘Blood Fruit’ reached a large audience in October 2014 as it was broadcast on TG4. The film was also nominated for a Prix d'Or European award and toured the US in 2015 including screenings in New York and Washington DC.

Atlantic Film Alliance’s ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ follows Irish humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble, whose unwavering commitment and selfless efforts have seen her change the lives of countless children and families for the better since 1989. Her drive stems from a childhood in Ireland fraught with poverty, loss and institutional abuse. However, despite achieving so much in the face of adversity and the success of her global children’s foundation, Christina remains scarred by the memory of the three children she was unable to save, namely her own brother and two sisters, from whom she was separated at a very young age.

Directed by Ciarín Scott and co-produced by Paul Duane and Rex Bloomstein, it had its World Premiere at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) in Dublin last September, as part of the Stranger Than Fiction documentary festival, where it won the audience award.

The film subsequently got an Irish cinema release earlier this year – and garnered positive reviews from publications such as The Irish Times who wrote that “it’s hard to imagine that we will see a more moving film this year.”

The third female director in this category to see her film land an IFTA nomination is Aoife Kelleher for ‘One Million Dubliners’. The film won the Best Feature Documentary Award last year at the Galway Film Fleadh and went on to be released to cinemas in October.

Produced by Rachel Lysaght and Underground Films, the documentary explores the life and death stories around Glasnevin Cemetery, where 1.5million people lie buried. It also offers a poignant portrait of Shane MacThomais, the cemetery tour guide and historian who was a well-known figure in Glasnevin.

The film has received very positive reviews and RTÉ said of the film: “Moving, tactful, and confident about conveying the air of mystery at the heart of the film, ‘One Million Dubliners’ has a quiet majesty and lingers long after viewing." The film was also voted as the "best Irish film of 2014" by reviewers of The Irish Times, placing ahead of Best Film nominee 'Frank'.

Editor Emer Reynolds has also gotten a nomination this year for her work on the film.

Directed, written and produced by Diarmuid Lavery and Michael Hewitt, ‘the Doublebands Films production Road’ received its’ world premiere at the 2014 Belfast Film Festival. The film received a very warm reception and was subsequently acquired for distribution in the UK by distributor Kaleidoscope Entertainment.

Narrated by Liam Neeson, the film tells the story of two sets of motorcycle road-racing Dunlop brothers from Northern Ireland - two generations of one family united by loss and success.

The film has received very positive reviews with Donald Clarke hailing the film as a “gem to savour” and The Guardian calling it a “startling film”.

Capping off the list is ‘Unbreakable’. Directed by Ross Whitaker, the film tells the story of Mark Pollack who, despite going blind at the age of 22, raced to the South Pole – becoming the first blind person to do so. Getting his life back on track, he became engaged to girlfriend Simone but, four weeks before the wedding, suffered a fall which left him paralysed from the waist down.

The documentary was released to cinemas in October 2014 and then embarked on a tour of Ireland. RTÉ reviewing the film said that “it truly feels trite to say anything about Unbreakable other than to go see it.” The film also aired on RTÉ One late last year.

The film was directed, written and produced by Ross Whitaker who previously directed documentaries such as ‘Bye Bye Now’ and ‘When Ali Came to Ireland’.

The IFTA Film & Drama Awards takes place on Sunday, May 24 with TV3 airing a one hour special on the ceremony on Monday, June 1st.

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