21 September 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTA announces Tom Sullivan's Arracht as Ireland's Oscar entry for 2021
24 Nov 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Dónall Ó Héalai in Arracht
The Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) has announced that Irish-Language Feature Arracht has been selected as Ireland’s entry for the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category (formerly Best Foreign Language category) at the upcoming 93rd annual Academy Awards.

The film was selected by IFTA’s Selection Committee, including Director Lenny Abrahamson (Normal People, Room, Frank), Actor Ciarán Hinds, (Munich, The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Composer, and the first female conductor at the Oscars, Eímear Noone, Producer Macdara Kelleher (Foundation, The Green Knight, Black ’47), actress Fionnula Flanagan (The Guard, The Others) and David Flynn (Exec Vice President of International Strategy at Paramount TV).  The Committee was chaired by Academy CEO Áine Moriarty.

Arracht, which is told almost entirely in the Irish Language, is a poignant and inspiring story set in 1845 on the eve of The Great Hunger. Fisherman Colmán Sharkey takes in a stranger at the behest of a local priest. Patsy, a former soldier in the Napoleonic wars arrives just ahead of 'the blight,'  that eventually wipes out the country's potato crop, leading to the death and displacement of millions. Patsy's subsequent actions set Colmán on a path that will take him to the edge of survival, and sanity, until he encounters an abandoned young girl who gives him a reason to live. But Colmán cannot escape the darkness of his past.

Written and directed by Tom Sullivan, Arracht has won two Irish Academy Awards at this year’s virtual IFTA ceremony along with multiple IFTA Nominations.  The film stars Dónall Ó Héalai who is a ‘Screen International Star of Tomorrow 2020’, alongside Dara Devaney, Michael McElhatton, and newcomer Saise Ní Chúinn.

Arracht joins a stellar list of Irish-made films (not in the English language) that have been selected by IFTA’s panel to represent Ireland in the Oscar race over recent years.  Last year, IFTA submitted the Arabic language Documentary Gaza to represent Ireland, and previous selections have included Viva (Spanish language); Song of Granite (Irish language); As If I Am Not There (Serbo-Croatian language), and Kings (Irish language) among others.

Speaking about the selection of Arracht, IFTA Academy CEO Áine Moriarty said: “What an honour to have Tom Sullivan’s remarkable film Arracht represent Ireland, with its powerful and striking cinematic visual from DOP Kate McCullough, who brings the audience into the heart of Ireland’s famine history. Dónall Ó Héalai’s brilliant and poignant central performance brings a gothic humanity to the storytelling that will resonate with audiences of any language”.

Tom Sullivan, writer/director of Arracht said: "I am overjoyed with the news that Arracht has been chosen by the IFTA selection committee to represent Ireland in the Oscar’s Best International Film category.  This is recognition of the team's work and dedication and to be considered on this level is a huge honour and beyond exciting.  It's been a funny old year to be in the film business but the support Arracht has received from everyone has really kept us going. Thank you to our funders Screen Ireland, BAI, and TG4 and thank you IFTA for all your support”

Arracht was produced by Cúán Mac Conghail for Macalla Teoranta. The film was executive produced by John McDonnell and Brendan McCarty of Fantastic Films.   It was supported by Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and TG4 as part of the Cine 4 scheme, a new initiative to develop original feature films in the Irish language.  It is distributed in Ireland by Break Out Pictures.

Arracht premiered to critical acclaim at the prestigious Tallinn Black Nights Festival in 2019 and since then, it has won accolades at other festivals including the Dublin International Film Festival, The Galway Film Fleadh, and the Glasgow Film Festival.

The Oscar Best International Film contenders will next be shortlisted to 10 international finalists which will then be ultimately shortlisted to the final 5 Oscar Nominees in that category.  The Oscar ceremony was originally scheduled for 28th February 2021, but has been shifted out to April, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony (the Oscars) is currently scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California on Sunday 25th April 2021 and will honour the best films of 2020.

Break Out Pictures will be releasing Arracht in cinemas, Spring 2021.

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