17 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Ireland selects In The Shadow Of Beirut for Oscars® 2024 International Feature Film
06 Oct 2023 : News Desk
In The Shadow Of Beirut
The Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) has announced that Lebanon-set feature documentary In The Shadow of Beirut by Irish filmmakers Stephen Gerard Kelly and Garry Keane has been selected as Ireland’s entry for the Oscar® Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming 96th annual Academy Awards. The film is produced by Brendan J. Byrne and Myriam Sassine.

The film was selected by IFTA’s 2023 Selection Committee, including renowned filmmaker Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, The Field), Producer Brian Falconer (Derry Girls, Ordinary Love), Actress Cathy Belton (Philomena, Hidden Assets), Writer/Director Frank Berry (Michael Inside, Aisha) and Media Executive Múirne Laffan.

In The Shadow of Beirut is the first film from Irish co-director Stephen Gerard Kelly, who alongside experienced co-director colleague Garry Keane (Gaza), crafted this beautiful, yet powerfully honest film. As Screen International captured it, “the shame this film provokes, or should provoke, in collective society makes it difficult and distressing viewing.”

Kelly spent 5 years living amongst the film’s protagonists in the Sabra and Shatila neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Beirut, a city once described as the Paris of the Middle East, a city now engulfed in economic and political crisis.  Kelly spent the first three years with the central participants of the film before pickingup his camera to begin documenting their lives: “In times of celebration and commemoration, people encouraged me to film their lives in happiness and, at times, immense sadness, frustration, even anger.”

In the Shadow of Beirut is a searing, cinematic portrait of modern-day Lebanon as seen through the eyes of four families living in the city. Filmed with unique access to these families, the film is marked by a deep intimacy with its subjects and a bold cinematic style.  

The film received its World Premiere at the prestigious Doc Edge Festival in New Zealand in June this year where it won 3 prestigious awards, including Best International Feature Film, which earned it qualification in the Documentary Feature category for the 96th Academy Awards.

In The Shadow of Beirut, which is primarily in Arabic language, 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 (see full list below). Last year, Irish-language feature An Cailín Ciúin/The Quiet Girl was selected and went on to receive an Oscar Nomination, the first ever Irish language film to achieve this, and the film had enormous success worldwide with global audiences.

Financiers for the documentary are Screen Ireland (Ireland’s funding & development agency) and ZDF/Arte. Lead producer is Belfast-based Cyprus Avenue Films (Gaza, Bobby Sands: 66 Days). Production partners include Beirut’s Abbout Productions (Costa Brava, Lebanon), Republic of Ireland-based Real Films (Gaza) and Berlin-based Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion (The Cleaners). Co-producers include Myriam Sassine, Christian Beetz and Alison Toomey. Executive producers for Hidden Light are Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Siobhan Sinnerton. 

IFTA Academy CEO, Áine Moriarty said: "The Irish Academy is delighted to announce that ‘In The Shadow Of Beirut’ will represent Ireland in the Best International Feature Film category for the 96thAcademy Awards. This is such an important film for a global audience to connect with. This raw storytelling on screen is delivered with such heart-breaking honesty. Stephen has been trusted to bring us up close and personal in this film, into the lives of families who are full of love as they try to live and survive, with the question of hope and human resilience at its core.”

Co-director Stephen Gerard Kelly added: “As my first film, words are difficult to describe the emotions I’m feeling right now after just learning ‘In The Shadow of Beirut’ is Ireland’s official selection for International Feature at the Oscars. In addition to having already qualified in the Documentary Feature category for the Academy Award, this recognition from Ireland is an immense honour for me personally, and my co-directing partner Garry Keane.  More importantly, this recognition will continue to keep Lebanon in peoples' minds and hearts, particularly the people in the film, whom I care deeply about."

Producer Brendan J. Byrne added, “It’s a great honour to secure this coveted recognition from Ireland as the Oscar selection for Best International Feature. We’re very proud of this film and the people and stories that it brings to the screen”

The Oscar® Best International Film contenders will next be shortlisted to 15 international finalists which will then be ultimately shortlisted to the final 5 Oscar® Nominees in that category. The 96th Academy Awards ceremony (the Oscars) is currently scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California on Sunday March 10th, 2024.

About HiddenLight Productions

HiddenLight is an independent production company dedicated to creating premium content for a global audience. Founded by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sam Branson and Chelsea Clinton, the company is led by Co-Creative Directors Siobhan Sinnerton and Amy Flanagan together with CEO Johnny Webb. HiddenLight is committed to producing films that entertain, surprise, spark conversations and activate audiences through a greater understanding of the world we live in.

Previous Selections from Ireland 

Last year, IFTA submitted the Irish language feature An Cailín Ciúin/The Quiet Girl which got an Oscar Nomination. Other previous selections have included Viva (Spanish language - shortlisted to 11 films), Song of Granite (Irish language), As If I Am Not There (Serbo-Croatian language), Arracht (Irish language), Gaza (Arabic language), Foscadh (Irish language), and Kings (Irish language) among others.

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