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Director hopes Oscar-tipped Irish language film will help broaden audience’s horizons

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Recognition: A scene from Arracht, Ireland's candidate for Best International Film at the 2021 Academy Awards. Photo: Macalla Teo/ PA

Recognition: A scene from Arracht, Ireland's candidate for Best International Film at the 2021 Academy Awards. Photo: Macalla Teo/ PA

Recognition: A scene from Arracht, Ireland's candidate for Best International Film at the 2021 Academy Awards. Photo: Macalla Teo/ PA

The South Korean black comedy thriller Parasite has kicked down the door for foreign films in Hollywood, according to the director of Oscar-tipped Irish language film Arracht.

Parasite wowed audiences and made history when it scooped four Academy Awards earlier this year, becoming the first non-English film to win Best Picture in the process.

Now writer-director Tom Sullivan, whose famine film Arracht has been put forward as Ireland’s candidate for Best International Film at the 2021 Oscars, believes its success has boosted interest in foreign language films.

He said: “Parasite kicked a lot of doors down and got a lot of people who would not have normally considered watching foreign language films to watch them.

“I think, Jesus, wouldn’t it be great if people were more open to watching films from all over the world, as opposed to that small pool of American films that most of us, myself included, watch?”

He said everyone can do with “broadening our horizons a little bit”.

Arracht, which translates as ‘monster’, was filmed entirely in Irish in Connemara.

Set in 1845 on the eve of the Great Famine, it follows fisherman Colman Sharkey (Dónall Ó Héalai), who takes a stranger into his home at the behest of a local priest, just as the potato blight arrives that will lead to the death and displacement of millions.

It is a seminal moment in Irish history that, unusually, has rarely been depicted on the silver screen.

Sullivan is all too aware of this, revealing he was warned by a top Irish director “Don’t f*** it up”.

He said: “I mentioned it to a well-known director, who I won’t mention now.

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“He’s pretty famous and he’s an Irish director.

“I was talking to him one day, I just bumped into him.

“And I told him what I was doing, that it was a film centred on the famine.

“And his response was ‘Oh, risky: don’t f*** it up’.

“I think there’s trepidation or fear of trying to tackle something so sacred.

“There’s an awful lot that goes unsaid about the Famine and I think it’s the same with any trauma.

“I think as a nation we’re traumatised. I think we’re all learning, we’re all in therapy now learning to deal with the Famine and the films that are going to come out.

“I think you’re gonna see more ways of us dealing with this and talking about it, I think it’s time.”

Arracht was chosen by the Irish Film and Television Academy as the country’s candidate for Best International Film. The judging panel included acclaimed Normal People director Lenny Abrahamson and actor Ciaran Hinds.

Arracht will be included in a longlist which will then be narrowed down to just five nominees, based on the votes of academy members and directors.

Despite the odds being against him, Sullivan is grateful for the recognition he has received for his first feature film.

“Either way it’s great recognition and it’ll ensure a lot more people see the film.”


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