If the aim of IFTA’s nomination announcement was to attract attention through controversy, they’ve done brilliantly.
Produced by Irish company Element and co-directed by Lenny Abrahamson, Normal People was the TV event of the lockdown, a superbly conceived and executed adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel that would, in other years, have massively boosted Sligo tourism. A shoo-in for a bag of IFTAs, you’d think, particularly when you consider the performances of its stars, Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones.
Not so, unfortunately. Though Normal People started screening in April, and the IFTA nominations were only announced this morning, the series was too late for consideration apparently, and will have to wait till 2021 to get patted on the back. Element and co may not be too upset, however, as they’re sure to get showered in BAFTAs.
Meanwhile, the IFTA nominations are further confused by the fact that there were no awards in 2019: to account for that, the film awards have been split into 2019 and 2020 categories. Among them lurk the usual IFTA suspects. Saoirse Ronan, who has by my count already won nine IFTAs, is nominated again for her superb turn in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, and may win again despite stiff competition from Sarah Greene, Jessie Buckley and talented newcomer Aisling Franciosi.
The Best Actor in Film IFTA ought to be between Tom Vaughn-Lawlor for his harrowing turn in the domestic drama Rialto, and Liam Neeson, who delivered his best performance in years opposite Leslie Manville in Ordinary Love. In the supporting actor roles, Stephen Rea, another IFTA regular, is up for his twinkle-eyed turn as a cunning peasant in Lance Daly’s famine drama Black 47, and really should win.
The excellent Sarah Greene is nominated again in the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama category, for Dublin Murders, and ought to win something so perhaps will prevail here. She may even be given the nod over Saoirse in the Best Film Actress category for her brilliant portrayal of a homeless woman in Roddy Doyle and Paddy Breathnach’s Rosie.
That film is the strongest awards contender in the Best Film of 2019 categories, and is likely to edge out competition from Black ‘47, Float Like a Butterfly, Hole in the Ground and The Dig. The 2020 Best Film award looks tighter, with Ordinary Love and the Irish language famine drama Arracht the frontrunners facing serious competition from Calm with Horses, Extra Ordinary and A Bump Along the Way. I was a big fan of Dating Amber, David Freyne’s delightful gay coming-of-age comedy set in a small 1990s midlands town, but it was released at the start of June so probably missed the IFTA deadline as well.
In the documentary award I would love to see Feargal Ward’s superb Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid win, though Ross Whitaker’s acclaimed profile of Katie Taylor will also be in with a shout.
In the TV acting categories, Sarah Greene (Dublin Murders) will have to battle with Niamh Algar (The Virtues), Ruth Negga (Preacher), Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) and Jessie Buckley (The Woman in White), with Buckley and Algar also nominated in the Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama category for their fine work in Chernobyl and Pure respectively. And while Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders), Richard Dormer (Fortitude), Brendan Gleeson (Mr. Mercedes) and Andrew Scott (Black Mirror) are among the contenders for the Actor in a Lead Role in Drama category. I’d love to see Adrian Dunbar win for his compelling portrayal of the jolly, avuncular, conflicted and quite possibly corrupt Superintendent Ted Hastings in Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty.
It’s easy to make fun of the IFTAs, whether because of the squiffy crowd that chatted infamously over the award presentations during the live broadcast of the 2014 event (I was among the happy attendees) or the tendency to dangle award carrots to attract big names. But organising an awards ceremony was never going to be easy in a country this size, and since its inception in 2003, the IFTAs has helped celebrate and encourage film and television in a nation that, as this year’s nominations prove, is teeming with acting, writing and directing talent. Like most other awards ceremonies at the moment, this year’s IFTAs will occur virtually, probably in September, but the organisation is planning to return to a real-life, gongs and booze awards event in 2021.
“I read the book again and I thought, ‘Nah, it’s not the right time’. And then, three years later: Trump.” This is what David Simon told Esquire magazine in April when talking about his and Ed Burns’ dazzling mini-series, The Plot Against America, starting on Sky Atlantic tonight.
Last weekend, Donald Trump travelled to South Dakota for a speechifying photo op, and raised his chin high for the cameras in imitation of the giant stone presidents behind him on Mount Rushmore. During the rambling discourse that followed, he referred to the malign intentions of "left-wing fascists". Slight misunderstanding of the word "fascist" there, but what if America had been infected by the rise of populist, ultranationalist demagogues back in the 1930s?
At this stage of a normal summer, we'd be piling into the multiplexes to watch two-and-a-half-hour blockbusters that cost a fortune to make, are irredeemably dumb but annoyingly entertaining. "That was rubbish," we'd be saying to each other on the way out, guiltily concealing the fact that we'd rather enjoyed ourselves.
One hundred years ago, Ireland was at war with the British Empire. A simmering enmity to occupation that had begun centuries before had found its fullest expression in the 1916 Rising, the brutal repression of which had turned the public mood irrevocably towards the cause of freedom. A guerilla war brilliantly masterminded by Michael Collins was in full swing across the country, with attacks on RIC barracks and the auxiliaries leading to bloody reprisals.
In the early 1970s, a feminist movement led by Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan was on the verge of pushing landmark legislation through congress. The Equal Rights Amendment would end discrimination on the basis of sex in America, where women were paid less, under-represented in third level education, invisible in politics and effectively barred from progress in most professions. The amendment seemed like a slam-dunk, but in its way stood a formidable opponent.