Irish film is in rude health in 2024, with international festival success and a slew of eye-catching films poised to hit the market.


Source: Sundance


Kneecap, the origins story of the bawdily subversive Irish-language hip-hop group of the same name, written and directed by Rich Peppiatt, wowed Sundance Film Festival and won an audience award, heralding the arrival of Irish films, talent and language in 2024.

In February, Claire Keegan adaptation Small Things Like These, starring Oscar winner Cillian Murphy, opened the Berlinale, a first for an Irish independent film at the festival.

Alessandra Celesia’s feature documentary The Flats — referring to a west Belfast housing estate — emerged as the CPH:DOX international competition winner in March, while The Damned, written by Jamie Hannigan and directed by Iceland’s Thordur Palsson, has its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in June.

Broad spectrum

Now all eyes are on the Croisette as a rich array of anticipated Irish films are being showcased to international buyers in the Cannes market. They run the gauntlet, from horror and gritty drama to coming-of-age tales and comedy, and are directed by first-timers and established talent.

mk2 Films is touting Darren Thornton’s comedy-drama Four Mothers. The film is an Irish take on Gianni Di Gregorio’s 2008 Italian hit Mid-August Lunch, about a budding novelist looking after his elderly mother, whose plans for a book tour are thwarted when three more women land on his doorstep, forcing him to juggle his burgeoning career with the care of four eccentric, combative and wildly different ladies.

Thornton, who made his feature debut with A Date For Mad Mary, has teamed up with his screenwriting brother Colin Thornton to pen Four Mothers. The film is produced by Eric Abraham and Jack Sidey for the UK’s Portobello Films & Television and Martina Niland for Ireland’s Port Pictures. Backers include Screen Ireland, RTÉ and the Common Humanity Arts Trust.

In a change of tone, New Europe Film Sales is selling Fréwaka, a horror film written and directed by Aislinn Clarke. The film tells the story of a student palliative care nurse plagued by a trauma from her past that is having a disorienting effect on her present — her relationship, career and ability to function. Told in both Irish and English, the title originates from the Irish word fréamhacha, meaning roots.

Clarke holds the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Gold Fellowship 2020, which supports emerging female filmmakers. Her 2018 feature The Devil’s Doorway was the first Irish horror film to be directed by an Irish female filmmaker.

Fréwaka is produced by Dermot Lavery for DoubleBand Films and Patrick O’Neill for Wildcard. The cast is headed by Clare Monnelly, Bríd Ní Neachtain and Aleksandra Bystrzhitskaya.

Writer and director Brendan Canty — known for his music videos — has made Christy, the story of a 17-year-old teenager who moves in with his estranged older brother after being thrown out of his foster home. Set in Cork and starring Danny Power, Diarmuid Noyes and Emma Willis, Canty’s debut feature builds on his Screen Ireland-backed short of the same name. BBC Film and Screen Ireland have financed Christy, which is produced by Rory Gilmartin, Marina Brackenbury and Meredith Duff for London and Dublin-based Sleeper Films.

Brian Durnin’s feature directorial debut Spilt Milk is another one to watch. Cara Loftus wrote the script after participating in Screen Ireland’s inaugural new-writing scheme in 2019. Spilt Milk was the first feature from the scheme to go into production. It details the story of 11-year-old Bobby, played by Cillian Sullivan, who dreams of becoming a great detective like his TV hero, Kojak. He sets up a private-investigation enterprise with his best friend, but the disappearance of his older brother leads down a dark path. Spilt Milk is the first feature to be produced by Laura McNicholas through her company 925 Productions, as a co-production with Scotland-based MTP.

A coming-of-age story with a twist, Ready Or Not marks the directorial debut of award-winning short filmmaker Claire Frances Byrne. It is written by Lynn Ruane, spearheaded by producer Ruth Coady for Gaze Pictures and supported by Screen Ireland, Bankside Films, RTE and Article 1. Ruby Conway Dunne, Molly Byrne, Alex Grendon and Alicia Weaver star.

Actress Eva Birthistle, meanwhile, has made her feature directorial debut, based on her short Kathleen Was Here. Aged 18 and fresh out of foster care, Kathleen’s biological mother has died and she returns to her hometown to take ownership of her parent’s house, while embarking on a destructive path. Claire McCaughley is producing through Treasure Entertainment. The local cast is headed by Hazel Doupe, Clare Dunne and Peter Coonan.

Contact: Screen Ireland