The Guard, Parked and Charlie Casanova were among the feature winners at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

John Michael McDonagh’s comedy-thriller The Guard picked up the audience award at last night’s Galway Film Fleadh award ceremony. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle and produced by Reprisal Films’ Chris Clark and Flora Fernandez Marengo and Element Films’ Andrew Lowe and Ed Guiney, the film got its national peremiere at the festival on Wednesday and has already scored well at the local box office.

Best First Feature was shared between Darragh Byrne’s drama Parked starring Colm Meaney and Terry McMahon’s crime-thriller Charlie Casanova.

Best Feature Documentary went to Fleadh co-founder Leila Doolan’s Bernadette: Notes On a Political Journey.

This year’s 20,000 admissions was an increase of 2,000 on last year’s total.

The five-day festival included two days of industry pitching sessions, a finance summit, talent masterclasses and plenty of opportunity for networking.

Continuing under the stewardship of managing director Miriam Allen, who was overseeing the Fleadh for a 23rd-consecutive year, this year’s event was the first to be programmed by Gar O’Brien.

Despite suffering a 25% reduction in Arts Council funding over the last two years Allen has ensured a healthy festival budget. Commenting on this year’s event, Allen told Screen:

“We have had a very successful 2011, already our box office has succeeded what we did in 2010. All of the films have gone down extremely well. The market is growing and we have more events. We have a tiny staff but we all know what we are doing and that compactness keeps us on an even keel.

“The Fleadh has grown at the same pace as the industry in Ireland. I think the fact that Irish producers are supporting the Fleadh is very important. To run a film festival you need to be passionate. And our staff are.

“I was thrilled to see the co-production treaty between Ireland and Luxembourg. That has been simmering for years. And Gar has been fantastic. His choices have been edgy and very strong.”

The Fleadh’s main sponsors are Irish Arts Council, Irish Film Board, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the MEDIA programme and Northern Ireland Screen.