Miffed at the Iftas

The Ir­ish Film and Television Academy knows how to pull in the celebs for its an­nual awards cer­e­mony, but the academy’s broad def­i­ni­tion of Ir­ish­ness un­der­mines the cred­i­bil­ity of the Iftas, ar­gues Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Awards -

In two days, Mel Gib­son, di­rec­tor, ac­tor and pro­fes­sional hy­per-Chris­tian, will am­ble onto the stage of Dublin’s Gai­ety Theatre to re­ceive an award for “out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to world cin­ema” from the Ir­ish Film and Television Academy.

In the four years since the Ifta awards were in­au­gu­rated, the or­gan­is­ers have done a fine job of bag­ging at­trac­tive celebri­ties for their red car­pet. Vanessa Red­grave, Mis­cha Bar­ton and Lara Flynn Boyle turned up in pre­vi­ous years and, on Sun­day, Rene Russo and Bo Derek will join Mr Gib­son at the cer­e­mony. The event, which is broad­cast by RTÉ, helps pro­mote the Ir­ish film in­dus­try and pro­vides plenty of nice images for the next day’s pa­pers.

But what about the gongs them­selves? This time round, as in pre­vi­ous years, there are some sur­prises among the nom­i­na­tions. Ifta seems very open-minded in its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the cal­en­dar, and ex­hibits a flex­i­bil­ity in its def­i­ni­tion of Ir­ish­ness that even the FAI might re­gard as cava­lier.

Fans of John Car­ney’s Os­car-nom­i­nated Once may won­der why that film fig­ures nowhere in this year’s event. The short an­swer is that, fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful fes­ti­val screen­ings in 2006, the film was sub­mit­ted for last year’s awards, was ac­cepted and deemed wor­thy of only one nom­i­na­tion (for mu­sic, which it failed to win).

“Yes, it was very dis­ap­point­ing that Once wasn’t more suc­cess­ful in Ire­land through its cin­ema re­lease and how it did at the Iftas,” Áine Mo­ri­arty, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ifta, writes in a de­tailed re­sponse to queries from The Ticket.

“Un­for­tu­nately, not enough academy mem­bers were able to view Once, as the film had not been re- leased and no DVDs could be pro­vided as they were seek­ing dis­tri­bu­tion and had var­i­ous re­stric­tions re­gard­ing copy­right.”

The con­fu­sion con­cern­ing what film gets con­sid­ered in which year is fur­ther height­ened by a nom­i­na­tion this year for There Will Be Blood. Al­though the film is not re­leased un­til a week af­ter the Iftas take place, Daniel Day-Lewis re­ceives a nod for best in­ter­na­tional ac­tor.

The Bri­tish Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) and the Amer­i­can Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sci­ences (Ampas, the Os­cars body) both de­mand that films re­ceive a com­mer­cial re­lease be­fore the Baf­tas or the Os­cars take place. Ifta seems to take a looser approach.

Mo­ri­arty ex­plains: “As, in many cases, films re­ceive fes­ti­val screen­ings be­fore the­atri­cal re­lease (and, in some cases, do not re­ceive the­atri­cal re­leases at all . . .) Ifta’s re­quire­ment is that, in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble, a film must screen at a film fes­ti­val, have a the­atri­cal re­lease, or have aDVD re­lease within the el­i­gi­ble pe­riod (De­cem­ber 1st 2006 to De­cem­ber 31st 2007).” This is a very broad ad­mis­sions pol­icy.

Last year, eye­brows were raised when Ian McKellen picked up a best in­ter­na­tional ac­tor nom­i­na­tion for his per­for­mance in X-Men 3. Ifta seems to be the only or­gan­i­sa­tion in the world to have hon­oured this par­tic­u­lar per­for­mance. It’s hard to avoid the sus­pi­cion that some ac­tors are be­ing nom­i­nated on the ba­sis that they may turn up (McKellen didn’t) and add a bit more class to the red car­pet.

“Ifta would strongly dis­agree with the sus­pi­cion sug­gested by The Ir­ish Times that some nom­i­na­tions are driven by the ‘de­sire to have a par­tic­u­lar celebrity turn up’,” Mo­ri­arty says in her re­sponse to our writ­ten in­quiry. “Who is voic­ing this opin­ion? It is ridicu­lous! We are not in the busi­ness of nom­i­nees be­ing se­lected purely on the ba­sis of them at­tend­ing.”

OK, but what – mov­ing to the academy’s no­tion of Ir­ish­ness – is Be­com­ing Jane do­ing among the nom­i­na­tions for best Ir­ish film? The Jane Austen biopic, a co-pro­duc­tion of the BBC, was in­deed filmed in this coun­try and did in­volve the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Ir­ish Film Board, but it is set in Hamp­shire, is writ­ten and di­rected by English tal­ent and fea­tures Bri­tish and Amer­i­can ac­tors in the lead­ing roles.

Mo­ri­arty points out that one of sev­eral cri­te­ria for con­sid­er­a­tion as an Ir­ish film ad­mits projects whose “prin­ci­pal pho­tog­ra­phy took place fully or par­tially in Ire­land”. By th­ese stan­dards, Sav­ing Private Ryan or Reign of Fire might be con­sid­ered Ir­ish.

Sim­i­lar ques­tions arise when we con­sider some of the ac­tors up for awards over the past few years. Anne-Marie Duff, star of Shame­less and The Vir­gin Queen, has twice been nom­i­nated for awards in­tended for Ir­ish ac­tresses. A glance at her bi­og­ra­phy sug­gests that, though of Ir­ish de­scent, she was born and raised in Lon­don.

“To qual­ify one needs to have been born in the 32 coun­ties or have lived here for a min­i­mum of three con­sec­u­tive years,” Mo­ri­arty coun­ters. “To my knowl­edge it had been clar­i­fied that Anne-Marie Duff lived here in her teens, and there­fore qual­i­fies.”

I may take is­sue with this overly in­clu­sive approach but it is only fair to ac­knowl­edge the great amount of work car­ried out by Mo­ri­arty and her col­leagues. A ver­sion of the Ir­ish Film and Television Academy Awards had been in ex­is­tence for a few years – one pre­vi­ous cer­e­mony took place in Belfast’s Wa­ter­front Hall – be­fore the cur­rent regime took over and set about in­ject­ing more glam­our into pro­ceed­ings.

In July 2006, they helped for­mally re-es­tab­lish the Ir­ish Film and Television Academy, which, tak­ing its cue from Bafta and Ampas, set out to “drive a range of in­dus­try ini­tia­tives, en­cour­ag­ing ex­cel­lence through recog­ni­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and lead­er­ship through in­dus­try events/ac­tiv­i­ties”.

Such an or­gan­i­sa­tion can do good work, and a na­tional awards beano re­mains a de­sir­able en­tity. The at­ten­tion the cer­e­mony brings to, say, short films and lower-bud­get pro­duc­tions is in­valu­able.

But the myr­iad of pe­cu­liar nom­i­na­tions – the ad­mirably suc­cess­ful Ce­celia Ah­ern, who re­cently cre­ated a sit­com in the US, is hardly a “ris­ing star” any more – does un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of the awards.

And for all the com­mer­cial­ism of the Os­cars, the Amer­i­can Academy has yet to re­name its best ac­tress award af­ter a sham­poo com­pany and will, one as­sumes, re­sist the temp­ta­tion to de­cide that cat­e­gory by a pub­lic vote. You can, how­ever, vote on­line for the Pan­tene Best In­ter­na­tional Ac­tress award at the Iftas. Hi­lary Swank has been nom­i­nated for her per­for­mance in PS I Love You. Yikes. Come back, Ian McKellen. All is for­given.

The Ir­ish Film and Television Awards start at 7pm on Sun­day in the Gai­ety Theatre, Dublin. The cer­e­mony will be broad­cast on RTÉ1 from 9.30pm

Reach for the stars: pre­vi­ous guests at the Iftas in­clude (from left) Colm Meaney, David Kelly, Mau­reen O’Hara, Bono, Neil Jor­dan

and Sharon Ní Bhe­oláin

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.