The unstoppable phenomenon of Irish films and series

The spirits of the island Press photo
“The spirits of the island”. / Press photo.

When last Tuesday the Oscar nominations Several analysts noticed a not minor detail: the huge amount of recognition for Irish artists.

“The spirits of the island” (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), by Martin McDonagh, was the production with the second most nominations (9); while “The Quiet Girl”, Colm Bairéad’s debut feature, it became the first feature film spoken in the local language (modern Irish Gaelic) to be included in the Best International Film category (it is one of the rivals of “Argentina, 1985”). And the phenomenon even extended to short films, since among the applicants in this category is “The Irish Goodbye”.

If we focus on the interpretive areas, the Irish presence is overwhelming: Colin Farrel (born in Dublin) is in the category of Best Leading Actor for “The Spirits of the Island”, but the ascendant also appears there Paul Mescal (originally from Maynooth, a city of 15,000) for his work on his debut feature “Aftersun”.

Other Dubliners like the veteran Brendan Gleeson and the young barry keoghan are nominated for Best Supporting Actor, while Kerry Condom (born in Thurles, a town with less than 8,000 residents) will compete for the Best Supporting Actress statuette.

Trailer for The Spirits of the Island


The most striking case of a young Irish star is that of Paul Mescal, who at 26 years old comes from a success in the universe of series like “Normal People”, another in cinema like “Aftersun” and these days he sells out tickets in a matter of seconds in London’s West End with his interpretation of Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the play by Tennessee Williams. And, as soon as that theatrical season ends, he will join the filming of “Gladiator 2”sequel to the 2000 epic with Russell Crowe, which will be directed by Ridley Scott.

The quiet girl Press photo
“The quiet girl”. / Press photo.

A rich green history

Anyone might think that this is a coincidence or a passing fad, but the truth is that Ireland has been standing out for a long time both in the universe of cinema and in that of series, based on important state support from public agencies such as Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland, which also include strong tax incentives and reimbursement of expenses for those international productions that choose to shoot in their beautiful locations.

The Irish film boom is not new, dating back to the 1980s and 1990s with global hits like “My left Foot” (1989), by Dubliner Jim Sheridan; “The Commitments” (1991), a transposition of Roddy Doyle’s popular novel about a group of unemployed young people who form a soul band in Dublin, filmed by Englishman Alan Parker with non-professional Irish actors; Y “The game of tears” (1992) and “The price of freedom” (“Michael Collins”), both by another local director like Neil Jordan.

The last great success of Irish cinema is “The spirits of the island”, whose premiere in Argentine theaters is announced for next Thursday, February 2. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (“Sie7e psychopaths”, “3 adverts for a crime”), a Londoner of Irish descent, this tragicomedy is set in a small island community in 1923, thus drawing on the traditions, customs and idiosyncrasies of the inhabitants of that origin. It is also about the reunion almost 15 years later between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, protagonists of another praised McDonagh film such as “Hiding in Bruges” (2008).

The expansion of the Irish series

Global audiences were shocked in 2020 with “Normal People” (available on the LionsGate+ streaming service), that love story between Daisy Edgar-Jones and the aforementioned Paul Mescal written by Sally Rooney based on her own novel and directed by Dubliner Lenny Abrahamson, director of praised films such as “Adam & Paul”, “Garage” and “The Room”.

Normal people Press photo
“Normal people”. / Press photo.

And the successful duo Rooney-Abrahamson met last year to “Conversations between friends” (“Conversations with Friends”), a miniseries available on Star+ about Frances and Bobbi, two Dublin university students who become unexpectedly linked to a married couple many years their senior.

But, as it happens with the cinema, the success of the Irish series does not arise by spontaneous generation but finds a rich tradition in popular proposals such as “Red Rock”, “Love/Hate” and “Father Ted”.

Of course, the phenomenon today extends everywhere: Derry Girls, the creation of showrunner Lisa McGee based on her own teenage experiences that chronicles the misadventures of five girls studying at a Catholic school in the city of Derry during the 1990s, is a favorite series on Netflix; and the production company Cartoon Saloon is today one of the most praised in the field of animation with jewels such as “The Secret of Kells”, “Song of the Sea”, “The Breadwinner”, “Wolfwalkers” and “My Father’s Dragon”, which they achieved from a spotlight on the very cinephile BAFICI from Buenos Aires to multiple Oscar nominations.

Derry girls Press Photo
“Derry girls”. / Press photo.

And the boom does not slacken. At the Sundance Festival that is taking place these days, the most expensive purchase was for a film directed by another Dubliner: John Carney. Indeed, the producer of hits like “Once” (2007), “Can a love song save your life?” (“Begin Again”, 2013) and “Sing Street: Reviving the ’80s” (2016) premiered his most recent work at that US exhibition, “Flora and Son”, a mix of musical and romantic comedy about a mother (Eve Hewson) who grows closer to her troubled son (Orén Kinlan) through their mutual love of the guitar. For this, she decides to take lessons from Ireland via Zoom with a teacher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is on the other end of the planet.

The positive reviews were not long in being published and within a few hours the streaming service Apple TV+ got worldwide rights by shelling out more than $20 million and thus outbid other streamers and studios.

The unstoppable phenomenon of Irish films and series