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Iftas 2020: Wins for Aisling Franciosi, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, and unstoppable Jessie Buckley

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The Irish Film and Television Academy (Ifta) has given out its film and TV drama awards for 2018 and 2019 during a lively virtual ceremony on Virgin Media One.

Lance Daly’s Black ’47, a hugely popular tale of the Famine, took best film for 2018. Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s moving Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville as a couple dealing with illness, won the prize for 2019.

Martin Scorsese was on screen to announce those awards. “Little did we know what strange times lay ahead that we are witnessing now,” the director said.

“It appears to me that we are all having to reinvent cinema, and that’s a good thing. Because now, more than ever, we need the moving image. We need vision, creativity and storytelling that takes us on a journey and opens us, enlightens us, opens our hearts and our minds, and there’s something about Ireland and Irish storytelling that is universal that connects with everyone in the world. John Ford knew that, and I know that.”

Host Deirdre O’Kane, and Liam Neeson by video link
Host Deirdre O’Kane, and Liam Neeson by video link
Caitriona Balfe joins in the ceremony remotely
Caitriona Balfe joins in the ceremony remotely
Liam Cunningham joins in the ceremony remotely
Liam Cunningham joins in the ceremony remotely

Nominations for the rest of the awards were spread across the two years. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, one of performers of his generation, beat the likes of Neeson and Moe Dunford to best film actor for his turn as a troubled Dubliner in Peter Mackie Burns’s Rialto.

Jessie Buckley, whose rise seems unstoppable, won best actress for playing a Scottish country singer in the crowd-pleasing Wild Rose. There were no huge sweeps in the film awards. Two films, Ordinary Love and Rialto, won two awards each. David Wilmot won best supporting actor for Ordinary Love. Mark O’Halloran, the talented polymath, took best screenplay for Rialto.

Remote status

Like the recent Primetime Emmys, the Iftas – hosted by Deirdre O’Kane – made a virtue of their remote status. Elements of home life crept into a show that is normally dominated by red-carpet pizzazz. Accepting his gong, Vaughan-Lawlor had to cope with an excited family.

“I feel like I can only accept a third of this award,” he said from his family domain. “The other two-thirds go to Mark O’Halloran and Peter Mackie Burns. We all know how special Mark is, and him entrusting this part with me was a huge honour and a massive responsibility … My daughter is hitting the keys, sorry.” He went on to introduce us to his son, Freddy.

The Screen Ireland Rising Star award has a good record in spotting talent. Previous winners have included Saoirse Ronan, Jamie Dornan and Domhnall Gleeson.

This year’s winner – beating actor Niamh Algar, director Lee Cronin and directors Andy and Ryan Tohill – was the already much-sought-after Aisling Franciosi. The Dublin-born actor was electric as a wronged woman in Jennifer Kent’s rape-revenge drama The Nightingale and will soon appear in the BBC’s take on Rumer Godden’s classic novel Black Narcissus.

“This is actually a huge surprise and I’m honoured to be next to Niamh, Lee, Andy and Ryan,” Franciosi said. “I’m always really proud of the work and the talent coming out of Ireland, and to get this award from home is really, really lovely.”

Algar honours

Algar did not go home empty handed. The Mullingar actor won best supporting actress in a film for her turn in the rough-edged drama Calm with Horses and best TV actress for The Virtues. “I got into acting because I wanted to bring representation to women on screen,” she said. “And every female actor here tonight is doing that. And it makes me incredibly proud to be an Irish actress. And so thank you very much, Ifta.”

The Ifta awards are split up in eccentric fashion. This ceremony covers all film and all television drama. The remaining small-screen awards will be presented at a later event. The psychological thriller Blood topped the TV nominations with five mentions and duly won best drama. Dearbhla Walsh won best director for her work on The Handmaid’s Tale. Andrew Scott got to add another statuette to his groaning sideboard when he took best actor for Black Mirror: Smithereens.

The academy, which had no ceremony in 2019 and presents its 2020 event many months later than usual, had previously announced there would be “no physical Ifta awards ceremony until April 2021”.

In a recorded message for the academy, President Michael D Higgins said: “The film and television community has shown such commitment and extraordinary creativity to survive during hard times in the past.

“And I have no doubt that despite the enormous challenge presented to us by Covid-19, the future remains bright for Irish film and television. Its chance to flourish again, to show the creativity and ingenuity of those who work in the industry, is surely, again indomitable, not so far away.”

WINNERS OF THE IFTA FILM & DRAMA AWARDS 2020

Best film 2020 Ordinary Love  

Best film 2019 Black ’47

Director – film Paddy Breathnach (Rosie) 

Scriptwriter – film Mark O’Halloran (Rialto)

Actor in a leading role – film Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Rialto)

Actress in a leading role – film Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose) 

Actor in a supporting role – film David Wilmot (Ordinary Love)

Actress supporting role – film Niamh Algar (Calm with Horses)

George Morrison feature documentary The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

Irish Film Board rising star Aisling Franciosi

Short film – live action Welcome to a Bright White Limbo

Animated short film The Dream Report

Drama Blood

Director – drama Dearbhla Walsh (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Scriptwriter – drama Mark O’Rowe (Temple)

Actor in a leading role – drama Andrew Scott (Black Mirror: Smithereens)

Actress in a leading role – drama Niamh Algar (The Virtues)

Actor in a supporting role – drama Mark O’Halloran (The Virtues)

Actress in a supporting role – drama Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl)

Cinematography Piers McGrail (Never Grow Old)

Costume design Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh

Editing Mick Mahon (Gaza) 

Make-up and hair Liz Byrne and Linda Gannon (Black ’47)

Original music Kíla (Arracht)

Production design John Leslie (Never Grow Old)

Sound Brendan Rehill, Alan Scully and Peter Blayney (Arracht)

VFX Ed Bruce and Nicholas Murphy (We Have Always Lived in the Castle)

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