The Irish Times - Monday, February 14, 2011

Bosnian war film takes home top awards at Iftas

DONALD CLARKE

JUANITA WILSON’S As If I Am Not There , a story of the Bosnian war, was, in cinema terms, the big winner at the eighth Irish Film and Television Awards (Iftas) on Saturday night.

The powerful drama picked up statuettes for best film, best script and best director.

Martin McCann, a gifted young performer from Belfast, won best film actor for the low-budget drama Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne .

Amy Huberman confirmed her acting chops by taking the best film or television actress gong for her impressive turn in the gritty thriller Rewind .

Depressingly unable to assemble enough nominees in two categories, Ifta amalgamated the big-screen and small-screen awards for female actors.

Already hugely praised at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, As If I am Not There, which opens on March 4th and will be screened at next week’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, is based on a book by Slavenka Drakuli that details atrocities in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

An Irish co-production with Macedonia and Sweden, the film marks the feature debut of a hugely promising talent.

Wilson, Oscar-nominated for her short The Door , was recently named as one of 10 “directors to watch” by Variety , the prestigious trade magazine.

Pierce Brosnan triumphed as best supporting actor for his agreeably amoral turn as a former British prime minister in Roman Polanski’s The Ghost. 

Saoirse Ronan took the best supporting actress prize for her performance in Peter Weir’s The Way Back. 

As is often the case, the Irish nominees were drawn from an eccentric list of domestic and international productions.

The likable Martin McCann, on-screen throughout Occi Byrne , can justifiably celebrate his achievement in beating Liam Neeson to the top prize.

Risteard Ó Domhnaill’s The Pipe, a study of Shell’s difficulty in bringing gas ashore in the Rossport area, was a popular winner of the George Morrison feature documentary award.

David Fincher’s The Social Network , the story of Facebook, won best international film, but as The King’s Speech, current Oscar favourite, was not nominated, this can hardly be seen as any pointer towards the big awards on February 27th.

The television prizes were distributed between a wide variety of shows. When Harvey Met Bob , the story of Live Aid, won best single drama and, for Domhnall Gleeson’s turn as Bob Geldof, picked up the best actor in a lead role.

Other notable winners included the gangland drama Love/Hate , for which Stuart Carolan won best writer, and Voices from the Grave , a powerful study of the Northern conflict, which won best single documentary.

Morgan O’Sullivan, the veteran producer and broadcaster, honoured with an award for his outstanding contribution to the industry, will have been content to see The Tudors pick up the prize for best drama series/soap.

O’Sullivan was one of the prime forces in the creation of the epic show.

Considering the series’ great success, he may even forgive the fact that it shared a category with mere “soap” operas.

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