These 5 remarkable directors are why you need to watch Irish films right now


Saints and scholars, right? Joyce and Yeats, Synge and Heaney, or even Keane and Paul McGrath: Ireland’s got culture sewn right up. But while we’re all aware that it’s a popular filming location, and that it’s got a few stellar acting exports (Colin Farrell, for better or worse, or Game of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen), the names of the country’s rising directorial talents aren’t quite as recognizable – yet, that is. Here are five contemporary Irish directors that you seriously need to be watching.

Lenny Abrahamson

You’ve probably heard of at least a couple of his films, but his name isn’t itself a household reference point (again, yet!), though for us his work is up there with Richard Linklater’s as unmissable reference points in the cinematic calendar. His weird, though poignant, Frank Sidebottom-inspired story of a band’s implosion, Frank (2014), did well at Sundance and the critics loved it. His début, Adam & Paul (2004), a very, very black comedy about a pair of Dublin junkies, was followed by Garage (2007), the miserable tale of a lonely rural petrol attendant, and 2012’s What Richard Did earned him the gong for Irish Film of the Year at the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs). He’s now midway through the adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room (loosely based on the Josef Fritzl case), which indicates that his star is rising – so start watching now!

Rebecca Daly

Daly’s début feature, The Other Side of Sleep (2011) – the menacing story of a young girl, Arlene, a sleepwalker, who awakes one day in the woods near her home in the Irish midlands beside the body of a young woman and then finds herself being watched – was compared by critics at Cannes to Danish crime thriller, The Killing, and was the first feature made by an Irishwoman to appear in Cannes’ prestigious Director’s Fortnight selection. Daly had some success with a couple of short films beforehand, and now she’s in post-production on her next feature, Mammal (slated for release later this year), which stars Australia’s Rachel Griffiths – again, a sign that Daly’s quickly scaling the ladder of film-industry influence. Mammal is a love story about a woman who takes in a homeless child after her own son goes missing, so we’re not expecting a laugh a minute, but we are expecting a very moving experience and some kickass cinematography.

Ian Fitzgibbon

Father Ted fans might well recognize Fitzgibbon for his role as Father Jessop (the most sarcastic priest in Ireland), but he’s also a rising star as a director, both on TV (Sky’s offbeat comedy Moone Boy, now in its second series, or RTE’s odd-couple comedy, Paths to Freedom (2000), and on the big screen. He’s made four features thus far, and the highlight has to be 2011’s Death of a Superhero, based on Anthony McCarten’s novel: it’s about a dying teenager who draws comics to get to grips with his own mortality. Definitely not as cheery as his TV output, it’s a superb drama, and it stars Andy Serkis as the kid’s therapist. It picked up many a festival prize on the 2011 circuit, and we’re dying to see what’s up next for Fitzgibbon.

Juanita Wilson

Wilson’s As If I Am Not There (2010), based on Croation writer Slevenka Drakuli?’s 1999 novel of the same name, won Best Film, Script and Director at the 2011 IFTAs: it was her début feature, following her multi-award-winning short film, The Door, and it’s set in the Balkans and shot in Serbio-Croatian. It’s not an easy watch – it’s about war-rape and brutality against civilians during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s – but it was really well-received, and we’ll be looking to Wilson for more unflinching political dramas in the years to come.

Tommy Collins

A documentary maker as well as a director of make-believe, Collins’ output is as diverse as it is entertaining and thought-provoking: he’s made films about The Undertones and about the British Education Act of 1947. (No, seriously – it starred Seamus Heaney and John Hume.) His best-known feature film is probably 2007’s Kings, about a group of Irish ex-pats who reunite after thirty years for a friend’s funeral; it was nominated for – count them – fourteen IFTAs and won five, and was Ireland’s official entry for the 2008 Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language film, because it was filmed in both English and Irish – set as it was mainly in Connemara’s Gaeltacht region. If you haven’t yet seen one of Collins’ films, get thee to a decent stockists’ now!

Have you seen any of these films – or do you think we’ve got it wrong? Who are your favourite Irish directors? And don’t say Neil Jordan – we’re looking for new information!

ValerieOriordan Valerie O’Riordan is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. She edits both The Manchester Review and Bookmunch, and her chapbook of microfictions, Enough, was published in 2012. She runs regular workshops on fiction writing and also works on a freelance basis as a video editor for Belle Vue Productions, following half a decade as an editor with the BBC. She blogs at not exactly true and can be found on Twitter too.

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4 replies

  1. Loved Frank! I swung between absurd laughter and all-too-tender tears. The result was something weird, wonderful, and utterly unique. Yeah, it’s a classic. Will be sure to check out more of Lenny Abrahamson’s work. Which one should I start with though?

  2. I think Lenny Abrahamson is marvellous director. Frank is obviously his best and most well known but even that not so much. I actually really like his previous film, What Richard Did. It’s an ace little teen drama.

  3. You missed aisling walsh BAFTA winner ….directed somg for a rdggy boy of the best directors ever to come out of ireland ..maudie her latest film hitting the festivals with a bang..liz

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