Irish film ‘The Flats’ wins top prize at International documentary festival

by Aishling Conway
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On Friday 22 March, at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, director Alessandra Celesia was awarded the Dox:Award – the top prize at the CPH:DOX film festival, for her feature documentary The Flats.

It is the first time an Irish-produced film has won the main prize, or indeed any prize, at the prestigious festival, which is considered by industry professionals as one of the top documentary festivals in the world.

The Flats tells the story of Joe, and his neighbours Jolene, Angie, and other residents of the tower blocks in the “difficult” Belfast neighbourhood of New Lodge, a nationalist hotspot during the Troubles. In order to face up to the traumatic experiences dogging them, the protagonists engage in a process of revisiting the collective memories that shaped their lives and the district they live in.

Handing out the award to the Italian director, the jury said: “Our main award recognises not only creative and conceptual daring, but a filmmaker with the humility to realise when the story outgrows its framework, and the confidence to follow where it, and its fantastically vivid characters lead. We live in a world of divisions, borders and locked gates. Coming like a conversation shouted through one of those locked gates, our winning film is a collective portrait of several proud, funny, resourceful individuals, who would be willing to die for their community but who choose each day the harder, braver and more hopeful option of living for it instead. The Dox:Award goes to Alessandra Celesia for the witty, multi-layered, profound and provocative The Flats.

In his 4-star review in The Guardian, critic Peter Bradshaw compares The Flats to Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, also a laureate of the DOX:AWARD in 2012, and called it “a powerful, urgent and deeply sad film.

The Flats was co-produced by Jeremiah Cullinane of Planet Korda Pictures in Dublin, as well as by their partners, Films de Force Majeure in Marseille, Thank You & Good Night Productions in Brussels, and Dumbworld in Belfast.

It was supported by Screen Ireland, by Eurimages, and by several other funding agencies in France, Belgium, and the UK. The film can be seen at the upcoming Galway Film Fleadh, in July, and at the IFI Doc Fest, in Dublin, in September, before going on general release.

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