President Michael D Higgins presented the one and only Gabriel Byrne with the Lifetime Achievement Award

ANOTHER year, and another round of IFTAs, (Irish Film and Television Academy awards), with the glittering celebration late last week highlighting some of the many big and small-screen stars hailing from our small island.

While there used to be a usual-suspects feel to the IFTAs for rather a few too many years, the whole shebang has evolved in recent times, with the industry as a whole noticing that, actually, the Irish really are pretty widespread in ‘the biz’.

While the public constantly sees the likes of (aforementioned usual suspects) Saoirse Ronan and Colin Farrell now flying the flag for Ireland, many lesser-known names have been quietly editing, writing, designing and filming their way to international kudos and acclaim.

As such, the IFTAs give a rare but very welcome public glimpse at just some of the terrific talents hailing from a small, rain-lashed island on the edge of Europe.
And no, I don’t mean ‘Craggy Island’.

First up, and despite some tough competition John Connors had a very well deserved Actor in a Leading Role win for his striking role in Cardboard Gangsters.

The tale of Darndale wannabes drifting closer to the big time in the drugs trade – and ever closer to acrimonious disaster – was a grittily powerful look at a slice of Irish life that’s normally hidden, but Connors made the film and role his own with a searing performance, making him one to watch.

Moving on, and despite some tough competition, nobody could begrudge Saoirse Ronan’s Actress in a Leading Role win, thanks to Lady Bird.

The film (and her role) has been wowing with ease, striking a chord in virtually every release territory it’s popped up in, with Ronan (and ‘mom’, Laurie Metcalf) nailing the nature of often fraught mother-daughter relationships with aplomb.

Another largely expected Scriptwriter Film win came for Martin McDonagh, with his no-nonsense work on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri wowing.

His naturalistic, often uncomfortable approach to dialogue and character proved a real winner, with ‘Billboards’ seeing him on top form.

Of course, these are only the low-handing fruit; the headline awards of a particularly eclectic gathering of nominees and sectors within our small but busy film and TV sector.

It’s clear that, despite some quiet years, the Irish industry is plugging away, with an impressive crop of actors, directors and industry talents crafting and creating some superb work to look out for. Roll on the 2019 IFTAs …
For all the awards and winners, see www.ifta.ie/awards.