Illustration By Adeline Pericart
Recognition rather than reward should be the mandate of award ceremonies.
Recently the Golden Globes Awards hit the headlines for Ricky Gervais’ comedy stylings rather than for the celebration of film. And damn right… An unlikeable man at the best of times, his uncouth personal attacks on the lives of the rich and famous, and pampered VIPs raised proceedings a fraction above the usual mind-numbing self-congratulatory glorification of dressed-up performing monkeys pleasuring each other with vomit-inducing overblown praise.
The ghost of Narcissus imbues the room as celebrity after celebrity struts about the auditorium with the smug look of the beautiful who have fallen in love with their own image reflected on screen. It calls to mind Bob Dylan’s ‘License to Kill’: ‘Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool/And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled.’
The annual Oscar® nominations have been paraded before us with this year’s ceremony being presented by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. We’re surely guaranteed a night of witless buffoonery to match the insincere theatrics of manufactured gloss, grinning synthetic automatons and the congregated rabble of Stepford husbands and wives – all which reminds you of the Groucho Marx gag of refusing to join any club that would have him as a member.
So rather than hand out awards to overpaid celebrities who pay migrant workers to come to their houses and choke them in erotic asphyxiation sex-games, such opportunities should be used to focus the spotlight on emerging talent – those films that studios and conservative film distributors refuse to risk screening and instead ply our omniplexes with the latest and safest Hollywood product. Rather than reward, what these ceremonies should be doing is acknowledging work being done that is worthy of recognition and needs the oxygen of publicity.
This is where the IFTAs (Irish Film & TV Awards) have a vital role to play. If, by recognising the performance of Darren Healy in Brendan Muldowney’s excellent but underseen Savage, the 2010 nomination made more people aware of the film, put one more backside on a cinema seat or sells one more DVD it has done its job. However, to attempt to force-feed the torturous drip of the already over-publicised The Tourist to anyone by claiming it’s one of the best films of the year is akin to hailing Herod as Best Babysitter of the year (40 bc).
So the IFTAs, despite being our own mini-version of the ceremonial misbegotten flaunting of bogus trinkets, provides a stage to recognise and push achievements on a cinemagoing public who may otherwise not hear of certain Irish films. This year’s nominated films include some excellent work such as As If I Am Not There and The Runway. Carmel Winters’ Snap was criminally overlooked in Best Film and Best Director categories but picked up a nomination in the Actress in a Supporting Role category for Eileen Walsh’s fine performance. These are films that deserve to break out from their successful festival screenings and be seen by a wider audience in omniplexes around the country.
For the past few years it has been the documentary category that has provided the strongest fare. And at a time when Irish documentary is so strong we need to get word out there of such fine work as Burma Soldier, Pyjama Girls, The Pipe and What We Leave in Our Wake. And the IFTAs also provide a great platform to support the talent at work in short film.
The IFTAs’ role is to recognise and promote quality Irish films (our own productions and European co-productions) so that people will then have access to them through distribution and exhibition in cinemas across Ireland. While production in Ireland is getting stronger, distribution continues to be a problem for Irish filmmakers. Certain counties are fortunate enough to have cinemas that give people access to a broader range of film, but, for the most part, Ireland’s cinemas are a world that all too often ignores Irish film (along with contemporary world cinema, classic, art-house and independent cinema). The publicity the IFTAs garner should be used to push forward upcoming Irish films that have been tried and tested on the festival circuit and in this way can fulfil an industrial purpose by acting as a launching pad for quality Irish films to find a wider (and hungry) audience.
By recognising the achievements of certain films and certain people the IFTAs in some way achieves what should be their most important goal – that of promoting Irish film. Let’s promote the best we have to offer, let’s get them into our cinemas and let’s go and watch them.
So roll on The Oscars® 2011 and ignore the stars and celebrity hokum. We’re there to support The Crush, an Irish film most people outside the industry and festival circuit had never heard of until its nomination. And that’s what award ceremonies should be all about…
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