Irish Short Film Review: Lily

Sarah Cullen takes a look at Lily, Graham Cantwell’s short film about a girl with a secret, who is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life. 

“I’m not homophobic. I have lots of gay friends,” scoffs a character in Graham Cantwell’s Filmbase-produced short film Lily. Indeed, it is claims such as this that seem to ring out, almost like a refrain, across our so-called tolerant society: a society in which bigoted actions are often cloaked in liberal speech. The character who speaks these words is here is a secondary school teacher (Lynette Callaghan), something that shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, in our post-referendum society, many Irish schools are still unwilling or unable to address the requirements of its gay, lesbian and transgender students. Lily deftly illustrates this failure, taking as its focus the lack of adequate LGBT information provided in a sexual education class. It’s just too early for Ireland as a nation to start patting itself on the back in relation to LGBT rights: if we continue to fail some of our most vulnerable members of society – children – how can we claim to be inclusive?

This is what the eponymous protagonist discovers when she attempts to come out in school. After confiding in her friend, Violet (Leah McNamara), about her sexuality, Lily (Clara Harte) becomes the target of bullying from fellow students. As a result, she suffers a violent encounter in which a group of girls corner her in the bathroom and leave her with some serious injuries. Lily discovers that her parents are of little help and turns instead to her close friend Simon (Dean Quinn). Simon is already known around the school for being out and “in-your-face,” and brings Lily to meet Oonagh (Amy-Joyce Hastings), a young woman who takes Lily under her wing. Oonagh advises Lily to adopt a new persona, and to tough it out: things get better after school, we learn.

Director and writer Cantwell should be lauded for his light touch which addresses so many current issues regarding LGBT experiences in Irish society. It’s important to recognise that marriage equality is not the be-all and end-all for many gay and lesbian individuals in Ireland, and indeed this is alluded to in Lily’s portrayal of Oonagh’s decision to choose her own path. To this end, director of photography Eimear Ennis Graham successfully illustrates the confining nature of its school in comparison with the wider potential of Dublin city. The film also examines Simon’s performativity as a young gay man in a heteronormative environment, highlighting how such personas can be used as a defence against the hostility of straight society.

The film’s denouement, in which Lily confronts her bullies, is similarly commendable in the way it handles the complexities of its issues. The film does hint at better days to come, and while Lily should of course be celebrated for her bravery (and Harte gives an admirably spirited performance), a sense of pathos and loss remains: that no LGBT child should be forced to endure their school days, and their survival should not be dependent upon the thickness of their skin. Lily’s recent success testifies to its resonances with audiences around Ireland and abroad: it was both nominated for an IFTA and won the 2017 Iris Prize Youth Award. I’d argue that Lily should be added to the school curriculum: although I suspect it may hit too close to home for those who would like to ignore the continuing failures of the Irish education system. After all, how could they be homophobic? They probably have gay friends…



Lily has screened at over 50 international festivals worldwide, including the prestigious Savannah Film Festival and the Rhode Island International Film Festival. It won the Youth Award at the Iris Prize Festival, the Blue Riband event on the LGBT festival circuit, known as the LGBT Oscars. It was nominated for Best Irish Short at the 2017 Irish Film and Television Academy Awards, was nominated for an Irish Writers’ Guild Award and won the Best Irish Short Award at the two biggest festivals in Ireland, The Galway Film Fleadh and the Audi Dublin International Film Festival, qualifying for Academy Award consideration in the process. At the Santa Fe Film Festival Lily was awarded the Best International Short Film award and Director Graham Cantwell was honoured with the Courage in Cinema Award. The film also won awards at the Underground Cinema Film Festival in Dublin and in San Diego, North Carolina, Barcelona and Durban in South Africa. Lead actress Clara Harte was voted Best Female Actor at the Pune International Queer Film Festival in India and at the Underground Cinema Awards, where Amy-Joyce Hastings also won the Best Supporting Actress award.


‘Lily’ Gets IRIS Prize Nomination 2017


Graham Cantwell’s IFTA-nominated LGBT drama Lily has been selected to compete for annual LGBT short film award the IRIS PRIZE, the world’s largest LGBT short film prize. Presented annually during the October film festival of the same name in Cardiff Wales and dubbed the LGBT Oscars, the winner will receive a £30,000 prize funded by The Michael Bishop Foundation.


Cantwell commented: “The Iris Prize is the blue riband event on the LGBT festival circuit, so to be chosen to compete with such an incredible selection of films is truly an honour. Our inclusion in the festival, the Iris Outreach programmes and the Iris partner festivals will help us to bring our anti-bullying message to a much wider audience.”


 Lily has had a very successful run on the international festival circuit worldwide. and upcoming festival screenings include Taiwan, Barcelona and Kansas.


The film tells the story of Lily, a girl with a secret, on the cusp of becoming a young woman. With her best friend, the fiercely loyal and flamboyant Simon, she navigates the treacherous waters of school life. When a misunderstanding with the beautiful and popular Violet leads to a vicious attack, Lily is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life.


Lily was produced by Sharon Cronin, executive produced by Film Venture, Filmbase and Powerscourt Pictures and was shot on location in Dublin. The film is internationally distributed by Network Ireland Television.



Get Into Film: Steve Gunn talks to Graham Cantwell


Filmmaker Graham Cantwell chats to Steve Gunn about his life in film.

Graham Cantwell is an award-winning Irish director and writer, who achieved early acclaim when his short film A Dublin Story won several awards and was shortlisted for Academy Award nomination in 2004.

In 2008 he directed Anton (international title Trapped), which stars IFTA winner Gerard McSorley. The film was picked up for distribution at the Cannes Film Festival and has sold to over 40 territories worldwide. It has since been nominated for three Irish Film and Television Academy Awards.

In 2010 he directed The Guards for TV3, the first ever homegrown single drama commissioned by the broadcaster, set in the dynamic world of the Irish police force.

His last feature, romantic comedy The Callback Queen had a successful cinema release in Ireland and the UK and was nominated for two Irish Film and Television Academy Awards.

Graham recently co-wrote romantic comedy Poison Pen with Artemis Fowl creator Eoin Colfer.

His most recent film, the LGBT short drama Lily, won the Tiernan McBride Award for Best Short Drama at its premiere screening at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh, qualifying it for Academy Award consideration. The film won Best Narrative Short at the Santa Fe Film Festival and has screened at the prestigious Savannah Film Festival amongst others. The film is currently nominated for an IFTA.



Steve Gunn is an actor, writer and director.





‘LILY’ Screens @ Savannah Film Festival


Following its Oscar-qualifying success winning the Tiernan McBride Best Short Drama Award at the 28th Galway Film Fleadh, Lily, a new LGBT drama, written and directed by Graham Cantwell, will continue its journey on the film festival circuit at the Savannah Film Festival this coming October as part of the Global Short’s Forum.

The film will also screen at the Cork Film Festival in November and the Kerry Film Festival in October.

The film tells the story of Lily, a girl with a secret, on the cusp of becoming a young woman. With her best friend, the fiercely loyal and flamboyant Simon, she navigates the treacherous waters of school life. When a misunderstanding with the beautiful and popular Violet leads to a vicious attack, Lily is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life.

The film stars Gaiety graduate Clara Harte and introduces Dean Quinn in the leading roles of Lily and Simon respectively. Amy-Joyce Hastings (The Callback Queen), Paul Ronan (Veronica Guerin), Aisling O’Neill (Fair City), and Lynette Callaghan (The Yank) come together as the supporting cast, alongside newcomers Leah McNamara and Hallie Ridgeway.

Lily will be internationally distributed by Network Ireland Television. Sadhbh Murphy of NITV says, “We are very proud to be representing Lily, which has already seen great success in Ireland, winning the top award at the Galway Film Festival, and now about to screen in competition at the Cork and Kerry Film Festivals. We anticipate it will have similar success in the international shorts’ scene.”


Sharon Cronin, Indah Pietersz, Emma Carlsson and Ciaran Byrne produced, with Eimear Ennis Graham as Director of Photography, Sonja Mohlich as Costume Designer, Tom North as production designer, Marina Granville as Key Makeup and Hair Artist and Keith Ward as Stunt Coordinator. The score was created by two time Emmy nominated composer Joseph Conlan. The film also features music tracks by JD Kelleher, Peter M Smith and Hello Monroe.

Sharon Cronin, producer says “We are really proud to be playing the film at the Savannah Film Festival, the festival has such a rich history of screening the very best of films from all over the world. I think we found a really great home for our US premiere.”

Lily was executive produced by Film Venture, Filmbase and Powerscourt Pictures and was shot on several locations in and around Dublin.

For more information on the film follow it on facebook: and twitter @LILYshortfilm.


‘Lily’ to Premiere at Galway


Lily, a new LGBT drama written and directed by Graham Cantwell, will premiere at the 28th Galway Film Fleadh in July.

The film tells the story of Lily, a girl with a secret, on the cusp of becoming a young woman. With her best friend, the fiercely loyal and flamboyant Simon, she navigates the treacherous waters of school life. When a misunderstanding with the beautiful and popular Violet leads to a vicious attack, Lily is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life.

The film stars Gaiety graduate Clara Harte and introduces Dean Quinn in the leading roles of Lily and Simon respectively.

Director Graham Cantwell says, “This film is really important to me, dealing as it does with the very sensitive issue of bullying. Some of our especially vulnerable young people are members of the LGBT community, and I’m very grateful to the BeLonG To organisation for their advice and support while I was writing the script.”

Sharon Cronin, Indah Pietersz, Emma Carlsson and Ciaran Byrne produced, with Eimear Ennis Graham as Director of Photography, Sonja Mohlich as Costume Designer, Tom North as production designer, Marina Granville as Key Makeup and Hair Artist and Keith Ward as Stunt Coordinator.

The score was created by two-time Emmy-nominated composer Joseph Conlan, whom Cantwell previously collaborated with on The Callback Queen. The film also features music tracks by JD Kelleher, Peter M Smith and Hello Monroe.

Lily was executive produced by Filmbase and Film Venture, and was shot on several locations in and around Dublin.

Full details of the screening will be announced by the Galway Film Fleadh shortly.







George R. R. Martin to present North American Cinema Premiere of ‘The Callback Queen’

Amy-Joyce Hastings in The Callback Queen

Amy-Joyce Hastings

George R. R. Martin, the renowned author of the Game of Thrones series of novels and owner of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will present the North American Cinema Premiere of The Callback Queen from February 7th 2014.

The Callback Queen is directed by award winning Irish filmmaker Graham Cantwell, with an Irish and international cast including Amy-Joyce Hastings, Mark Killeen, Eoin Macken, Seán T. O Meallaigh, Vicki Michelle and Ger Ryan.

The Callback Queen recently screened at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh and has had screenings at Leicester Square in London and in Luxembourg at the British and Irish Film Season.

Martin,  who  is  also  an  executive  producer  on  the Game  of  Thrones TV  show,  explains  the  series  of  events that have led to him presenting the North American premiere of The Callback Queen. “Hundreds  of actors auditioned for roles both large and small in HBO’s Game of Thrones”, he says, “Only a handful  were cast. Thousands more tried to get auditions, but were never given the chance to read. In the old  days, aspiring stars sent off resumes and 8×10 glossies to  directors, producers,  and  casting directors.  They still do that, but these days some also upload their own auditions on Youtube, Vimeo, and similar  sites on the internet. Amy-Joyce Hastingswas one of those, as I discovered one day when dozens of my  fans  and  readers  began  to  send  me  emails  with  links  to  a  reading  by  a  lovely  young  red-haired  Irish  actress that I’d never heard of.”

“I’ve been a big reader of fantasy novels since I was a little girl”, says Hastings, “and when I found out that  a  fantasy  TV  series  based  on Game  of  Thrones was  going  to  be  made  by  HBO  I  got  very  excited!”  Hastings, who began her career as a child actress playing Julie Christie’s daughter in Fools of Fortune,  got hold of the script and recorded an audition tape, which she posted online. Within two days the tape had thousands of views and fans of the books were discussing it on fansites like  “It  caught  me  completely  unawares.  I  had  recorded  this self  tape  as  a  speculative  thing, never intending it to be seen by anyone except maybe the casting director, but it got an incredible  amount of interest online, and I had some very encouraging feedback from people who’d seen it, which was a lovely surprise”, says Amy-Joyce.

Fans of the books were impressed enough to send the link to Martin. “They liked what she’d done”, he says, “and so did I, when curiosity drove me to click on one of those links and take a look. So I dropped her a note, told her the name of our casting director, wished her luck… and thought no more of it, until I heard about The Callback Queen.”

“Unfortunately the casting industry in London has  a  kind of  heirarchy to it”, says Amy-Joyce, “and the
agent I was with at that time wasn’t ina position to capitalise on the momentum so I missed out on being

While  she  was  disappointed  not  to  have  had  the  chance  to  audition,  the  experience  did  have  a  silver lining, as Martin explains, “Amy-Joyce never got to audition for Game of  Thrones. That’s something she has  in  common  with  thousands  of  other  actors  from  all  over  the  world.  Unlike  all  the  others,  however, Amy-Joyce took life’s lemons and made lemonade; she shared her experiences with her friend Graham Cantwell, an Irish filmmaker, who took her tale about a young actress attempting to land a role in an epic fantasy,  and  turned  it  into  a  movie…  a  romantic  comedy  about  moviemakers  and  aspiring  actors  that pokes fun at the whole casting carousel… starring Amy-Joyce Hastings.”

“I had known Amy-Joyce for years and had always wanted to work with her on a large scale project”, says Cantwell, “I had been planning to write a comedy about young filmmakers but I lacked a narrative hook to tie the story together, so  when Amy-Joyce told  me  about herexperience  chasing  a Game  of  Thrones audition  it  all  clicked  into  place.  We  created  a  film  within  a  film  called Prince  of  Chaos,  which  was inspired by the TV series, and a character called Horatio King, who is loosely based on George.” Fast  forward  several  months  and  production  on The  Callback  Queen is  well  under  way.  “George  had stayed  in  touch  and  I’d  told  him  about  the  film”,  says  Hastings,  “I  emailed  him  a  prop  cover  we  had created for the Prince of Chaos book in our film and he posted it on his blog,which created a bit of a stir, as he didn’t give any context. He likes to tease his fans with clues about the series and they worked really hard to figure out what the cover was from. We thought it would be so obscure they’d never get it but fair play to them they figured it out extremely quickly, they followed the digital breadcrumbs and had it within hours.”

Filming on the Prince of Chaos sequences took place in Snowdonia in Wales. Director Cantwell was keen
to  make  the  footage  shine,  “We  wanted  those  scenes  to  look  like  they  were  from  a  big  budget,  epic Hollywood production like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, so we put a lot of our resources into them. We were operating on a very tight budget, so had to be quite clever to give the film within a film high  production  value.  We  brought  in  a  friend  of  mine,  actor  Eoin  Macken.  He  was  friendly  with  horse master Dylan Jones from his time on Merlin, so he helped us put that together.” Macken’s star is on the rise,  as  he  has  recently  been  cast  as  the  lead in  a  brand  new  NBC  TV  series  Night  Watch,  which coincidentally is filming in New Mexico, where The Callback Queen screenings will take place.

“If you believe in serendipity, there have been lots of little coincidences and connections between our film and Game  of  Thrones”,  continues  Cantwell,  “our  leading  man  Mark  Killeen  had  a  significant  role  in season three. He played a character called Mero, a vile mercenary who insults Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons. Also, one of the Dothraki warriors on the show auditioned for the part of Prince Cal, which Eoin plays. So it’s wonderful that the whole story has come full circle. It’s a great honour to be recognised by someone of George’s calibre, his support means a lot for an independent production like ours.”

The  Jean  Cocteau  is  a  wonderful  independent  arthouse  cinema  in  Santa  Fe,  New  Mexico  that  Martin purchased and re-opened in 2013 after it went dark in 2006. Managed by Santa Fe Film Festival founder Jon  Bowman,  the  cinema  shows  a  mixture  of  classic  films  and  first  run  movies,  and  is  renowned  for having the best popcorn for miles!

“I’m really looking forward to the experience”, says Amy-Joyce, “I’m sure American audiences will take to
the film the way they have in Ireland and Europe, it’s very funny and anyone with an interest in the film
industry  will  love  it.  We’re  taking  it  to  LA  immediately  after  the  premiere  to  look  for  distribution,  so hopefully we’ll be able to get The Callback Queen out to the greater public very soon.”

Says Martin, “I’m delighted to be able to present the North American premiere of The Callback Queen at
the Jean Cocteau Cinema here in Santa Fe, and thrilled that I will finally get to meet Amy-Joyce Hastings
and Graham Cantwell (even though they never asked me to audition for the role of Horatio King).”


The Callback Queen is produced by Film Venture London in association with RCA Media Productions.


Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh: The Callback Queen


The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

The Callback Queen

Wednesday, 10th July

Town Hall Theatre



Acclaimed Dublin-born director, Graham Cantwell, premieres his romantic comedy The Callback Queen at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh. It is his second feature following Anton, which was nominated for three IFTA Awards. Amy-Joyce Hastings (The Tudors), who leads this all Irish cast, plays a young actress trying to get her first break while fending off the interests of her director.

Film Ireland spoke to Graham Cantwell about what it means to have The Callback Queen premiere at Gallway this year:

‘I’m delighted to continue my long-standing relationship with The Galway Film Fleadh. It’s my favourite festival on the calendar, the support and opportunities we have received in the past at the Fleadh have been invaluable, they are true supporters of indigenous talent and have helped to launch many careers, including my own. We’re all looking forward to a great night, with many of the cast attending and some great local support for Galway actors Amy-Joyce Hastings and Seán T. O Meallaigh’.

The Callback Queen explores the cutthroat arena of show-business. After landing an audition for the lead roll for a massive movie franchise, Kate Loughlin (Amy-Joyce Hastings) is pimped out to director Vincent Catalona (Mark Kileen) by her sleazy agent. Determined to prove her strict professionalism, she starts second guessing Vincent’s motives.

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777 or at


‘The Callback Queen’ to Premiere at Galway Film Fleadh

Galway Film Fleadh Launch Amy-Joyce Hastings and Sean T O Meallaigh

Galway Film Fleadh Launch Amy-Joyce Hastings and Sean T O Meallaigh

Graham Cantwell’s second feature The Callback Queen will have its World Premiere the 25th Galway Film Fleadh at the Town Hall Theatre at 7pm on 10th July.

Speaking at the launch of the Fleadh on 25th June, Programme Director Gar O’Brien billed the film as a charming and hilarious romantic comedy which is genuinely funny and genuinely romantic. The plot is set in the cut-throat London film industry, where a vivacious actress chasing her big break struggles to maintain her integrity in the face of the director’s advances. The film has a special relevance to the film industry, whilst also sure to be greatly enjoyed by the general public and fans of comedy. The Callback Queen is one of the official ‘Fleadh Picks’ and a limited number of public tickets are on sale now.

As the screening is a World Premiere, the director Graham Cantwell and principal cast members will be in attendance along with the film’s Exec Producers Martin Carroll and Stephen Gibson (RCA Media) and Emmy nominated composer Joseph Conlan who scored the film.

Irish actress Amy-Joyce Hastings (The Tudors) plays Kate Loughlin, opposite Mark Killeen (Game of Thrones) in the male lead role. Both the film’s stars will be attending having flown in from London, along with other principal cast members Seán T. O Meallaigh (Kings), Kate Braithwaite (Little Deaths), Morgan Deare (United 93), Eoin Macken (Merlin) and ‘Allo, ‘Allo star Vicki Michelle, who is also fondly remembered by Irish audiences as Sally O’Brien from the much loved Harp commercial.

Director Graham Cantwell has a long history of success at the Fleadh with his short film A Dublin Story winning the Kodak Tiernan McBride Award, and subsequently being shortlisted for Academy Award Nomination in 2004. In 2008 the Galway Film Fleadh hosted the Irish Premiere of his first feature film Anton (Internationally titled Trapped) which went on to have a theatrical release, sold to over 40 territories worldwide and secured 3 IFTA nominations in 2009.

Tickets for this premiere event are on sale now at




DIR: Graham Cantwell WRI: Anthony Fox PRO: Patrick Clarke, Anthony Fox DOP: Fergal O’Hanlon ED: Breege Rowley DES: Anita Delaney CAST: Anthony Fox, Gerard McSorley, Laura Way, Cillian Roche, Andy Smith, Ronan Wilmot

From director Graham Cantwell comes this debut feature set mainly in 1970s Ireland. The title character returns from a few years abroad to find his home county of Cavan a changed place. Violence and intimidation from the North has spilled over into the county, angering Anton (Anthony Fox) and Bren (Andy Smith). Deciding to put their angry ranting about ‘the Brits’ into action, the two, rather clumsily, join the local IRA branch. This draws the ire of the local bully-boy, Detective Lynch (Gerard McSorley) as well as further alienating Anton from his wife Maria (Laura Way). Lynch takes a dim view of their antics, brutally hammering home his message to them and Anton’s innocent brother, Edward (Cillian Roche) and the brothers are drawn into a violent downward spiral.

Anton is a movie that cannot decide what it wants to be. Is it an exploration of one man’s impotent anger at the British occupation? Is it a story of one man’s journey of self-discovery against the backdrop of the troubles? Or is it a story of a good man getting pulled into a dark world that ultimately destroys his family and friends? The answer is it is all these things, or it at least tries to be. It is at times a messy affair, lurching from one scene to another with little or no exposition. However, it does have its moments, and the cast do a relatively good job, some more than others. It is well shot and uses colour effectively to convey the prevailing mood of the characters; cold blues for anger and pain and brighter yellows for happier times. Some of the more violent and brutal scenes are very well handled. With these scenes in particular showing what Cantwell is capable of, it’s just a pity that the rest of the movie is not as strong or as visceral. It often feels that Cantwell is hesitant and holding back from unleashing his true potential. It’s a good story but one that needed a more confident hand with some streamlining to really make it work.


Irish Feature Anton on Nationwide Release

A new Irish feature film Anton is set for a nationwide release on 10th October and stars IFTA award-winner Gerard McSorley (In The Name of the Father, The Boxer and Omagh).

Helmed by award-winning director Graham Cantwell (A Dublin Story – shortlisted for Academy Award® nomination in 2004), it also stars Anthony Fox (The General, The Bill), Laura Way (The Clinic, The Tudors) and Ronan Wilmot (The Butcher Boy, Sweeney Todd). Other cast members include Cillian Roche, Andy Smith, Griet Van Damme and Rachel Rath. The feature was shot by award-winning DOP Fergal O’ Hanlon on location in Cavan, Dublin, Belfast and Paris

Inspired by true events, Anton is set in 1970s Ireland. Northern Ireland is in flames, and civil unrest has spilled south of the border. Blinded by hatred and misguided patriotism, Anton is led into an illicit world of violence and is forced to choose between his family and his country.

Please visit for further information.